Vintage Korg MS-20 vs Korg MS-20 Mini

Have you been wondering how a new Korg MS-20 Mini sounds, compared to a vintage Korg MS-20?

This video, via AudioCentralMagazine, captures a direct comparison of a vintage MS-20 to an MS-20 Mini.

Here’s what they have to say about it:

A vintage MS-20 mkI with original IC35 filter against the brand new MS-20mini. Both synths sounds the same, with a minimum tweaking of controls. Same level on mixer, no eq, same gain settings. Brand new MS-20mini has more output level (and more hiss) than the vintage one. Same sounds, same capabilities, same charm.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

35 thoughts on “Vintage Korg MS-20 vs Korg MS-20 Mini

  1. As much as there is a little difference in these two items it was marketable to have a smaller version come out for the table top generational approach.remember that the first synth had to move in multiple rail cars where now they are hand held. I am very happy they made this new one.

    much love-

    Harold Z

  2. the mini seems more robust,… maybe

    but honestly they are very similar! similar enough for me not to complain if anyone one handed me one or the other.

  3. Sound pretty spot on to me. Given that the original is 30+ years old, if you put two of them side by side and tried to do the same comparison you’d get the same degree of variation in sound between the two units. Note that I have actually tried this – I played in a band once where there was another member with an MS-20 and on several occasions we tried to get the two to sound exactly alike and there was always some slight difference in the sound.

    1. Mini works nicely for those of us with limited space, and as a monosynth of course you are generally playing the MS-20 one-handed. But if you really must have the original size, they will surely become much cheaper over this year. I personally want the mini both because it is more compact and for the DCOs, my past experience with vintage MS-20s involved them drifting out of tune over time and I prefer not to deal with this.

      1. I’m pretty sure the oscillators on the mini are still voltage controlled… I know there has to be some digital integration in order for it to work with MIDI but I know that they kept the original circuitry as close to the original as possible.

        1. The mini definitely doesn’t have DCO’s, not sure where that idea came from. They are just more stable VCO’s than the original, according to the info and videos.

          1. They are DCOs. It says on the site. There is a computer keeping them in tune at all times so they do not drift even the slightest bit. That is why there is no warm up.

            1. You are incorrect sir, the oscillators are VCO, this is copied from KORG’s website:

              Highlights:

              Overseen by the engineers of the original MS-20, a complete replication of the original analog circuitry

              2VCO / 2VCA / 2VCF / 2EG / 1LFO structure

              Self-oscillating high-pass/low-pass filters with distinctive distortion

              External signal processor (ESP)

              Extremely flexible patching system

    2. Apparently he reason for the smaller size was so as not to devalue the integrity of the original MS20 by making a total copy. Not sure I buy that as an argument. I that case they should have changed the shape of the synth entirely to something more practical. But the keys aren’t mini anyway, they are close to full size.

    1. I checked eBay. MS20 sales are happening around $1500. There were several “not sold” at prices above that up to about $2000. I wonder if the mini is already impacting the vintage price.

  4. Pretty much indistinguishable – the difference between two MS-20’s is probably as great as the difference between these two.

    I’m kind of torn on the mini keyboard aspect – but the original probably had a crappy keyboard by today’s standards anyway. We can always hook up a serious keyboard.

    Does anybody know if it recognize velocity/aftertouch as a MIDI device?

  5. One shouldn’t forget that the original MS-20 came out in at least two versions/profiles (just like the Minimoog came out in several incarnations). MS-20 Mini behaves and sounds apparently like expected from an original MS-20, no matter which version. I’m pretty sure that a blind test would cause enough confussion amongst even the worst critics.

    Then, I’m happy that the horrible background noise on the original has been more or less wiped out on the Mini – I won’t miss that for a second… 😉

    1. In KORG’s promo video, where the two Japanese MS-20/MS-20 Mini engineers are interviewed, I recall that they said something about reducing the noise level on the Mini, compared to the original. I’m not sure about the hiss though…

      An old friend of mine owned two incarnations of the MS-20 and they certainly sounded differently, with one having slightly steeper VCF’s. As far as I remember, the hiss level differed as well. So the conclusion is that we actually will get a 3rd generation MS-20 in April that will sound slightly diverse – again… 😉

  6. I think the mini sounds marginally brighter.
    The ‘feel’ of the keys is going to be an important decision for me between this and an Arturia minibrute.

    1. No, that’s not what anyone wanted to hear, except for you I suspect.

      These comparisons are very useful to two different groups of people.

      People who already know what an MS20 sounds like can hear that the mini is practically the same synth and they can buy it knowing its not an inferior substitute.

      People who have no idea what an MS20 sounds like and would never have bought a vintage MS can purchase a mini knowing its not just marketing nonsonse, it’s a recreation.

      Also, Mark Doty makes it very clear in the first video the keys are NOT mini, why does everyone keep saying this? They are slightly smaller than full size, but much bigger than mini.

      1. I’ll say again in simpler terms…. you either like it and want it or you don’t…. you’re not going to say…”Oh, dear I get a slightly rounder square wave if I save up another $10,000 and get the original”……. hence comparisons are of almost no consequence and if your music is shit on an emulation it’s not going to any better on an original.

