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Total Recall (Part 13)

including The A-to-Z of Analogue


Our definitive directory of every analogue synth in the history of the whole world ever. Included are keyboards, expanders and sound modules. Readers are invited to expand upon or correct any part of the A-Z. Parts 1 to 12 may be ordered on Music Maker's mail order hotline: (Contact Details).

Part 13 - compiled by Peter Forrest

Korg (contd.)



POLY 800

8-DCO 8-voice 64-program 49-note (C-C) MIDI synth with sequencer. 1984 - 1986. (Mark II: 1986 - c. 1987).
Original price: £575
Target price: £100 - £130
Users include: Juan Atkins, Brian Chatton, Geoff Downes, Peter Erskine, Chris Franke/Tangerine Dream, Michel Huygen/Neuronium, Inner City, Jake/Joe Public, Daniel Lanois (Mark II), Derrick May, Peter Oxendale, Nick Rhodes, Kevin Saunderson.
  • Light weight and strap buttons meant it was designed to be played as a sling-on as much as a traditional keyboard. Optional battery power as well, so you could theoretically use a radio transmitter and play unencumbered by leads - but batteries were always going down - after six hours or less.
  • Major shortcoming apart from short keyboard: only one filter, like on a string synth. Switchable single/multiple triggering doesn't really make up for this limitation: some playing styles, with some sorts of sounds, just don't work.
  • A lot of best sounds layer the two sets of oscillators, thus reducing polyphony to only four voices.
  • Three six-segment envelope generators - one for each bank of oscillators, and one for the VCF or noise generator. The extra segments in addition to ADSR are Break Point and Slope - to produce a second attack or decay.
  • Other plus points as well as its portability and cheapness: some strongish sounds (including a very lovely flute); noise; a simple form of additive synthesis in the way you can build sounds by adding square or sawtooth waves at different octaves; and the simple 256-event step-time sequencer, whose limitations, as usual, can be a benefit, for riffs but also for longer, slow sequences of background sounds.
  • Programmable levels for each of the two banks of oscillators - not available on a lot of rival synths.
  • Some Mark I's were produced with reversed-colour keyboards.
  • Mark II's are a darker grey than Mark I's.
  • Mark II has a comprehensive digital delay added instead of the simple chorus on the original Poly 800, tone controls, and different factory presets.
  • Mark I's MIDI omni problems resolved by an EPROM update from Korg.
  • Mark I: EMM review Feb 84, user report April 84. Mark II: MT review: Apr 86.
Interface: ★★★★
Sounds: ★★★
Controls:
Memories: ★★★★
VFM: ★★★★★
Character:
Collectability:
Ease of use: ★★


POLYPHONIC ENSEMBLE 1000

Simple 60-note (F-E) polyphonic synthesiser. 1976 - ?
Original price: £867
Target price: £60 - £100
Users include: Neuronium

  • A glorified electronic piano in many ways: full polyphony, but not much control.
  • Seven pre-sets: clavichord, harpsichord, piano, electronic piano, brass, pipe organ, and string - or possibly, in a different incarnation, strings, reed/wind, brass, percussion electric, percussion middle, percussion alto and percussion treble.
  • You can switch to 'control' and alter the attack, sustain and decay of the notes.
  • A high-pass as well as a low-pass filter ('traveller' in Korgspeak) is included - with the two together producing quite effective band-pass filtering.
  • Chorus; VCF and ADS control of pre-sets.
  • Supposedly 60 individually tunable VCO's, with "a number of state-of-the-art innovations borrowed from the PS-series."
  • Vibrato and portamento controllable.
Interface:
Sounds:
Controls:
Memories:
VFM:
Character:
Collectability:
Ease of use: ★★


POLYPHONIC ENSEMBLE 2000

Simple 48-note (F-E) polyphonic synthesiser. 1976 - c. 1979
Original price: £945/£995
Target price: £70 - £120
Users include: Rick Battersby, Masterworks, Ian Reid.

  • With curious marketing logic, the 2000 was more expensive than its contemporary, the 1000, but had an octave less, and less filter controls. What it did have, though, was a built-in phaser, and three sets of oscillators, which could be de-tuned against each other, like the later Lambda. In some ways it was seen as Korg's simplified pre-set version of the PS-3300, with the three sound sources giving the ensemble sound - or what Korg called 'group delay'.
  • Each note has individual ADSR, so you have unlimited polyphony with each note having the correct envelope.
  • Eight pre-sets in pairs: reed/wind, 'chorus' 1/2, brass 1/2, and strings 1/2. 'Chorus' is a classic synth sound of the seventies, and the main reason anyone would want to buy a Poly 2000 - though the strings are quite interesting, as well. Reed/wind are more like a harmonium than anything else. One of each pair can be mixed with others.
  • Expression pedal included as standard.
  • Headphone socket.
  • Attack and sustain (decay) are controllable - in fact necessary for any attempt at realism in presets.
  • Phase speed controllable.
  • Three outputs - one labelled 'guitar amp', and two labelled 'hifi'. One of these 'hifi' sockets is the phased signal, one the straight.
  • Also called Polyphonic Ensemble "Orchestra".
Interface:
Sounds:
Controls:
Memories:
VFM:
Character:
Collectability:
Ease of use: ★★


