It seems the era of the affordable analog monosynth just gave way to the affordable analog polysynth.

Leaked last week, KORG’s minilogue is a US$499.99 4-voice polysynth. Before you dive into our sprawling review, here’s everything you need to know in a nutshell. Keep in mind – we’ve had this synth since last week, so we’re not just copying specs here.

Lowres_Minilogue_Closeup1

How many voices has it got? Four of them. You can use them in a 4-voice polyphonic mode (that is, playing chords), or a unison mode (with all four detuned around the same pitch), a duophonic mode, or some interesting novelty variations – like a “delay” mode that spreads those voices in time, a dedicated chord mode, and an arpeggiator.

Paraphonic or polyphonic? Polyphonic. Each voice has a dedicated architecture. It’s fully polyphonic. (KORG was a bit cheeky with the volca KEYS – that’s technically paraphonic. But minilogue is fully poly.)

And it’s analog? Yes – analog voltage-controlled oscillators. There’s also some analog circuitry around the feedback of the delay (though the delay is digital).

Mini keys? Correct, same as the MS-20 mini keybed – nothing spectacular, but playable.

Spring paddle what now? Yes, in place of a pitch bend wheel, you get spring-loaded pitch above the keyboard. You’ll either love it or hate it; it makes slow bends tricky, but quick pitch scoops easy.

So at this price, it feels cheap, right? Actually, no. There’s a sand-blasted aluminum panel, real wood round the back, and most significantly, chassis-mounted metal potentiometers, so the knobs feel solid and don’t wiggle around. There are also nice big, retro switches.

What’s with this preset business? What’s that doing on my analog keyboard? Sellouts. Uh, okay, fine. Well, you can dial up presets onboard or – since you’re obviously an impassioned sound designer – use another 100 user storage slots to save your own. You still get hands-on control of everything.

That name is familiar. It’s not an official endorsement from the Swedish electronic duo, though the designers are fans and evidently got approval.

What about control voltage? No, not this time. Dedicated MIDI in and out plus MIDI over USB, but you don’t get CV. Did we mention it’s a $500 polysynth?

What’s that display for? It’s a small but cute OLED, which displays an oscilloscope (useful with all the wave shaping and cross modulation and ring mod business), plus menus and occasionally signal flow (like reinforcing what the labels on the feedback routing for the delay).

What extras do you get? There’s a 16-step sequencer with motion automation for parameters (four at a time). You can store one sequence with each preset, meaning that preset storage can be for calling up patterns as well as timbres, useful in performance or sketching. (Seriously, quit complaining about preset storage – it’s a great idea. Or go back to the 70s, if you must.)

Is there any relation to past KORG gear? Surprisingly, not so much. The delay core isn’t new, but apart from that and the keybed, the oscillator design, delay feedback, overall signal flow, and case design are all new.

Why is this man smiling? Why, because Tats has just finished what's likely to be another big hit for KORG.

Why is this man smiling? Why, because Tats has just finished what’s likely to be another big hit for KORG.

Who’s behind it? Tatsuya Takahashi from KORG led the design team. “Tats” as he’s affectionately known is the same charismatic designer behind the volca series and monotron, among other recent hits.

Lowres_Minilogue_Slant1

Thanks for chatting. But I want a big list of specs. It’s, like, this left brain thing. Why, it’d be our pleasure, of course.

  • 4-voice polyphonic synth, automatic tuning
  • 41 panel controls
  • All-new analog circuitry
  • 100 factory presets, 100 user programs, with instant recall
  • 8 voice modes: Poly, Duo, Unison, Mono, Chord, Delay, Arp, Sidechain (uh, that last one’s funny, so read our review)
  • Hard sync, cross modulation, ring mod
  • 2-pole and 4-pole filters
  • Route-able modulation
  • Three oscillator types per oscillator (saw, triangle, rectangle) plus shape knob
  • Real-time oscilloscope
  • Sync in and sync out (a la volca series and other KORG gear)
  • I/O: Audio in (just a passthrough), audio out, headphones, MIDI IN, MIDI OUT, USB (for MIDI, no audio)

Let’s watch:

  • Ed

    Sounds very decent, looks really cool, build quality sounds great and that price is insane: they are going to sell an absolute *bucketload* of these things, including one to me.

    Any idea when it might be hitting shops in the UK?

    • Freeks

      In US sweetwater said they will ship tomorrow. Uk & rest probably right after NAMM.

      Arturia has hard time to explain why there is no presets in Minibrute. Polybrute coming?

      • Yanakyl

        Because the arturia is not digitally controlled it’s all analog a part for the midi interface.
        This one is a mixture of both analog and digital, pretty cool!
        So are they going to expand the serie? A big drum machine combining volca beat and sample, please?

