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MS-20 mini, on the left, next to the original, on the right. Photos: Peter Kirn and Benjamin Weiss for CDM and DE:BUG.

It’s the news collectors of vintage synths on eBay probably didn’t want to hear. For $599, Korg has made a new MS-20 that the company says has “perfectly reproduced its circuitry” for an “authentic” sound.

You can read our full review of the MS-20 mini, and watch a video, whether or not you’ve ever used the original. But if you are curious how a new MS-20 mini stacks up against the vintage MS-20, we hauled both into the studio to try them out.

cdmdebugAnd as the 1980 model met the exclusive 2013 review unit, CDM met Berlin-based, German-language electronic music publication DE:BUG. Benjamin Weiss of that publication (and Engadget.de) spent the afternoon testing with me and joins us for his thoughts. Have a listen – and yes, we do enjoy talking about this stuff, so you get our genuine, unscripted thoughts.

In the examples that include both the MS-20 and the MS-20 mini, the order is as follows:

Both together (if applicable), then our recently-restored 1980-vintage MS-20, then the new mini.

Now that USA radio program Car Talk is no longer in production, enjoy Sine & Square:

(I should add, Benjamin is also producer Nerk, and half of the legendary Tok Tok, on Kompakt, Klang, V-Records. Like the MS-20 mini, I’m the upstart newcomer, and relatively smaller in physical size. However, both Benjamin and I do MIDI.)

The verdict: the original is … worse, actually. (And that’s even before you get to its high cost, bigger size, and lack of MIDI.) Sorry, purists; feel free to throw things at me.

Clarification: I recognize that it’s not always clear what we’re demonstrating with these sound clips. We spent a significant amount of time comparing the two instruments. My feeling was that the differences were subtle enough (apart from reliability issues on the older unit), that for practical musical purposes, while actually playing and producing music, you would be happy with either from a sound standpoint. The examples you hear were chosen specifically because they pushed timing and filter performance to the edge – where you would begin to hear actual differences between the sounds. Even in these examples, however, I find the differences reasonably subtle, and these are edge cases.

Additionally, what I hoped to illustrate in the issue of tuning reliability problems on one of the oscillators was the fact that older units very often expose reliability and quality differences, and require a higher degree of maintenance. Sometimes, these characteristics can even be desirable, though very often they can become a challenge to owners not willing to commit to doing some upkeep for optimal performance. It’s worth pointing out the obvious as conventional wisdom sometimes dictates that older is necessarily better, and here, the remake means a lower cost of ownership and fewer reliability concerns. It was still a pleasure to work with the older unit, but since this is a comparison, that’s only fair.

A/B tests are actually rather hard to hear as even the toughest tests we could produce got astoundingly-similar results. The differences clearly came from the age of the vintage model. One of the oscillators was gradually but constantly drifting out of tune and the keyboard felt fairly rough. And this is on a model in very good internal condition, coming off a recent service. I did find that setting knobs in identical positions on envelopes and other parameters produced slightly different results, but I would again attribute this to age and other variations; if you ignored the exact knob position and listened to the sound, matching the two was easy.

In fact, I even tried two-handed jams on the mini and original model, and got them paired closely enough to produce two-note polyphony. (Those were — uh, too embarrassing to release. It turns out I’m not actually Wendy Carlos, after all. Bach does sound good on the Korgs, however.)

Mostly, what both MS-20 mini and MS-20 demonstrated was how distinctive this design is – in old and new iterations. The filter sounds simply spectacular, as heard recently in Korg’s monotron and monotribe. The instrument can produce floor-rattling-good bass, thick, rich sounds, and wild, experimental timbres. Any difference between the mini and original MS-20 is incidental, but the difference between the MS-20 and other synths is something else. It’s still a really terrific instrument.

Of course, Korg will now probably have to move on, having released the MS-20 or its filter in desktop plug-ins, on Nintendo DS, on iPad, in a circuit diagram released publicly, in multiple monotrons, and in the monotribe. And so, we’ll wait for an SQ-10 sequencer. (Seriously, Korg; think about it.)

