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Korg MS-20 Mini Semi-modular Analog Synthesizer Reviews

4.5 stars based on 21 customer reviews
Questions about the Korg MS-20 Mini Semi-modular Analog Synthesizer?

Questions about the Korg MS-20 Mini Semi-modular Analog Synthesizer?

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Sweetwater Advice

  • Rob Parker

    I have a sort of “revolving door” policy in my studio when it comes to synths, so I've owned dozens. However, I will never let go of my Korg MS-20 Mini. Iit delivers a powerful analog sound and has what are possibly my favorite filters of any synth! It's simple enough that anyone can create inspiring sounds, but if you're a synth nerd like me, three hours can pass by very quickly when patching and tweaking! There are so many features in the MS-20, I almost always discover something new every time I play with mine.

  • Carson McClain

    This synth is one of my favorites. (I own the original along with the SQ-10 sequencer that was designed for it.) The filters and its mix of simplicity and complexity make it a classic. When you start patching cables and processing your other instruments through its filters, you'll be inspired to make sounds you never made before. The Korg MS-20 Mini is a must-have synth for any electronic musician.

  • from California June 22, 2016Music Background:
    synth-player, songwriter, recording producer

    Super Synth, the MS-20

    I can't speak highly enough about this synthesizer. Its just amazing how I can just get lost for hours coming up with my own patches. Its analog bliss! I spend hours designing sounds. And when I'm not playing it, I daydream about playing it. Every bit of this flawless Japanese synthesizer is quality engineered. The "noise issue" people were complaining about scared me too when I first powered it on, but once you break it in and adjust the settings a bit, the noise is almost completely gone. I don't even notice it any more. The glorious chaos that is emitted from this beast is unheard of, to me. And with the SQ-1 plugged in, its just wonderful. I just really really love this synth! Thank you, Korg! And thank you, Sweetwater!

  • from San Francisco, CA February 8, 2016Music Background:
    Techno / House Producer

    Filthy Analog

    This is a great synth, very dirty, lotta options lotta routes to go to get a lot of character, and can produce some fat low ends. What I like to do the most with this synth though is run midi into it with a arp sequence and route it into it a analog delay with short time, the results for me are usually a really dark gritty cinematic sounding arp great for build ups, or gluing a groove all together.

  • from September 12, 2015Music Background:
    musician, synth lover

    An analog BEAST

    I read a lot of reviews, watched a lot of videos, played around with the MS20 app on iPad, and just plain lusted after this synth for the past year. None of those prepared me for how awesome it is to own one and play one in real life. Although, after first setting it up, I plugged in the headphones and played with Oscillator 1 on a triangle wave and... freaked out. It was SO NOISY. I looked up forums to see if maybe I got a faulty unit, or if I needed to return it. I was hit by buyer's remorse...

    Fast forward about a month and I am IN LOVE with this synth. This thing is not meant to be listened to on headphones. It needs to rip out in the open. Plug it into an amp and you will see what I mean. I was used to the clean, polished world of digital synths, but now I understand the grit, dirt and raw power of analog gear. That noise is part of the instrument's charm, and I honestly don't hear it at all anymore (it also helps that I am using the main output, which is a bit quieter than the headphone output). If anything, that noise helps the MS20 mini cut through the mix. The leads absolutely scream, and the bass on his synth kind of outdoes my Novation Bass Station.

    If you want a clean, studio synth for your recording setup, try something else. If you want a real analog synth to make some loud, dirty noise with, look no further. This thing would be right at home in a punk band, a new wave group, or any electronic noise performance. Now all I need is that SQ1 sequencer...

  • from Fargo ND July 16, 2015Music Background:
    Composer

    Worth the wait, more than worth the price!

    I've been dreaming of having an Analog synth for years, but looking at the price tags made it seem like it would never happen. Then I discover Korg and their Analog revolution of the past few years and there it was the MS-20 mini, a semi modular all Analog synth, not "analog modeling" TRUE ANALOG...and the price...finally a dream come true! And the wait was well worth it, this is everything I've ever wanted and more! The MS-20 mini is so much more than an instrument, it's a sonic journey, an aural adventure! Thank you Korg for your continued excellence and affordable prices, and thank you Joe and the Sweetwater music machine for helping me make a long time dream come true!

