Founded in 1962 in Japan by Tsutomu Kato and Tadashi Osanai, Korg was originally known as Keio Electronic Laboratories (?) because its fledgling offices were located near the Keio train line in Tokyo and Keio can be formed by combining the first letters of Kato and Osanai. Before founding the company, Kato ran a nightclub. Osanai, a Tokyo University graduate and noted accordionist, regularly performed at Kato's club accompanied by a Wurlitzer Sideman rhythm machine. Unsatisfied with the rhythm machine, Osanai convinced Kato to finance his efforts to build a better one.
The company's first product, released in 1963, was an electro-mechanical rhythm device called the Disc Rotary Electric Auto Rhythm machine Donca matic DA-20. Buoyed by the success of the DA-20, Keio released a solid-state version of the Rhythm machine, the Donca matic DE-20, in 1966.
In 1967, Kato was approached by Fumio Mieda, an engineer who wanted to build keyboards. Impressed with Mieda's enthusiasm, Kato asked him to build a prototype and 18 months later Mieda returned with a programmable organ. Keio sold the organ under the name Korg, made from combining keio with organ.
Keio's organ products were successful throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s but, concerned about the competition from other big organ manufacturers, Kato decided to use the organ technology to build a keyboard for the then-niche synthesizer market. Keio's first synthesizer, the MiniKorg, was thus released in 1973.
Following on the success of the Mini-Korg, Keio released a number of budget-minded synthesizers throughout the 1970s and 1980s under the name Korg.
Korg subsequently branched out into the music recording and electric guitar effects market, with some success.
Yamaha Corporation has always been a major partner of Korg, supplying them with circuitry and mechanical parts.
Timeline of major products
1963 - Donca-Matic DA-20
1966 - Donca-Matic DE-20
1973 - Korg Mini-Korg 700
1975 - Korg 900PS
1975 - Korg WT-10: World's first hand-held electronic tuner
1975 - Korg Maxi-Korg 800DV
1977 - Korg PS-3100, PS-3300
1978 - Korg MS-10/MS-20, PS-3200
1978 - Korg VC-10 Vocoder
1979 - Korg M-500 Micro Preset
1979 - Korg CX-3: One of the first and most authentic Hammond B-3 clones ever produced.
1980 - Korg MP-4 Mono/Poly
1981 - Korg Polysix
1983 - Korg Poly-61: The successor of the Polysix with digitally-controlled analog oscillators; Korg's first "knobless" synthesizer
1983 - Korg Poly-800: First fully programmable synthesizer that sold for less than $1000, notable for using digitally-controlled analog oscillators and sharing a single filter for all 8 voices
1983 - Korg SAS-20: The SAS-20 was Korg first arranger keyboard. A built-in computer analyzed the melody played on the keyboard, and generated a complex accompaniment. This was the world first auto-accompaniment function of this kind added to a keyboard. Also, a more traditional chord recognition system was included.
1985 - Korg DW-8000: 8-voice polyphonic, user selected two digital waveforms out of 16 total. Used an analog filter.
1985 - SuperDrums and SuperPercussion: Low-cost digital drum machines
1986 - Korg DSS-1: Korg's first sampling keyboard. Offered additive synthesis, waveform drawing and effects, with an analog filter and some similarities to the DW-8000.
1986 - Korg DS-8: Expandable FM synthesizer
1988 - Korg M1: PCM rompler with built-in effects and sequencer, the M1 introduced many to the concept of a Music Workstation, a keyboard that could handle live performance, MIDI, sequencing, expandable sound banks, effects, and more in a single package.
1989 - Korg T series (T1/T2/T3): Some improvements over the M1 with added features.
