Korg MS-20 Mini vs Original Korg MS-20

This video, via Jon Sonnenberg, compares an original Korg MS-20 analog synthesizer to Korg’s 2013 MS-20 Mini.

Here’s what he has to say about the video:

The Korg MS-20 is a classic analog synth with some fairly unique features that are not found on other synths. Taking a critical ear to the 2013 reissue of this synth, I compare several sounds between an original MS-20 and the new MS-20 mini.

With the MS-20 Mini, Korg tried to stay true to the original MS-20’s analog circuits.

Check out the video and let us know how well you think they did!

25 thoughts on “Korg MS-20 Mini vs Original Korg MS-20

    1. Seriously, who cares…..this is such a tired comparison. The original will always sound better…..due to age and quality of components….

  1. One real big problem is the mini vs full size
    If you have a good keyboard player and can tickle the ivories good, their playing style could be hampered by the mini keys.
    So I thing that would be nice in these comparison test would be use a nice controller the keyboard player is comfortable with to controller the sound makers.
    Then the difference will come down to sound

      1. I know that, but if you look at the Yamaha re issue videos from 2 weeks ago, the keyboard player was going from the full to the mini, which can lead to sour notes

        1. Oh for gods sake. We know already. Mini keys = bad, because you’re a manly man with giant hands and everyone must hear your point of view repeatedly. As though it is fresh and new, and no one has heard it before because a manly man needs recognition from the people as he tries to educate them in the ways of what a real keyboardist with manly man hands wants.

          *Yawn* already

      2. So what is the point of implementing crappy key bed in the first place…
        Why KORG can not create just the module or rack version of one instead..?

    1. If yours drifts, there’s something wrong with it. The primary advantage of the not-so-compatible-with-other-synths Hz/volts scheme is its tuning stability. I have a vintage MS-20 and it amazes me how precisely it holds tuning – my mixer is hooked to a rack tuner and the MS is always spot-on from bottom to top key.

  2. I’ve listened to a lot of comparison videos of a lot of original vs emulated/re-issued synths, and Korg has done a pretty good job here.

  3. The Mini doesn’t sound as “good” as the original but damn close. Taken as a new synth on its own merits, the Mini is a fantastic synthesizer.

  4. The problems I’ve seen with my old original MS-20
    are *not* extensive osc drift, but:
    dirty and/or cracked potentiometers (“knobs”)
    and old ‘cold’ solder joints adding noise
    (and to a lesser extent, “loose” /uneven key physical response -minor )
    I can tell you, dirty/cracked filter resonance potentiometers can make the MS-20 just about un-usable: those filters *self-oscillate* like no one’s business with high resistance settings, which are all you get through a cracked pot, smile.

  5. The oscillators sound fairly close…I think the difference I hear the most is in the speed of the gate and envelope snap. The Original seems to have more impact/punch through. the mini’s attack seems stifled and dull. I have the mini. I love it, but I also have trouble getting the envelope to be as quick and punchy as I’d like. I’ve never owned the original. Either one is a great sounding synth thanks to the two filters and the possible combinations of the two…great fun though , whichever version you have…

  6. Actually, i own the mini and the desktop, and even with the rev1 filter, there is already a massive difference. Not only the mini has the noise issue, but the desktop version sounds “cleaner” overall. The filter is less dirty, which can be a plus or not,according to your needs, but i agree wirh the previous comment about the envelopes. The mini is sluggish, to the point that i gave up trying to get anything snappy out of it. The desktop on the other hand, well it’s drum heaven…. The env is so much better and opens so much more possibilities. Punchy basses are a breeze with it.

  7. I own both the vintage and the new mini.

    New mini is not as good in many ways:

    Poor build quality, will not last
    Loud noise on filter ( almost makes it unusable, some are worse than others)
    knobs are terrible, some settings don’t even work as they should. (Im sure this also varies)
    Filter is weaker especially the resonance.
    Overall complex patches just don’t sound as good. If your just testing straight sawtooth vs sawtooth their similar, but once you start modulation and tweaking the vintage is king.

    What it is good at is being a cheap knock-off of the original. Its worth the $400 they charge and still fun but not the pro quality you get in the vintage version. Would be good to gig with.

    For guitar players would you rather play on a 2015 Mexican made strat or a vintage 70s one.

  8. Filter variations are ultimately not that different from one another. We can all pretty much I.D. a nice brown Moog ladder filter or a decent resonant high-pass, but the real challenge is to your actual music and less to how a filter itself strikes your ear. It matters more to me that I know which type will enhance the root tone I’m after. A high-pass-plus-band-pass is pretty sweet when applied to anything in the high woodwind range, for example. You can have a MoogerFooger if you need it, but look at the growing trend of instruments like Serum that offer an Oberheim Xpander-like roster of filter arrangements. There’s a synth-madness side *and* a more subtle tonal side. Besides, a Korg MS synth has a secret weapon in its patch bay. Run a heavier analog voice through that, tweak the Korg’s high-pass knob and the ‘heavier’ synth’s low-pass together. Once I heard that, I ‘Got It’. Try it and see. If you stack two different filter sources, it tends to have some character, but three will often lead to weird phase cancellations or bad resonant peaks. Same with EQing sloppily. Oh, I’m tired of all this crap, I’m going back to the accordion.

  9. What the heck? What are you going to do? Buy a decades old unreliable synth with decades old components for $1,000+?

    I’ve seen used MS-20 minis for as low as $425. That’s a lot of analog versatility for the money. Why spend more for an old, unreliable version?

    Is anybody going to hear your recording or live show and say, “Hey, that doesn’t sound like an old MS-20?” Of course not. For a few hundred bucks it’s more than close enough.

  10. Great, another 32+ year old apples to 1+ year old apples comparison. Shooting from the hip with armchair scientific analysis.

    The MS-20M can kick the shit out of a sound system and so can the Mini for that matter. If you’re going to act like you’re nitpicking the details try taking several of the same model run from the same year from the 70s, run them through a spectrograph and oscilloscope (if you know how to use one) and freak out over that. It’s analog baby and they sound the same but they don’t if you know what I mean.

  11. Is it just me or does the original have a better low end? It sounds like the mini has some sort of hi pass filter affecting the sound or its not quite closing properly and taking some of the low end grunt away from it compared to the original.

  12. I don’t know if it’s volume levels, but the older one is consistently bassier and more textured.

    It may be that the minis will age over time to have the same quality.

    I’d rather see a comparison of the limited edition full sized ms-20 which I felt no love for the last day I played it. I’m a huge ms-20 fan but the new ones do little for me, possibly my mood on the day. Or the fact that they’re sitting next to moogs and prophets

  13. I just acquired a barely used MS-20 Mini (still under warranty) and I think it sounds awesome. Yes a couple of knobs wiggle a bit, but no big deal at all and it has no issue with noise that folks have complained about.

    I like the Mini keys as they are solid and quite responsive and I have a couple other synths with full size keys and one with aftertouch and velocity that works well as a interface with my iPad synths.

    I think the folks who lust for old gear over affordable new gear and say that one sounds better than the other (deeper lows, richer sounds etc.) tend to be a bit snobbish and parallels the analogue vs. digital debate. Having access to affordable and dependable gear which allows more people like me to have access to cool synths is much more important than the endless sniping about what sounds better.

    Remember aural beauty is in the ear of the listener and that we leave in a golden time of accessible and great sounding software and hardware (digital and analogue) synthesizers. All hail synthesis!

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