Korg MS 20 Mini Review – Awesome Crazy Sounds, 86% Size

Welcome to my Korg MS 20 Mini review. The MS-20 Mini is actually a modern recreation of the original Korg MS-20, which was made between 1978 and 1983. The name “mini” comes from the fact that it is slightly smaller than the original synthesizer, with its keys somewhere between mini keys and full-size keys.

Korg MS-20 Mini

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Product:  Korg MS 20 Mini

Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon

Warranty: 1 year

My Rating:  (98%)

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See & Hear the MS-20 in Action:


Original MS-20 Circuitry, Slightly Smaller Size

The MS-20 Mini sounds exactly the same as the original MS-20 which was created in 1978. Actually, that’s not quite true. It sounds like the MS-20 would have sounded when it was first made before any of the components got old. In fact, the people who designed the first MS-20 supervised the design of the MS-20 Mini. The only noticeable differences are that it is 86% of the size and the inclusion of USB and MIDI connections, plus there is a bit less noise to the sound.

Some people have commented on how heavy the MS-20 Mini is. This is probably because there is so much going on inside it to produce those great synth sounds. Yet despite its heavy weight, some say it feel like it could break easily, so make sure you get a good case for it if you plan to use it for live performances.

Easy to Use, Get Any Synth Sound You Want

It’s very easy to use, and is ideal for both beginner and eperienced synth enthisiasts. Beginners can just dive straight in and start playing around with the knobs. For those who want to learn more about what it can do, it comes with a great user guide which will show you how to get great sounds. In fact, you can get pretty much any synthesizer sound you want with the MS-20.

It’s a bit of a shame that it is only monophonic, which means it can only play one note at a time. However, this can actually be a good thing for doing lead synth lines as it stops the notes from overlapping each other. It just means you can’t use the MS-20 for chords.

External Signal Processor

Korg MS-20 Mini ESP
One of the best things about a synthesizer like the MS-20 is the ability to plug in any external sound source. This means that there are literally infinite sonic possibilities available. For example, you can plug in an electric guitar and use it as a guitar synthesizer by putting the guitar sound through the filters and other effects.

Filters, LFO, and Distortion

Korg MS-20 Mini Filters
The oscillators and filters on the MS-20 Mini are the same as the original, but they have been improved to make them less noisy than they were on the original MS-20. The filters are both high-pass and low-pass, with the ability to add resonance on both of them.

In fact, if you push the resonance to its maximum, this causes the filter to self-oscillate, creating a sound that was unlike anything else at the time it was first made. Also included are ring modulation and envelope generators to help you shape your sound.

Flexible Patching System

Korg MS-20 Mini Patch Bay
The MS-20 Mini has its own built-in patch bay and comes with 10 patch cables. This means you can route any part of the synthesizer to any other part, which opens up all kinds of sonic possibilities. It even comes with a patch flow chart which can help a complete beginner start creating great sound effects straight away.

MIDI and USB Connectors

Korg MS-20 Mini MIDI USB
Of course, MIDI and USB were not around when the MS-20 was first invented, but these days we can take advantage of these ways of connecting to other devices. This means you can use any MIDI sequencer to control the MS-20 Mini. You can even link it up to your computer and sequence it using software.

One drawback, connection-wise is that the main output plug is 1/8″ instead of 1/4. However, you can easily overcome this by getting an adaptor to convert from one size to the other.

Is the Korg MS 20 Mini Suitable for You?


I would say that the MS-20 is ideal for anyone wanting to create crazy sound effects. For example, if you are creating spacey sound effects for a sci-fi film, this would do the job nicely. Also, if you are part of an experimental live band that wants some weird sounds, this could be great for that.

I would say that if you are looking for a good all round keyboard for playing standard keyboard parts, this is perhaps not the best option for that. There are many other keyboards out there that are better suited to that kind of thing, for example, the Korg KROSS Keyboard Workstation – it costs a bit more, but is well worth it.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a great all-round music making solution, I recommend Propellerhead Reason – it’s about the same price as the MS-20 but contains everything you need to make music. But if you want to have some fun getting your hands on some real live synth control and create some weird and wonderful sounds, the MS-20 Mini is a good choice.

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I hope you found my Korg MS 20 Mini review helpful, but if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I will reply as soon as I can.

All the best,
Marcus.

24 Comments

  1. Rawl

    I’m not sure how old you are but it’s funny seeing the Korg MS 20 mini when years ago synthesizers were much bigger. I was first introduced to a synthesizer by Donnie Osmond (not personally but watching an interview with him) and then later I saw Stevie Wonder using one. So to see they are made in minis is thrilling.

    Bummer that it can only play one note at a time but I like that it can be used by beginners and the more advanced.

    I like the reviews. They support exactly what you said about it regarding the good and bad.

    What is your suggestion for a beginner? Would you suggest the Korg MS 20 or another brand?

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Well, the advantage of using a synth like this as a beginner is that you can just dive straight in and start twiddling the knobs and see what happens.

