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REVIEW: White is the new black for the Korg MS-20 mini

Laura  Barnes
REVIEW: White is the new black for the Korg MS-20 mini

Originally launched in 1978, the MS-20 was a monophonic, patchable analog synthesiser that stayed in production until 1983. Revered for its thick, powerful sound, the synth became a firm favourite with musicians across the world during its five year production run and enjoyed a renaissance during the electro pop scene of the late 90s.

The MS-20 mini is a faithful reproduction, albeit in a slightly smaller package (86% of the original size) but with exactly the same analog circuitry, retaining the same distinctive look and sound of the original. In fact, the same engineers who worked on the original MS-20 led the development of the mini, reproducing the sound as faithfully as possible.

For any synth aficionados the above will come as no surprise, as the MS-20 mini was released a few years ago now back at NAMM 2013 and in those four years has become a popular edition to the Korg portfolio of synths. New to 2017, Korg has decided to offer new limited edition colour options for the MS-20, Kronos 88 and Krome, and we’ve been lucky enough to get our hands on the new MS-20 mini-WM version.

With a white front panel, black sides and white back panel, the MS-20 mini WM is simply a stunning looking piece of kit. Granted, it still needs to sound good (we’ll come to that bit in a moment) but it really does stand out from the crowd. Owners of the black models beware - you’re going to get colour envy as soon as you feast your eyes on this new model. Okay, so it might take a bit of cleaning to keep the synth looking nice and pretty, but if you’re the type of person who’s attracted to a white synth I’m guessing you’re the type of person who’s willing to look after it.
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Construction is solid with a main chassis that is made of metal and tough plastic ends. Dials are durable enough and as long as your gentle with them setting them accurately is a simple enough task, along with the three-quarter sized keys. A lot has been written about the practicality and comfort of three-quarter sized keys over a full-sized keyboard  - somehow they can’t be ‘as good’ as full-sized keyboards - but I don’t entertain this. Once you’ve got used to the spacing difference it becomes second nature, the advantage of reducing the size of the keys, along with the size of the synth, means a much more compact unit can be created, which is ideal for gigging musicians and studios where space is at a premium.

And the sound? Well, it’s a classic MS-20 - a thick, fat, powerful analog sound that can be sent to heavy bass and back up to cutting lead thanks to the versatility of the filters and VCOs. It’s bright, fun and a joy to play on, much like the original. The high-pass and low-pass filters are brilliant, each can be overdriven and tweaked to create awesome bass and leads.

Interestingly, from the moment of turning it on to plugging in the (included) mini jack leads through the patch bay, the first thing that the initial sound reminded me of was Air’s critically acclaimed debut, Moon Safari and the single ‘Sexy Boy’ (the baseline was recorded with an MS-20 through a talk-box). I personally think that the new clean white shape of the MS-20 mini WM would find Messieurs Godin and Dunckel suitably impressed…

From electro to pop to indie rock, you’ve got it all with an MS-20 mini, every band should have one, especially in white.

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Tags: korg , synthesizers , korg ms-20 mini , Reviews

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