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
Trystan
May 25, 2010 @ 9:08 am
I recently got a MK II for about $40 with a key not working. I would recommend saving up for a better keyboard instead if you have to pay over $100 for one.
Flymow
May 5, 2010 @ 6:25 am
Forgot to add in my first message that the filter and res additions are 2 knobs which sit at the top left corner of the case. The link for the circuit bending mod is here:

http://www.circuitbenders.co.uk/synthmod/POLYEX.html
Flymow
May 5, 2010 @ 6:21 am
There are some excellent mods available for this machine in terms of "circuit bending". I have one on my machine which has added resonance and filter frequency. These are really useful because the filter could only previously be incremented in steps. There is (as far as I remember) also an FM circuit available as an add-on, which sounds great.
PV
May 3, 2010 @ 8:51 pm
Just to complete the previous post.

X-Trade, originally I thought the same but unfortunately I (as well as you now) was wrong. There is even a black sticker on the keyboard that states that only the batteries in the compartment keep the sounds in memory.
X-Trade
April 29, 2010 @ 12:03 pm
Fantastic synth. It has a fairly big sound, especially when you layer on the chorus and layer up all the sounds.

You can achieve some interesting timbres due to the unique oscillator structure (a kind of on/off 4 octave square wave organ).
Being polyphonic and going into a monophonic filter also gives it a bit of a funny quirk which is actually quite cool and fun to play. I got some absolutely massive bass and cheesy synth brass sounds out of this. And once passed through delay, an interesting digital choir too!
Really regretted selling it.

Despite the fact that it is only the filter that is analog, it is capable of some pretty massive sounds.
 
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  • 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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