Love patching. Hate running out of patch cords.

For all the quantity and inventiveness of iOS music-making software, only a few titles have become contenders as must-have apps. KORG’s iElectribe often tops those lists. What makes the iMS-20 especially interesting news is that it may have a bit of an edge even on hardware. Touch is a natural interface for patching sounds with virtual patch cords. We got to see a small taste of that with the stylus-driven, MS-20 inspired Korg DS-10 for Nintendo DS. With the iMS-20 for iPad, you can take advantage of the tablets far more-sophisticated sonic and UI capabilities. And you never have to run out of patch cords.

The iMS-20 is as much descended from the Nintendo DS title as it is the original Korg MS-20 analog synth. Like the DS cart, the iMS-20 combines KAOSS Pad-style X/Y control, and a “studio”-style rig with synth, drum machine, mixer, and sequencer, plus patch cord-equipped sound design.

  • 16-step “analog” sequencer
  • Claims to recreate the full MS-20 analog synth (hmmm… okay, who has the original?)
  • MS-20 mono synth, six-part drum machine, mixer
  • Kaoss Pad X/Y control. (Analog synth returns, coupled with a touchpad – sounds familiar.)
  • Share songs on SoundCloud. (very cool – although DropBox might be more convenient for adding those sounds to your computer DAW.)

The other thing that’s interesting about KORG is, alongside the likes of IK Multimedia, they’re quietly working to make iOS apps worth a little more. US$15.99 is the intro price, with the final price of $32.99 after January 31, 2011. At the same time, you get the sense that the software is something you could spend a lot of time with. It’s definitely not a throwaway. Whether that answers critics or not is another matter; overhead on Facebook: “f*** ipad – avoid this consumption madness! the more tools people get – the weaker music they produce! music is in minds – not in tools!!!!!!”

(To me, that suggests you should learn the banjo, which I have to admit, is pretty awesome.)

I’m last with this news (I was busy … you’ll understand), but that means I get to say this – both the iTunes store link and the KORG page are actually live now!

KORG iMS-20 @ iTunes (now live — really)

Here’s how on-the-ball those iPad users are, though: there are already not one but two hands-on videos, plus the sound samples (embedded below) from KORG by way of SoundCloud.

Takes elsewhere:
“Let’s hope the knobs and connectors are as fun and easy to use as on the iElectribe.” Wire to the Ear

Videos and sounds from DE.BUG, phono1337, and DETUNE/KORG:

Gain by Denkitribe


No Compromises by iNALOG

Eyeshut by KORG

More details from KORG, via their just-released press release.

Ever since the launch of the MS-20 in 1978, this distinctive monophonic synthesizer has enjoyed unbroken popularity for its thick and solid sound, aggressive analog filters and inexhaustible potential for creative patching. Using Korg’s proprietary CMT (Component Modeling Technology) the iMS-20 completely replicates every aspect of the legendary MS-20: the two Voltage Controlled Oscillators, Voltage Controlled Filters, two dynamic Envelope Generators and a Voltage Controlled Amplifier. iMS-20 also features high-pass/low-pass self-oscillating filters with the same unique distortion elements that made these filters popular back in their day, and still coveted today.

The Korg SQ-10, also introduced in the late 1970s, is effectively recreated for the iMS-20 app. Featuring 16 steps, this analog sequencer can produce either a series of pitches or create a cyclic pattern of control changes to the volume, panning, filter brightness and other synthesizer parameters. The iMS-20 version also includes new improvements not found on the original, such as easy control of notes, volume, pan, or synth/effect parameters. All of the SQ-10’s classic and unique functionality, such as three channels of voltage control and six types of sequence modes, is also included.

The iMS-20 also features a six-part drum machine. By simply pressing the step buttons, drum parts can be quickly created, with each hit having independent control of pitch and gate time. By using the seven-channel mixer, complete with several Insert effects, users can bring together the MS-20 and drum machine components to create full musical phrases.