1990 - Korg Wavestation: Vector synthesis and Wave Sequencing
1991 - Korg O1/W: PCM rompler with more waveforms and effects than the M1
1991 - Korg Wavestation EX
1991 - Korg Wavestation A/D
1992 - Korg Wavestation SR
1993 - Korg X3 / Korg X2 / Korg X3R: Music Workstation
1993 - Korg i3 Interactive Music Workstation: Korg introduced its first professional arranger in 1993 with the i3 model, which proved to be the first in a huge series of Korg 'interactive' products. Until that time the auto-accompaniment keyboards were designed primarily for home use, but i3 changed that. Its tone generator was an AI2 engine coming from the renowned Korg synths, which made it a perfectly usable 'pro' keyboard. Once again, a Korg keyboard succeeded because of the quality of its factory voicing. It also retained a multitrack MIDI sequencer, Styles and Arrangements that allowed players to use it as a band-in-a-box or compositional tool, improved chord recognition with a big graphical display, a joystick and analog volume controls for each accompaniment section. A new Backing Sequence feature provided also for easy creation of new songs based on styles.
1994 - Korg X5
1994 - Korg i2: Korg introduced the i2, an i3 "on-steroids" with a 76-note keyboard and a new Piano sound.
1995 - Korg i1: In 1995 a further improved version of i3 was introduced: the Korg i1, that included an 88-note weighted keyboard, a huge piano sample, and built-in speakers. Other features were similar to the i3, even if new styles were added.
1995 - Korg i4S: The i4S (where "S" stays for "Speakers"). This keyboard was something like an i3 with speakers, but with a smaller feature set.
1995 - Korg i5S: The i5S was a scaled-down version of the i4S, with a plastic chassis and a reduced set of features. Some new sounds and styles were added.
1995 - Korg i5M: A module called i5M was also introduced, with specifications similar to the i5S, but with no amplification and, obviously, no keyboard and joystick. This product was really appreciated by accordionists, happy to discover at its heart some added traditional styles and sounds (shared with the i5S).
1995 - Korg ih: In 1995, singers also welcomed the "ih Interactive Vocal Harmony", that allowed for creation of vocal harmonizations, starting from chords played live in Style mode, or recorded in a Song's track. This unit is still a best-seller on the second-hand market, thanks to its excellent price/quality ratio.
1996 - Korg Prophecy: One of the first successful virtual analog synthesizers
1996 - Korg Trinity: The most important workstation release since the M1 almost 10 years earlier.
1996 - Korg N364/264: Introduced RPPR
1996 - Korg X5D
1997 - Korg Z1: Providing a new technology: MOSS (Multi-Oscillator Synthesis System)
1997 - Korg iX300: The iX300 Interactive Music Workstation was introduced, back to a unit without speakers but offering new sounds and more than 100 styles.
1998 - Korg iS40: iS40 included new sounds (among them, a gorgeous stereo piano sample), new styles (128), and several new features. One of the most appreciated new features, Keyboard Sets, allowed for immediate recalling of keyboard track settings.
1998 - Korg iS50: iS50 was the low cost version of iS40, lacking just a minor number of features from its bigger sibling.
1998 - Korg i30: The i30 Interactive Music Workstation was introduced, claiming to be the first arranger featuring a Touch Screen Display. This model was speakerless, 64 notes of polyphony, and included some more sounds compared to the iS40.
1998 - Korg N1/N5: The N1/N5 was introduced as a low cost workstation-keyboard version of the Korg NS-5R sound module. The N5's key feature was its weighted keys.
1999 - Korg Triton: Successor to the Korg Trinity. Korg's greatest selling keyboard to date. Korg's first keyboard to offer sampling since the DSS-1 from 1986.
1999 - Korg Kaoss Pad, Electribe dance synthesizers
1999 - Korg i40M: Korg introduced a successor to the i5M: the i40M module. Specifications were similar to the iS40 (obviously, with no keyboard or joystick), but included a Vocal Harmonizer as standard. Furthermore, the module included 3 different pre-programmed MIDI setups, to make connection with various accordions even easier.
1999 - Korg iS35: iS35 was a new version of the iS40, featuring the same specifications, and adding a Vocal Harmonizer as standard.
1999 - Korg iS50B: iS50B boasted the same specs as the iS50, but in a Dark Blue chassis.
2000 - Korg CX-3: Not to be confused with Korg's CX-3 from 1979. This digital modeling organ added MIDI and many new features.
