Even as technology rolls forward, sometimes the old is more cherished than the new.

Perhaps this should come as no surprise in music. Musical relationships span many years – the records you love, the hours you spend practicing and producing. And so it is that we’ve heard a common refrain from electronic musicians: with many makers of the 70s and 80s still producing today, why not re-release the classics?

Korg has done just that with the MS-20 mini, in a way many rivals have not. Due soon for $599 in the USA and elsewhere in the world thereafter, it’s also within reach of many – including first-time electronic instrument buyers. Synth lovers have spread that word in recent weeks, and debated its merits. But I’ve had the chance to spend time with an MS-20 mini in person in the exclusive first review of the synthesizer.

I’ve also, with the help of DE:BUG Magazine and Benjamin Weiss, compared the new MS-20 to the original design; see our separate article.

Now, reviewing the MS-20 mini is in some ways a strange experience: it means writing a review of a design that, in many respects, comes directly from 1978. Reading over reader comments, I found that much of what you wanted to know seemed to come back to commonly-asked questions. So, I offer this review in a not-quite-Socratic dialog of questions and answers.

You can also see our impression in a video at top, shot with the help of producer Easton West (who played along) and videographer/editor Kevin Klein, in the basement of Berlin art venue Mindpirates. All the sounds you hear come, unprocessed, from the MS-20 mini.

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So, what is this thing, anyway? It’s a 1978 synthesizer?

The MS-20 mini is a recreation of the original Korg MS-20 monosynth. In many respects, it is indistinguishable from the original. Korg worked with engineers who designed the original, recreating circuitry and specifications. It’s easier to say what’s different than what isn’t. The mini, as the name implies, is smaller: roughly 85% of the size of the original, it has a reduced keyboard (though still larger than most mini keyboards), and 1/8″ jacks replace the 1/4″ jacks on the first model. It also adds MIDI, over a DIN port and USB. There are also subtle changes to the voltage-controlled amplifier circuitry, though this has little impact on the user experience.

Why would I want that? Isn’t that a bit boring, since it’s no longer 1978? Only one note at a time, and two oscillators – haven’t we seen that before?

To be fair, the MS-20 mini doesn’t represent any kind of sound innovation. On the other hand, there’s a reason this basic synth architecture has endured over the decades. It’s both versatile and easy to understand. And playing one note at a time works perfectly well when you’re constructing basslines, leads, or even experimental sounds that are rich enough without having to play more than one note.

The reasons you’d want an MS-20 (mini or otherwise) over the many other possible two-oscillator synths out there is simple: sound and playability.

The MS-20 sounds good. Really, really good. (hear below; more sounds in a separate story) You get a warm, round-edged sound that you can either dial into a comfortable range or push toward the outer limits for more experimental sounds. Ring modulation between the two analog oscillators is especially satisfying. The MS-20′s filter – heard here, and released into the wild by Korg in the monotron and publicly-shared specifications – is one of the most distinctive of all times, full of interesting nooks and crannies of resonance. And that’s before you get to all the modulation possibilities, which is where you can begin to create sounds that are perhaps less expected.

All of this is possible with a particularly-balanced set of controls. Everything is available for manipulation via knobs, so you have a tactile experience of all that sound. That remains something of a challenge to provide on more complex digital synthesizers, even if their timbral range is greater. The patch bay on the MS-20 is also nice – compact, and offering a range of creative sound choices without being overwhelming. You can scratch the surface of those patches gradually, too, with a book of examples to get you started and a set of “normaled” controls (the sounds the MS makes before you plug in patch cords) that will leave plenty of room for exploration.

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Wouldn’t this have been better as a module?

Well, of course, it wouldn’t be an MS-20 if it weren’t an all-in-one design. Indeed, a lot of the better rivals to the MS in this price range (like the lovely boutique MFB synth) are different in precisely this way: they’re modules, not keyboards.

In practice, there are good and bad things about the integrated design. The classic angled panel of the MS makes the whole instrument really fun to play. And the keyboard feels just right for these kinds of sounds. The real disadvantage is, you have a synth that still takes up some space when you move it around.

What’s the build quality like? Is it made of plastic? Does it feel like crap?

Knobs on the MS-20 mini feel good, though some (by design) can be sensitive to small changes, the keyboard feels springy, and the side panels are made of plastic.

