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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

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KORG Music History

Korg is recognized as one of the most innovative manufacturers of electronic musical instruments and accessories in the world. With its headquarters based in Tokyo, Japan, Korg maintains a network of distributors operating in countries around the world. From producing the first synthesizer in Japan, to defining the Music Workstation category, to inventing the world’s first handheld electronic tuner and more, Korg has been at the forefront of technology, and strives to bring to market products that are not only cutting edge, but also extremely user-friendly, inspirational, and of the highest quality.
The company began as many do—with the idea that something could be done better. In the early 1960s, Korg founder Tsutomu Katoh was a nightclub proprietor. Tadashi Osanai, a noted Japanese accordionist, performed regularly at Katoh’s club. Katoh told Osanai that it would be nice to have a rhythm machine to keep the beat. Osanai, an engineering graduate from Japan’s prestigious Tokyo University, was certain he could build a rhythm machine himself, and convinced Katoh to finance his efforts.
In 1962, Katoh rented a small facility alongside the Keio (pronounced K-O or Kayo) railway line, where Katoh and Osanai worked on developing a mechanical rhythm machine. The fledgling enterprise was dubbed Keio Electronic Laboratories, which later became Korg — a derivation of the words “Keio” and “ORGan”. Their first product, the Disc Rotary Electric Auto Rhythm machine or DoncaMatic DA-20, was released in 1963. 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 DoncaMatic DE-11. Korg continued to release many “Drum Machines,” as they came to be known. The Mini-Pops (MP Series) and Korg Rhythm (KR) series were extremely popular. As sampling came into vogue in the mid 1980s, the DDD-1 and DDD-5 (Digital Dynamic Drums) became the star performers, eventually giving way to the S3 in 1990.  