POLYSIX

6-VCO 6-voice 32-memory 61-note (C-C) synthesiser, c.1981 - c.1983
Original price: £1260/£899
Target price: £160 - £280
Users include: Blancmange, Neil Carter (Gary Moore band), Geoff Downes, Keith Emerson, Robert Irving, Jake/Joe Public, Rudiger Lorenz, Tears for Fears, Trans X.
  • Only six oscillators, but they're crackers. Sawtooth, rectangle or modulated pulse-width waves are available, with full control over the duty cycle of the rectangle wave, or the degree of modulation if you've chosen PWM. The LFO controlling the PWM is independent - unusually and very effectively.
  • As on Mono/Poly, a versatile arpeggiator (great at ultra-fast (up to 20Hz) and ultra-slow (down to 0.2Hz) speeds as well as more normal tempi), chord memory, hold, and unison are available. Unison is one of the best things about the Polysix. The VCOs' individual variations in timbre and tuning often create stunning monophonic sounds.
  • Six VCFs (24dB/octave). Their shared controls are quite elaborate: frequency and resonance, obviously, but also fully variable positive or negative envelope control, and keyboard tracking - from zero up to more than 100%.
  • Only one ADSR shared between each VCA and VCF, but you can switch the VCA out of envelope control, to a simple organ-like instantaneous attack, full sustain and instantaneous decay, if you want the filter to have a weird envelope.
  • Arpeggio trigger input, and (why don't all synths have one?) a VCF pedal input.
  • Four banks of eight memories.
  • 22 knobs, 19 momentary switches, 10 toggle switches: genuine real-time control, with dedicated (generally not multi-function) controllers. Korg's last synth to date to have a good complement of them.
  • Pitch and mod wheels, with the pitch change fully variable - something a lot of contemporary synths didn't have.
  • Useful (if a bit noisy) effects section: chorus, phase or 'ensemble' available Yet another LFO controls the speed of phase and chorus. The control knob doubles as an intensity control in 'ensemble' mode.
  • Independent level control on headphone jack. Wedge-shaped wooden case. Quite sturdy.
  • Originally no MIDI. Korg-made MIDI retrofit (Sep 86) increased memories to 120, added 'sustain' pedal jack, and, in the USA, cost $299 including fitting.
  • E&MM review: Aug 82
Interface: ★ (★★★★★ with MIDI retrofit)
Sounds: ★★★
Controls: ★★★★
Memories: ★★
VFM: ★★★★
Character: ★★
Collectability:
Ease of use: ★★★★


PRESET - see 900PS



PS3100

Semi-modular 48-note (F-E) polyphonic synthesiser. Aug 1977 - ?
Original price: £1995
Target price: £400 - £800
Users include: Keith Emerson

  • Built-in keyboard; steeply-rising back panel; similar layout to MS20 - patching system to right of panel, so leads aren't so likely to be trailing across the keyboard and control surface and obscuring knobs. Good design feature.
  • One VCO per voice as opposed to 3200's two and 3300's three.
  • Fully tunable - each oscillator has a temperament knob.
  • Three resonance controls for good tonal flexibility.
  • Considerably smaller than its PS sisters, but still, with built-in keyboard, weighs hefty 30kg.
Interface: ★★
Sounds: ★★★
Controls: ★★★★
Memories:
VFM:
Character: ★★★
Collectability: ★★★
Ease of use:


PS3200

Semi-modular 16-memory polyphonic synthesiser. Dec 1978 - ?
Original price: £2500
Target price: £800 - £1200
Users include: Brian Chatton, Keith Emerson, John Miles, Rick Wakeman
  • Elaborate polysynth (one of the first to have memories) - but always likely to be swept aside by the contemporary Prophet 5. It looked old-fashioned even on its release - a big oblong box with cables hanging around. (Now, that's probably a really good selling point.)
  • Like the Polymoog, divide-down circuits to provide the various octaves. Two sets of 12 VCO's.
  • Unlike the Polymoog, ninety-six VCF's and VCA's - one for each note - over which you have more control than on the Polymoog.
  • Plugs into the PS3010 keyboard with giant military-style connectors (unfortunately via sockets placed at opposite ends of each of the boxes). PS3010 keyboard is 48-note (F-E), and isn't touch-sensitive. Has joystick, momentary switch, three slide switches, and three modes of triggering.
  • Optional PS3040 dual foot-pedals for changing control voltages. Also optional PS3060 remote control program select box, so that you can play the PS3010 keyboard a long way from the main box, and still change patches.
  • Fully tunable temperament, via two sets of 12 knobs - so you can alter tuning for each set of oscillators. Excellent potential if you have the time to set it up - definitely in the studio, not live.
  • Oscillator waveforms (triangle, saw, square, pulse 1, pulse2, and PWM) available independently for each set of oscillators.
  • Early use of keyboard follow control for the VCF.
  • Memories easy to program: move any of the 32 knobs to where you want, and then write to memory. When a memory is selected, simply pull any knob slightly out to return it to manual control - an excellent system which might have been taken up by others, but generally wasn't.
  • Jack sockets for patching - obviously the memory doesn't remember/recreate these!
  • Seven-band graphic EQ and ability to synchronise LFO and sample-and-hold - two of several refinements implemented in the time between the release of the 3300/3100 and the 3200.
  • 'Expand' knob feeds main envelope generator signal to individual note VCAs.
  • Relative loudness of top and bottom of keyboard is controllable.
  • Three outputs: direct (eg before the ensemble, EQ and tremolo); final, and headphone socket, all with own gain pot.
  • No voltage-controlled resonance (unlike PS3300).
  • General envelope generator can be set to function when any number of notes between one and five are played. Complicated to learn, but great to play once you've got the hang of it.
Interface: ★★★
Sounds: ★★★★
Controls: ★★★★★
Memories: ★★
VFM:
Character: ★★★★
Collectability: ★★★★★
Ease of use:


PS3300

Semi-modular 144-VCO 48-voice classic polyphonic synthesiser. Aug 77 - ?
Original price: £4995
Target price: £1400 - £3000
Users include: Keith Emerson, Michel Huygen, Vangelis.

  • Practically all the same synthesis features as PS3200, including using 3010 keyboard; but with 144 separate synth circuits. Korg's claim of 144 separate VCOs is puzzling, as the oscillators are surely three lots of 12 divide-down oscillators. But even if this is the case, they make a superb sound. Bob Moog praised the 3300 as the best polysynth "for sheer versatility in sound shaping and potential for animated 'fat' sounds".
  • Same design fault as PS3200, with the keyboard connector going out of the left of the keyboard and into the right of the control section.
  • Three independent synth voices, each with own control panel (fourth panel, to right of instrument, contains global controls).
  • No memories.
  • Pink and white noise; two LFO's, sample and hold, polyphonic portamento and glissando.
  • Over seventy patching sockets available - which makes the six leads supplied with the machine a little inadequate.
  • Voltage controlled resonance an excellent feature.
  • Steeply-angled front panel to modules.
  • Plus 3302 mixing module.
Interface: ★★★
Sounds: ★★★★★
Controls: ★★★★★
Memories:
VFM:
Character: ★★★★
Collectability: ★★★★★
Ease of use:


Beat combos

The search for authentic sounds has never been so intense. It's always worth remembering that breakthroughs in recording fidelity encourage the exploration of old sounds as much as new, just as digital remastering keeps alive the back catalogues of rock, pop and jazz in a changed environment.

For the guitarist, the need is probably even greater than for the synth player. Guitarists have a heritage and a thriving vintage industry to make the analogue revival look like a car boot sale, and at the core of it all is the inescapable link between valve technology, electric pickups and the mythology of rock and roll.

Serving this industry are two American books much respected among guitar alicianados. Gruhn's Guide To Vintage Guitars is something of a pocket bible, written by the owner of a Nashville guitar shop established in 1970. It concentrates on identifying the criteria by which the vintage of a guitar should be judged, backed up with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the key makes and models. As such, it's work of practical rather than mere romantic value.

The Tube Amp Book by Aspen Pittman gives the other end of the wires the same attention to detail - it was the amplifier and speaker combinations that actually made all the noise, after all, and their significance is often overlooked. More of a history, it fleshes out the facts and figures with some choice documentary material - in particular, period advertisements and catalogue pages from the early days of models since elevated to the status of legend.

If you really want the authentic sound, get both books and match vintage with vintage.

Gruhn's Guide To Vintage Guitars is published by GPI Books, (Contact Details)

The Tube Amp Book (4th Edition) is published by Groove Tubes, (Contact Details)


Series

Read the next part in this series:
Total Recall (Part 14)



Previous Article in this issue

Rough Mix

Next article in this issue

Fast Forward


The Mix - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

The Mix - Sep 1994

Donated by: Colin Potter

Topic:

Vintage Instruments


Series:

The A-Z of Analogue

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 (Viewing) | Part 14 | Part 15


Feature by Peter Forrest

Previous article in this issue:

> Rough Mix

Next article in this issue:

> Fast Forward


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