In other words – the mini is exactly like the original MS-20, which had all of these characteristics. But the added result feels solid and is loads of fun.

The mini’s knobs are slightly smaller, and there are a different number of grooves on the mod wheel, and —

No, actually, it doesn’t even make sense to go into this. The MS-20 mini comes so close to the look and feel of the original that it’s almost not worth mentioning. Perhaps it’s the advantage of young age, but the main difference you’ll notice is that the MS-20 mini’s keyboard feels substantially better than on a vintage MS-20. Build quality feels perfectly solid, and the main body is made of metal, but the whole affair remains lightweight.

In the box, you also get a nice set of minijack patch cords.

How does it compare to the controller released with the Legacy Collection?

For those who don’t know about this, the Legacy Collection software, which emulates the MS-20 (among others) in virtual form as a plug-in, briefly was accompanied by a controller. That controller was a lot of fun, but there’s no comparison. The MS-20 mini feels substantially better, and has bigger keys. It’s new hardware, not repurposed in any discernible way from the Legacy Collection controller, which had a different form factor/size. (That means, for those of you keeping score at home, Korg has now made three different sizes of things that look like or are MS-20s.)

In fact, it’s worth saying: these keys really are big enough for the sorts of lines you’d play on a monosynth, even if you have reasonably-large hands.

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What about MIDI? And what’s that USB jack for?

MIDI implementation on the MS-20 is bare-bones. Via MIDI DIN cable (the standard MIDI plug), you get only note values in. That works well for sequencing the MS-20 notes, but that’s it. Via USB, you get MIDI notes in and output from the MS-20 mini keyboard.

That’s all, though. The USB port doesn’t provide any further programmability or audio.

Indeed, the one criticism I’d have of the MS-20 mini is its MIDI implementation. It’d be hugely useful to be able to use MIDI control changes for some paramter control. And, indeed, there are other synths that do allow access to at least some of their parameters. Clarification: Note that “useful” or “nice to have” are not the same as “would have made sense.” The MS-20 as a result retains its original analog circuitry, which would need to be changed for MIDI parameter control, and that in turn maintains a simpler design.

It’s about the only criticism I could come up with, though, and it falls neatly under the heading of “Things I Can’t Really Complain About When The Price is Only $600.” But it does mean, as wonderful as the MS-20 mini – and its MS-20 predecessor – are, it is still worth looking at some of the other analog desktop synths out there, especially if you like sequencing more complex modulation patterns.

In place of MIDI, though, you might use analog inputs – see below.

(Updated) What about tracking and stability?

This question came up in comments; I didn’t comment on it simply because it wasn’t a factor for me in using the instrument. We found no issues with oscillator stability or pitch tracking. In fact, with the addition of MIDI note input, an MS-20 will be perfectly at home in a setup with digital synths.

Something’s wrong that it’s this cheap, though, right?

No, electronics commodity prices have come down since 1978. The reason the original MS-20 is costly is because it’s scarce, it’s sought-after, and (cough) old gear breaks. That’s something to consider if you’re looking for a reliable synth.

There are even other desktop analog synths out there that aren’t so expensive, from tiny makers rather than a giant like Korg. But what Korg can do that these other makers can’t is, well, release an MS-20. It is a really special design, and we’re gifted to be able to use it.

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What about this Hertz-per-volt business? Can I use it with my Eurorack?

The MS-20 mini uses Hertz-per-volt analog control voltage. This scales differently from the volts-per-octave scheme used on Eurorack gear (among others). So, no, you can’t directly plug a Eurorack module into the MS-20 mini and expect predictable control of pitch.

It’s tough to criticize this decision, however. Korg followed the scheme used on all their vintage equipment, including their SQ-10 sequencer, and a lot of other older gear. (Yamaha is a notable example.) To change the voltage scheme would have been to make a radical change to the MS-20, clearly at odds with the concept of this re-release. And there are modules out there that do transmit Hertz-per-volt, including new Metasonix equipment. (Thanks to the legendary Berlin gear purveyor Andreas Schneider for pointing that out to me.)

For everything else, you should keep an eye out for the Harvestman English Tear, announced by its creator on analog enthusiast site Trash Audio. Maker Scott Jaeger says it’ll be the cheapest thing he’s ever done, so it should be affordable, too. And it’ll provide “easy conversion from exponential volt-per-octave to linear hertz-per-volt and back, as well as V-trigger to S-trigger conversion.”