  • from Daytona Beach, Florida March 29, 2015Music Background:
    Producer, Engineer, Student.

    Analog deliciousness

    This synth is a monster! While I am not fortunate enough to have gotten to play with its bigger brother the original MS-20 I still love this piece to bits! The sounds you can get are amazing. It is monophonic however there are so many great patches you can make by yourself it does not even make that much of a difference. There is a bit of a leaning curve if you're new to synthesis but this thing makes it so much fun to learn on. And paired with the awesome patch manual you have so many great sounds as well as jumping off points for great sounds. You can use this bad boy as the body of the sound and as the main synth lead, bass, or whatever you need. Track missing something? Subtly add this guy in there and that could be it. The oscillators are amazing, the filters are legendary, and the external signal in takes the whole thing to the next level.

    The cons however are slight. The outputs do have a little sound to them, especially the H/P output. And the keys can feel a little weak sometimes when you really want to jam out. But with this bad boys added midi functionality only one of these problems matter.

    I say if your on the fence about getting an analog synth this one is a definite competitor. It is amazing at what it does.

  • from Illinois March 29, 2015

    Analog synthesis at its best!

    I bought this knowing it was an awesome synth, but I'm really astounded by the sounds it makes. It's sleek, it's robust, it shakes your house. Just skimming the surface you can see that it's ridiculously fun, but once you start figuring out the mysterious patch bay, a whole world of performance and recording potential is opened up. Classic, but modern.

  • from NJ USA November 18, 2014Music Background:
    Producer, Studio Engineer, Songwriter

    Modern Price, Vintage Analogue Sound

    Wow. As someone who produces alot of quote unquote modern sounding music, i can safely say this little buddy is definitely the standout audibly in my recent productions. I purchased about 4-5 months ago, and right as i bought it i decided to watch a Korg tutorial for the original synth. It literally became my hobby for a week or 2 to just bring it everywhere and mess with it! The sound is so varied it's hard to even begin to fully explain. It's an 808 mixed with a 909, 303, and more if you can get your head around the controls. One thing that really got me going musically with the unit was self resonating the LPF or HPF and using very short attacks to create basic toms and percussion. Pair this with a modern midi jack and a basic usb-midi interface and you have a sequencer and powerful monosynth. Definitely check out, but I'd make sure to have a decent audio interface to use with as well.

  • from Atlanta GA USA September 24, 2014Music Background:
    Musician, Sound designer, Producer

    Gritty,Sleazy,Dirty!

    My first full analog synth and it is a beast. For someone who loves to makes gritty dirty music this thing was what I needed and didn't know it until I got it. So far I've hours trying all kinds of ways to play with it. From running anything I can through it to just tweaking it out to see what happens. I love this machine and glad to have it in my arsenal. And glad I got it from you guys! Thanks.

  • from United States July 5, 2014Music Background:
    Recording Engineer, Musician, Composer

    MS-20 "Mini"

    First of all, for a "mini", it's really only slightly smaller than the original (and frankly, I think it looks really sharp at this size!). The construction looks great, feels alright, and sounds fantastic.

    The build quality is something often complained about, but I find it absolutely acceptable. You should only complain about build quality if it's breaking down or falling apart, which it absolutely isn't. I've had it for a very long time (it's been like a year I think!) and this synth just keeps on going flawlessly.

    The workflow (for those of you who have never played an MS-20) is top notch tweakability. It is a very intuitive design that keeps you coming up with new ideas.

    One last thing: the complaint about noise... yes it's a noisy little synth! Korg could have EASILY made this Mini MS-20 have ZERO noise. Easily. But Korg modeled the original 70's MS-20 Mk1, which happens to be a very noisy guy. So, either way, someone would have complained....

    a. "Why is this so noisy?!!"

    b. "It's TOO CLEAN, and doesn't sound like the real thing!!"

    I completely respect Korg for taking the effort to RECREATE a classic... AS IS. Not changing it up to please today's audience.

    This is a fantastic synth, and I'd recommend it to anyone. Must have.

  • from paradise CA June 5, 2014Music Background:
    musician

    Was skeptical, really blown away

    I probably shouldn't even be writing this review since I have not dug nearly as deep as you can with this amazing little synth. It was cheap and I had a free input so I figured why not give it a try. Whoa this thing is fast becoming my favorite synth. This thing does killer bass, really lifelike almost like what you get when you play a bass guitar. Every single note doesn't sound like a carbon copy of the last one. Very lifelike and alive. It is so basic yet so easy to find a good sound with. I've never really had a true analog synth, I can really see what all the fuss is about this is a real instrument capable of nuance and detail like few other synths I've owned.