In addition to being a complete electronic music production studio, the iMS-20 can function as a dynamic performance instrument as well. It is equipped with dual Kaoss pad control surfaces – one for note creation as made famous by Korg’s KAOSSILATOR, and one for manipulating parameter values in real-time, as found on Korg’s KAOSS series of effects processors.

Users can share their creativity via the SoundCloud integration feature. SoundCloud provides a way to publish songs or to collaborate on new music with friends anywhere in the world. Audio data exported by the iMS-20 app can be quickly published and shared, and users can access the SoundCloud server right from within iMS-20.

I still want a real MS-20, but between the Monotron and this, it’s nice to see KORG partying like it’s 1978. (Good vintage.)

Update: if you do want the iElectribe, it’s now just US$9.99, says MatrixSynth.

  • Just downloaded the app. You're right in that it's not a throw away. There are a number of things I'd improve, but for $16 it's delivers more than enough value. That's less than the price of a movie ticket and popcorn. Korg has a winner on their hands.

  • Peter Kirn

    There's your new rating system. Better than Due Date and popcorn, probably not as good as Harry Potter and popcorn…

    (just don't make popcorn when you're using your iPad… touch and popcorn don't go together well.)

  • And this is just the beginning, love what ipad scene is cooking!

  • Matt Hoopper

    Why do korg leave out audiocopy making their apps standalone?

    Oversight or politics? Thoughts…

  • Charlie Lesoine

    I dunno….Harry potter and popcorn only lasts so long, a couple hours tops. I think you could get many more hours out of this thing than that. The smartest thing korg could do would be to make this and the iElectribe work with MIDI. That would be tits.

  • It seems to be very fine.
    You already know I'm sceptic about turning a knobs by making a linear gesture… but I'd like to test it if someone would offer me an iPad 🙂

  • Oivind

    Is there any way to use external samples or external input? It seems the "ext input" jack is there, but what can it be used for?

    This has always been one of the most fun aspects of the MS-20, either in its original form or in the later software version.

  • oh look another audio toy for a touch controller.
    what a suprise.

  • low resolution sunse

    Toy? I always thought that the DS10 was pretty serious business. My favorite bass sounds came out it, and it was capable of making some pretty outlandish noise.

    While I find it hard to enjoy the iPad as the latest consumer-lifestyle-fetish-fashion-status-indicator, you have to admit that some of the tools coming out if it are pretty incredible.

  • leslie

    Became number 1 App @ AppShopper Music Top 200 just 8 hours after release – new record.
    BTW; It is simply brilliant!

  • Peter Kirn

    I'm also fairly sure that, to whatever extent the iPad is the latest "it" consumer lifestyle item, it's not necessarily for the soft synths. 😉 I think that's as much the impulse of the music-loving community as it is the other way around.

  • I'm really curious as to how real is it. How much of these videos can replicated?

    I think this will be amazing once we can input MIDI to use LPD8's knobs and a midi keyboard(!). Can you imagine the portability of this coupled to an MPK Mini? Mind blowing…

  • Michael Coelho

    I just exercised my right to be an impulsive consumer who has been seduced by the manipulations of our corporate overlords so that I could play with this on my expensive (and beloved) iPad toy. The iMS-20 looks really impressive. I really hope Korg brings midi support to it and the iElectribe. The UI is a thing of beauty. I can't wait to delve into it. I wish the Props would redo the graphics for Rebirth so that I wouldn't have to run it in 2X mode on the iPad.

  • geoff

    So if this is $16 why don't they make an audio unit plugin for $16 dollars too?

  • the iPad is becoming more and more tempting…
    anyway I'll keep messing with my old and real MS20 😉

  • Which company actually developed the software? Detune?