While Scott even labels the Hertz-per-volt side as “MS,” it’s worth noting that this will prove just as useful with other gear, since the MS-20 isn’t alone.

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So, should I buy one?

If you’re in the market for a monosynth, the MS-20 mini deserves strong consideration. There are other interesting monosynth keyboards out there, but the MS-20′s modular patch bay and distinctive sound and filter set it apart. And none of the others can lay claim to being a bit of history in the way the mini does. The points that might lead you elsewhere are pretty clear: if a small desktop unit is more practical, there are other options, and if greater MIDI control matters, it’s worth comparison shopping.

But I think there are two questions that get resounding answers in the MS-20 mini.

One is, did Korg manage to pull off a reissue that sounds like the original – or is even slightly better? Yes.

And does this 1978 design still hold up in 2013? Absolutely.

That should not discourage people who want to imagine new designs, rather than revisit old ones. On the contrary, it offers hope: the work we do in electronic music need not be disposable, need not be dated. The work in engineering and music making, in building technology, in practicing playing instruments, and making our musical voice heard, can pay off for years and decades to come.

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http://korg.com/MS20mini

  • Bedroom Producers Blog

    great video and nice review. at $600, this one is really tempting. i always wish i had the ms-20.

  • Reverse Luddite

    Review reads a bit like you’d decided to like it before pressing a key– the whole slobbering over technology from the 70s thing is mysterious to me. “Let’s bring back 8 track tapes, too!” No way to save a patch, no real external MIDI control, no modern features at all? And that’s good how?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      If you don’t like synthesizers, you won’t like the MS-20 mini.

      Like I say, the MIDI control thing is an issue. Patch control – well, look, that’s a trade-off for hands-on control.

      As for when I decided when to like it, I’d say I’m upfront about the tradeoffs of this design and digital synths. That’s not to say one is better than the other, but we’ve had since 1978 to work out whether we like the MS-20 or not. Since the mini really *is* an MS-20, yes, it’s fairly safe to say you should know whether or not you like it *partially* in advance.

    • Reverse Luddite

      So the point in reviewing it is to heap praise on it then?

      I like synthesizers plenty. I own a few, and even make music with them (as opposed to taking pictures of them in a candle-lit shrine). The idea that we should breathlessly praise someone for coughing up something from the 70′s is what grates here. It doesn’t sound bad, but an update using tools at our disposal strikes me as preferable to ‘going retro’ for it’s own sake.

    • http://www.facebook.com/nicnolasthompson Nick Thompson

      If what you want is a patchable analog synth for sub $700, then this is a really good deal. Like I said making this from modules would cost more than double.
      The point of reviewing is to figure out if the instrument is good. Does it sound good, is it usable, is it flexible, is it fit for purpose? I think the answer in this case is yes. So the review is positive.
      As for the angle, I have no idea how old Peter is. But for some of us (I got my first synth, an SH-101, in 1982) there is an element of nostalgia in all of this. I’ve seen the price of gear flip out of range over the last 20 years. So if the 70′s called and they want their synth back, I’m good with that, especially when the price seems very reasonable, and the sound is great. That was what I got from the review, so a positive review seems in order.

    • Daniel Ottini Music

      I have to agree with Luddite’s concerns (though this isn’t a criticism of your coverage or review, Peter) – I once owned a MS-10 and regret selling it long ago, so I can attest to its (MS-20) utility…but if Korg really wasn’t trying for the “retro” image business, why not the better MIDI implementation or the Euro-rack standard CV? I highly doubt these items would have added to the cost (and please don’t trot out the “that would have changed it from the original” arguement – really, is it the same size as the original?). I will likely be buying one, but I can’t partly help thinking that this product is aimed squarely at a certain generation’s “Hipsters”…

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      More extensive MIDI implementation, yes – would have been nice. Volts/octave – no, I can’t see it.

      Let’s just imagine this for a second. You’re Korg, in Japan. You have to suddenly, spontaneously see Eurorack as a “standard” – even though Hz/octave has been reasonably widely used, historically speaking. Not only that, you may be an engineer who designed the original MS-20.

