Polysix power: polyphony pop­u­larised

Computer Music - - Korg Legacy Session -

As the last MS-20s were trundling off the assem­bly line, Korg had rolled up their sleeves and got down to the busi­ness of crush­ing the price bar­ri­ers that stood be­tween the aver­age gig­ging mu­si­cian and true polyphony. Be­fore 1982, only the wealthy could af­ford the astro­nom­i­cal prices com­manded by the likes of Se­quen­tial Cir­cuits and Ober­heim for their flag­ship poly­phonic in­stru­ments. Korg brought the price of both polyphony and patch re­call down to Earth with the Polysix, charg­ing ‘just' £899 for such hi-fa­lutin' lux­u­ries.

Ob­vi­ously, cor­ners were cut – but ju­di­ciously so. The Polysix of­fered a sin­gle os­cil­la­tor, its lone ADSR en­ve­lope was shared by am­pli­fier and fil­ter, and the LFO could only man­age a sine wave. Nonethe­less, it sounded good, thanks in no small part to the ana­logue cho­rus. More ap­peal­ing to mod­ern users was the in­clu­sion of a spiffy arpeg­gia­tor. Per­for­mance op­tions in­cluded both pitch and mod­wheels – Korg had yet to jump for the joy­stick.

At the time, Korg's only com­peti­tor was Roland, whose Juno-6 – like the Korg – of­fered six voices each. How­ever, the Juno-6 lacked patch me­mory and made use of a DCO rather than Korg's more tra­di­tional SSMbased ap­proach (SSM chips were also the ba­sis for the Prophet-5's sound). The Polysix, need­less to say, wiped the floor with Roland in the mar­ket­place. By the fol­low­ing sum­mer, Roland were forced to is­sue the pro­gram­mable Juno-60 as a re­sult. This was clearly a great time to be a syn­the­sist, and over­joyed play­ers lined up 30,000 deep to buy a Polysix of their own.

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