Korg A1 Synthesizer Effects Processor

Korg A1 Synthesizer Effects
Korg A1 Synthesizer Effects

It’s raining pretty hard right now in Nagano-city and there’s a Typhoon on the way. So, I decided to hop in the car and check out a used music shop about 30 minutes from my place. What interested me was a Korg A1 effects processor that they have had for over two years now. They had a $60 price tag on it and there were several issues I noticed with it. First it had no presets inside. It was also missing the rack ears and it had no memory card. A year ago I looked into how to reset the factory presets but was discouraged to find that many were having trouble with sysex transfers specifically with the A1. However, the reviews of the Korg A1 were all very favorable. Also the resell value of the Korg A1 was hovering around the $400-$600 range. Thus I always kept my eye on it thinking that one day someone would snatch it up quick, but nobody did!

Well recently, I found out that a couple of people were successful in loading up the factory default patches using the A2 Send Card Utility. I also was able to find the factory patch set plus a whole bunch of others. So, I decided to revisit the Korg A1 to see if I might be able to get it going. Luckily the Korg A1 was still sitting in the same corner as it had always been for the past two years or so. I brought it up to the counter clerk and his eyes had the look of “finally” I’m going to get rid of this piece of crap..laugh. There was no power cord, but he quickly supplied me with one. I told him that I understood it had no factory preset sounds in it, but that I only wanted to check and make sure that the power was ok. Indeed it started up nicely.

I told the sales clerk that I would buy it but that I wanted to look around some more. When I finally decided I was ready to check out. I noticed he had thrown in the power cord for free and had reduced the price to $35. He told me that it was old and had been in the shop for a very long time so he would knock some off the price. I think he was bent on sealing the deal. I said sure no problem of course.

When I got home I cleaned up the Korg A1 really nice and started it up. Everything powered up fine and the LCD screen was very nice and clean. I then connected a midi cable between my Windows 7 computer and the Korg A1. Actually I use a Roland A-880 Midi Patcher so that was stuck in between. I had downloaded and installed the A2 Send Card Utility and then enabled the Korg A1 to receive MIDI sysex messages. After I loaded up the factory sysex file I sent it to the Korg A1. Sure enough, the Korg A1 accepted the sysex dump on the first try! Fantastic! I now had a Korg A1 working 100% in top notch condition.

I then hooked up my Roland JP-8000 for testing and turned off all the effects on a Mini Moog patch I had created. I plugged the Roland JP-8000 into the front of the Korg A1 and then used headphones to have a listen. Wow! I was amazed at most of the Reverb effect patches. The Roland JP-8000 came alive and it was amazing. I really liked the reverb room patches especially well with the synth. It really fattened up the sound. Very warm indeed! Some of the reverbs were bright, but not in a cheap way at all, rather they were very professional sounding and clean!

With regards to synthsizers, I thought the Korg A1 had some great delays, choruses, and even distortion sounds. The editing ability was vast and I know I’ll be able to get tweak quite a bit out of it. The Wahs were really fantastic too. Many of the patches gave the Roland JP-8000 an added warmth similar to my Juno 6, 106, and the MKS-50. It’s like the Korg A1 suddenly popped my Roland JP-8000 into Juno gear. That was a welcome surprise! It could be the nature of adding effects to a synthesizer, but the Korg A1 also added something more which I can’t quite explain yet.

Although I do play guitar, I plan to mainly use the Korg A1 as a synthesizer effect processor. I feel it really works well with synths especially well. I’ve only just started to scratch the surface of the Korg A1 Multi Effects processor and I’m liking it more and more as I dig deeper into it. Now that dumping and receiving sysex files is a breeze, I can also check out many of the other patch sets that are available in sysex form online. Hopefully I won’t have to change the battery in the Korg A1 for a while!

I know the Korg A2 and A3 effect processors are very popular, especially the A2. The only choice I really had here was the Korg A1, but honestly it’s a very nice effects unit. For now it will do the job perfectly! It’s just what I was looking for and you can’t beat the price either.


4 thoughts on “Korg A1 Synthesizer Effects Processor

  1. Jo Burger

    Congrat! Super Deal. A1 is the top of the range piece of the a-series. It has everything and more compared to the A2>A3. Look it up on korgaseries.org. have lots of fun with this effect.

  2. Hello!
    Could you plese email me the sysex file for the korg?
    I own the A1, but the battery became low and all the data is lost now. Pity.
    And I can’t find the factory presets file in the internet.
    BTW, your A-880 works with Windows 7 well? I wonder, ’cause that’s an old stuff…
    If it is possible to send me those utility for korg A-series, I would be really glad!
    My mail is danalex(-at-)inbox.ru
    Thank you very much.

  3. Pete

    Wow $35. I dropped >150. It was a crap shoot for me. I was warned by U2 guitar players that only the a2 and a3 have the Achtung Baby sounds I was looking for (i.e. preset 76 for mysterious ways). But i was promised by Korg technical service reps that the A1 will do everything the A2 will do and then some, plus the A1 will do it with a greater freq range and greater bit rate. But i now find the a1 has no flange or overdrive effect. The chains are such that only certain effects fit into certain ‘boxes’ and I can not make that “Mysterious Ways” sound. With your use of the “A2 Send Card Utility” and the uploading of sysex files have you been able to make any chains that are not in the A1’s program chain list pdf here: korgaseries.org/manuals.php
    Many thanks and great blog.

  4. Leo

    Hey Jim.

    I have an opportunity to buy the A1 unit, but since I play U2 songs, can you tell me if it is possible or if you could get some U2 sounds using it?

    Thanks a lot!

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