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!

Lookup Korg MS-20 mini Prices

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Are you looking to buy or sell a Korg MS-20 mini? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

34 Visitor comments
December 28, 2013 @ 10:39 am
I bought one a few weeks ago. I love this synth. Build quality is not great, but the sound (specially the noise! I love it) is just amazing. Two saw waves slightly detuned and you have something great. Use the HPF with a lot of resonance and you are in DAF and Liaisons Dangereuses territory. The biggest downer is the envelope, strange, odd, not too fast. But for this price? It is amazing. I never dreamt I could be able to buy such a beast for a bit more than 500USD. I also own a Pulse and a Korg Z1 and this beast is alive, organic and brutal!
December 21, 2013 @ 3:17 pm
@jab: There definitely is still noise; it's induced by the filter, which they didn't change because the Korg35 filter is one of the main reasons people liked the original MS-20. They did clean up the noise from the final-stage VCA (and presumably the patchable VCA as well.) Personally, I like the filter noise, it adds a characteristic grit to the sound - but diff'rent strokes, I guess.
December 18, 2013 @ 9:51 pm
Had mine for 2 weeks now. It's pretty cool, but I do not love it. Certainly sounds quite interesting, really grity which is so unique, but the noise factor does really bother me I must admit. Kinda makes me questions Marc Dotty's review. If you don't know I am referring too just google it. I wish Korg did not state that it is quieter than the original. Becuase this is either a lie or I am missing something. Do not let my negative review steer you away though. Judge for yourself, but be aware before you buy. After saying all this, I am keeping mine. My other synths: Mopho, JX-3p, Yamaha SK20.
Jeremy M.
December 15, 2013 @ 1:21 pm
Hey abe brougham,
I'm interested in buying your original MS-20 if its set at the right price.
Please throw me an email and we can talk more.
Paolo Albanese
November 7, 2013 @ 7:40 am
Bought one last week during a business trip in Malaysia, really cheap there (445 euros with its bag!).
I linked a Moog Voyager to Korg MS20mini via midi and a MS10 to MS20Mini via cv/gate. Playing on Voyager Keyboard, the system works perfectly and I have a six (!!) huge semimodular system...eheh!
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.02 (292 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay 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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