In designing for Apple’s mobiles, KORG has again turned to equipment from their past. Having reinterpreted the ElecTribe and MS-20, their newest target is the versatile, classic Polysix. The 1981 original brought programmable polyphony to keyboard lovers, with analog oscillators, memory storage, six-voice polyphony, and various effects and modulation. For iOS, Korg models that sound (having done so already with the desktop Legacy Collection), and mimics the front-panel. But even more so than on the DS-20 rendition (iMS-20), they pack in modern features that make this a production tool as much as a synthesizer. That should be welcome news for people who want to use this tool away from their computer.

The iPolysix also has an advantage in skeuomorphism (read: fake knobbery). Whereas the iMS-20’s elaborate control panel left some people’s fat fingers stumbling for parameters and eyes squinting at their display, the cleaner original Polysix layout translates nicely here.

And KORG follows a trend I’ve seen in a number of tablet developers: they describe the app as being “for iPad mini” as well as iPad. In technical specs, that’s effectively meaningless: the iPad mini is more or less a shrunken iPad 2, in display resolution and horsepower. But in practice, it’s good to see developers target readability and usability on the portable iPad – especially as, at a lower price point, the new Apple devices seems destined for success, especially with the oncoming holiday. (You can also add this to Japan’s fascination with portability, minimalism, and small size, a fascination I … share, in fact.)

Also, in keeping with KORG iOS launches, this is 50% off at launch. You want it now, in other words, not after the sale ends December 31st.

Let’s check the specs, shall we?

  • Polysix sound emulation, modeled at the component level – actually, two Polysix models. (In a virtual studio setup, KORG gives you “two” virtual Polysix units.)
  • All-new “Polyseq” step sequencer. (Looks like a fairly conventional affair, but nicely fit to the iPad’s screen.)
  • Integrated six-part drum machine.
  • Integrated mixer, inspired by the vintage KORG KMX-8.
  • Two integrated virtual KAOSS Pads for X/Y control of the synths – including chord support. (Makes sense to me; X/Y control is still ideal on iPad, since for keys, you’re likely better off plugging in a keyboard.
  • SoundCloud export, which they’re dubbing “Polyshare.” (Will be interesting to see if they do extra social activities around this.)

The original Polysix stacked up nicely against other synths from the same era – here, literally, stacked against Roland. But on the iPad, it is a whole heck of a lot slimmer. Photo (CC-BY) musicamang / moni / man pikin.

Marketing keeps emphasizing that this will transport you in time back to the early 80s. I’m perfectly happy to live in 2012, thanks – complete with a copy of iPolysix.

KORG recommends an iPad 2 or better. I’m finding the original iPad is good for older apps and control apps, but it seems the sound heavy lifting will be an iPad 2 or later or iPad mini.

on the iTunes App Store

The scoop here goes to the wonderful blog wire to the ear, run by one passionate (and talented) iOS fan:
korg ipolysix

  • Jamsire

    Oh yeah………..!

  • Jason Duerr

    Open question: What happens when you see an ipad on stage? Does it matter? Or is this our generation’s Bob Dylan went electric! controversy? Personally, laptops on stage never bothered me, but when I see an ipad, it degrades the band.

    • Peter Kirn

      Really? I don’t think it matters much. Oddly, you’re less likely to notice the iPad, too, since it doesn’t have the same profile as a big laptop, etc.

    • Lotuspocus

      Nothing, I enjoy the music. Not sure why you would be bothered by an iPad but not a laptop, interesting logic there. If the music is good I generally do not care how it was created. Think of the cries let out when bands begin incorporating drum machines into their performance, where are those people’s complaints now? Silent and rendered obsolete by progression.

    • Chad

      Check out RheyneMusic on youtube. Then ask again if you think it degrades the band/music.

    • Jason Duerr

      Hi, Chad. Sorry, it’s generational. I came up at a time when Hardfloor and Eat Static was the thing.

    • Rutger Muller

      Nice stuff :).

