The Korg Z1 Synthesizer

This video, by Marko Ettlich, takes an audio voyage into the heart of the Korg Z1 MOSS synthesizer, from 1997.

The Z1 has been described as “like a polyphonic Prophecy in a workstation”.


  • 12 voices
  • 2 oscillators per voice (13 osc types) 1sub-osc, noise
  • Resonant filter LP, HP, BP, Notch
  • 61 keys (velocity and aftertouch)
  • A powerful arpeggiator

If you’ve used the Korg Z1, leave a comment with your thoughts on it!

14 thoughts on “The Korg Z1 Synthesizer

  1. The Korg Z1 is one of the best synths ever designed, too bad Korg did not develop it further. Wonderful, organic, responsive, imaginative sounds, the dream of every adventurous synth programmer. Very nice keyboard (built by Yamaha), really useful synth knobs and arp controls available directly on the front panel, XY pad for cool touch control, BUT … limited polyphony/multitimbrality/audio outputs, confusing screen menu and low quality materials for the buttons, kept on failing to register. Still, this and the Yamaha EX5 are, for me, the most “bypassed” synth gems in synth history.

    1. To be honest, there’s very little point in doing a ‘sample library’ of something like the z1. It didn’t have much in the way of ‘signature’ sounds, or anything of the sort, and most of the presets were pretty awful. As cliche as it sounds, the real beauty of the z1 comes in diving in, and making sounds yourself. In spite of a rather initially daunting menu-driven interface, it’s an absolute joy to program. The physical-modeling, FM and waveshaping options give you a huge amount of scope to design some crazy sounds!

  2. I bought a Z1 from new, It is my master keyboard. Having owned perhaps 40 plus synths, this machine is a really vital piece of equipment. There are some duff elements , like the wah effect etc. but this is a very serious synthesizer. With this synth you know if you need a ridiculously rich pad and textures this will delivery. Also the nasty cheep sounds are no probelm ,for all of us into Drexciya,doppler effect etc.
    It had proved great value and was worth the 1100 quid price.
    The Z1 is built like a tank, and the knobs still have resistance and the screen is fine after 13 years.
    Some of us into gear do spend money on equipment , so we know when some synth manufacturers prices are a joke.
    Anyone looking for a machine to offer serious sound quality and a huge palette of sounds should try to pick one up. Those of us into Z1’s wont be selling ours as I don’t know any synth’s that out perform this machine.
    Nice one Korg.
    PS A great video well done.

  3. I had the moss card upgrade for my Triton Rack years ago but always wanted to have a Z1 purely for tactile response. Definitely a beautiful synth and I have to agree, one of the best synths ever designed.

  4. I love my z1 more than any other synth I’ve ever used. It’s just so much fun to program, and the scope of the synth engine is freaking huge. I can’t relay quite how much fun I’ve had with this thing over the years, and I picked it up from a pawn shop for less than £400! Worth every penny, and I’m never selling mine.

  5. I agree with all the comments here, I’ll never part with my Z-1. One of the best synths I’ve ever had and certainly among the most unique/powerful

  6. Agree with the EX5 comment – surpasses the Z1 IMO. Also the Z1 was no polyphonic Prophecy – in theory yes, but The Prophecy just sounds better.

  7. The Z1 is amazing, but I’m a ”twist and listen” programmer, not a ”menu” guy.
    Had some good years doing amazing pads and leads (and the best electric pianos this side of my Motif XS!)

    But I am yearning for a Dave Smith Poly Evolver. So…

    I’m actually looking to sell my Z1, fully MOSS expanded, along with an SKB road case (two-wheeled).
    Very reasonable price if anybody is interested.
    [email protected]

  8. This is my 3rd Z1 As you can see i love this synth.I am into prog rock and atmospheric type pads.The Z1 fits this music awsomely.One of the best synths to make very differnt sounds with.And great lead synth aswell.

  9. They will have to take my Korg Z1 from my dead cold hands. It doesn’t have the snappy envelopes of some analog synths (Pulse, Pro One, etc) but it certainly sounds HUGE, fat, brutal with its 3 osc’s, 2 multimode filters, 4 LFO’s, 4EG and the endless modulation possibilities. And it is FLEXIBLE. You need some percussive FM sounds? Check. Want analog detuned PWM sounds? Check. Fascinating pads? Check. Want a beautiful rhodes piano sound?, check check.

    I agree, the buttons as all the buttons in most Korg Synths of the 90’s are shit. My TG-77 is much older and has see many more battles… and every single button works as new. But the Korg Z1 will need an intervention very soon.

    Interface wise I think it is quite good actually, but the amount of parameters is too crazy. It is just so much going on on every single screen, it has taken me years to feel really productive… and then again the slightly slow interface and the rubbish buttons are always interfering into going crazy sound-wise.

    The best thing i see with the Z1 is that I listen/test to most synths and I think “Hey, I can do that with my Korg”. This is exactly what I thought when I purchased a TG-77 recently. It is a totally different FM technology and still I feel like “why did I buy this GREAT and HUGE synth” when I can do the same stuff? Well, maybe some analog beasts sound much better, specially in the already mentioned fast envelopes… The Z1 envelopes are not that great to my taste.

    But at the current price? BUY BUY BUY, it has the word “classic” written all over it. You will not regret getting one.

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