analog synthesizer

The Korg Polysix was the first "proper" synthesizer to break the barrier of $1,000 retail - and yes, back in 1981-1982 it was a big deal!  A far cry from today's free downloadable synths and plugins on the Internet!

The Polysix was the first analog synthesizer I bought.  I was really looking for something with two oscillators, because I knew that to get "that fat analog sound" you need to have two oscillators slightly detuned apart from each other, but when I heard the Polysix, I didn't care about that theory anymore!

Yes, the Polysix can sound big, lush, and especially classy.  This synth is also one of the first to have on-board effects (chorus, phaser, ensemble), years before the D-50 came along.

One of the things that sold me on the Polysix was its filter (based on the classic SSM chips).  I was able to program a beautiful synth-pad starting from a simple waveform ,and acting on the cutoff knob - adding the finishing touch with the ensemble effect.  At the apartment of the man I bought it from, I had created in a couple of minutes the sound I was looking for:  the warm analog synth-pad.  I was happy, paid the guy, and went home to test it with the rest of my gear (at the time, a Roland D-50 and a Casio CZ-1000).

At home, I discovered another great feature of the Polysix that I didn't even notice at the seller's apartment:  the arpeggiator:  talk about new-age, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Ash-Ra Tempel... with this arpeggiator I could even play Giorgio Moroder :-)

A favorite pastime of mine was to set a hypnotic arpeggio pattern, then open & close the filter and tweak the resonance very slowly.  I was able to reach nirvana playing a flute melody on the D-50, and bass on the CZ-1000, while the arpeggiator worked its magic - I would play for hours, just letting the arpeggiator go, changing notes, and recording the results in my trusty VestaFire 4-track cassette recorder.