      To follow this argument, you have to then dump the Hz/octave format that *was* standard on the equipment you’ve ever made as Korg, rendering your new MS-20 mini incompatible with the original MS-20, MS-10, and (crucially) SQ-10 sequencer.

      I can make a pretty strong case against doing that, and “hipsters” don’t have to enter into it. Remember, Eurorack owners represent a tiny slice of the market for the MS-20, and those users are going to be able to buy a cheap module to drop in their rack of gear that converts between the voltage standards.

      There’s more than one way to spec CV; that’s the reality, and as I understand it, that reality was at least partly in mind as early digital control protocols began to evolve in the early 80s, eventually leading to MIDI.

      Of course, all of this makes an even stronger case for more MIDI implementation on the MS-20 mini. But unless Korg starts making Eurorack modules…

    • Daniel Ottini Music

      I don’t disagree with you Peter…I just think its a lost opportunity to make a “Modern Classic” – agree or not, all indications are that the Eurorack thing is growing (I’m not for or against that) and other makers are aware of that market (Minibrute, QuNexus). Maybe I’m just not the target market…:-)

    • a

      This’ll probably sell more than the total number of euro users. I use euro, I love euro, but it’s not everything.

      I just want this to sell well so we get a monotribe with CV ins and outs to use with the miniMS20. Turn the monotrons into “modules” by exposing their patch points. Battery powered modular, yes please! I’d buy two of each, at least.

      If you want the (mini)ms20 to sound “new” run Metasynth into it or the prophet12, sample it into Live and use melodyne to pitch correct it. Fun never gets outdated.

    • butter

      just fyi, latest OS update (2.1) for the monotribe is CV pitch/gate…

      http://www.korg.com/SupportPage.aspx?productid=601

    • ChrisH

      Korg’s descritpion on the website seems to imply volt/octave, spec for VCOs patch panel as follows: VCO-1 + VCO-2 external frequency control input (OCT/V) (-5V – +5V)

      If this is true the Mini should play nicely with a whole range of stuff. As I own an MFB Urzweg 2 step sequencer and *love* the filter on the Monotron, the MS-20 Mini is looking like a must buy for me!

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Not according to Korg. Korg confirmed to CDM it’s Hz/octave, and that’s the reason Harvestman was already designing a module. I can double-check this, though. That spec is confusing.

    • http://brunoafonso.com Bruno Afonso

      There’s no such thing as Hz/octave. Please, pretty please, stop saying this and edit your article. :-) I’d love for you to test the harvestman gateway to tap into Euro world. This would be a worthy follow up of your MS20-mini review. It would also bring the review up to 2013 reality. :-)

      keep it up

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yipes. Maybe a side effect of having taught intro to sound physics too many times, in which there is, of course, a hertz/octave relationship.

      Yes, fixed these references.

      Harvestman gateway – absolutely. But … it doesn’t exist yet. And KORG wants their MS-20 mini back. Once that module is out and in Germany, you can bet I’ll be testing it.

    • Velocity

      Do you honestly think that there’s a better case to be made for allowing the mini to interface with an obscure vintage sequencer instead of allowing out-of-the-box compatibility with a UNIVERSE of modular equipment?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      No, I couldn’t argue for that. But there’s a good case to be made for it to interface with a range of modulars that *do* use this spec, plus all vintage Korg gear, plus a lot of vintage gear from other makers, plus the hardware of which it’s supposed to be a copy. And that’s what this is.

    • baward

      If you can find one, the Korg MS-02 interface solves the problem of Hz/v to 1V/oct beautifully. http://www.gotart.fr/bward/korgms/msspecs.html

    • ushaped

      Very true, but as an owner of a vintage MS20 I can say from experience that the accessories in the MS system are even rarer to source than the instruments!

    • baward

      Very true these days, sadly.

    • Aaron

      The “Hipsters” as you put it, are the haters in the case of the new ms-20.. not the fans.

    • Daniel Ottini Music

      Not sure I understand…

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yes, and if I breathlessly praised anything that was retro, that’d be profoundly unfair. But I talk about why I think the MS-20 holds up – a unique sound and balance of playability that isn’t available in the same form on modern synths. It’s worth remaking cheaper, lighter, and with MIDI.

      There are many, many instruments from 1978 which I wouldn’t want remade. Some of them I can’t think of, because they’ve been wisely forgotten.