    • Jake Achee

      I gotta say, I think seeing an iPad accompanying a great performance on-stage is pretty inspirational, actually. Gives me hope that I may be able to do something similar with mine. :)

    • Hungry Harry

      actually when I see a laptop on stage it bothers the hell out of me, there is nothing musical about it but ipads because of their formfactor seem more like an instrument to me, for instance it’s easy for me to visualize someone playing Samplr on an ipad, it just makes sense. but playing a laptop just looks stupid and says i’m doing something complicated which is usually not the case, playing a laptop does not look like playing an instrument at all.

    • Peter Kirn

      I freak out if I see computers anywhere. Ever.

  • KNS

    This app is awesome. Way to go KORG. Loving the Polysix RE as well. Lets hope we seen more stuff in Reason.

  • Joshua Schnable

    Picked this one up right away. Some initial thoughts:

    Having owned a real Polysix (and a Poly61, and a Poly800, etc) and the Korg Legacy VST version, this app is definitely different than both. The computer based VST version sticks rather close to the original, sonically, but this app… it doesn’t quite nail that sound. Each part of the synth is a bit off – the oscillators, the filter, and for what may be disappointing to some, the ensemble effect and unison modes don’t come close to even the legacy version.

    Another nitpicky thing – though, once you get used it, it’s not that bad – some of the knobs center at 0, and can have some crazy effects (like OSC env depth). To fine tune it back to zero, you have to flick the knob with your finger gently. It’s weird, but like I said, you get used to it.

    All this sounds like I might be disappointed with app – I’m not. There’s still a Korg-ish ness to the sound, and you get two instances of the “polysix” with a drum machine and two sequencers. They’ve expanded on the Polysix architecture in some smart areas (adding a triangle and noise option to the oscillators, osc envelope depth) and kept the good parts (simple architecture, killer arpeggiator).

    If you’re looking for that P6 sound, I’d say go with the legacy plug-in instead (or, you know, a real Polysix). Otherwise, it’s still a fun app that has a good sound of it’s own when considered among other iOS synth apps out there.

  • Marco Raaphorst

    and a demosong that doesn’t suck! almost as hot as the Polysix Rack Extension :)

    • Yo

      The difference a decent demo track makes is amazing. If it had been some schlocky generic dubstep wannabe track I would’ve probably browsed away.

    • Rutger Muller

      Mission accomplished.

  • ProgressiveSoul

    No midi support. :(

    • empolo

      Wrong. It works with my CCK and my iConnectMIDI hub. I can sequence it with Renoise and use my LPK25 with it.

  • Torstein Pedersen


    • Rutger Muller

      Didn’t notice any.

  • 50ul0F7H3M4ch1N3

    The pricing doesn’t appear discounted. Still a good deal but can we clarify there is not a sale?

    • Rutger Muller

      Should be $15s now.

  • diaz

    Can you tweak the drum machines voices without the audio cutting out? Love the ims20 but that was one of my few complaints about it.

    • Rutger Muller

      Not really, because it plays the drums as samples. You can do interesting things by pitching the samples, or by automating the mixer parameters, this way you can do a bit of editing and effect automation.

    • jpcarrascal

      But it’s nice that you can create (monophonic) melodic lines with the drum voices. You can, for example, use one of the drum voices to create the bass line (although a non-tweakable one).

    • Rutger Muller

      exactly, that is what I did. The sub bass is in the drum seq

  • Arne

    Anyone tried this on first gen iPad? It says iPad 2 or higher recommended…

    • Vincent

      yeah, it works on my ipad 1 but it does get a bit glitchy when you have everything running in a song….

    • Rutger Muller

      See my iPolysix dub techno demo video on iPad 1
      1 or 2 glitches in 13 minutes. You can set latency to ‘normal’ in settings, I did that for this video and did not notice any delay. But you have te careful with the release settings…

    • Vincent

      nice demo! i just jammed around with it for a good half hour with only one glitch, just excellent.

  • donpoulsen

    How does one change the drum sounds? I know how to on th ms20 but this is eluding me