Korg PolySix audio demos in .mp3


Stream all Bank A audio examples

Stream all Bank B audio examples

Preset name with audio demo My comments
PolySix Factory Presets - Bank A
A-1  Brass Solid, fat, analog brass.
A-2  Strings BEAUTY.  These are perfect analog strings.  There's only one VCO per voice on the Polysix, but the on-board Ensemble effect helps immensely achieve the effect of two oscillators per voice being slightly detuned, in the best early '80s polysynth tradition.
A-3  Electric Piano 1 Very good Rhodes sound... with tremolo.  Classy, evolving, interesting texture...
A-4  Clavi Aggressive and totally analog Clavinet sound.
A-5  Acoustic Piano Back in 1981, a piano sound didn't get much better than this from a budget synthesizer.
A-6  Organ 1 Warm-sounding Hammond - very nice.
A-7  Moon Sound A beautiful, hypnotic and particular synthesizer sound!  The analog VCOs and VCFs come across in this one.
A-8  Vibes Excellent rendition of a vibraphone, complete with tremolo.
B-1  Synthe Organ Cool phased organ
B-2  Hi(gh) Strings Surprisingly realistic marcato strings!
B-3  Fat Solo Sound In this sound, I play the first part in Poly Mode, and then switch to Unison Mode at 00:27.  Note the difference in sound!!!  This is the sound of six oscillators being stacked.
B-4  Saxophone Interesting retro sound.
B-5  Flute Warm flute sound.
B-6  Trombone Killer emulation!  Down to the "growl" achieved with a very fast vibrato setting, delayed.
B-7  Guitar Very cool acoustic/classical guitar.
B-8  Honky Tonk Piano The Far West saloon is down that way.
C-1  Lead Sound Again I start in Poly Mode, and then switch to Unison.  The Polysix is a powerful and expressive machine!!!
C-2  Fat Bass Reminds me of the ARP Odyssey.  Nice!
C-3  Reggae Sound Full and fat synth.
C-4  Banjo Yee-hah!
C-5  Electric Piano 2 Wurlitzer variation.
C-6  Filtered Clavi Ok.
C-7  New Wave Organ In the early '80s, when the Polysix was produced, the Farfisa sound came back in fashion, thanks to the New Wave - and artists like Elvis Costello, the B-52's, Blondie etc.
C-8  Jazz Guitar Incredible preset.  Warm, jazzy, expressive... very, very nice jazz guitar sound.
D-1  Unison Solo Low Cool, strange sound.  Again switching from Poly to Unison.
D-2  Unison Solo High Nasal, weird.  Poly to Unison.
D-3  Organ 2 Intimate Hammond sound.
D-4  Chime with Chord Memory Very nice bell sound.  I engage the Chord Memory function after a few seconds.
D-5  Sound Fall Cool sound FX - Sci-Fi.
D-6  Thin Sound Very '80s!
D-7  'Touch' Sound Interesting envelope setting - sound changes whether if you keep the keys pressed or release them right after hitting them.
D-8  Kim Carne's Sound Dulcis in fundo - easily one of the best preset sounds on the Polysix.  I'm assuming the programmer meant to emulate the sound in Kim Carne's "Bette Davis' Eyes".  This sound is simply fat, full, analog, and plain beautiful.
PolySix Factory Presets - Bank B
A-1  Brass Ensemble Analog, '80s synth brass type sound
A-2  Mellow Brass Great chorused brass sound.
A-3  Oboe Sounds also like a clarinet...
A-4  Flute Spacey flute sound... ethereal and nice.
A-5  Strings Orchestra Outstanding, super-analog synth string ensemble!!!  Notice how warm this sound is... the consistency of the sound, the VCO analog waveform... A+.
A-6  Solo Violin Well-programmed violin sound, with nice vibrato effect.
A-7  Bowing Strings Classic bowed string ensemble sound - very realistic actually.
A-8  Koto Hear in this example the PWM on the PolySix... these are analog VCOs at work.
B-1  Electric Piano Mysterious, classy electric piano sound
B-2  Organ (Slow) Nice Hammond sound with slow Leslie... is it a coincidence that this and the following "B-3" are in this number slot?  ;-)
B-3  Organ (Fast) Same as above, with faster Leslie effect.
B-4  Harpsicord Very nicely reproduced harpsichord sound.
B-5  Clavi Typical analog Clavinet type of sound.
B-6  Chorus (Female) Beautiful, haunting women choir.  Lots of resonance to achieve this sound.
B-7  Chorus (Male) Similar to the above - men's turn.
B-8  Steam Pipe Organ Deliciously out-of-tune Calliope sound.
C-1  Synthe 1 Powerful!!!  The VCF on the PolySix is first class.  The Synthe was actually an early Korg synthesizer.
C-2  Synthe 2 Nice phased synthesizer comp sound.
C-3  Synthe 3 Happy synth sound!
C-4  Slow Attack Wah-Wah Typical late '70s/early '80s Reso-Pad, with slow rising filter opening.
C-5  Synthe Bass Awesome synth bass!!!  Feel the bite of this sound.  There is an ARP Odyssey quality about it.
C-6  Synthe 4 Interesting spacey effect - great for free jazz experimentation.
C-7  Oriental Sound The heavy vibrato makes it different and interesting.
C-8  Synthe Harp Beautiful, sweet synthesizer plucked sound... perfect for New Age, Synth Pop, and why not, Christmas music.
D-1  Whistle Realistic and unique.
D-2  Sound Effect 1 Forbidden Planet-style robot sound.
D-3  Gambang The Gambang is a Malaysian instrument, similar to a vibraphone.  This synth variant is just great, hypnotic and evolving.
D-4  Sound Effect 2 Spaceship landing.
D-5  Sound Effect 3 Spaceships taking off.
D-6  Cave Echo Beautiful rendition of playing an instrument in a cave.
D-7  Sound Effect 4 Laser gun charging.
D-8  Sound Effect 5 Programming the spaceship navigational computer.
PolySix tweaks - a few other sounds that can be created with this synth
Filtered Arpeggio The arpeggiator is a great feature of this synthesizer.  Crank up the filter resonance, set the VCF EG Intensity to negative, act on the ADSR settings and the cutoff knob.  Record the result and add massive doses of quality reverb = Kosmische Musik.
Filtered Mega-Pad Now, is the Polysix a fat synthesizer or what?
The secret of PWM Pulse Width Modulation achieves the desirable detune effect... very "classic Techno"
I want to be lucky Great sound for Emerson, Lake & Palmer's famous tune.  Unfortunately, though, there's no portamento on the Polysix.
Phased LFOs Hypnotic
Playing with effects The three modes... Chorus, Phase, and Ensemble... = Analog
Lara Croft's Arpeggio Happy arpeggios


Korg PolySix pictures (click on thumbnails to enlarge them)



Korg PolySix manuals

Manual:  Korg PolySix owner's manual.pdf from www.vintagesynth.com

Patch charts:  http://www.synth.clara.net/polysixcharts.htm

  • fully analog, VCO-based architecture;
  • on-board effects;
  • easy to use - one knob per function;
  • very thick and warm sounds;
  • excellent arpeggiator

The "Song made only with this instrument" trial: _________  The Polysix

  • Review in "Keyboard magazine" Janfebmarch 198___
Features at a glance
Year of release: 1981
Sound generation method: Analog (VCO)
Polyphony: 6-voice
Presets: 4 banks of 8 (32)
Keyboard: 61-key (5 octaves)
Responds to velocity: no
Aftertouch no
MIDI: no
Sound expansion capabilities: no
Sequencer: no
Arpeggiator: yes, Range: Full, 2 Oct, 1 Oct; Mode: Up, Down, Up/Down
Effects: Chorus, Phase, Ensemble
Controls: Knobs and switches; Bend and Mod wheels (bend wheel is not spring-loaded, like Minimoog)
Outputs: mono
Weight and measurements: 11.5 Kg
Other controls: phones out; VCF fcM IN, Arpeggio trig in, Chord Memory, Tape interface, Unison, Hold




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