        1. Of course you either want it or you dont. But some people, clearly not you, may also want to know how close it is to the original. They may really want the classic MS20 sound and want to know if they can get it from this for $699 or fork our $2000 on ebay. I’d say those are fair questions, and these videos reveal the answers. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it, but your comments are pointless.

  7. What I really wonder is if the keys sports velocity via USB – does anyone know?

    Also a connected question is; will it send a velocity value of 64 (like the ancient non-velocity MIDI synth’s tended to do in the 80’s) or is it shooting away at 127?

      1. Still it HAS to send a fixed velocity value to be MIDI compliant (that is clear as water for everyone of us who started off with CV/Gate/S-Trig as the only non-compatible and rarely working way to connect all the gear. When MIDI – even in its most primitive form – came around in 1983-84, we blessed it’s compability).

        So the question remains – is it like the non-velocity MIDI synth’s from the past, that transmitted a fixed value of 64 (which is rather frustrating when playing sounds from other sources, programmed especially with velocity in mind)?

        This I still haven’t found stated anywhere in any specification so far…

  8. A performance synth like the MS20, goes deeper than just the sound. The sound being a very crucial portion yes, but overall, the FEEL and ergonomics is equally important, if not more so. Especialy with the MS series, where there’s tons of knobs and patch bays and fun stuff to play with. If something feels like a cheap piece of crap (The new MS20) as opposed to something built with quality (The Old MS20), no doubt, you’d go for the old one and get much more use out of it, just due to how much better it feels. The potentiometers on the new MS20 were terrible feeling. I imagine all the stems are plastic, as they felt flimsy with every twist. Overall, I was sadly disappointed in this remake. Owning a few of the vintage MS series Korg’s, there is no comparison between the two. I played the MS20 mini, and stopped having fun after only a few seconds. It just made me want to get back on the real deal. The patch bay jacks are cheap. The knob caps are cheaper. and the pots themselves feel like crap. Thank god, they didn’t go with their micro keys on this thing, but still not sure what the reasoning was to make this 25% smaller than the OG. The OG one never felt clunky or overly large to begin with. so WTF??? I wouldn’t even think of using this synth live, unless you have a feather touch. It wasn’t built to last. It was built to satisfy the growing popularity of analog synths in the most inexpensive way possible. Big bummer for me. Switchcraft components are around $1 each. That’s full price. If KORG were to use them in the making of thousands of synths, they would’ve had a massive price break. To build this synth out of quality components would’ve maybe increased the overall price by $50? But increased it’s worth by 1,000%. I mean, if the thing was another $100 and felt like a pro level instrument, I’d be stoked on it. But it doesn’t. Don’t be fooled by this thing. If you’ve ever played on, or own a real MS, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s a reason the vintage one’s haven’t dropped in price at all. It’s because they’re still worth every penny.

    1. This is very disappointing to hear. I really want one of these, and whilst I wasnt expecting it to be as solid as the original, I hadn’t imagined it would be really poor. Have you ever used the iMS20 USB controller? Is it comparable to this or worse?

    2. Bummer…if you’ve had a play with one and it feels nasty then it isn’t for me.
      I guess I’ll pick up an Arturia minibrute. The keys felt acceptable and it has other offerings that place it way ahed of the korg re-issue.

    3. I say this with all due respect, its not my intention to be rude, really. All synthheads are my friends AFAIC.

      I understand if your concerned about breaking the thing, which is relevant to overall value. But you stopped having fun making sounds on a brilliant synth because of the way it felt to the touch? I guess if I was rich I could perhaps afford to be so particular. But the low price and the midi/USB makes the mini a clear winner.

      This comment is a bit suspicious to me. I’ve read many reviews/thoughts from people who have extensively used the original and have tried out the mini, and this is the first time I have read a negative comment about the quality. It makes me think people will always deify the vintage and disparage the remake, no matter what.

  9. This guy above me has a point i think. I still cant belie e they ha e chosen to reduce the size and use smaller keys. This would be really shitty in a live solo performance point of view. And i am not talking about only twisting knobs but actually play melodies with it.

    1. …then, if it’s suppose to last on the road, one will need a custom made flight case anyhow, to a cost I fancy not worth the money. Look at it for what is – a synth to leave primarily in the studio, where it should be able to bring joy, even for those with smaller budgets, but still has got a large appetite for the analogue a’la carte sounds.

      MS-20 Mini will set a new entry level with it’s price and obviously with some flaws due to the cost. Still I doubt that a major company like KORG is, would order any components in such small amounts that the prices for those would be as high as smaller order batches naturally requires.

      All in all we are heading for a future were more people can afford analogue welfare – all in the spirit of democracy.

      I used to own a MS-20 in the 80’s. Today one has the option to either pay a rather large pile of money for the original in mint condition and send it away for installing MIDI and maybe USB as well
      OR
      One can get three brand new Mini’s, with the bonus of having MIDI/USB pre-installed, plus up to three years of warranty – for the same cost as one old would do?

      Anyone are free to chose (and for most of us, one Mini would do just fine, with cash in the pile to spend on anything else instead)… GLORY DAYS ARE AWAITING!

Leave a Reply