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
May 8, 2011 @ 5:42 pm
I just finished doing the Moog Slayer mod. It only took a couple of hours, cost very little, and makes all the difference in the usability of this synth. Watch out for that resonance, though; it will blow your speakers (and ears) if you turn up the reso too high. Now I look forward to doing the FM mod, which allows osc 1 to modulate the filter.
April 26, 2011 @ 1:20 pm
Also used by Marshall Jefferson:
"I had the EX 800, so I never had the key problems others had. The legato was great I felt, used it for a cello/bass sound that was mean as hell.
Was one of my 1st two synths (Jx 8P was the other)"
April 2, 2011 @ 1:12 am
I noticed this has midi to sequence up external drum machines etc, but does it have a trigger in jack? (like the polysix, mono/poly etc) so I can sync the poly 800's sequencer with my trigger out jacks on my old korg drum machines? (kpr-77, kr55b, etc). I can see a program step jack but not a trig in jack.
Or is there a simple mod to enable this? As I have no use/need for midi.
Erik Friend
March 31, 2011 @ 4:33 pm
The Poly-800 is the bargain route to the analog realm. Sure, it lacks flexibility. It has 1 filter shared by 8 oscillators. No seperate lfos for pitch and filter. It's basic.

THE SOUND: 8-bit square waves ala tron, nintendo?, 80s pads ala twin peaks, space noises. Frankly, these sounds quite relevant in todays music and they sound cool.

THE FEEL: It's all about the bender joystick. Mash the plastic keys and play with the bender. Program the sequencer, then let it loop and play over top of it. Instant 80s synth pop. It's got keytar straps.

All in all, lots of fun for cheap.
March 17, 2011 @ 7:04 pm
Sounds decent. Pain in the butt to program. I sampled mine and sold it recently. I also have another one but no signal. It's not a bad start for someone who wants an affordable, analog, 80s sound. Just be prepared to dig in a little if you want to create patches.
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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
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    Review updated September 2012.

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