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
July 16, 2010 @ 6:55 pm
I had one of these in the 80's sold it for £100 and threw in as siel expander 80almost the same thing for £50.
Although the synth was limited I liked what it did and rather wish i'd kept it. But He He just got an almost working EX800 for £20 done the repairs and reloaded the factory sounds.
Still got a dry joint somewhere so the sound is sometimes distorted until you thump it. Doesn't sound as good as I remember but synths have come a long way since not forgetting all the virtual stuff too. Still useful bit of kit in the right place.
July 3, 2010 @ 7:00 pm
Sounds quite dull compared to the competition, like the Juno106. More importantly, it's very VERY annoying to program; especially compared to the hands-on flow of a Juno. The sequencer was fun though, and the joystick was a nice touch.
June 24, 2010 @ 4:15 am
Just restored the patches to my Poly800 (which I have owned since new) and looked up what it said about it on this website.

I have to disagree with the review. The significance of the Poly800 was to break a price barrier and it had some compromises to do that. I used to play it in a keyboard-oriented band where I was the bass player. Other synths in the band were Juno 106, Yamaha DX7, Roland JunoAlpha and Cazio CZ1000. Without question the best sounds came out of the 106 and the DX7, which were industry standard at the time.

By comparison the Poly800 was quite limited, though it did a good job if you respected its limitations.

Currently use a Korg MicroX and boy gear has come a long way!
June 14, 2010 @ 5:38 pm
Run of the mill analog polysynth. Get the filter mod for added squelch. Unfortunately the voice architecture here is limited and contains only 1 filter for all voices. This means 1 filter total not 1 filter per voice as is implied in the description.
June 13, 2010 @ 1:04 am
This synth is amazing. Some of the sounds are super cool but if you have decent outboard gear at all and you know how to use it as well, then grab one when you find one. Fun things happen with cheap synths and good outboard gear.

It's honestly my favorite out of my collection at the moment and based on my other gear it shouldn't be.

"Micro-korg of the 80's" will always be the best explanation for this synth. It's the affordable synth that is still considered top notch and if you are good with it, you're money is well spent. If you're looking for a synth that will blow away people's ears right out of the box and make you sound good, this is not the one for you. But if you are creative with your gear then have at it and enjoy your music.

I compose spacey, poppy electronic music, along the lines of Air I guess if I had to describe it and this has been a real joy.
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4 (1517 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • 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
  • Images from

    Review updated September 2012.

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