Enjoy a couple of those entries, plus the MS-20 mini and original, in images. (Sorry – Berlin is … dark.)

Clarification: As noted in comments, though I didn’t answer it explicitly in the audio, there is a rationalization for the absence of MIDI parameter control on the MS-20. This would require redesigned circuits, both making the design more complex (which can incur cost) and deviating from the mini’s mission of reproducing the original. It’s still worth noting that it isn’t there, though, as it is more common for synths designed today to incorporate this sort of digital control of analog parameters. Note that even then, you might not control all parameters, but having some (like filter cutoff, for instance), can be useful in certain creative music workflows. (You know who you are.)

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  • Nick Shepherd

    thanks for the test guys :)

    think i´ll really have to get one soon

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.husted James Husted

    I think the whole exercise of comparing new clones of old designs to older synths is a waste of time. I have owned a bunch of Oberheim SEMs (4-voice and 2-voice and spares) and 2 Synthi AKSs and a VCS3 and those were all vintage and they didn’t even sound like each other if you listened closely. Remember theses +30 year old analogue synths were made mostly with 5% tolerance resistors and caps that had even higher tolerances. Those tolerances can skew a lot of different ways through the circuitry in the signal path. Add the age and decay in Caps and any vintage synth probably sounds a lot different now than it did when it was made. All that matters, or I should say, all that SHOULD matter, is if the machine in front of you sounds GOOD.

    • retroz

      No, a comparison isn’t a waste of time. I’ve seen at least one high profile writer dismiss the new MS-20 as “surface mount crap,” so knowing that it sounds good is important. I don’t care if it sounds *the same*, just that it doesn’t have obvious flaws and has a decent character.

    • Betty

      who was that then ? published where ? …interested in checking it out! thanks

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Wait a minute here – except in this case, a) they did sound like each other (at least close enough that would make the remake musically useful), and b) they did sound good, which if you listen to what I say in the audio is what I say is the thing that matters.

      The other thing our side-by-side test would seem to suggest is that the sum total of the architecture and design matter more than individual tolerances within circuits – because what you get in the end is something capable of producing the same kinds of sounds.

      Now, above I leap to the conclusion that some of this is age, but I suspect that you’re right and component tolerance is a major factor, and I should say that specifically (i.e., not simply aging components changing behavior, but older components with greater quality variation)

  • David Campbell

    Korg really hit this one out of the park IMO. Adding a simple MIDI In was the right concession to modern design. Thankfully they didn’t go overboard with the “mini” concept and put a MicroKorg keyboard on it. The keyboard on the MS-20 Mini appears to be far less of a playability compromise. The $600 price tag is the final spec that makes any remaining complaints seem petty.

  • brimoore99

    Great review – I like how the differences, in your opinions, AREN’T all in favor of the original. I think of how many original instruments would benefit from a modern, maybe mini re-make (OB-Xa, CS-80, CR-78 to name a few). Software simulations are great for getting a taste of the hardware, but come on!!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/madronalabs Randy Jones

    Wait, Car Talk is off the air?

    • Bynar
    • http://www.facebook.com/skirn47 Steve Kirn

      Well, not EXACTLY…. They aren’t making new shows — just recycling cuts from old ones. It’s reasonably transparent if you don’t listen too closely (e.g., why all the references to 1995-vintage cars?) And I think the puzzlers may be “new”. OK if you need a fix, and the editing is pretty seamless. But we KNOW………….

  • http://www.facebook.com/amund.ulvestad Amund Ulvestad

    To be honest, they don’t sound all that similar to me. The original has a sort of gnarl and grit to it that the new one doesn’t seem to have (in your test). That’s not to say I dislike the new one. I totally want one, and I think Korg has made a fantastic move bringing this to the market. To me, though, what’s so special about the (original filter design) old MS-20s is that wild, aggressive filter resonance. (I actually prefer, and own, the second filter version though.. go figure.)

    Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that oscillator drift on the MS-20 is pretty uncommon. Maybe the tuning pot is dirty or something? The MS-20 is in general considered one of the most reliable of the old analogs. Mine was actually submerged in water for 24 hours after a rainstorm totally wrecked my rehersal room six years ago. Never had a single problem with it before or after. :)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yes, I was alarmed by that tuning issue. But on both these points, see my clarifications above. I chose sound examples and scenarios meant to be edge cases. And the reliability issue here, while itself not typical, is a reminder that older units require maintenance – a big consideration given that in the case of the MS-20, they’re now more expensive.

      I don’t think the mini really eliminates the value of the historic synths; I hope my flippant humor doesn’t make it seem that I’m dismissing older units. What struck me, though, was in musical scenarios I think a mini is a perfectly reasonable substitute. And I got plenty of gnarly/gritty sounds out of the mini. There were subtle differences, but they tended in practice to even out. It’s hard to do a good A/B sound example of what I mean, but I found when both of them were next to one another, my own selection bias started to fade. As I kept playing notes on the two instruments, they started to feel like identical twins, not cousins.

    • http://www.facebook.com/amund.ulvestad Amund Ulvestad

      That’s really cool to hear. I can’t wait to get my hands on one myself. It would almost be worth it for the envelopes, lfo, the frequency converter.. all the “silent” stuff alone for me. Now, to get all of that plus the oscillators, two hot filters and the patchbay in such a cute package with playable keys and everything for $599..!

      I’m also thinking this will be a hacker’s dream. I’ve always wanted pulse width modulation on my MS-20 (a super easy mod) but didn’t want to drill holes and mess with it. The Aura, the Aura!

      This new one will get modded to the moon and back by the serious synth geeks, mark my words. I’m betting we’ll be seeing homemade MS Voyagers popping up in no time. :)

  • kvnvk

    thanks for the side by side, they do sound quite similar though there seems to be a slightly more cutting, bright quality to the mini in the audio examples. not a deal breaker by any means as far as I’m concerned.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yep, I could open up the filter on the mini and get a brighter sound than I could on the original. On the other hand, I could dial back the filter slightly and match the original when it was sounding more mellow.

  • oscillateur

    Answer to a question by Benjamin Weiss in the audio file : you can control some parameters with MIDI on the monotribe (if you add MIDI to your Monotribe first, of course) because they are handled in software by the microprocessor : LFO, envelope and sequencer. All the rest (i.e. the audio path basically : VCO/noise/VCA/filter/drums) is analogue and would require extensive circuit modifications to be controlled by MIDI. As the MS20 mini is fully analogue, you can’t control anything with MIDI without modifying the circuit and this is not what Korg had in mind… MIDI note in is just like having a tiny dedicated MIDI to CV converter in there and does not imply any significant change to the original circuit.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Right, I certainly see the rationale for not having MIDI parameter control. I commented on it in the other review, though because both Benjamin and I discussed some comparative synths in this price range with new circuit designs that *do* allow for this.

      As many, many commenters got angry at me for “celebrating 70s tech” (here and in the original story), and one prominent blogger went on a rant about Korg repurposing an old design, I think it’s worth being tough on the MS-20 and mini as far as how they stand up against newly-designed instruments. I still feel like the mini compares nicely, even without this feature.

    • Edward On-Robinson

      “one prominent blogger went on a rant” …who? I’m with you in supporting Korg’s decision here but am quite interested to see what it is that others are objecting to,

    • Jeffwry

      ya I’m interested to know too. from the bitterness of the quoted comments “surface mounted crap”, and the allusions to the general douchbaginess & rantiness of the prominent blogger I was guessing Chris Randall, but I just had a quick look at his blog and didn’t notice any ms20 entries ? ..so I dunno. Still interested in finding out who, even if it is CR – his writing (and correspondence, since I own some AudioDamage plugs) being something I generally avoid like one might avoid genital herpes.

