Korg MS-20 Mini

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As technology grows, it ironically shrinks. The gigantic supercomputers of old now fit in your pocket. Laptops that used to be bulky are now as thin as a wafer. And our heavy synthesizers are now much more lightweight, yet give off the same sound.

The Korg MS-20 Mini revisits the old Korg MS-20 forty years later, and shrinks it by a whopping 14 percent.

A coveted synthesizer back in the day, can the smaller version stand tall? Or will it sound like a pale imitation of the original? Let’s find out by breaking down its features, pros, and cons.

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Unique Features

Let’s look at some of the unique features that Korg MS-20 Mini has…

14% Smaller Than the Original

The original MS-20 was around 17 pounds, while the Mini is 10. It has the exact same shape and layout as the original, but shrunk to a size that makes it much easier to carry and use.

The people who shrunk this iconic keyboard made sure to make it as useful as the original, taking care of the keyboards, knobs, and every other nuance the keyboard has to offer. The plugins are designed for contemporary times as well, going from phone plugs to mini.

The entire point of the mini was to make the experience as authentic as 1978 without the bulky technology. Everything from the manual to the packaging feel like you’re in a time period where synth technology was taking off.

Whether you’re an aging rock star nostalgic about the old times, or a retro musician, you’ll love its size and packaging. Everything is just how you remember it, just made more convenient for the modern age.

All the Circuitry is the Same

Of course, we can talk about the outside of the synth all day, but what really matters is the inside of it. For people who are curious about what’s inside of it, all the circuitry is the same to the best of the ability of the engineers, many of whom were the same ones who worked on the original.

Whenever there was a part that wouldn’t work today, they found the next best thing after researching it heavily. When you listen to the sound quality of the MS-20, you will be amazed at how crisp and beautiful it sounds.

You’ll feel like you’re back in 1978, during a time period where this was new technology and not a vintage piece.

There is New Circuitry for Modern Times

In addition to the original circuitry, they’ve added ports for the modern computer age. You have a MIDI in jack, which helps the synth receive note message. There is a USB-MIDI as well, which helps you exchange note messages.

For most computers, the Mini connects to them and you can play the synth by using a sequencer. Composing music has never been the same, and we believe that you will love it.  Being able to plug in the synth to our PCs and play is always fun, and the possibilities this unlocks are quite limitless.

Let’s Look at the More Technical Aspects

The original MS-20’s synth capabilities are reproduced to a T. It has two oscillators with the ability for ring modulation. You can use hold and delay with its envelope generators as well. The VCA (voltage-controlled amplifier) is around the original, but is less noisy.

Another feature of the MS-20 was its filters. During the lifecycle of the MS-20, there were two filters used, with the second one implemented later on in its lifecycle. This was a bit of a controversial decision, as everyone preferred the sounds of the original filter.

The original filter had the power to self-oscillate, which could create some distorted sounds. The resonance it created on both passes made it beloved, and what’s awesome is that the Mini uses the original filter. So in a way, the Mini is closer to the original than later models of the original. You’ll love playing around with the filters and seeing what they can do.

Let’s also mention its external signal processor. With the ESP, you can control the synth with an external instrument and use the pitch and volume for your own unique sounds. Guitars, mics, and anything else can be plugged in for some extra creativity.

For the musicians who dabble with more than one instrument, there is a lot you can do with this, and we believe that you’ll find much use out of it. Experiment with everything you have and see what you can do. Chances are, you can create something that stands out.

Let’s Look at the Patching System

The patching system, which you can find on the right side of the panel, is quite flexible. By plugging in some cables, you can be able to make some intricate music. By swapping the connections, you can make as much music as you put your mind to it.

The patching system also has a flow chart on the panel to help beginners figure out how it works. We enjoyed creating some tunes with the patching system. It was easy to use and gave us plenty of possibilities. With its user friendliness, we believe that anyone will love this synth, regardless of their skill level or their musical expertise.

It’s good for newcomers and veterans alike. Just play around with it and you’ll be surprised at what you can create.

