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
July 30, 2013 @ 7:38 am
hi if ur after on i have one for sale on e-bay http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/200948246801?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p39 84.m1555.l2649
April 26, 2013 @ 8:41 pm
Funny how it's a small world indeed. At another festival (the Metz sci-fi one) many moons ago too, and at about the same time (maybe 78 or 79), I tested Tim's PE-2000 he just had got from Gaffarel (Korg dealer in France) and brought in his bedroom at the Sofitel! He didn't use it that night, since he played his "Crystal Machine" set - like the one I had played the roadie for, iin 77 for his series of gigs @ the famous Palace theatre in Paris ! We had a PE-2000 in my band but swapped it quite fast for an RS-09 by Roland... I still really dunno why. And now I'm looking for that beast!
March 24, 2013 @ 3:53 pm
@ steven parsick.
I'm afraid you've got it in reverse. I've owned both the PE 2000 and the Korg Lambda.
The Lambda goes far and beyond what the Poly Ensemble can do. It sounds extremely heavy too with certain combinations. While the P.E could only produce very timid and thin string sounds... I even had my PE re-capped + detuned the OSCS to try to thicken it up with no luck. True I loved the phase shifter on the PE and of course it looks like one of the coolest ever designed pieces of vintage gear. Truth be known though, the Lambda blew it out of the water! With many more dimensions of sound.
Richard Geere
January 4, 2013 @ 3:25 pm
I have one of these - very cool synth. Mainly useful for sustained sounds and old school brass. I have a fairly comprehensive demo on youtube if anyone's interested in hearing the patches:

December 22, 2012 @ 2:48 pm
The scottish post punk band The Wake used this extensively on the album "Here Comes Everbody" (1985). It sounds extremely massive and gives the album a unique dreamy sound.

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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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