  • Devin

    Maybe it’s just me, but honestly I was surprised by the differences heard between the old vs. new in the audio recording in this post. With all of the posts I’ve read saying that they managed to capture the sound of the original perfectly, I expected it would be hard to tell the two apart, but it’s obvious that there are two different synths. Hmmm…

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I added a comment on this above. The sound samples we included are edge cases where we began to notice differences. My judgment, at least, was that these weren’t so significant musically – Benjamin was more concerned about the envelope timing differences, however.

      There are a number of potential reasons, even with the same internal circuit architecture. Quality variation is one – as a commenter notes here, tolerances in components when the original MS-20 was produced were higher than now. Age (and dirt) is another.

      When you actually produce sounds, though, these subtle differences wind up for me falling away. And as I said, I was able to dial up sounds so similar that I could convincingly use the two MS-20s to produce polyphony, which for me was the big test.

    • Devin

      Thanks for the reply, it’s reassuring to know that these were the outlier examples where you were able to hear a difference. I agree that even these are subtle enough that if you weren’t doing a side by side comparison there would be no apparent issue.

      I couldn’t find this in the description, so can you tell me which model is being played in what order? I can tell the difference but I don’t know which is which to decide which I think sounds better in these cases where there’s a variance. Who knows, maybe I like the mini better anyways. :)

    • Jeffwry

      The envelope differences are significant musically. They are significant sonically too. It’s not ‘just’ timing differences, I don’t know why you’re so quick to gloss over the obvious envelope differences in the audio review and text review ? …the original has a nicer, almost exponential sounding, curve whereas the re-make seems totally linear. I’m assuming you tried your best to match the envelopes with your ears, but still couldn’t ? … I share the TokTok guy’s reservations about the envelopes. You should too.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      There’s one example where the envelopes were behaving differently, which is why we included it. In the other examples, the two instruments were matched perfectly. Sometimes, things like resonance behave in non-linear ways – which is why we like the MS-20 filter to begin with.

      Most of the examples here are in fact very timing-dependent, and there’s no discernable difference whatsoever.

    • Jeffwry

      Depends on if you’re into envelopes or not, you don’t seem all that concerned about it. For me, it’s a bummer. A nice curve on the decay envelope is what it’s all about especially at longer release times, the original seems to have that. the remake sounds linear, which just isn’t as nice. sure there will be other scenarios, with quicker times, where it’s not as noticeable. but it’s pretty damn obvious on slower stuff, going by your demos.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Ah, okay, I think you may be hearing something different than what I experienced. On the extremely fast envelopes, we were unable to replicate exactly the same results. On slower envelopes, the decay was essentially identical.

      In fact, mostly what I observed was that both the original and mini have pretty touch-y envelope curves – a combination of the precision of the pots (or lack thereof) and the non-linearity of the whole instrument. It’s part of what makes it fun to play; I’d just describe each as fairly non-linear.

      The actual architecture and design hasn’t changed – as you’ll see others commenting, basically the original MS-20 often varied from model to model.

      If you want precisely-defined envelopes, you should get a digital synth. ;)

    • Jeffwry

      hehe, you don’t have the benefit of seeing my studio and the lovely bits of analogue gear that occupies it :) … you don’t seem to be getting what my reservation is with the Mini’s (decay) envelopes, I’m not looking for precisely-defined. that is in fact my criticism of the mini’s envelope, going by your demos it sounds linear to me whereas the original sounds exponential. It’s the difference between a sine wave and a saw. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that you’re not “getting” what my reservation is, as you glossed over the differences yourself already – you don’t seem to consider it a bona-fide contributor to the overall sound, whereas I do (because it is, the character of the filter is just one aspect – how it’s controlled is another)…and presumably the other guy Benjamin has the same reservations, him being a musician this doesn’t surprise me. Do I need to plot a graph to be understood ? Check your audio review again, the point at which the soundcloud user “SVMCMD” (sp?) comments at around the 3:30 mark is where the envelope differences are very, very obvious. The original’s envelope is lovely – exponential – sine like, the mini is linear and sucks in comparison. The character of the filter ? sure, similar – identical even, but there’s more to sound design than the character of the filter. I’m really bummed by what sounds like these boring clinical envelopes on the mini, and would be really hopeful that this just comes down to how you guys made the patches…matching by settings rather than ear. Though I feel that’s wishful thinking on my part

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Ah, okay, now I understand what you’re talking about.

