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
Ezion
August 24, 2011 @ 10:02 am
Missing from the description is the important fact that the VCF is monophonic.
This means that whenever the VCF envelope is triggered this affects all notes that sound at that moment. Therefore holding down one key and playing on with your other fingers sounds different from what you might expect.
Randy
June 21, 2011 @ 6:32 am
It is in fact anolog. It has does have DCOs which are digitally controlled analog oscillators, as opposed to oscillators that are voltage controlled. The audio signal path (which is the most important piece, imao) is analog.
danalogue
June 5, 2011 @ 5:19 pm
A very nice and rather under rated synth. I have recently had my poly 800 modified and WHAT A DIFFERENCE. Moog Slayer mod giving it pots for cut off and resonance + an FM mod. The frequency range for the filter has now been greatly increased and it now has a much different character. I really like the internal sequencer as you can use it in poly mode as well. I cant seem to work out how to trigger it externally via MIDI. I switched the function to external triggering but still no luck. Can anyone help?
Jason
June 1, 2011 @ 12:25 pm
This is a great synth. I owned the poly and ex 800. I don't agree with calling it an analog synth. It has DCOs. At best call it a hybrid synth. It only has VCFs, most everything else is digital. I remember when it came out, it was touted as digital back when that was considered superior.
Jason
June 1, 2011 @ 12:25 pm
This is a great synth. I owned the poly and ex 800. I don't agree with calling it an analog synth. It has DCOs. At best call it a hybrid synth. It only has VCFs, most everything else is digital. I remember when it came out, it was touted as digital back when that was considered superior.
 
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VSE Rating

Excellent

User Rating

Rated 4 (1514 Votes)

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  • 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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