The Really old Korg Synthesizer site


A little history...
Today, Korg has offices in Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A., but in the early 1960s, Korg's founder, Tsutomu Katoh, was a nightclub proprietor. Tadashi Osanai, a noted Japanese accordionist, regularly performed at his club using a Wurlitzer "Sideman" rhythm machine. Osanai, an engineering graduate of Japan's prestigious Tokyo University, was dissatisfied with the Wurlitzer machine. And, certain that he could build a better rhythm machine himself, convinced Katoh to finance his efforts.

In 1962, Katoh rented a small facility alongside the Keio railway line where Osanai and four assistants worked on developing a mechanical rhythm machine. The fledgling enterprise was dubbed Keio Electronic Laboratories. The Keio name (pronounced Kayo) was used because of the lab's proximity to the railway line, and because it represented the combination of the first initials of Katoh's and Osanai's names.

In 1963, Keio introduced its first product: the Disc Rotary Electric Auto Rhythm machine or Donca matic DA-20. While primitive by today's standards, the instrument represented a major breakthrough in its day. By 1966, the company had made the transition from electro-mechanical technology to solid-state with the introduction of the Donca matic DE-20.

In 1967, Katoh was approached by Fumio Mieda, an engineer who wanted to develop keyboard products. Impressed by Mieda's enthusiasm and talents, Katoh gave him a mandate. "Go home and design a keyboard product that we can make and sell." Eighteen months later, Mieda returned to the Keio facility with an organ prototype. Unlike most organs on the market at that time, Mieda's prototype had programmable voice capability like a synthesizer. Fifty were produced and sold under the Korg name, a name which was derived from the combination of the words Keio and Organ.

Throughout the sixties and seventies, the organ market grew rapidly and was dominated by large companies like Baldwin, Hammond, Wurlitzer and Lowrey. Katoh was concerned about placing his small enterprise in direct competition with such giants. So he was intrigued when a Japanese musician who had studied at the Berklee School of Music told him his organ was no different than a synthesizer. (At the time, the synthesizer market was a specialized niche populated by small start-up companies.)

Thus, in 1973, using many of the basic design concepts of Mieda's organ, the company introduced the Mini-Korg, a monophonic synthesizer. Based on the success of the Mini-Korg, Katoh committed substantial resources to the development of other synthesizer products. Between 1973 and 1977 the company developed dozens of new keyboards carrying the Korg brand name. 1975 saw the introduction of the Maxi-Korg and the 900 PS polyphonic, preset synthesizer. A year later, the PE-1000 (Polyphonic Ensemble) and PE-2000 (Polyphonic Ensemble Orchestra) were unveiled. The PS-3300 followed in 1977 and, like the MS10 and MS20 which were introduced in 1978, is still coveted by artists in the dance and techno genres.

Innovation was not limited to keyboard instruments. In 1975, Korg introduced the world's first hand-held electronic tuner, the WT-10. Electronic tuners are so commonplace today, it is hard to imagine the sensation caused by the WT-10 in 1975. The product made precision tuning available to virtually every musician and spawned dozens of competitors.

Prior to 1979, synthesizers were generally monophonic and hard to program. Korg and other manufacturers had addressed the problem in part by creating polyphonic preset instruments that were not programmable. However, in 1979, Sequential Circuits revolutionized the synthesizer industry with the Prophet 5, the first instrument that was programmable, polyphonic and easy to use. Musically, the instrument drew raves, however, its $5000 price tag limited its appeal.

The significance of the Prophet 5 was immediately apparent to Mr. Katoh and the engineers at Korg; they began work on a similar product. This effort led to the introduction of the Polysix in 1981, one of the single most significant products in the history of electronic music. Like the Prophet 5, and other top-end units of the day, the Polysix was six voice polyphonic and fully programmable. However, its $1995 retail price tag was unprecedented. The price and performance of the Polysix finally made synthesis available to almost any musician. In 1982, the Polysix was replaced by an enhanced model, the Poly61.

In 1983, Korg further redefined the synthesizer market with the introduction of the Poly800. With a list price of $795, the Poly800 was the first fully programmable instrument available for under $1000!

In January of 1988, Korg introduced the M1 Music Workstation. The M1 combined a keyboard, realistic PCM-ROM-based sounds, a drum machine, a sequencer and digital multi-effects in a single package. It went on to become one of the most popular, widely played keyboards of all time. In the process, the M1 became the archetype for an entire category of musical instruments: the music workstation.

The T-Series Music Workstations, introduced in 1989, included 88-note weighted-action, 76-note and 61-note keyboards. With larger displays, disk drives, more sequencer memory, an optional RAM area and two pairs of MIDI outputs, the T-Series took the M1 Music Workstation concept to the next level.

Korg acquired Sequential Circuits in 1989 and it formed the nucleus of a research and development center based in California's Silicon Valley. The first product developed by Korg R & D was the Wavestation, introduced in 1990. Using technologies like Advanced Vector Synthesis and Wave Sequencing, the Wavestation won awards and recognition for technical achievement and innovation.

Korg's 01/W Series Music Workstations were introduced in 1991. The 01/W further expanded the concept of the music workstation with features like double the polyphony and sequencer tracks of its predecessors, dynamic digital multi-effects, larger capacity PCM cards for more optional sounds and WaveShaping.

In 1993, Korg introduced the X3 Power Music Workstation, which offered a great combination of performance and value. This was followed in 1994 by the 76-note X2 Power Music Workstation.

Korg took the concept of the music workstation in another direction in 1995 with the modular Trinity DRS (Digital Recording Systems) Music Workstations.A TouchView (touch sensitive) display and ribbon controller redefined the concept of the user interface.

Trinity offers modular options like the Prophecy Solo Synth expansion board which brings DSP sound modeling to the music workstation. Other options include PBS-Tri (8Megabyte) Flash ROM for loading new sounds from the Korg and Akai sound libraries. HDR-Tri, for four-channel hard-disk recording. SCSI and S/P DIF interfaces, and an Alesis digital I/O. The Trinity DRS Music Workstations are also available in 61-note, 76-note and 88-note weighted-action models.

Korg unveiled the 61-note N364 and 76-note N264 in 1996. The N-Series Music Workstations have taken performance and function in affordable music workstations to an exciting new level. They provide 64-note polyphony, an arpeggiator and RPPR: Real Time Play & Record.

Today, decades after his humble entrance into the world of music gear, Mr. Katoh is still dedicated to providing musicians with new and better Korg instruments with which to express their creativity.

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