Korg MS-20 mini

Korg MS-20 mini Image

Many of the iconic brands in this industry have attempted to release modern versions of synthesizers from their vintage series of the past, and most have failed to do it right (we're looking at you Roland!). Until now, that is.

Korg's most famous and coveted monophonic synthesizer is the MS-20, first introduced in 1978, and it has been reborn as the MS-20 mini. Korg enlisted the same engineers who designed the original MS-20 to recreate it in a body that is smaller by 86% of the original size, but looks and sounds the same. This is an authentic reproduction of the original specifications of the MS-20, and it delivers the same powerful sound, from deep, growling basses to crisp, rounded leads.

The MS-20 mini has the exact same synthesis as the original: two analog oscillators with ring modulation, and envelope generators with delay and hold. The VCA (Voltage Controlled Amp) maintains the original basic design, but has been modified to produce less noise.

Best of all, the powerful MS-20 filter is alive and well in the MS-20 mini, providing both high-pass and low-pass with peak/resonance. This is the same reincarnated version of the filter that was also used on Korg's Monotron and Monotribe. Of special note, half-way through the production lifecycle of the original MS-20, the filter circuit was changed; the MS-20 mini uses the earlier KORG35 filter circuit which has been considered the better version of the two.

Korg MS-20 mini Image

The ESP (External Signal Processor) allows external audio signals to be used with the MS-20 mini, just as the original allowed. For example, the pitch or volume of an external audio source could be used to control the synthesizer. The distinctive and flexible patching system enables the creation of complex sounds by allowing the rerouting of both modulation and audio (both the internal oscillators and external audio). Flow-charts printed on the front panel (meticulously reproduced from the original) help users of any experience level understand how to route signals and produce a variety of sound possibilities.

The most obvious difference between the Mini and the original, is the size. It is 86% of the original size, and the 37 keys of the keyboard are mini-keys. Patch cables/plugs have also been shrunk down from 1/4" phone-plugs to 1/8" mini-plugs. The other major difference is the MS-20 mini is equipped with a MIDI IN jack for receiving note messages, and a USB-MIDI connector that can transmit and receive note messages from a computer and/or external sequencer. It should be noted that the MS-20 mini only responds to note messages; controller changes were excluded from the MIDI spec because they would not give you the smooth, un-stepped parameter changes associated with actual hands-on knob tweaking.

Korg also packaged the MS-20 mini in a manner that replicates the original, and included the original MS-20 owner's manual and settings chart. Buyers of the MS-20 mini are not getting a run-of-the-mill Korg synthesizer exploiting the namesake of its vintage Icons. The MS-20 mini is an MS-20, inside and out, with the added MIDI and USB functionality needed to make it talk to modern studio equipment right out of the box. Amazingly, it lists for only $599 USD!

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32 Visitor comments
September 3, 2013 @ 8:12 pm
I've had one for about a month now-I fully expected to like this synth-I didn't quite expect how much I would absolutely love this synth! What a classic design-a lot of thought went into the original-the sound is fantastic-is a tad noisy when the filter is closed down in the upper registers but I've had other analogues that where the same and its only really noticable if you go looking for it-the only quibble I have is I wish they had made it full size-the keyboard is better than mini keys for sure-the 2nd oscillator tuning button should be bigger to facilitate easier tuning-otherwise great!
August 26, 2013 @ 12:25 pm
had an original ms-20 for 3 years then unluckily had to sell it. i tried this mini for 15 minutes in a shop here in italy and must say for what i was able to check it is perfectly identical to the original both as built-wise and sound-wise. the midi and midi\usb is a plus that's very attractive. think i'll buy myself one!
August 25, 2013 @ 9:50 am
You see a lot of people comparing the reissue with the original, but surely 30 odd years of electricity flowing through the original's components must make a difference to the sound. So if that's the case then I can rest assured that i have invested in something that sounds great now and will get even better.
I personally think it's a rather pointless comparison and I'm not really interested in it.
August 23, 2013 @ 11:58 pm
@jason: I've heard a lot of things from "exactly like the original" to "doesn't measure up at all" all over the Internet, but if there's one person whose judgement on synth stuff I'll trust, it's Gordon Reid of _Sound on Sound,_ who did a review of it. His opinion is that it *is* an MS-20, through and through, quirks and all. He did note small differences between the Mini and his MS-20, but according to him they were nothing that couldn't be explain by miscalibration or individual unit quirks. The full article is $1.50 at http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/may13/articles/korg-ms20-mini.htm
Jason Basson
August 23, 2013 @ 10:46 pm
As a big vintage synth lover I love it when a company releases analog synthesizers.But how does it look on the inside: could they reach the same soundlimits as the original MS-20? What's the quality of the elements used in the Mini MS-20? I got me some months ago an original MS-10.With the MS-10 I knew for sure what I had in my house.After 35 years it's still working very nice and very deep!And it's very well quality built..Nevertheless I possibly buy a MS-20 Mini in the future to link it to my authentic vintage gear.
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Rated 4.05 (242 Votes)

  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Monophonic
  • Multitimbral - 1 Part
  • Oscillators - 2 VCOs. VCO1: Scale (32', 16', 8', 4'); VCO2: Scale (16', 8', 4', 2')
  • Waveforms - VCO1: Triangle, Sawtooth, PW-Square, White Noise; VCO2: Sawtooth, Square, Pulse, Ring modulator
  • LFO - 1 LFO: Positive Sawtooth - Triangle - Negative Sawtooth, Wide Pulse - Square - Narrow Pulse; Frequency (0.1Hz - 20Hz)
  • Modulation - _Description_
  • Filter - 1 Low pass VCF, 1 High pass VCF
  • Envelope - EG1: Attack, Decay, Release; EG2: Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, Hold
  • Effects - Portamento
  • Sequencer - None
  • Arpeggiator - None
  • Keyboard - 37 mini-keys
  • Memory - None
  • Control - MIDI In, USB, CV Out, ENV Out, Trig Out
  • Weight - 4.8 kg / 10.58 lbs.
  • Date Produced - 2013
  • Resources & Credits
  • Original images from KORG USA.

    Reviewed August, 2013.

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