Korg_MS20 Kit_WNAMM14

This one is just for the superfan.

KORG’s MS-20 mini, a circuit-for-circuit analog re-release of the original MS-20, stole the show last year. But apart from adding a MIDI input, there was one glaring change that would distinguish the mini from the original – the whole thing was shrunk down.

Not so this year’s MS-20 Kit, announced today and released as a limited edition this spring. Call it the MS-20 Full-Sized, if you like.

The MS-20, like the mini, recreates the analog signal path of the original. And like the mini, it cheats a little to give you MIDI input and USB MIDI input so you can send notes from something other than the built-in keyboard. But unlike the mini, everything is back to full size: full-sized keys, full-sized case, 1/4″ jacks on the patch bay (instead of minijacks), and all the same form factor and dimensions as the 1978 classic.

Apart from that, the big difference is that you assemble it yourself. Fans of the sweet aroma of solder will be disappointed to know that the boards are all soldered in advance – this is a kit you assemble from a few parts, not from scratch. KORG even promises that you need “a few simple tools and picture diagrams.” (Screwdriver, I’m thinking.)

But the MS-20 Kit has one extra feature. You can choose which filter you use – the unruly original or a tamer design (which also sounds rather nice) introduced shortly thereafter. As KORG describes it:

Units produced in the earlier period used a filter noted for its distinctive distortion and self-oscillation, while the filter used in later units was a low-noise design with a more mellow character. The new MS-20 Kit provides both filters and easy switching between the two.

Don’t knock the latter design – switchable is probably exactly what you want. (The filter switch is internal; sounds like a good chance for a mod.)

Size and limited editions cost you, though. Street price is US$1399.99, available in March. Sorry, that’s not a misprint; that really is the price, which wouldn’t seem so bad had the MS-20 mini not been so surprisingly inexpensive. Pricey keybed? Really limited edition? It’s hard to say, but the MS-20 mini is still the smart buy. Like I said, superfans only.

But if you have the cash, you get an MS-20 that’s more reliable than the original and adds MIDI, in the full-sized design. And that means no more squeezing your fingers into tiny keys and knobs. Add in the switchable filter, and this might be, at last, a perfect MS-20.

CDM has a review unit coming, so stay tuned for our exclusive hands-on.

KORG also naturally tells CDM that they’re doing more this year than just taking apart their MS-20 and letting you put it back together again. Stay tuned.


Photo at top courtesy KORG.

JRRShop (cough) broke embargo and published this, so let’s have a look at their image which gives you another view of the parts spread out: