Korg Poly-800

Korg Poly-800 Image


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


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
April 29, 2010 @ 11:58 am
PV I think you may need to look for an internal battery. I never opened it up so can't comment on the location, but I had a mkI and removed the batteries from the underside, and it still keeps the patches.

The battery slot on the underside is to use it as a keytar or in other portable situations without power, and has nothing to do with the patch memory.
March 29, 2010 @ 10:12 am
Purchased used one with reversed keys yesterday ($175) in perfect condition. Already own couple (new analog modeling) synths, so this was “for old time sake”. Sound wise, there is nothing that this synth does that MS200B for example can’t, but one does not buy it for that. Nothing can replace the feeling. Love it!

P.S. This is original version so there is no battery for memory back-up. In other words, even plugged in, if you remove 6 x 1.5V batteries you will loose all preset sounds shortly. Did it, but managed to reload them using the computer and the wav file.
March 25, 2010 @ 3:20 pm
This was the first synth I bought, for that alone it is mind-blowing, I found it very easy to program especially for someone that had only read about synthesis and had never had a hands on experience, it also helped that the presets were wiped so it was a matter of necessity. It is a limited synthesizer but there are some excellent features that make it unique. The joystick for pitchbends and modulation is really fun, you can adjust the bend all the way from a half step to a perfect fifth so you can keep your playing very expressive. It also has the moog slayer filter which rests right above the mod/pitch joy stick, giving you some real-time controls, not to mention a killer sounding filter. I'm quite satisfied with it
March 17, 2010 @ 10:52 pm
luke perry, probably too late for your bid, but anyway....I have owned an early Mk1 since new. It had a battery leak at one stage during it's life, which looked a bit messy, but cleaned up ok.

The synth did regular stage duty for three or four years, then was in storage and occasional use for a while, and now works as a midi keyboard for my mac (not touch sensitive, but fits perfectly in the space I have). Apart from the battery issue the only trouble it ever gives me is sometimes the joystick gets a bit sticky and doesn't return to pitch. I'd imagine if I cleaned it out that would fix itself. Oh and the original power supply died or went missing, but it just needs 9V / 600ma.
March 9, 2010 @ 10:12 pm
Luke, the one you are referring to on ebay is quite abundantly over-priced in my opinion. $399.99 + $75 shp. And cosmetically it's only in fair condition. These usually run about $100-$200. I have a Poly 800-mkI + a Poly-61m as well as the heralded Dw-8000 and I have to say that the Poly 800 can produce some rather charming sonics for a 4th or 5th synth, but on the whole its a trifle thin, not to mention often referred to as the "Ugly Duckling" of the vintage Korg line... Here is a bit more info ~
Early model mk1 Poly800's do not have a memory backup battery and so unless you keep a full set of charged batteries installed at all times the program memories will be lost when you switch the machine off. If there is no original battery the mod costs £20
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4 (1517 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 - 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
  • Resources & Credits
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    Review updated September 2012.

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