Korg's MS-20 monophonic synthesizer, first introduced in 1978, is still coveted to this day for its thick, robust sound, powerful, iconic analog filter, and versatile patching options and the great news is that it has now been reborn as the new MS-20 mini. Korg tells us that the same engineers who developed the original MS-20 have perfectly reproduced it in a body that's been shrunk to 86% of the original size, yet retains the distinctive look of the original.
The MS-20 Mini offers the same distinctive synthesis that made the original MS-20 popular: two oscillators with ring modulation, and envelope generators with delay and hold. The VCA (Voltage Controlled Amp) maintains the original basic design, but it's been modified to produce less noise. Particular attention has also been paid to delivering smooth parameter adjustments, which are a distinctive feature of analog synthesizers. Special care was also taken to completely reproduce the original specifications of the MS-20, to deliver the same powerful sound, from deep, growling basses to crisp, rounded leads.
One of the most well-known – and still most sought after - characteristics of the original MS-20 was its powerful filters, which provided both high-pass and low-pass with peak/resonance. Maximizing the peak/resonance would cause the filter to self-oscillate; producing a distinctive and dramatic tonal change that was acclaimed as inimitable, and was used many years later on Korg's monotron and monotribe. The filter circuit was changed mid-way through the production lifecycle of the MS-20; the MS-20 mini uses the earlier filter, which was felt to be superior due to its more radical sound.
The ESP (External Signal Processor) functionality carries on the experimental spirit of MS-20, allowing users to utilize the pitch or volume of an external audio source to control the synthesizer. For example, an electric guitar can be used as an input signal, and the MS-20 mini can be used as a guitar synthesizer, or the mic input can allow it to be used it as a vocal synthesizer.
The patching system enables the creation of complex sounds by allowing the rerouting of both modulation and audio (both the internal oscillators and external audio). Different combinations of the modulation input/output and trigger, sample and hold, and noise generator can produce an incredible variety of sounds. By patching according to the MS-20 flow chart printed on the panel, musicians of all levels can take advantage of these possibilities right away.
To make it even more approachable, the MS-20 mini has been shrunk to 86% of the size of the original, with meticulous care taken to accurately reproduce the knob design and the printing. The patch cables have been changed from 1/4" phone plugs to mini-plugs, and the newly-designed keyboard is 86% of the original size as well.
The MS-20 mini is equipped with a MIDI IN jack for receiving note messages, and a USB-MIDI connector that can transmit and receive note messages. Users can also connect the MS20 mini to a computer and play it from an external sequencer.
Korg tells us that, for added authenticity, the MS-20 mini packaging replicates much of the original. Also included are the original MS-20 owner's manual and settings chart.
Pricing and Availability:
The Korg MS-20 Mini will be available April 2013 for a U.S. Street price of $599.00