Korg Poly-800 Synth Review

Korg Poly-800Korg have, over the decades, manufactured a number of highly collectable synthesisers. Some are sought because of their rareness (such as the PS3300) and some for the wonderful sounds they can produce, such as the MS-10. The Korg Poly-800 is something of a "Marmite" synthesizer in that you either love it or you hate it and on sites such as http://www.vintagesynth.com/korg/poly800.php you will find rather contradictory reviews of this highly affordable polyphonic synthesiser the funniest of which is the site review itself which states that, in many ways, the poly-800 is better than the Roland Juno synths without explaining how.



More About The Korg Poly-800
Korg Poly-800 Specifications
Notes About The Korg Poly-800
Famous Korg Poly-800 Users
Korg Poly-800 Samples


More About The Korg Poly-800

Probably the main reason why people argue so much about how good (or bad) this synth is, is the fact that it was produced to a specific budget (of below $1,000) making polyphonic analogue synthesis available to the masses for the first time. In order to produce a polyphonic synth at that time it was (as it virtually always is) necessary to cut a few corners. In the very early days of synthesisers players were usually happy to lay their hands on whatever they could as long as it produced a new sound and most synths were either monophonic or polyphonic. In this regard this is where the Poly-800 cut most corners as it was capable of playing up to 8 notes at any one moment but the single filter had to be shared across all of these notes and such synthesisers are called "paraphonic". The fact that sites such as vintagesynth.com compare this synth to the Juno range from Roland makes judging this synth even more difficult. Of course the Juno's had a filter for each of its six voices which immediately puts it at an advantage but each synth produces its own unique sounds which cannot be reproduced on the other. It is actually much farer to compare the Poly Six to the Juno range as they are similar except for their differing filters.

The Poly-800 uses a basic form of additive synthesis in that each oscillator can produce sounds at several octaves at the same time and these can be mixed together to thicken the sound considerably. The sound could be further thickened via the built in stereo chorus and a few tricks could be done with the chord memory function such as producing another note an octave down. When it came to producing out Korg Poly-800 sample collection we decided that we would avoid using the chord memory due to the fact that, using your sampler and sequencer, it is a simple task to duplicate the effect with our samples.

Most keyboard players would, on virtually all early synthesisers (except maybe the Minimoog), use outboard effects to sweeten the sound. These were usually in the form of guitar stomp boxes and even today synths such as the Korg Poly-800 really do benefit from just the smallest possible amounts of such pedals as chorus, tremelo, vibrato, phaser or, most often analogue delay and/or reverb. Defective Nation have found that the best settings on guitar pedals are those where you can not really hear the foot pedal until you bypass it and notice something missing rather than pushing the depth higher to colour the sound too much. By only applying the smallest depth possible you are able to thicken the sound while retaining much of the unique character of the synth.

Of course the Poly-800 is a paraphonic synthesiser and this means that you will need to adapt your playing style accordingly to get the most out of this synth.

While many consider the synth too limited to merit a purchase others take advantage of the (by comparison) low prices as a way into analogue synthesis and it is certainly an excellent keyboard on which to learn and get a general understanding of synthesisers (indeed when this synth came out most who purchased it did not own any other synthesiser, the Poly-800 being thier first). Others choose to modify the synth and there are a small number of really cheap mods that can be carried out (preferably by a qualified electricianor somebody with experience). One of the most popular is the "Moog Slayer" mod which adds control pots for the filter cut off frequency and the filter resonance (while also increasing the level of the resonance possible). Other cheap mods include a simple FM mod which allows oscillator 1 to modulate the filter, and the addition of an external input (which is better used in conjunction with the other mods).

More expensive mods include an upgrade to the firmware which is available from http://patrioticduo.tripod.com/hawk800/


Korg Poly-800 Specifications

  • Polyphony: Either 8 or 4 note polyphonic (sound can be doubled but polyphony is subsequently halved).
  • Oscillators: 2 DCO's (Digitally Controlled (analogue) Oscillator
  • Osc Waveforms: Sine only.
  • LFO: 1 LFO.
  • Filter: 1 analogue paraphonic 12db low pass filter
  • Effects: None.
  • Control: Midi
  • Special: A total of three six-stage (ADBSSR) Digital Envelope Generators
  • Keyboard: 49 keys.
  • Manufactured 1983


Korg Poly-800 Notes

1. In 1984, Korg released the Poly-800 mkII which featured a digital delay unit. The Poly 800 MkII sounded rather different to the MkI and the differences were not all about the new delay (which was capable of recreating chorus). Many users have owned both versions at the same time as they are reasonably priced and sufficiently different to merit a place in any synth collection.

2. The EX-800 is a desktop module version which could be converted to a rackmount unit with the addition of rackmount ears.


Korg Poly-800 Famous Users

For the sake of simplicity the following list is of famous artists who used the Poly-800, the Poly-800 mkII and the EX-800:

Depeche Mode, Geoff Downes,Goldfrapp, Orbital, Nick Rhodes, Sneaker Pimps, Jimi Tenor, Vangelis and Yesterdays.


Korg Poly-800 Samples

For those considering purchasing and Korg Poly-800 the samples included in our collection will give you an idea of the capabilities of the synthesizer. For those who cannot afford to buy this amazing synthesizer we have thoroughly sampled over 128 different sounds/instruments/patches created on the Poly800 MkI synth (2 DVDs), and over 450 patches created on the Poly800 MkII synth (3 DVDs), which can be used in a wide range of software samplers. See our Korg Poly-800 sample collection page to discover more and listen to some sound demos.



Korg Poly-800 21GB+ SAMPLE PACK (5 DVDs)


Korg Poly-800

Korg Poly-800 MkII

Contains 600+ Korg Poly-800 sound patches at 24-Bit (21GB+) & nearly 15,000 samples

PRICE: £17.77

P&P: £1.99 (UK ONLY)

TOTAL: £19.76