Keyboard Products
During the 1960s and 1970s, the organ was a dominant product in the keyboard market, so in 1967 when Katoh was approached by Fumio Mieda, an engineer who wanted to develop keyboard products, he provided the backing for Mieda to try his hand at developing a new type of organ. In 1968, Mieda created the “Prototype I,” which was an organ with programmable voice capabilities similar to a synthesizer.
Furthering their idea and in order to produce products to bring to the public market, Katoh and Mieda created the KORGUE organ, which was completed in 1972.
During that same time, a musician friend of Katoh and Mieda visited the USA and saw a MOOG synthesizer. Upon his return to Japan, he told Katoh that the Prototype I was actually no different than a synthesizer, making the Prototype I the first “synthesizer” in Japan. This encouraged Katoh to develop the Prototype technology and to enter the new synthesizer market.
In 1973, using many of the basic design concepts of the Prototype I, the company introduced their first synthesizer, the mini KORG 700 (K1 in the U.S.), a monophonic synthesizer. This was the first product to be sold under the Korg brand name. The mini KORG was soon joined by the mini KORG 700S (K2 in the U.S.), an effects-enhanced version. The mini KORG family proved popular for providing high quality sound in an easy-to-use and affordable package. Based on the enormous success of the mini KORG, the company continued to develop synthesizers.
1975 saw the introduction of the Dual-Voice Maxi-Korg 800DV (K3 in the U.S.) SyntheBass and the 900PS preset synthesizer. A year later, the Polyphonic Ensemble series (PE1000 and PE2000) was unveiled. The PE series helped to launch Korg as a full-line electronic keyboard company. By 1978, Korg had introduced two new lines of synthesizers that retained some of the patching capabilities of early modular synthesizers — the polyphonic PS series and the monophonic MS series. The MS10 and MS20 were extremely successful, and are still coveted by techno and dance artists today. Also part of this flush of products was Korg’s first vocoder, the VC-10. The PS-3100 was the first polyphonic synthesizer from Korg, and it was soon joined by the PS-3200, one of the first programmable polyphonic synthesizers ever created, allowing sounds to be recalled at the touch of a button. The PS-3300 followed in 1979, and actually contained three separate polyphonic synthesizers that could be played together from one keyboard. In 1980, Korg launched the TRIDENT, combining a polyphonic/programmable synthesizer, a string synthesizer, a brass synthesizer, and effects into one performance-oriented keyboard.
Sequential Circuits revolutionized the synthesizer industry in 1978 with the Prophet-5, the first instrument that was polyphonic, easy to use, and allowed every knob setting to be saved in a bank of user presets. Musically the instrument drew raves; however, its $4,000 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, which led to the introduction of the Polysix in 1981. The Polysix featured six-voice polyphony and, like the Prophet 5, was fully programmable. However, its $1,995 retail price tag was unprecedented. In 1981, Korg also released the Mono/Poly, another coveted item today.
Korg further redefined the synthesizer market with the introduction of the Poly-800 in 1983. With a list price of $795, the Poly-800 was the first fully programmable synthesizer that cost less than $1,000! It was also Korg’s first product equipped with MIDI. The Digital Waveform series (DW6000 and DW8000) in 1984 and 1985 introduced a whole new palette of tone colors by utilizing complex digitized waveforms beyond the reach of the simple square and sawtooth waves used up until that point. 1987 found Korg breaking ground again, using FM technology in a highly intuitive way with the DS-8 and 707.
Korg acquired Sequential Circuits in 1989, forming 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 such as Advanced Vector Synthesis and Wave Sequencing, the Wavestation won awards and recognition for its technical achievements and innovation, and was followed by a number of related products.
Both the California-based R&D group and Korg Inc. continued to explore new technologies, delving into physical modeling and other forward-thinking forms of synthesis. One of the most unique results of these efforts was Korg’s WAVEDRUM, released in 1994. It combined the expressive playability of an acoustic drum with the dynamic power of DSP Synthesis, allowing drummers and percussionists to use all their familiar playing techniques to create and dynamically control a wide range of sounds.
Meanwhile, the R&D group worked on a new project dubbed “OASYS” – Open Architecture Synthesis. Their research yielded new technologies that Korg went on to implement in a number of products, including the OASYS PCI Card that brought unparalleled sonic excellence to the computer platform back in the late 1990s; and set the stage for the OASYS keyboard in later years.
The Prophecy Solo Synthesizer was unveiled in 1995. Using DSP synthesis first developed for the OASYS project, the monophonic Prophecy provided algorithms for producing realistic analog timbres, VPM (Variable Phase Modulation) tones similar to FM synthesis, and physically modeled brass, reed, and plucked string instruments. Korg built upon its DSP technology in 1997 to create the Z1 Physical Modeling Synthesizer. This 61-key polyphonic multitimbral instrument was equipped with a stunningly powerful synthesizer engine, a cool polyphonic arpeggiator, and an X-Y control pad. This same modeling technology is the basis for Korg’s MOSS expansion board, which is still widely used in its workstations today.
In 2000, Korg introduced the MS2000 Analog Modeling Synthesizer, as well as a rack version dubbed the MS2000R. Featuring the latest DSP-powered analog modeling system, these products pay homage to the meaty analog sounds of the original Korg MS series synthesizers. They include powerful 16-band vocoders, modeled on the classic Korg VC-10, which can use vocal or rhythm sounds as input. Revamped versions with a new sound set and color scheme - the MS2000B and MS2000BR followed. A mini-key version based on the same sound engine appeared in 2003. Dubbed the microKORG, this fun performer rapidly became one of the best selling synthesizers in the world, and stayed at the top for years. The HI (Hyper Integrated) synthesis engine that powered the famous TRITON Workstation line proved strong enough to stand on its own in the X50 and microX stage and studio synthesizers. Collectors are still searching for the rare camouflage version of the X-50, and the elusive white version of the microX.
Exhaustive research and development led to the MMT (Multi Modeling Technology) synth engine, giving rise to the knob-laden RADIAS in 2006; followed by the streamlined R3 in 2007. These two full-size key synths offer vocoding and sound engine. The RADIAS is a sound designer’s dream, adding drum parts, step-sequencing and the retro-style tilt-up panel found in certain analog classics.
Over the years, Korg and its products have received numerous awards and honors from members of the music industry in countries around the world. Honors include product awards from industry consumer publications, POP display awards, and product/product category awards from various trade publications.
Here, There, and Everywhere
The far-reaching influence of Korg products have been seen not only in popular music spanning over 40 years, but also in projects as diverse as Korg’s product line—from recording traditional Chinese Music for a TV program, to participating in a special presentation at the famous Smithsonian museum, to aiding a research project involving interspecies animal communication, and much, much more!
The Future
Today, decades after his humble entrance into the world of musical instruments, Mr. Katoh and Korg are still dedicated to providing musicians with new and better products to help express their creativity. We are a company of musicians and music enthusiasts that see ourselves as your musical partner. Like you, we love great sounds, we love a good interface, and we love music. We’re Korg." Article source:

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