2000 - Korg MS-2000
2000 - Korg Pa80: A new range of arranger from Korg was introduced in year 2000: the Pa Series. Pa80 was the first model introduced in December 2000 with a stunning sound inherited from the award-winning, Triton, a wide selection of highly-musical Styles made by some of the best musicians in the world, a Multitasking Operating System and a revolutionary Dual Sequencer design. This new keyboard brought the benefits of Korg's stunning songwriting and music production/performance to a whole new generation of musicians.
2001 - Korg KARMA featuring a form of arpeggiator more elastic and musical than previous forms
2001 - Korg Triton Studio featuring an onboard cdr drive
2002 - Korg Pa60: The new Pa60 Professional Arranger was introduced. Apart from fewer features like sampling and Harmony Board compatibility, it is same instrument as the "top-of-the-range" Pa80.
2002 - Korg MicroKorg: A portable version of the MS-2000 synthesizer
2002 - Korg Triton LE
2003 - Korg Pa1X Pro: During this year, a new line of professional arrangers debuted, starting from the flagship - the Pa1X Pro Professional Arranger. Including some ot the most advanced technologies available in the musical instrument world, it marked the return of Korg to the speakerless, studio-oriented interactive composer type of arrangers. It also marked the beginning of a factive cooperation with the renowned studio gear manufacturer TC-Electronic.
2003 - Korg MS-2000B: new version of the MS-2000 synthesizer with updated sound set, black metallic color scheme and dedicated vocoder mic; Korg MS-2000BR: rack-mount version
2003 - Korg microKONTROL: portable MIDI keyboard controller
2004 - Korg Legacy Collection: Includes software emulations of three famous Korg synthesizers: the MS-20, Polysix, and the Wavestation
2004 - Korg Pa1X: Short after the launch of the Pa1X Pro, the Pa1X Professional Arrangers was introduced. This is the speaker-fitted, shorter-scale version of the Pa1X.
2004 - Korg Pa50: After the top-of-the line, ultra-luxury Pa1X Pro, Korg release its most inexpensive arranger ever - the Pa50 Professional Arrangers. Despite the low purchasing price, it boasted most of the same features of the revered Pa60, making it a true bargain.
2004 - Korg KAOSS Pad KP2, an improved re-release of the original KAOSS Pad, is released.
2004 - Korg Triton Extreme: An updated version of the Triton is released to a highly-anticipating public. It boasts many new features. Most notable is the Valve Force circuity, the integration of a 12AU7 tube into the workstation. Nicknamed "Russian Bullet," these tubes are rumored to last a minimum of 10 years. Another notable feature is the drastically increased ROM size: 160 MB, featuring 32 Megs of all new acoustic samples.
2005 - Korg OASYS (Open Architecture Synthesis Studio workstation)
2006 - Korg TR: enhanced Triton Le music workstation
2006 - Korg RADIAS massive re-tooling of the Korg MS-2000B analog-style synthesizer
2006 - Korg PadKontrol drum-trigger style MIDI controller
Korg D888 digital recorder
2006 - Korg D888 8-track digital recorder
2006 - Korg KAOSS Pad 3
2006 - Korg MicroX compact X50, half sounds from the TR, half new, with the X50's software capability
2006 - Korg X50 A stripped-down Korg TR with no sequencer but a software-linking editor librarian
2006 - Korg Pa 800 Successor of the award winning Pa 80, but boosted with features like in the Pa1X Pro
2007 - Korg M3 newest flagship workstation, diverging from the famous Korg Triton line, often called a "mini-Korg OASYS"
2007 - Korg R3 A portable version of the RADIAS synthesizer.
2007 - Korg mini-KP - At 4.25" x 4.5", this smallest installment of the KAOSS series products packs all the punch of its larger brethren and offers both battery and AC power.
2007 - Korg ZERO Mixers - Console style (Zero8) and DJ style (Zero4) mixers. Each incorporate a multi-channel FireWire audio interface and full DSP with a customizable MIDI control surface. Interfacing and performing with all types of software become seamless. Both mixers have received Traktor Scratch Certification.