    • http://www.facebook.com/nicnolasthompson Nick Thompson

      @Peter: thanks for the review.

      @Luddite: there are many, many preset players out there, and some stunningly good “programmable synths” that, sadly, no one programs. The Roland Jupiter 80 is an amazing instrument, but I highly doubt many people understand it’s engine or actually do much to create new sounds for it. I think the same is probably true for Korg Triton’s and their successors, Yamaha Motif’s and their successors. Does that devalue them as instruments? Of course not, they are used widely and inventively by thousands of great musicians every day.

      But for this synth, you are challenged to understand the signal path and create your own patches. Indeed even if you faithfully enter a patch from a patch sheet, it may not sound the same any two times in a row since you are unlikely, with analog knobs, to find the identical position of several knobs.

      And that is the beauty of this. You learn how each part of the synth affects other parts, you learn how to structure and to program sounds. Not for everyone, I know, but there are enough people out there who want to learn how to create their own patches and sounds to make this a viable proposition. Indeed the Roland GAIA SH-01 has proven to be a great MIDI based virtual analog for precisely this purpose, and if the lack of patches bothers people this is a great alternative.

      One of the reasons people like me love modular and/or hand made/homemade/kit built stuff is that there is no “easy reproducibility” which makes you think harder about what you are doing, and exploit happy accidents when they happen. I have several monotrons, none of which are in their cases because they are easy to hack and turn into new instruments with things like arduino. Personally I love what Korg are doing. Making this from deopfer or blacet modules is possible, but you would not see a great deal of change from 1600 bucks. This is priced really attractively and sounds great. For them that want MIDI and “saveability” there is the iPad emulator for very little money. Korg are the last of the Japanese synth companies doing really interesting synthy things for nuts that like analog and knobs. Thanks for the review I’m saving for one.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I’ll add my vote to that – sometimes, not saving presets is a great pleasure. I learned that on analog synths, but I apply it even to digital synths some of the time.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      That said – I should add – lots of advantages to digital synths, no question.

    • mrbiggs

      I for one don’t use MIDI and I don’t want presets. My guitar and pedals don’t have presets, my recording gear doesn’t have presets, my modular synth gear doesn’t have presets, and those three things are the most inspiring gear I own. My Alesis Micron with presets and my software with presets? Useful, i suppose, but not very inspiring and not what I turn to when I want to spend an evening in the studio. Who says MIDI and presets are “modern?” You’re either slobbering over technology from the 70s or from the 80s. I’ll take the former in this case.

    • just passing

      Dude, I feel for you. What with Peter Kirn strapping you into a chair, taping your hands to the front panel of an MS20 Mini, and forcing – *forcing!* – you to gently nose its keys if you want to make any music at all…

      …oh, wait, you’re just having a whinge about someone else’s personal preferences when they don’t impinge on you one teeny tiny little bit? Right. Well, I guess you’ll just have to ask Mr Kirn for a refund then.

    • Reverse Luddite

      Yeah, man, no one should ever use a comment section to comment on something.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mrbfrank Brian Frank

      dude the ms-20 has huge balls & capable of wild experimentation via control voltage. if you want to try and boil this review down to 70′s gear whoring then i say you’re a fuckin dork.

    • Jaap

      The answer is simple, if you like presets, buy the new mini nova or a copy of nexus. The fact this thing doesn’t have presets encourages you to really sculpt a sound instead if tweaking prefab presets. Btw, you could always take a picture of the patch

    • Ronny_Pudding

      Don’t be an idiot!

  • cresshead

    who do you set the midi channel it receives on?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Unfortunately, you don’t – it’s MIDI channel 1 only. However, since it also lacks a thru port – or out – that’s not necessarily a deal-killer. I was more frustrated by the lack of CC parameter control, which as I say is the one demerit. If it were more expensive, that’d probably get more marks off. ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/nicnolasthompson Nick Thompson

      yeah seems like the midi part is the place where perhaps some money was saved. A third pary option might be in order if full control is needed, Kenton have a page on the MS-20 here: http://www.kentonuk.com/synthselector/synths/korg/ms-20.shtml

    • Aaron

      I’d be willing to bet that there will be an firmware update that adds MIDI CC. That will be a nice extra if so, if not.. who cares.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.misto Joseph Misterovich

      I don’t think you’ll be seeing that as the internal synth engine is in no way connected to the midi input. That makes it an issue of a lack of hardware integration, not a simple firmware update.

