Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Equipment: Korg MS-20 Mini

The Korg MS-20 was produced from 1978-83 and has since become something of a legendary synthesizer. The brand new (as of this writing) MS-20 Mini is a complete recreation in a slightly smaller housing, with the addition of very simple MIDI implementation (it has MIDI In to allow sequencing, nothing more). The basics: it is analog, monophonic; has two oscillators, one LFO, and two filters (high & low pass). It's also semi-modular in that certain functions can be re-wired or patched-in via the patch panel on the right-hand side of the synth.

In 2002 I bought my first proper synthesizer: the Novation K-Station. It's a fantastic machine but at the time I found it exceedingly complex. While it has a wealth of hands-on control, a great deal of its parameters are hidden in the menu system. As I've come to learn its ins-and-outs, it's proven its versatility and I still use it as my main instrument. But circa 2005 I wanted to get my hands on something simpler in order to get to grips with basic synthesis.

The K-Station, a true workhorse.
This led to a search for such an instrument, and among the contenders was the MS-20. Unfortunately it was long out of production, and I'd missed out on the 'great analog purge' of the late '80s early '90s, when analog gear was practically being thrown away in favour of digital. By this time analog was back in vogue and the MS-20 was fetching upwards of $2000 USD. So, after much consideration I settled for a Yamaha CS-5. It only had one oscillator, but its design was such that it had oodles of character. It was simple and easy to use, and it helped me get to grips with synthesis and the K-Station. Being of a vintage, and I suspect mistreated by its former owner, the CS-5 failed within a short time. The handful of songs I made with it are among my favourites, and for a long time there was a void in the studio that couldn't be filled.

Alas, poor Yorick... the ill-fated CS5.
When the MS-20 Mini was announced I was understandably excited, and I pre-ordered it the first chance I got. The demand for it was such that it took 11 months to arrive. It has not only filled the gap left by the CS-5 in my sound palette, but expanded it to undreamt of horizons. You will no doubt be hearing a lot from it in the coming months.

The day of its arrival. The postlady dropped it and ran away (I kid ye not).

Sound exploration in progress!

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