      That’s not a difference in filter behavior. What you’re imagining – that Korg would replace an exponential filter with a linear filter – would require an actual change in the circuitry, and they didn’t do that.

      What you’re *hearing*, the resulting sonic characteristics of this filter sweep, are produced by the behavior of the resonant filter, not really the envelope. I’m not glossing over differences here. What I was trying to convey was that it’s not the difference between the two MS-20s that is noticeable as you play them over time so much as the filter circuit used in these (and recently in monotron and monotribe) is *profoundly nonlinear.* That’s why we love it.

      As I said, the changes in shape are not changes in cutoff but in the odd resonances you get as the cutoff sweeps – the variability of the timbre of the filter. You get the same variances if you physically sweep the filter with your hand.

      So, you’re getting radically different results even when you try to set the filter and envelope to a particular location. But this is what makes the MS-20 filter so dynamic and lovable. And it really in this case has nothing to do with envelopes — not in this particular audio example.

    • matias

      I think you may have misunderstood what Jeffwry was getting at. If the filter opens up equally on old and new, then it’s the shape and range of the EG that is causing the audible differences between them. in the demo, the frequency at the peak of the attack is higher in every example. I cannot comment on the shape of the ADR curves, but I am inclined to think that, whatever the shape, they sound punchier on the old ms20.

      this is coming from someone who is eagerly waiting for their ms20mini pre-order to be fulfilled and who doesn’t own a single piece of history (but I am taking donations!) :) , so please don’t think I am some sort of elitist with my nose up in the air!! as long as the filters truly open up to the same degree, I think these limitations can be easily overcome with some clever patching and the help of the doepfer modular rig.

      happy patching to all!

  • GovernorSilver

    Should have done a poll for us to get which sound(s) were made by the original and which were made by the reissue, to eliminate bias. Of course some people are going to say the original “sounds better”, because they were told which was the original. A few years back, a guitarist did a sound comparison between a real vintage Marshall guitar amp and a modeled one, but didn’t say which was which – half the respondents guessed wrong!

  • BingMachine

    Thanks for the test!
    There’s one thing I’ve been trying to find the answer to though. Even Korg hasn’t answered me. When you play the mini from USB/Midi, do you get the CV and trig from that on the panel, just as if you were playing from the keyboard? If you do, you could use this thing to play your old MS-20 as well. Or your Yamaha CS whatever. Do you know the answer to this?

  • ZZZ

    GAH, which is the reissue and the original model in the audio examples? Are we supposed to guess? Im guessing clip C is the original MS-20?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Like it says in the text; each is the original first, followed by the mini. In cases where both need to be heard at once, that’s indicated, and then that comes first.

      But if you can’t tell at that point, well, the comparison did its job. ;)

  • Gene

    Look at it this way: when Moog released the Voyager I knew for sure I wanted the original Minimoog, because I realised that they could never fully duplicate it. If the MS20Mini doesn’t convince, you can stop doubting and get the original. I must say though, Korg did a much better job copying the MS20 than Moog did with the Voyager.

  • guyatoner

    Twelve minutes of audio-demo, and you manage to talk 95% of the time.
    Conclusion: the synths sound the same with max. resonance, I do not think so.
    You drown in admiration, and only touch the surface.
    MS-20 owners want OSC-sync, separate OSC-outputs, separate waveform-outputs,
    still a big miss on the new mini.

    If the OSC starts drifting by itself, you should know there is something wrong.

    Please explore a little deeper, thanks

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Right, but then what you’re describing is essentially an MS-20 Voyager. It clearly wasn’t what Korg was trying to do. I think what’s interesting about the MS-20 is that they went all-out in re-releasing a historical instrument, and there’s some value for that. It means sacrificing things you might want, but it’s a rare opportunity to buy a historical instrument without those kinds of revisions. Now, I do expect this to (rightfully) bring up some debate and controversy.