    • Fero Povazan

      Isn’t the modular side of the ms20 the reason for lack of the midi? Whats the point of having quantized the great spectrum of possibilities. I would say, we will need more analog modulators for the ms20. If Korg will produce some nice and creative extensions with CV in/outs in the future I think the debate about old non modern design will be irrelevant.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I agree that analog modular routings are a lot of fun. But let’s consider – there are actually four ways I can count to go about adding control to the MS.

      Remember, on the patch bay I think the majority of MS customers will simply connect patch cords to reroute internal modulations.

      Additionally, a key design feature of the MS is the ability to route in external audio inputs or instruments. (I mentioned this in the preview, but – well, maybe we’ll record some fun sample of that another time.)

      MIDI need not “quantize the great spectrum of possibilities” – it’s just another control mechanism. And it could be used in conjunction with analog audio inputs or modulation routing — not only on this, but on any instrument. And it can be useful, and powerful in ways that analog may not be, necessarily – particularly if you don’t already have a big rack of CV-producing gear.

      External CV sources is just a fourth possible input mechanism, and I think is probably the least common to be used. Then, as I say, not everyone necessarily will use Eurorack as their CV source. So, there’s a certain myopia on the part of the Eurorack community.

    • baward

      Peter, I have a page here, which gives users tips about using their MS gear: http://www.gotart.fr/bward/korgms/mstt.html

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      baward: super cool. Well, and I hope that by the time I again have an MS-20 mini, I can test with this new module, no question. MS-20, we’ll see you again on CDM. ;)

    • baward

      Thank you Peter, you run a great resource here. I will return for sure :-)
      Ben

  • http://twitter.com/vicmodrec vicmod records

    Having owned 2 MS20s over the years the $600 price point and reissue is great for newcomers to one of the best analog synths.

    Talking about presets I have to say I use Ableton Live NOT as a dance music production tool. I make all my own sounds and record and edit in Live, use Max for live too. I hate the fact that I have to buy Live 9 to have all the features and 50gig of other peoples sounds/ beats.
    To me Live is more like a modular synth meets audiomulch meets Soundforge meets Cubase but why think we all want to write dance music?? Nothing against dance music, I use to release it 94-2001 but as a musician you may want to explore and learn new and exciting things.

  • Bjørn Nesby

    I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about a “new” piece of hardware as this one – one of my friends own one, and I remember feeding crisp 8bit sounds from the Amiga into this one while my friend would come up with insane ways to trigger the filter. So, perhaps nostalgia plays a part too, but I didn’t think twice about pre-ordering it. KORG, this baby has soul!!

  • cammy watt

    Be nice to play in a band with one of these. I want one so I can get away from my computer a bit. Jam out with friends. For the price it seems good. This will replace my jen sx1000 for sure. Most people dont have lots of money my self included. i dont care if every kid on the block has one, the musical climate might make for a slightly more interesting one after a decade of crap recycled indie. On the downside more dark wave but hopefully the whole preset thing will dampen that.

  • Mike VB

    Excellent review! Thanks for answering the question of how it is built… as I wait for the one I ordered, I did have some concern of how it was built.

  • Devin

    Great review. Just one question – who’s the best online retailer to preorder something like this in the US? This will be my first synth purchase, so I have no experience with any of the multitude of resalers available. Warranty and customer support being a high priority, I imagine.

    Thanks!

    • mrknoch

      Hey Devin, Go with Sweetwater. They blow Guitar Center/Musician’s Friend and anyone else out of the water when it comes to customer service and support. Really. No, I don’t work for them.

  • zz slop

    you know what i love about a modular analog synth with no memory?
    the creation aspect.
    i build a sound, i use that sound, and i let it grow naturally from there…it’s wonderful!

    i play in bands and i record, but i spend most of my time just playing, and a synth like this that never quite lets me get back to where i was helps me move along a musical path.

  • Random Chance

    I can’t quite belive that I’m the only one who is stunned that this review of a synth does not once mention the words tracking or stability. There are quite a few objective things to test about an analogue synth that have a more direct impact on the music you are making than plastic side panels (not that mentioning build quality and keyboard action isn’t important). I’d say that a second, more technical review is in order.