  • from Los Angeles April 14, 2014

    Amazing

    SImply put this little guy packs a fat punch. Big analog sound and the sonic possibilities are virtually limitless. The modular patch bay is an awesome bonus! So many options and especially for the price I'd say this is a no brainer for anyone looking to dive into analog synthesis as a beginner or for experts alike.

  • from Rutherford, NJ August 5, 2013Music Background:
    Music Enthusiast, Teacher

    Great sound and good for learning synthesis

    Once I heard about the release of the MS-20 Mini I started selling gear to be able to afford it and one piece of gear I sold was my DSI Mopho desktop. Although it sounded great, I had a difficult time editing patches because of the limited interface. I figured since every knob of this beast has a dedicated function it would be much easier to sculpt sounds. It has not disappointed. I have a much easier time planning and achieving the sounds I want and experimenting as well. It is amazing what you can come up with when your not plugging in shortcuts. The ESP and patch panel are a bit daunting at first but with some practice they expand the capabilities of this thing to near limitless. I don't mind writing up patch diagrams for this kind of functionality and sound.

  • from Nj July 6, 2013Music Background:
    Hobbit Musician

    Monotron on steroids.

    A highly addictive and fun yet Very stubborn synth that excels at making sound effects, and external processing. It can produce bass and leads (it nails the synth part in "just what i needed" and such... not moog thick and smooth; but primitive, raw, and screechy. Good build quality on this, Sorry if you received a lemon. Look elsewhere if you just need conventional sounds and easy. This synth is like that rude person at work everyone hates except for you, cause you took the time to know him. In other words, it has its quirks, rough around the edges, and your paitience wiith this will reward you. My very first knobby monosynth! Thank you Katie Stockman!

    P.s. some line level noise is normal. Try cutting some of the highs on your mixer and don't put master volume on the synth all the way up.

  • from Spokane, unintentional asylum June 15, 2013Music Background:
    all the typical stuff

    I can taste the sound

    Delectable wholeness, a "synth" purity. Your flavor? Like the better features @ a buffet, mixing the seasonings of the 2 vco's with the rest of the available choices laid before you. Push this thru some effects to send the mass of the notes into orbit. The 2 envelope generators can assist in floating your music while you manipulate the knobs & patch cords with both hands to unfold the unending dimensions layered within this analog treasurechest. Excuse the overcolored description, just caught up in the textures which can be wrung from the mini. May as well get one, use it for it's creative purpose & release yourself from comparing every feature of every other synth against the basic form of a primal sound machine.

  • from West Grove, Pa. June 11, 2013Music Background:
    Early 90's Trance/Deep House, Tribal, Techno, New Wave

    A true classic

    This synth is worth every dime of $599! It sounds just like 1978! The sound on this beast is incredible. I have to give much credit to Korg for reproducing a true legend instead of making another "Virtual" Analog. If we could only get Roland to do the same with the original Jupiter 8. There will always be people who complain its an anachronistic anomaly or gripe about being Monophonic but they can go buy a access virus or something like that. (I like them too) Its a very very very close rebirth of the original MS 20 for $599, how can you go wrong?? The Patching Manual is very helpful if your like me and dont have much experience on the "Modular" patch bay. If your new to Synth's this is probably the best kind to learn on. No pain in the neck Menus / Sub-Menus to deal with just straight up knob twiddling.
    Maybe we'll get lucky and these kind of units will bring back New Wave / Electro / Synth Pop of the early 80's. You wont regret buying this unit! ............Korg.....Im waiting on a Polysix now!!

  • from New York January 20, 2017

    Awesome for the price.

    This synthesizer is the best you can get for the prize. I've been using it non-stop, creating sounds for my music and I absolutely love it. Highly recommend it.