Pros

It Sounds Just Like You Remember It

We suppose that one of the biggest concerns for lovers of the classic synth is how good it sounds. Does the Mini sound just as good as the original?

The unique, spacey jams the original could create still remind of the late 1970s, a time when we were on the verge of computer technology and the world was going through uncertain times.

Both the original MS-20 and new MS-20 Mini sound quite amazing, but the Mini has the advantage of brand-new parts. While you can find the original in mint condition, that is quite difficult.

Any piece of technology will struggle with 40 years, so we are glad there is a new piece of technology to help both newcomers and veterans fall in love. There is little reason to have the original at this point.

It’s Good for Learners and Anyone of Any Skill Level

What makes the Mini unique is that it combines an old keyboard with new technology, making it good for younger audiences. With its manual and with plenty of video tutorials online, you should be able to learn this keyboard with ease. Even someone who has never used a synth will soon be able to play with ease.

No matter how intimidated you may be by synthesizers, this keyboard can help you fix that problem. By investing some time in it, you’ll be able to learn in no time.

A Good Price

The Mini goes for under $500. Depending on where you are, the original can go for much more if you want to get a working model. This is a small price to pay for a powerful instrument that can enhance your creativity like nothing before.

Some synths go for much more, but this one goes for a price that we believe most can be able to afford. It’s a small price to pay for limitless fun.

Tuning it is Easy

If you want to play with the knobs and adjust everything, it’s quite easy to do so. Everything is laid out in a convenient location, and even someone who is overwhelmed by buttons should be able to figure everything out. If you’re ready to play some music with ease, you can’t go wrong with the Mini.

USB Feature is Quite Useful

In 1978, there was a lack of home computers to help indie musicians create some music. However, the Mini has a USB option so you can plug in the synth to your computer and easily make some music. No matter who you are, you can be able to plug it in and make some of the best synth music you possibly can.

It’s Portable

We live in a world where every piece of tech needs to be portable. No one likes to lug around a big piece of heavy equipment unless they are in a band. While this isn’t an instrument you can play on the train, it is one that doesn’t weigh too much and because of its small size, you can pack it and go.

If you’re a musician who is hopping from house to house, even a small instrument can be annoying to carry. The Mini is great due to the fact it’s so small. There is no point owning an original in this day and age unless you’re a collector. The Mini is the perfect replacement for its size alone. Unless you have big hands, which we’ll discuss in just a second.

Cons

Keyboard Can Be Small for Big Fingers

The keyboard’s small size is both a pro and con. It’s less heavy and more portable than most models, but the problem is that the keys may be small. Now, this is all subjective. If your fingers are small, you won’t have to worry too much in this regard.

However, we do realize that some people have big, bulky fingers, and it can make playing the keyboard difficult.

If you have big fingers, see if you can find a way to try before you buy. If the keys are too small and it hinders how you’re able to play, perhaps you should try another keyboard. The last thing you want is for your experience to be ruined by not being able to hit all the right keys.

The Knobs May Need Some Gentle Hands

Another flaw of its smaller size is that its knobs are smaller, and can be weak at times. If you have big hands, you want to be careful and make sure you aren’t adjusting them too hard to the point where they can loosen or even fall off. Or you don’t want to adjust it and end up in the wrong place.

This shouldn’t be a problem for most, but if you have big hands, you should again try before you buy.

There Are Keyboards with More Features

The Mini is a great keyboard with a variety of ways you can make music, and we believe that most people will find use out of it. With that said, it’s on the lower end of keyboards, and more advanced users may find that it doesn’t have all the features that more advanced keyboards do have.

It is a keyboard from forty years ago, and since then, there have been keyboards with much more options than what they had back then. However, if you want something vintage and affordable, this may be the right keyboard for you.

In Summary

We are quite impressed by the Mini. While there are other keyboards with more advanced features, you can still do a lot with the remake of this 40-year-old keyboard. You can still create some heavy synth jams, and it’s quite easy for anyone to enter.

Unless you have giant hands, you have no reason not to add this synth to your collection. It’s perfect for those who want portability, or those who have a smaller studio room.

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