  • werd

    another wonderful ipad app…it has to be said all the morons who hate on the ipad are basically pissed b/c it is expensive (and i agree it is an expensive luxury product particularly in a recessionary environment)…of course, if we listened to all the dissenters who don't like high-priced items we wouldn't have computers today either. there are alot of fabulous technologies that are coming out in the next few years and it will be up to users to decide what to do with them. i am bullish on the human race overall and i think people will come up with great uses. i can't wait to look back at this app in 10 years and think how primitive just as if i had seen this 10 yrs ago i would have been blown away…

    also for people who spend their lives worrying whether something is amateur or professional or a toy or blah blah blah who cares? quite honestly i never thought of a guitar as anything more than a toy…and actually almost everything that i buy that a truly enjoy is a toy! including my moog

  • Holotropik

    More of this please 🙂

  • Neil G

    Look what else came out today: Rebirth for iPad!

    xmas is here early for iPad owners

  • Michael Coelho

    No sooner do I ask for an iPad version of Rebirth and low and behold, they make it!

  • KH

    >>> overhead on Facebook: “f*** ipad – avoid this consumption madness! the more tools people get – the weaker music they produce! music is in minds – not in tools!!!!!!” <<<

    My advice to the FB poster:

    If you save your pizza delivery money, you'll be able to afford an iPad too!

  • Cool toy.
    I am not sure I see the point of replicating an MS-20 though, as there is no hardware limit they could have gone straight to modular instead.
    Bad thing about MS-20 digital copies is they still sound flat, unlike the real thing which sort of has a life on its own.
    Music wise I think a touch laptop with reaper and a few VSTs still offers much better value for money.

  • littlepig

    @werd, actually I am very happy that mugs like you are paying the development cost for this stuff cos in a few years time it will come down to a resonable price then I'll buy one 🙂

    BTW once bitten twice shy, I bought a psion when such things were cutting edge and felt it was a waste of money

  • got it yesterday and it's really sexy! Its sound rocks even without the midi mobilizer integration (yet). Great, and only 12euros

  • Brian

    The ms-20 vst was pretty much exactly the same as the ms-20 doing A-B tests i would say in the 90s % wise of recreating the sound of the original. The legacy collection came out so long ago that that its been discontinued its pretty safe to say that there shouldn't be too much separating this and the original except maybe volume and the sound quality the d-a system integrated into the ipad can pump out.

  • joxer96

    Rebirth too? Niiiiice! I just started digging into iMS-20 last night, it's pretty darn cool. None of these iPad apps will ever replace my beloved hardware, but they are great tools for jotting down ideas when I'm away from my 'real' setup. The apps are far from being toys. Regardless of how you feel about Apple/iPad, in the right hands these apps become serious composition tools.

  • Matos

    This thing is amazing. You can step sequence almost every parameter. It's brilliant. I just spent 2 hours teaching my wife about synthesis using this. She made her first track and then we uploaded it to her new sound cloud account( crispy-nugget) the fact that it shows you which plugs you can patch into and auto connects when you drag it over makes it so quick to experiment. At first the external in was a mystery but the ease of experimenting quickly showed me how useful it is. I plugged the phones out into the in, and plugged the trigger out into varioys inputs for pure audio bliss.

  • gio

    When I saw this, I thought to myself, I can't wait until Reason gets on the iPad to try all sorts of patching 🙂 In the meantime, this looks interesting for controlling Reason devices ->

  • so i guess tactile feedback is out now, is it?

  • Christopher Penrose

    This is really nostalgic for me as I used an MS-20 often in college. The keyboard is way too small though — which is fine as I have had much more fun using the Kaoss pad interfaces. Great fun, but I haven't figured out exporting yet. I am hoping that Soundcloud isn't the only way.

  • Christopher Penrose

    I didn't pay enough attention… there are 3 keyboard sizes… my only complaint is that the default size should be the smallest rather than the median size.

  • werd


    i would guess most people who have purchased aren't planning to use the device for 1 thing. i needed it for financial info but use it for other things as well including music. it is aimed at high income crowd for now just like automobiles, tvs, computers, etc were in the past. this isn't a fad unless u believe people will develop a 3rd arm to multitask….besides the kicker is aapl went up so much recently that it alone has paid for my ipad several-fold!

