Korg Polyphonic Ensemble S

Korg Polyphonic Ensemble Orchestra (PE-2000) Image

Polyphonic Ensemble Orchestra / PE-2000

Korg's Polyphonic Ensemble S arrived on the scene in 1976, one of many preset-based analog string and orchestral instrument synthesizers at the time. It was manufactured in Japan by the Keio Organ company (aka KORG). However, during this early period in KORG's history, the name of this synthesizer has become somewhat confused. The KORG distributed units are named the Polyphonic Ensemble "Orchestra" and designated with the PE-2000 model number. Other units were manufactured for Unicord, presumably as part of a distribution deal outside of Japan, and they were named the Poly-Ensemble "S" and designated with the K-5 model number. There are no technical differences between these models, and in this article we will refer to them as the Polyphonic Ensemble S.

The Polyphonic Ensemble S was released in conjunction with the Polyphonic Ensemble P (PE-1000/K-4). The two instruments are quite different from each other, but were intended to complement each other as a pair, with the "S" model being designed around sustained sounds such as strings, choir and organ, and the "P" model designed for percussive sounds such as acoustic and electric piano, and clavichord.

Korg Poly-Ensemble S (K-5) Image

Poly-Ensemble S / K-5 manufactured for Unicord

The Polyphonic Ensemble S was one of KORG's first polyphonic instruments. Like most polyphonic keyboards of the time, it has full polyphony across the entire 48-note keyboard. It featured four preset sounds with two variations each: String 1 & 2, Pipe Organ 1 & 2, Brass 1 & 2, and Chorus 1 & 2. A maximum of two preset sounds could be combined together, ie: Brass + Strings. The sounds were generated by three analog oscillators per note which gave it a much richer sound than the PE-1000/K-4 model. However, very little can be done to modify the sounds; envelope Attack and Sustain, oscillator de-tuning, and EQ Treble and Bass are the only controls. Fortunately a nice Phase Shifter can be dialed in to give the sounds some retro seventies shimmer.

The Polyphonic Ensemble S is a metal and wood construction built into a rugged flight case. It offered stereo output, a dedicated headphone output with volume, and an expression pedal input. While it may not be the most flexible option out there, the Polyphonic Ensemble S's sounds are unique and quite useable, especially if classic seventies string machine sounds are your thing. It has been used by Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream and Hawkwind.

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11 Visitor comments
stephen parsick
November 22, 2012 @ 7:22 pm
the lambda is nice but the pe 2000 wipes the floor with it as the lambda always sounds a bit too soft and too shy (i. e. thin and watery) in my opinion. not a bad keyboard by any means, but the only similarities these two instruments share are the fact they are both tagged "polyphonic ensemble" and were made by the same company.
November 22, 2012 @ 4:28 pm
I have never tried this instrument but I have a Korg Lambda in my living room. How this instrument can achieve 3 stars while the Lambda only got 2 beats me.If it's better it must be darn good!
stephen parsick
November 15, 2012 @ 6:51 pm
many moons ago, i was playing at the same festival as tim blake. when setting up my rig, tim was sitting in the audience, having a chat with the stage crew. when he saw me lifting the pe 2000 onto its stand, he really flipped --"regardez, regardez, une ensemble polyphonique, c´est merveilleuse!" a couple of years earlier i had already been in touch with him, asking him to sell me his pe 2000. he declined as his had been stolen from him during the hawkwind 1979 tour. i finally got one (thanks david korn), and its sound is just massive. i still use it as a signature sound every now and then.
November 13, 2012 @ 1:03 pm
Also used by Tim Blake (solo work), Kitaro, Space (Didier Marouani & R. Romanelli), Les Rockets, Masterworks. Kaipa, Joel Fajerman and The Moog Cookbook.
November 13, 2012 @ 8:28 am
"Warriors..." was recorded in the spring of '75, over a year prior to the release of the PE-2000. Those strings sound like mellotron strings to me. Simon House played a mellotron on stage and on records from 1974 to about 1976, after which he replaced it with a Logan string melody. Tim Blake had a Korg PE-2000 but he didn't join Hawkwind until 1979/80.
VSE Rating

It’s Good

User Rating

Rated 3.63 (83 Votes)

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  • 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 - Full 48 notes
  • Oscillators - 3 VCO's per note
  • LFO - None
  • Filter - Bass (low pass), Treble (high pass)
  • Envelope - Attack, Sustain
  • Effects - Phaser
  • Keyboard - 48 Keys
  • Memory - None
  • Control - Expression Pedal
  • Date Produced - 1976 - 1979
  • Resources & Credits
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    Reviewed November 2012

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