Korg Mono/Poly Synthesizer Madness

Korg Mono/Poly Synthesizer
Korg Mono/Poly Synthesizer

A while back I bought a Korg Polysix and have really grown fond of playing that synthesizer. Through my experience with the Korg Polysix, I learned more about it’s companion the Korg Mono/Poly. So it’s without too much surprise that when I finally found a reasonably priced Korg Mono/Poly, I just had to jump on it. Posted below is a video performed by Elmo Sexwhistle and it’s a GREAT example of how versatile and modern the Korg Mono/Poly can be.

The Korg Mono/Poly is quickly becoming an expensive synthesizer these days. After doing quite a bit of research, it was not too long ago that people were snapping these up at pretty low prices. Many were even acquiring them for free or they were found dusty in people’s attics. Certainly I had to pay a little more than I would have liked to, BUT I did acquire mine much much lower than what they are going for on the open market, so I’m quite happy with that. I’m also happy with the fact that the Korg Mono/Poly is simply quite the bomb! I mean this is seriously a beast of a synth that can sound mad if you want it to or a blissful groovin’ synth with that oh so sweet sounding arpeggiator. In fact the Korg Poly/Arp has one of the best arps I have ever heard. Ssh! I shouldn’t say that too loud next to my Roland Juno-60.

What’s beautiful about the Korg Mono/Poly are the four independent oscillators. I mean that is simply brilliant. I can play in Unison mode and have all oscillators stacked cranking out a power sounding arp groove. Then with the press of a button midstream in the song, I can shift the arp into Poly mode where each note is cycled through each of the 4 oscillators. This gives a very unique but incredible sounding variation to the arpeggio and sound. I use this for switching between a Verse and a Chorus, or entering a bridge where I want the arp to exist, but sound different. I don’t know any other synth that can do this just yet.

I also love how the two mod wheels can be allocated to VCO1/Slave VCO, Pitch, or VCF. This opens up to all kinds of modulation possibilities when playing live which I really enjoy. In fact, to me that is what the Korg Mono/Poly is all about. It’s a total live performance synth. On that point, the Korg Mono/Poly does require a bit of practice to understand how all the elements work together. That is fun too experimenting and learning about how all the knobs interact with one another. I would say opening up the manual and running through some of the basic patch setups would be ideal because it would help you understand each knob function. I did this with my Roland SH-1 and it really helped to understand how to program it on the fly more effectively.

To sync the Arp, I use an old discontinued Doepfer M.a.u.s.i sync device. I think I found this for $10 bucks in a used music store here in Japan. I knew it would be valuable some day and that day has finally arrived with the Korg Mono/Poly. You open the lid and remove a jumper that sets the Doepfer to S-Trigger mode. Then plug the Gate Out of the Doepfer into the Arp Trig of the Korg Mono/Poly. I then midi up my Korg ESX-1 with Oberheim DMX samples. The synchronization is super tight! I rocked with this combination all day yesterday and had zero issues with timing. I’ve heard the Kenton Pro Solo mkII is another great choice but an expensive one if all you need is to sync the arp. At the moment, I’m not interested in the other connections just yet but maybe I will later. For now I’m really into the arp and performance side of the Korg Mono/Poly. You can read more about the sync options I use for my old synths in the previous article on this blog.

So far, I’ve been lucky to acquire a Korg Mono/Poly in fantastic shape. Buying it in Japan helps because people here tend to really take care of their stuff. After running through all the parameters, everything seems to work as it should. Even the tuning is near spot on as an analog synth can be. I also noticed that around the back, the synth doesn’t seem to get too hot, although it is warm. Many Mono/Poly owners indicate that their synth can run really hot. Maybe it’s because I’m running mine in Japan off a 100V outlet, not sure. My Korg Polysix runs hotter at the moment which I’m not sure if that’s normal when compared to the Korg Mono/Poly. Altogether though they run warm but not too warm to indicate any potential problems. So far so good!

In conclusion, the Korg Mono/Poly is a wicked synth. I am so glad I found and bought one. No question, it is money well spent and a synth that I likely will never sell. The Korg Mono/Poly in addition to being a unique synth can do so much in a mix. It will be one of my main go to synths for sure and I feel I’ve only just scratched the surface of it’s possibilities. My only concern going forward is to make sure I can keep the synth running in top form. Right alongside the Korg Polysix it’s a formidable match!


One thought on “Korg Mono/Poly Synthesizer Madness

  1. O.K Jim,
    this time you got me. i follow your blog quite astonished about the sheer amount of gear that you manage to find in these local music shops in nagano. it seems to me that there´s no better place on earth for a synth enthusiast than japan. lucky you!
    i remember being a young teenager, hanging around in my own local music shop. i couldn´t afford anything, but was totally addicted to visiting the shop and the presented synths once a week and playing the brandnew Korg Poly800. the only thing i got there was a product catalogue of Korg. this “bible” lay around my teenage room for years and the most faszinating picture i saw was the one of the Mono/Poly. i had no clue of the technical aspects of this blue wonder, but all the knobs and the its name are deeply burned into my memory. one day i will aquire one, not because of any sound it may be able to produce, but of the picture that i must have watched a thousand times.

    my deep respect for your wonderful blog. do not forget being thankful for every gem of the past, that you are able to aquire! You make me crazy!

    propser donge

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