  • from NC August 21, 2013Music Background:
    Hobbyist

    Tons of fun

    After a long wait I finally received my MS-20 Mini in the mail the other day and I am happy to report it was well worth the wait! (Thanks, Bart!) This thing is full of insane tone. The oscillators are plenty beefy and eminently editable. The Envelopes are unique and varied (who knew an envelope could be interesting?). The filters speak for themselves. They handle everything from subdued bass to brash brass to screeching madness with alacrity and musicality. Without touching the patch bay this synth has loads to offer. Once you bring patching into the equation things get out of control in the best way possible. **Warning: this thing is a black hole that will suck away hours of your time!** The experimental nature patching is tons of fun and while it doesn't always yield the most musical results it is always a blast.
    The keys feel ok, they are small but pretty easy to get used to (or to overcome using MIDI). The build is as good as one can expect at this price point. The only thing on it that bothers me are the small knobs, of which there are plenty. They feel flimsy and cheap. I'm not one to rough up my synths but I can see how these might wear out with years of intense playing. One last note: there has been a lot said on the web about the noisiness of this synth. The headphone out is VERY NOISY but the signal out is NOT. Plug into a mixer or an amp and you will see that the noise is nothing to worry about. Do yourself a favor and check one out.

  • from Santa Cruz June 24, 2013Music Background:
    25+ years of Recording, Live Sound, Musician, Hobbyist & Student

    Maybe better then the original

    This was a very fun buy for me. In high school I had one and loved it. After opening this, plugging it in started making sounds, i felt like I went back in time. I love this synth. Korg lately has created some great new/old tools. Everything about this synth is rad. You do need to understand there is no preset, so each time you design a new sound you need to know what you are doing. Don;t that that stop you, the more you play with this the more you will get to know it and love it. The sound is great.

  • from Fayetteville, NC January 29, 2015Music Background:
    Guitarist

    Great synth for learning and exploring

    It's been a little under a year since I've had my ms20 mini and all things considered its a great sonic device with a hidden depth I previously hadn't seen. I was a little concerned about how close to the original it would sound, but no worries- it's all there! If you're interested in the technical aspects of the analogue signal, check out the sonicstate youtube channel where they hook both an original and a 2013 mini up to an oscilloscope. It's as close as you're gonna get.

    The sounds are mostly gritty and being a fan of stuff like Chrome, Throbbing Gristle, Coil and their ilk, I was immediately drawn to it. The signal itself is kinda noisy when the VCO isn't present at all but that's kinda the way Korg has always been and to see some people complaining about it makes me wonder why they were so shocked. I like it a lot.

    A few caveats: Reduced keyboard size by about 20%. It matters to me so I sometimes just sample from the MS20 and play through a standard size keyboard. MIDI functionality is also available.

    The knobs feel cheap. Some felt like they weren't properly "wrenched" on there and they feel super loose, while some in the external processor area feel too tight.

    Speaking of that area, I've never once gotten my guitar signal to work through the MS20 mini. The (wonderful, and original) instruction manuals have several "presets" for the modular section and one shows how best to route your guitar though it and well - no luck yet. Getting a mono signal from a guitar will require much experimentation (from both guitar and synth) and I've yet to get it to work. With a mic or bass guitar or ipod running thru the external processor it's much less picky.

    No other complaints other than the box it came in was damaged when it arrived. Again, the synth WAS NOT damaged at all but having a fist-sized whole in the back of my package made me worry at first. My SW sales engineer, Brian Loney, was helpful and very friendly!

    The MS20 was a watershed synth in its heyday in everything from trance to ethnic industrial and pop. But it is in no way antiquated. Its modular patch cables help the user learn about synthesis while making great sounds that can be curtailed from the gliding bass riffs it's famous for all the way down to near-ambient pads (with the right patch of course). I'm still new to the world of analog synths and it teaches me things I didn't know all the time, sometimes rewarding me with a sound I previously had not found. With the SQ-10 coming out this year I am even happier now that I bought one. If you're into noisy, crusty, grimey electronic music you will not be let down.

  • from Orange, CA June 15, 2013Music Background:
    Music Teacher

    Disappointed

    I'm not sure if I just wound up with a bad apple or if others are experiencing my same issue. There is so much line noise I can't even enjoy the sound. The hardware is cheap and inconsistent. I will be returning this.

  • from Detroit June 21, 2013Music Background:
    Pro Musician

    dissapointed

    If your into subtle synth tones you can get dissapointed as there's a lot of noise bleeding through the VCA. If your only into raw powered noises than this is probably for you. Unfortunately the noise issue was too present for me so i returned the unit.

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