Korg Poly-800

Korg Poly-800 Image

Poly-800

At a time when Roland was doing well with their Juno-series, KORG countered with a poly-synth of their own in 1983 with the Poly-800. The Poly-800 was comparable to the Juno-106, at the time, with respect to the fact that musicians now had access to affordable programmable polyphonic analog synthesizers (it listed for under $1,000) with memory storage, stable DCOs (digitally controlled oscillators) and a new state-of-the-art technology called MIDI (although there was no SysEx implementation yet).

The Poly-800 is an eight-voice instrument (two more than the Juno series) with 64 memory patches (half of what the Juno-106 offered) and up to 50 editable parameters! Like the Juno, the Poly-800 had one DCO per voice, although it did feature a Double mode in which the oscillators could be stacked up for a fuller sound and only four voices of polyphony. The analog filter is a 24dB/oct low-pass which is shared by all voices (the Juno has separate filter chips for each voice). There's also a stereo chorus effect, chord memory, a simple built-in sequencer, three digital envelope generators (for the oscillators, the noise generator and the filter), and a funky joystick used to adjust the pitch, modulation and the filter.

Unlike the Juno, which was still a “studio” instrument, the Poly-800 was built for the performer. With a light-weight plastic case (only 10 lb.), a couple low-profile sliders/knobs and only 49 keys, the Poly-800 can run on batteries and has guitar strap pegs so it can be worn like a keytar. A less common reversed color keys model was released for a unique look as well.

Korg EX-800 Image

EX-800

In 1984, a keyboardless tabletop/rackmount version was released, called The EX-800. In both the Poly and EX models, all sound editing is accomplished by scrolling to a given parameter, described by little more than a two-digit number, and pushing the up or down buttons to adjust it. Fortunately every parameter’s two-digit numeric code and data-range is printed on the faceplate. Obviously, the Juno series has the edge over the Poly-800 when it comes to hands-on editing, however, some sort of external MIDI controller is usually sufficient to get more hands-on and real-time control.

Korg Poly-800mkII Image

Poly-800 mkII

The Poly-800 model was succeeded by the the Poly-800 mkII (pictured above) in 1985. The mkII added digital delay effects, MIDI SysEx functionality and a darker paint job. Note that the Siel DK70 is very similar to the Poly-800. Poly-800s have been used by Orbital, Depeche Mode, Sneaker Pimps, Vangelis, Geoff Downes, Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran), Yesterdays and Jimi Tenor.

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172 Visitor comments
luke perry
March 9, 2010 @ 1:41 pm
Hey, Im thinking of bidding on a Korg Poly-800 (serial number 0004922) and I was wondering if this particular synth came through anyone's hands before. The ebay poster says that early serial number poly800s are generally more pristine due to a better battery casing that was nixed later in production (the newer battery thing causes leaky batteries or something...). has this been an issue for anyone?
Jacqueline
February 21, 2010 @ 5:56 pm
haven't really gotten round to really programming this thing yet...not a fan of the whole choose a parameter, tap away at the buttons routine, but my roland jx-3p is similar in this respect and i do programme that, maybe it's just thatt the poly 800 is so ugly.

I added the moog slayer mod and at somepoint i'll get around to doing the fm one too, i had such difficulty succesfully adding a backup battery to this synth even having tried three different techqniques and whilst i think i have it sorted it still has a habit of wiping itself once in a while and maybe this has also put me off programming, but despite it being a tempermental little thing i do love it's rather bizzare kind of fizzy sound.
JWC
February 13, 2010 @ 8:41 pm
Just read through this thread and, tho i may have missed it, no one seems to mention the Polysix, which was originally the competition for the Junos.. not the Poly800.
The Polysix sounded huge. Same single osc setup as the Juno, but the Ensemble and Chorus really made it unique.
The 800 has its place; there seems to be no middle ground... people really like it, or really don't. I never liked the single filter design; it was a cost cutting measure and made the 800 more a sister to the Mono/Poly, not the Polysix and helped it from doing huge lush pads... (when you played a chord or arpeggio, you did not hear six filters at their various stages of movement, there was only the one, which made it very thin and static, to my ears.)
I would certainly like to get one to have, but i would much prefer a Polysix.

... actually... i'd like both.
JJ Lure
January 30, 2010 @ 6:01 pm
The Poly 800 Mk2 was my only keyboard for several years. It was such a part of me that everybody called me Poly which was funny and cool at first but I grew to hate it. I hated it so much that I sold it to buy an Alesis QS6 so i could "evolve". A year later the QS6 was stolen by an ex-roommate who sold it and used the money to buy his girlfriend dope. That was 20 years ago and I've never had enough money, credit or the sheer will to buy another keyboard again. I'm typing this on a borrowed computer. I miss that Poly a whole lot.
Dylan Howe
January 4, 2010 @ 12:00 am
Tyler- my poly 800 does the same thing. I think its designed that way.
 
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  • 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 - 8 voices (4 when doubled)
  • Oscillators - 1 DCO per voice (2 when doubled). 1 Noise generator.
  • LFO - Sine wave only w/ speed & delay and route to osc. or filter
  • Filter - One 24 dB/oct low-pass resonant filter
  • VCA - 3 ADBSSR Digital Envelope Generators: DCO, Noise, VCF
  • Effects - Stereo Chorus, Chord Memory
  • Sequencer - 256-step polyphonic sequencer with MIDI Start, Stop and Clock.
  • Keyboard - 49 keys
  • Memory - 64 patches
  • Control - MIDI IN/OUT/THRU, Cassette tape interface
  • Date Produced - 1983/84

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