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Korg MS-20 Mini Monophonic Synthesizer Reviews
I got one of these the other day and it's a wonderful little synth. Great sounds with plenty of options. Does it look strange? No! Keys are fine, knobs are fine! Would it have been better 100% size of the MS20? Possibly!
As above the 3.5mm patch cables are a bit of a let down, especially on the main out. Do buy yourself a Mono 3.5mm Mini Jack to 6mm mono Jack Cable or even two if you think you are going to use the signal in.
It is a players synth, monophonic, no stored patches. Very limited midi! It transmits or receives midi notes on/off. Yes, you can control it from your midi keyboard through a DAW. But don't expect to twiddle some knobs on your midi controller and the MS20 mini to react.
Saying that like the original it is wonderful.
As it's almost impossible to get your hands on one before purchasing I thought I'd give a short review to help you make up your mind...
There's an excellent review on soundonsound.com which pretty much covers everything but there's a couple of points I thought I'd mention which stand out.
It sounds FANTASTIC. It growls, howls, screams and shouts as you'd expect. There's some lovely sub bass and it's just really good fun to have all the knobs to hand.
As it obviously doesn't have any presets you really dig into the sound and use it as a synthesiser as opposed to a soundbank.. I have the ipad version and have used the Korg Legacy version but have never really got to grips with the patch bay. After a couple of weeks my expertise has increased exponentially and I really enjoy messing with the sounds. This is something I tend not to do with softsynths - they're simply too torturous to tweak for long periods. Once you've played with this for a while you'll understand exactly what I mean....
You can probably get exactly the same sounds (or close enough) from the legacy collection or iPad version, but would you have spent as long discovering them? - definitely not. So in reality you'll get so much more from this than the software versions. I used the presets in the iPad version to teach me how to get started. It's much easier than the crazy diagram on the patch panel would lead you to believe.
Of course it's monophonic and there's a plethora of other synths you can get with presets galore, MIDI CC control, multitimbral.. but the sounds on this knock their socks off.
The down side:
Firstly the size... it's quoted as being 83% of the original size, which doesn't sound too different from the original. It does, however, definitely feel 'mini'. There's a reason why it's not called the MS20 'a bit smaller'. Next to my other keyboards it is diminutive. The keys are weird in that they are not mini in the same way as eg the microkorg (which I also own), which are short and stubby. The MS20 mini keys are scaled down versions of normal sized keys which means they look thin - it looks a little like a model of a keyboard - rather than an actual synth.
Can you play it? - yes, no problem, even with my fat fingers!! it just doesn't look as moody and imposing as it sounds.
It took a little while to get used to the look of it but to be honest now I couldn't care lessâ?¦ plus it fits on my rack next to the voyager. A full size MS20 wouldn't â?¦ it would require another stand, so the size also has it's benefits..
The 3.5mm patch cables are the main let down, especially for the main output.
When I originally set it up I used a standard 6.3mm jack lead with a 3.5 to 6.3mm adaptor. This resulted in the lead sticking out really far - to such an extent I was worried that knocking the lead would break the output. The lead was easily knocked as it got in the way of my hand. The weight of the adaptor and lead was causing the sound to crackle. My top tip here is to buy a 3.5 to 6.3mm jack lead before getting it out of the box. These are much lighter and flexible so can be manoeuvred out opt the way more easily. Have your adaptors in the desk/amp where they are less likely to get knocked.
Once I sorted this I've been less bothered by the 3.5mm connections, but would much prefer standard jack cables, especially when using inputs from other sources, which will always need an adaptor.
The other issue I've noticed mentioned a few times on the web is the quality of the knobs. They're not great - the main filter knobs are OK but the rest feel a little flimsy, especially compared against my moogs which are rock solid. As I only intend to use it in the studio I'm sure this won't be a problem, but not so sure for on the road. I guess there's a lot of other stuff using similar knobs, so probably not an issue, I would hope Korg would know what they're doing!!
My only real gripe about the sound is that they could have so easily added PWM - there's even room on the front panel in the modulation section to add oneâ?¦ I know it's a replica - but it's really annoying that they never put this in, it could have made it so much more powerful. But hey ho it is what it is.
Considering I was looking at paying twice as much for a 30 year old second/third/fourth/fifth hand instrument I feel like I've got a bargain. Would I prefer it to be larger, better build quality with full size jacks? Yes. Would I pay another Â£100 for this?. Yes. Would anyone else? ..Erm â?¦not sure. At Â£600 it would be getting into Slim Phatty territory which would reduce a somewhat limited market considerably, so they probably wouldn't have gone to the trouble of manufacturing it â?¦ and I'd be looking at spending another Â£500 on an old one.
Did I send it back? - No!!
Do I keep on walking into the studio for another little fiddle? â?¦ Yes!! absolutely.
BTW the guys at Dolphin are really helpful. If you're unsure of something it's worth giving them a call.
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