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
September 24, 2010 @ 9:43 am
I haven't had a chance to try upgrading this synth yet, but I really enjoy it even without them. Running it through some guitar pedals can produce some pretty cool results and make up for the lack of built in effects.
I'm trying to build up a larger, external resource page for this synth, check it out: http://korgpoly800synth.dotkenneth.com/
September 20, 2010 @ 4:34 pm
never mind. i figured it out. disregard previous comment.
September 20, 2010 @ 4:31 pm
does anyone know how to get a sequence to repeat? when i program a bunch of notes and play the sequence back, it stops at the end of the last note i programmed instead going back to the beginning of the sequence. any help is appreciated. thanks.
September 15, 2010 @ 3:06 am
I sold my Poly 800 to buy a Roland S-50 back in '93! I sampled all my favorite sounds off the Korg on a few disks as well cause there were some cool voices on that ole thing that I didn't wanna part with. Thanks Chip, for letting me borrow it back for a day!
September 11, 2010 @ 4:50 pm
I have an EX-800 with the Moog Slayer and FM knob mods. I had never even touched a soldering iron before I did the mod and it came off perfectly...that's how easy it is (lay off the coffee though, can't have shaky hands). Having filter control in realtime makes it extremely PIMP, but being able to push the resonance really high also opens up worlds of possibilities with envelope modification. The envelopes are quirky, which is a good thing...it allows for all kinds of weird and wonderful blips and bloops when you sequence on a computer. i've gotten a sort of faux portamento acid out of it that is just as crispy as a 303..by programming a fast attack with a short decay on the filter envelope with the filter trigger set to single you can "tie" notes together (ie. the second note in a series of overlapping notes will not retrigger the filter to open up).

Yeah, it can sound cheap, but so can any instrument if you don't know how to use it!
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4 (1516 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
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    Review updated September 2012.

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