2007 - Korg KM Mixers - KM202 and KM402 are Korg's 2 and 4 channel DJ Mixers. They feature the full Korg MiniKP interface and effects, which can be applied to selected channels. 8 different EQ models (including full cut isolator), selectable by a large dial on the panel, are another unique offering.
2007 - Korg Kaossilator - Extremely compact dynamic phrase synthesizer which features 100 programs including acoustic, percussion, and electronic sounds, a gate arpeggiator, 31 scale types ranging from Chromatic and Blues to Egyptian and Gypsy, and an 8 layer 8-step sequencer for producing loop-based music. Following in the footsteps of Korg's KP technology, it features a touch pad where the horizontal axis varies in pitch and the vertical in tone. Released January 2008 in the US.
2007 - Korg Pa2X Pro - Improving on the almost perfect Pa1X Pro/Elite was a difficult challenge, that Korg faced with the usual, savvy sense of adventure. The result was the Pa2X Pro: the same solid feel of the predecessor, with an all new and innovative design, and the same sound technology advances introduced in Pa800 just a few months before.The Double MP3 Player/Recorder (optional in Pa800) was standard, and it was a shock: no more practical differences between SMF files and MP3 audio files. Slowing down and transposing MP3 files was the ordinary Korg extraordinary. Pa2X Pro clearly aimed at the professional musician, due to its improved 76 keybed, tiltable touch screen, phantom power, balanced in/out, digital audio output and internal clock.
Toneworks-Guitar Effects and processors
AX10A - Modeling Signal Processor for Acoustic Guitar
AX1500G - Modeling Signal Processor for Guitar
AX3000B - Modeling Signal Processor for Bass
AX3000G - Modeling Signal Processor for Guitar
AX3A - Modeling Signal Processor
AX3B - Modeling Signal Processor
AX3G - Modeling Signal Processor
AX5B - Modeling Signal Processor for Bass
AX5G - Modeling Signal Processor for Guitar
PX4A - Pandora: Acoustic Personal Multi-Effect Processor
PX4D - Pandora: Personal Multi-Effect Processor
2008 - Korg DS-10 - Music program for the Nintendo DS.
2008 - Korg M50 - Music workstation
2008 - Korg Nano Series - Slim-line controllers (nanoPad, nanoKey and nanoKontrol)
2008 - Korg Pa500 - After the renewal of the top-of-the-line model, this year saw a renewal of the entry-level model. After the incredible success of Pa50, the Pa500 made its appearance, considerably improving in the interface design. A modern, stylish case, with a die-hard core - the same of the Pa2X and Pa800 for an incredible price. This model was made available also in different localizations, to fit any particular musical taste and tradition.
2008 - Korg pa588 - During year 2008, Korg introduced Pa588, a cross-over of an arranger (the acclaimed Pa500) and a digital stage piano, with the 88-note graded-weighted RH3 keyboard, built-in speakers, and a beautiful piano sample. Great on stage, it is supplied with its own piano stand; compatibility with the Pa-Series makes it a perfect home-entertainment machine.
2009 - Korg microKORG XL - An updated microKORG featuring the MMT (Multi Modeling Technology) sound engine as well as effects processors from their KAOSS line products.
2009 - Korg microSampler - A mini key dedicated sampler.
2009 - Korg SV-1 - Retro looking stage piano - available in 73 or 88 key versions.
2009 - Korg Kaossilator Pro - An updated version of the K0-1, including external sampling, midi control, sd card and USB support contained in a bulkier, KP3-esque chassis.
Korg home page
Korg Arrangers Home Page
40 years of Korg gear (Sound on Sound Magazine)
Korg Kornucopia - Korg analogue synthesizer information, manuals and resources
Information on Korg's analogue vintage instruments
korgaseries.org - A decade old online resource hosting photos, product info, effects, mailing list and manuals for Korg's A1, A2 and A3 effects processors.
Audio interview with Mitch Colby - EVP / CMO of Korg USA
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