      I’m getting loads of “please explore deeper” comments which largely appear to have to do with people being dissatisfied that I reached different conclusions than they might have. What I don’t hear in those comments is any specifics – what did you want tested?

      This isn’t the first, nor the last, story ever to appear on the site. So specific feedback is welcome.

    • Daniel Ottini Music

      I don’t disagree with your conclusions – I just wonder whether the MS-20 mini is right for me. It’s fair to say that this is an early, brief look and it is appreciated – but the thing that would make me personally decide to buy one or not, is its connectivity with the Modular (Eurorack) stuff…that’s what sold me on the Minibrute. It’s nice to have a few “Swiss Army” synths around, but there has to be another selling point (IMHO) for picking up a Mono synth these days (other than nostalgia). So here is what I would like to see in a future review (since you ask): take an MS-20 mini and plug it into the Harvestman interface module and lets see how many interesting connecting points you can get between it and a Eurorack. I might yet enrich Korg’s coffers!

  • oknragibrg

    Wonder what kind of digital circuitry was added to tune the oscillators… Korg is unclear on this point. I am curious if it is something that is easy to replace… This could get scary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tommy.walker3 Danny Webbox

    Korg has no new ideas. Though I’m sure this will sell like drugs. We urgently need a WAR to advance new technologies or we are doomed.

  • Fresh Pine scent

    Great article. I really don’t care if this sounds exactly like the original, it looks cool, fun and inspirational enough to let Korg take next month’s rent :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Eigner/781452593 Richard Eigner

    Never had a problem with the tuning or pitch drift on my old Korg MS20!

  • Macy5

    Like who *really* cares if a ms20 sounds like an ms20 in 2013?

  • dyscode

    For the Sound Comparison Clarification: If you find two vintage MS-20 that sound EXCATCLY the same I’ll buy you a Prophet 12 – meaning: that will never happen. So comparison is slighty misleading in any case, anyway.

  • gLOW-x

    Some ppl don’t understand the point.But it is really simple : new MS-20 sounds as good than old one. No more bashers saying : it is new surface mount crap, it is too cheap to sound as good than my old MS-20 witch i paid thousands…they are wrong and now they know it. They will still send arguments…in the wind.

    That’s all. They sound different (of course, with 30 years difference and different components…) but they BOTH sound good.

    Now it is time for you to know if you want to spend thousands for vintage or hundreds for new.

    Next thing bashers will come in is build quality…another (useless) debate.

    Thanks for your article !

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501462734 Tom Maisey

    Hey Peter, great comparison, thanks! Don’t listen to the naysayers above, you did a great job. Any plans for a a regular podcast?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Hope so! Much easier now having a studio.

  • a

    You had two ms20s and you didn’t run them into each other? I think the coolest thing about the remake is that it’s now feasible to setup a filterbank.

  • anderson rozatto

    MS – 20 Original, i’ve already test the Mini, for me sounds different.

  • me111

    so whats the deal? does the old ms20 and new ms20 really sound the same? whats better if money wasnt a factor?

  • kavakon

    I own the Original MS-20. At the 2013 namm show I tested some of my patches on the new ms-20 mini , hoping it would be the same. They do not sound the same! The sound is bigger in the older Ms-20 and filters can be pushed further. What I mean by filters pushed further is that I noticed on the new ms-20 mini the resonace has a strange cheap buzz to it when pushed up past the 7 on the dial. For basic analog sounds the mini ms-20 was pretty good and worth the price. However when making complex patches the mini-ms20 proves the old saying is true “you get what you pay for”.

    When all said and done being a huge ms-20 fan, I still want to buy the new mini. However I will have to hold onto my original because simply it sounds better.

