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
tim lloydsmith
January 25, 2013 @ 3:08 pm
How can VSE score this 4 stars & the MicroPreset only one star?

My but it's an awkward looking thing innit. Slider knobs are just grooved bits of dingy plastic. Plasticky but tough, bit like how it sounds. Editing is bearable. Good but not great sounds can be coaxed out of it. Has its own tone but nothing amazing. Sure it can be modded - but at a cost. I wouldn't bother - just get a better synth in the first place! Having said that I kind of like it & it plays well with other studio toys. Don't bust a gut to get one but if it's cheap like mine was..maybe worth a punt.
January 21, 2013 @ 3:06 pm
I hated this synth when I first got it, but after modding mine with knobs for cutoff and resonance control, it made a world of a difference. great for electro bass, droney pads, and burbly, modulated analog sounds. I even managed to make a decent imitation of the polymoog's "vox humana" preset.
My main issue with it is that you're basically limited to playing with different harmonics of square waves, which really limits the variety of timbres you can make. The sound definitely has a certain plasticy, thin quality because of that, but some outboard effects can beef it up quite a bit.
January 17, 2013 @ 3:26 am
Chord memory is crazy for old school house & garage. Get an analog delay (moogerfooger if you can) and you sound as big as a stadium. This is an amazing polyphonic analog synth plus it is wicked for live and almost no jams or heat probs.
December 11, 2012 @ 12:13 pm
gerry, your definition of "monophonic filter" is incorrect. The Poly800 does have a monophonic filter. There is only one filter for all voices, regardless of the trigger mode.
Tim Wiggins
November 21, 2012 @ 8:39 am
I've had the later version with the analog delay built in for about 5 yrs. Wow, it can make some dubby sounds that's for sure! The moog slayer mod is on my list of things to do to turn this into an amazing bubbly analog fx machine on top of the massive brass and string sounds this can make, just need to get round to doing it.

It's definitely got some grit to it - the brass and leads cut through in a mix unlike my polite juno. Sounds a bit 303 as well if you programme it correctly.
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Rated 4 (1512 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

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