    For a more objective voice in synth reviews and more attention to detail when it comes to analogue circuitry.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, I responded to questions that came from readers, which kept repeating these queries. Now, that doesn’t mean performance isn’t important, but I didn’t go into specifics of tracking or stability because I found the oscillators to be perfectly stable. It just wasn’t an issue. So then, I would turn to overall sound and experience as a musical instrument, and I believe I did talk about that (here and in the discussion when we had both the mini and original MS in the same room).

      So, apart from tracking/stability, what specifically did you feel was lacking in the test that would merit an entirely separate review?

    • Random Chance

      Then, if you say you did test the quantitative aspects of the oscillators, how about the tracking? How many octaves without noticeable deviation? And some other standard questions: What about the speed of the envelopes? Frequency range of the LFOs? How about self-oscillation of the filters and tracking of the resulting sine wave? Those are important parameters of an (analogue) synth. But I guess, you expect that people look those up in some reviews of the original MS-20. And I just have a different expectation of a synth review, that’s all.

  • Cables

    Great review, thanks a lot. Very detailed, great photos. Hardly any other synth was/is able to produce such a hype as the MS-20 does. I have to admit I got sweaty hands as soon as I heard about the release. Downside: just MIDI note on/off is actually quite poor and will probably not fit into my line-up. KORG just seems to use their own as well as their competitors experience pretty well to evaluate what actually sells. They´re not geek loving japanese enthusiasts – they´re mass market producers. And their closest competitor, the Minibrute is still 100 EUR cheaper. Still, I like the fact that companies start to look at their own history and re-produce the best products of past decades. Some people may have realized that the “digital promise” is not necessarily leading to a better and happier life, nor does it lead to better music of course. There will be growing demand for simple design and single purpose in the future.

  • lnasdoinrg

    This actually takes/gives 1v/oct, not hertz/oct. Also, they are DCOs, not VCOs. There is a processor keeping it in tune so you do not get unpredictability. Just clarifying some things…

    • philb

      can you cite where you heard they are DCOs?

  • Flux302

    after reading the Q & A and having played it myself I have to really disagree on the Feel of the unit as far as build quality. if it’s the same as the units at NAMM. it felt horribly bad plastic. I was really looking forward to it but once I touched it I was pretty sad by how the knobs felt. I expected a cheaper build than the original but not the cheapest plastic known to man. other than that I still enjoyed tweaking it. But actual tweaking feel. no. I wasn’t feeling that at all.

  • Ryan

    WILL IT COME WITH THAT TWEED CASE LIKE THE ORIGINAL ONE HAD ????

  • http://brunoafonso.com Bruno Afonso

    I wonder if it would be possible to edit the article and remove any Hertz/octave references which make no sense at all. This will only create a source of confusion for inexperienced readers and anger everyone that understands that any CV-pitch standard needs a *voltage* in the description. :-)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Okay, it’s fixed. And … whoops. ;)

  • Simon

    (That means, for those of you keeping score at home, Korg has now made three different sizes of things that look like or are MS-20s.) … 4? Blackboard MS-20 is another size.

  • KEY-MAN

    From a gigging musicians perspective, the ms-20 mini is actually like a dream come true. In Norway a vintage ms-20 in perfeclty working order now sells for 2600$! you dont want to bring a That expensive synth on tour unless your rich, so most band here end up using their lousy microkorgs on tour, but loving ms-10s and ms-20s when recording. now, if just roland releases a juno-106 reissue that isnt terrible heavy like the original to compliment the ms 20 mini; That would be a KILLER live rig for keybordists for about 1000$!

  • Misterv

    I usually do not respond to message boards but I have to question why anyone would be upset that korg has decided to reissue this synth when whining person could just go and look at and buy other synths? Usually the person who sounds like they are insulting and strongly opinionated over trivial matters are not very good musicians, or are musicians at all.

  • Hickley

    Just wondering: Is the MS-20 (in general) capable of overload distortion? maybe by patching the headphone output back in?

  • Mike

    Exellent review! Still a litte confused though regarding the Control Voltage (CV): In recent videos on YouTube they have the MS-20 Mini connected to the Doepfer Dark Time sequencer without any extra converter between them. Does this verify that the MS-20 Mini is actually working with Eurorack units? Please check out “musictrackjp” channel on Youtube, 12:54 into the video.