  • owen-b

    Have to laugh at the angry man slagging off people paying "the development costs" or whatever, and whoever called the iPad expensive (not seen the prices of the other tallest yet? They ain't cheap either).

    But i don't really like this app. The problem with this lovely looking app is that most songs coming out of it will sound very similar, and quite boring, sadly. I've listened to a few and they all sound very similar – fairly dull occasionally squelchy synth sounds and uninteresting drums. It's just very very limiting without the ability to easily drop sounds or loops into other apps.

    Compared to something like the iPhones nanosynth app running expanded on an iPad, it’s pretty limited in reality, and it’s phenomenally fiddly to actually do anything with. Disappointing,, but interesting.

  • robman84

    Sounds fab and is great fun to play with – flippin' complex though for those of us brought up on just a few knobs to twiddle. Looking forward to MIDI control.

  • CHoc DOnut

    There's a reason people are paying real money for analog synths. That's about all one can say, although this would be quite a good trainer. Also, anyone who actually can play a keyboard and likes it isn't going to enjoy playing a piece of glass more than for a laugh.
    Looks good, less filling. Wow, this sounds awful. Actually, all you kiddies go down these dead ends. It clears space for the actual music producers.

  • HEXnibble

    @CHoc DOnut: "Actually, all you kiddies go down these dead ends. It clears space for the actual music producers."

    You mean like how the Gorillaz recorded their new album on an iPad?:

  • damn, that's i call a Musical Instrument. And don't giving a shoot about "emulation" things, it is just sounds good enough.

  • Bewarethemoon

    There's a lot of Keyboard snobbery around, I have owned several analogue keyboards, the original Novation bass station and have the Korg minisynrh, but for ease of use and great sounds and usability, Nanostudio is fantastic, and with the Akai synthstation I have a handy little keyboard and portable studio which can be up and running in seconds. The ims-20 2ill have to go a longway before it beats Nanostudio.

  • knossos

    I owned a MS-20 about 30yrs ago. What you got at that time was the cheapest professional monosyth for experimenting with electronic sounds. The cost was same as an iphone today, but money was more than twice of worth. You had no possibility to save your patches, and for sequencing the MS-50 was needed, which cost the same.
    I was happy to gedt rid of my MS-20 after some years, but I appreciate that there are some people who won't let the machine die over more than 4 decades (it's from 1979).
    BUT – as a stand-alone music production center (if you mean it serious) it makes IMHO no sense. You can make some great sounds, but if you want to go further than DAF or Lieaisons Dangereuses which were heavily using the machine for their basslines, MS-20 has to be one of many instruments, regardless of its edition.
    So, today, for the ridiculous price, you get one virtual instrument which can inspire you and bring you near to the feeling we had thirty or more years ago, but will not fulfill your creative needs, except you plan to make music that sounds the same like from all those others who own this instrument (or sometimes, a shortwave radio), too.
    I hope that Korg will have a great success with this product, so that there will be many other products like this, leading to a cheap and versatile production environment with this iPad or any other touch-sensitive device. Remember why Atari ST only could stand against Amiga for a time ? Right, because of its Midi-Interface – when only keyboarders knew what that was.

  • knossos

    Correction: I meant SQ-10 as the name of the sequencer, MS-50 was a monosynth-expander with 1 Oscillator.

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  • Mee Zanook

    Hi,nice Korg info here,I have creating sound effect tutorials from scratch along with music videos sporting the power of the Korg ims-20,feel free to use if you like,thanks Mee Zanook

  • Mee Zanook

    Hi,nice Korg info here,I have creating sound effect tutorials from scratch along with music videos sporting the power of the Korg ims-20,feel free to use if you like,thanks Mee Zanook

  • Mee Zanook

    Hi,nice Korg info here,I have creating sound effect tutorials from scratch along with music videos sporting the power of the Korg ims-20,feel free to use if you like,thanks Mee Zanook