  • Analog Girl

    Check out Marc Doty’s (Automatic Gainsay) YouTube demonstrations of the MS-20 mini (at 1080p). They’re so much smarter than this ego demo, and you’ll get a really true feel for how it sounds. To the guys at CDM: You had a really cool opportunity to associate yourselves with something awesome with the MS-20 mini, and instead you posted a really lazy demo and comparison. Not awesome at all. CDM has done some moderately cool things in the past, but it will take a while for a lot of people to take you seriously again after this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brendon.webster Brendon Webster

    Well, after listening to a few comparisons, I have to say they sound similar on the surface, but vastly different in the subtlety department. Old gear used old circuitry and chips, and every component gives a characteristic sound to any instrument. The older MS20 sounds far superior in my opinion, bottom line. I grew up listening to analog synths. The old gear resonates with me, I instantly recognize some old SSM or Curtis chips when I hear them. There is a depth and character to the MS20 that the MS20 mini lacks. It sounds very bright and clean, This is where the rift begins between old school “purists” and new school synth heads. Younger kids did not grow up listening to the old gear in music and movie scores. Years of hearing countless records, radio broadcasts and John Carpenter soundtracks ingrained a certain sound into us. We fell in love with it. If you weren’t around then, you just can’t understand. Nothing like the sound of a Moog Source or Jupiter 8 with an 808 kick drum and hihats blaring thru a boombox’s speakers on a blazing hot summer afternoon in 1983, with the treble tweaked out to the point where it was almost self resonating (the way the radio stations used to EQ and compress their music in the 80′s was so weird!), while you practiced breakdancing on a cardboard box or popped ollies on a banana board. The younger kids don’t recognize certain subtle characteristics of the sound that older people hear instantly. It’s simply something that wasn’t programmed into their mind’s ear. That connection doesn’t exist. They hear the waveform, the filter, etc, and they say “hey, sounds great!” For a lot of us older peeps, that specific “vintage analog” character is what we are always striving to find in our music, hence the obsessive fetish for vintage gear and long winded rants about “plastic sounding toys.”

    Now, having said that, I am super stoked that synthesizer manufacturers are moving away from the garbage digital “analog emulations” they have been pumping out since the mid-to late-90′s and making the real deal. There is no way to get the exact same sound because the components aren’t available. No more SSM, no more Curtis Chips. I look at the MS20 mini as a new instrument that looks and sounds similar to the MS20, but is a different beast altogether. It is $600 brand new, out of the box, with a warranty (well I’m sure the warranty is a few extra bucks). It is using new parts which are available for cheap should it need repaired. Buying any older analog gear is a big investment. Most of that stuff is a ticking timebomb at this point. Buying from ebay is always risky. You might end up with a 90% working instrument that will cost a good portion of it’s price in repairs (if it’s even possible, parts are getting harder and harder to source). If you don’t do repairs yourself, they are crazy expensive on any of the older gear, and trust me, you’re going to need some repairs at some point down the line. Here, with the MS20 mini, you don’t have to worry about that. It sounds very nice for a newly manufactured analog synth. It actually sounds better than the new Moog stuff if you ask me. It has MIDI so you can sequence it from Ableton or whatever DAW you use, without having to sink even more money into a CV/MIDI converter. Although I don’t think it sounds as good as the original, it sounds pretty damn good in its own right. So take it or leave it. Be thankful Korg is making an effort instead of making a new version of the MiniKorg. It’s a start, and looking at how successful the Minibrute was, and how many people are claiming to have ordered or plan to order an MS20 mini, other manufacturers will have to take note. Hopefully this is the shift in the industry so many people have been hoping would happen for a long, long time.

    • Geissler

      This comment reads like a parody of the archetypal analog snob. Are you in earnest? Just because you got too old to skate doesn’t mean all music made after ’83 is bad.

    • Another Old Guy

      That’s not what he said. Reread the comment without assuming you know what it says before you start. Your skate remark is well delivered and vaguely amusing. It is however a straw man.

  • modernair

    It’s weird because the filter Sweep in the first example is dirtier than the mini. Then when it comes to the LFO sweeps it sounds like the 2nd example is dirtier… Makes me think the LFO examples are mini and then the original. Peter?