      Reply
  2. Tyler Redlev

    You have a great review over here.
    I was thinking about buying a keyboard for while. Maybe not a synth but that’s also included in my future plans.
    I’ve seen Korg used by some of my friends and that’s really a quality synth. Of course there are different models and types but at overall it is great. I just didn’t like the monophony.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Yes, it’s a great shame about the monophony. That seems like a really uneccessary restriction these days.

      Reply
  3. Katia

    Hi Marcus,

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your article. I was actually playing around with the idea today of creating synth based music sometime in the near future, but I didn’t know where to start.

    That’s so cool that they’ve pretty much reproduced the late 70s, early 80s model. I’m sure some people would go absolutely nuts for that, and I would too really if I knew more about it!

    The only thing that would make me think twice about buying this is that it’s monophonic, but I’m sure for others that’s not a problem at all.

    Thanks again Marcus, I hope to have a look through your site again when I’m in the market for equipment.

    All the best,

    Katia 🙂

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Yes, I don’t know why they made the modern version monophonic. It seems like such an unnecessary limitation.

      Reply
  4. Travis Smithers

    When I think of how big the older synthesisers were to how advanced and far electronics have come it’s amazing what you can do for the size of equipment today. This kind of keyboards I find amazing for what they can do and if I was into creating movies etc. I would have fun with one of these great little units.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Yes, a synth like this would definitely be a lot of fun to create weird and wonderful sounds with.

      Reply
  5. Ben

    I’ve always wondered about those spooky youtube videos with the eerie sounds – – those that regular people made and uploaded – – and I always wondered, how do they do it? How can I do it to? This seems like a perfect thing to have for such a thing, though the price is a little over my abilities at the current situation.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Thanks for your comment, Ben.

      Reply
  6. Alexey

    Hello my friend, just finished reading your post about the Korg MS-20 Mini. You did really good and detailed review about it, although I am not a synth player, im more of an electric guitar player, it seems so be a very cool instrument !
    Its very good that you put other’s opinions about it because it builds so much more trust 🙂
    From the comments I assume that it can definitely benefit me in the future, because I am about to build my group and I will definitely thinnk about using to perform different sounds.
    Otherwise, good job man !!

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Thanks, Alexey. I’m glad you found it helpful.

      Reply
  7. Benedetto

    Finally I found a website that explains the actual devices and I must stay your review is very detailed and thanks to you I now that the Korg MS 20 is not the device for me, I was playing aournd wit hthe thought of buying myself a MIDI because its so cool to have something you can create music with, I was wondering what the difference is between having sometihing like hardware like this and software like the ones you can get on your laptop.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      The main advantage to having hardware like the Korg MS 20 is that you get the real live control knobs that you can adjust while you are playing. The main advantage to having software synthesizers is that they cost less money.

      Reply
  8. Tar

    Firstly, thanks for letting us know. I mean, it’s great that you inform people you review products based on your experience.

    About external sound source, I am still lost as you said if it’s plugged in an electric guitar, it will be guitar synthesizer.

    Are you saying that whatever is adjusted using that synthesiser, the outcome will be in the form of guitar?

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      No, that’s not what I am saying. You can plug a guitar in and then modify that guitar sound using the filters and modulations on te synthesizer. It will do this with any sound source you plug into it.

      Reply
  9. Sylvia

    I remember the time when synthesizer music became popular, late 70’s early 80’s.

    I was hooked on the sound it was creating and I was listening to the music from my old tape recorder, over and over again, to the frustration of my Mother LOL

    A friend of mine had the big version of the Korg in his basement, we all hung out there.

    Unfortunately I don’t play, perhaps learning it could be an option. 🙂

    Sylvia

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Well, you never know until you try, Sylvia. It could open up a whole new world of enjoyment for you.

      Reply
  10. Roope

    That’s interesting! Haha those are crazy sounds as you described. Great for scifi movies or other similar things. I prefer to stick with the more natural sounds like piano or digital keyboard sound.

    You seem to know quite a lot about music and playing. How do you usually practice? Let’s say that you buy Korg MS 20. How do you start getting better with it? Do you just try new sounds and make songs or do you watch some tutorials or tips from others?

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      I’m more the kind of person that will just get my hands on it and start messing about and seeing what happens. Although tutorial videos can definitely be helpful too.

      Reply
  11. renan

    Hi Marcus,
    I was pleased to read your review of the Korg MS 20 Mini not only the magnificent device by itself but its versatile functionality like the old versions but I really sure this should be good for novice musician as well, don’t you think?
    Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and giving me the opportunity to solve some doubts I had of this instrument.
    renan

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Well, the great thing about an analog synth like this is that you can just dive straight in and start turning the knobs and seeing what happens. No need to understand how sound synthesis works or to navigate through lots of complicated menus.

      Reply
  12. Nelson

    pretty awesome review on the korg Ms 20 mini.

    Its great to know these things because I am also a producer. So its good to up to date with all the latest technology thats coming out.

    This keyboard looks interesting might have to look into investing in one of these in the future..

    thanks for the great review once again

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Thank you, Nelson. I’m glad you liked the review. The MS 20 Mini is certainly a lot of fun to play around with. It is just a bit of a shame about the cheap build.

      Reply

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