  • Alex

    sorry some corrections:
    is indeed named after Minilogue: https://www.facebook.com/DjNobodyHome
    and the motion sequencer appeared in the past on MS2000

    looking forward!

    • Yeah, I added some clarification – it’s not an official endorsement but there is some love there and they did get permission.

      Uh… *a* motion sequencer appeared on the MS2000, not to mention similar functionality on the volcas. But the sequencer here itself is newly made for the minilogue, I believe.

  • Freeks

    “And it’s analog? Yes – digitally controlled oscillators. ”

    Sorry but it has VCO’s.

    • nobody

      Digitally-controlled analog oscillators, like the MS-20 mini or the Waldorf Pulse 2, both of which need no warm-up time to attain stability. πŸ™‚

    • Sorry, that revision didn’t appear for some reason when I published… yes, VCOs.

  • Virtual Flannel

    Looks amazing, never have I seen such value in an instrument.

  • On Gearslutz some people guess it has only one 2/4pole filter, not 4 (one for each voice),which would make the minilogue only paraphonic not polyphonic. Is it true?

    • Jaybeeg

      It has four 2/4 pole LPFs, one for each voice. I think part of the confusion stemmed from the fact that some of the sounds in the Sweetwater video demo were running in duophonic and unison modes.

  • Charles Pishington

    PWM?

    • Joshua Schnable

      The LFO can modulate waveshape. So, yes.

    • Charles

      Yes – see the shape knob. Does similar things for saw and triangle.

  • Can’t wait for Tatsuya’s official product presentation videos. Still loving the ones about the Volcas.

  • gyberspace

    Looks like a cool synth. Would like full-size keys though.

  • Zieg

    Is the signal path all analog until the Effects? Mainly wondering if the Filters are analog

    Is the analog signal path controllable via MIDI CC? Given that this analog signal path is already digitally controllable via Presets, I would assume this is possible.

  • Lets meditate upon this schematic. Note the VCF per voice, for instance.

    http://www.sweetwater.com/images/closeup/xl/1600-Minilogue_detail10.jpg

  • Shannon

    Sold! Rackmount version without the minikeys please!

  • Charles

    What’s the filter like?

    Tats is a genius – Korg really lucked out with him. Pretty cool of them to ask permission to use the Minilogue name, too. Shame about the lack of mod wheel, but I’d love to see an 8-voice version of this for $1000…

    • Will

      Think that’s just a MiDI cable and a mixer away, no?

  • synapticflow

    Why does the semi budget synth industry hate full size keys? Is it because they couldn’t resist increasing the price by $200 more dollars just for the keys?

  • wndfrm

    where does it say that the audio in is a ‘passthrough’? the voice schematic below shows it as feeding into the ‘pre VCF mix’, this seems contradictory.

    amazing device though!! i wish the I/O was far more comprehensive, ala the Parva, but otherwise it’s hitting a sweet spot right now. can’t wait for the completely saturated used market in a couple of years πŸ˜‰

    • EricM

      Ya, audio in ‘passthrough’ seemed weird to me, what’s the point?

  • Will

    Peter, cab you use the AMP env to delay the LFO start time?

    One LFO is really the only thing I can think of to gripe about this board. Want one right now.

  • Polite Society

    I imagine that will easily become one of those ubiquitous mini synths you see every other band using onstage, and i couldn’t be happier. It sounds amazing. I don’t need it, but I want it.

  • Polite Society

    Does anyone have any demonstrations of how the sequencer/mod seq works on this? Is it just live input? I notice that in that sweetwater demo, it seemed like a bunch of them were set to different lengths, giving the impression of 64 or more steps.

  • Polite Society

    Also “Sidechain (uh, that last one’s funny, so read our review)” which review is that? I couldn’t find any mention of it above. Is it just basically automatic volume ducker?

  • Oliver Greschke

    Occasionally I did just play a Dave Smith Mopho x4 yesterday, which has similar specs. What are your thought’s on comparing those 2 synths? From listening to the video’s I have seen so far, I have the feeling the Korg sounds “rough”, direct, not as warm as the Mopho x4. More like what you would expect from a mono bass/lead synth, rather than a polyphonic “pad machine”, missing a juno/jupiter chorus too of course. But the “electribe-ish” sequencer and recording possibilities are just amazing and they look like immense fun to play with πŸ™‚

    • TheStreisandEffect

      The Mophos have 4 LFOs and 10x the routing options for their modulation section. So you can get far more complex sounds. The Minilogue is very limited in that aspect.

  • Markus Arike

    Does anyone know why the audio out is mono?

    Note: Not a complaint at all at serious question (people complaining about things like mini keys at this price point make me lol).