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
February 27, 2011 @ 2:03 pm
That "dirty base" digital clip in the examples sounds so much like the opening riff to ELP's "Peter Gunn" that I wonder if that sound coming out of this dinky synthesizer inspired Keith Emerson to recreate it in his more expensive modular system? Or, did he actually use a Poly-800 in the recording of that song? Anyone know for sure?
February 18, 2011 @ 6:06 am
Got one of these not too long ago and fairly happy whith it. Don't compare it whith a Roland cause its a different sound. There is a bit of cheapness about it, but it is pure wholesome analog and can be picked up at bargain prices. Iv got a few other korg things such the electribes and a rom module.
asci white
February 17, 2011 @ 3:43 pm
@ vlad,

Yes mate it does respond to midi. You can select the channel using the menu. Just got my hands on one of these babies. It takes some working out but once you get the idea it's got some great sounds. Not sure I prefer it over my juno 106 as that has so much control at the tip of a finger. This synth you have to work at to get a good sound. Gonna mod it though as I want pots for cut off and res!
February 17, 2011 @ 12:28 pm
Keith Emerson playing this facing away from it, that I'd like to see. I've seen him do it on stage, but with a full size keyboard. Using this would be like slow torture. I saw a PDQ Bach concert once where they wheeled in the "injured in a car accident" pianist on a gurney, and he played a Steinway while lying beneath it, with his head under the keyboard and his feet sticking out. The audience laughed so much I'm surprised anyone could hear how excellently he was playing. Turn your own keyboard upside down and try to play it that way. That's craftsmanship.
February 8, 2011 @ 1:46 pm
PS: I've read about the Atomahawk-800 mod and it says it improves MIDI functionality. But i'm interested in what functionality the synth has natively. I would hate to have to open it up and tinker inside.
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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