Monday, November 29, 2010

Korg ES-50 Lambda Polyphonic Ensemble Ad #2, Contemporary Keyboard, 1980

Korg ES-50 Polyphonic Ensemble Advertisement #2 from page 51 in Contemporary Keyboard February 1980.

Everywhere I look on the Internet, the ES-50 is almost always referred to as the " Lambda". But the only evidence of" Lambda" in this ad (and the previous ES-50 ad) is in the photo. Look hard enough and you will see a stylized Lambda symbol beside the Korg logo on the right side of the front panel. But that seems to be it.

So, I took a look at some online images of the ES-50 to see if there was any evidence of the symbol or name "Lambda" on the back on the unit. The result - nothing as far as I could tell. A recent ES-50 auction I found on MATRIXSYNTH (which, BTW, was what got me interested in researching this keyboard in the first place), included some really good images. But, again no sign of "Lambda". Name or symbol.

Left and right back images - from MATRIXSYNTH

But then I'm thinking... how about on the manufacturer's serial number label? But MATRIXSYNTH even included a close-up of that label, and again - nothing. Only the ES-50 name can be found in the "MODEL" field.

Manufacturer's label - from MATRIXSYNTH

The sparse Spec Sheet promo of the ES-50 was no help either. The ES-50 appeared in the January 1980 issue of CK (sandwiched between when the first black and white ad ran, and when the colour ad started) - and guess what? Again, no mention of "Lambda":
"The ES-50 polyphonic ensemble provides layers of multiple voicings ranging from electric piano, acoustic piano, harpsichord, brass, organ, and strings to human chorus sounds. All voices have separate articulation and are totally intermixable. Three oscillators are used and there is also a variable chorus modulator section. The unit also includes a joystick controller, stereo and mono outputs, variable speed tremolo, ADR controls, split voltage volume pedal input, and interface jacks.
[Side note: No pricing info in the Spec Sheet? Wussup with that?]

It took a bit more digging on the Web, but I finally found some official evidence that Korg called the ES-50 the "Lambda". has a fantastic Lambda page that includes some great images, commentary, and reference information including some sounds. But it is Carbon111's link to a PDF of the ES-50's user manual (PDF) that finally provided the proof. That user manual often included the word "Lambda" after the ES-50 title, or when the stylized Lambda symbol appeared.

I find it at least a little amazing that the name "Lambda" could stick around with so little promotion. More power to Korg for that one!

So, why name it "Lambda" anyways (besides the fact that they already had come out with a keyboard named "Sigma")? Time to check Wikipedia.

A couple of the uses/meanings of "Lambda":
  • Empty set in mathematics. Nope.
  • Subatomic particle. Nope. But cool.
  • A recurring symbol for the human resistance in the Valve computer game series Half-Life. Awesomely cool. But nope.
  • The likelihood that a small body will encounter a planet or a dwarf planet leading to a deflection of a significant magnitude. Ouch. That one hurt my head.
  • The wavelength of any wave, especially in physics, electronics engineering, and mathematics.

As for the ES-50 Lambda advertisement itself... after a brief advertising low-point with their Sigma advertisements, Korg, or should I say, Unicord, finally got back on track when they came out with that first black & white ES-50 advertisement.

And now, after that initial black and white advertisement ran only once on page 9 (some great real estate!), they turned the volume up a notch two months later with this colour version of the ad, which ended up running throughout the first half of 1980, and then again near the end of the year. The only downside was that this this far superior ad wasn't placed in the magazine nearly as well, usually running on a page somewhere in the 20s or 30s... except in December when it ran on the back inside cover.

I had mentioned in my last ES-50 post that it was really apparent which musician-based audience Unicord was directing that ad towards. And this advertisement zeroed in ever further.

First, colour really added some much needed "pop" to this well-framed, balanced ad - in particular bringing out the wood grain finish of to the top of the keyboard. Something I expect most ES-50 users would probably have appreciated.

Second, although the ad-copy didn't change much, if at all, the ad really played off of the simple user interface of the ES-50 by replacing the second half of the ad title to, "... and it doesn't take an engineer to play."

Third and last, in this new ad, Unicord decided to offer a $1 demo tape to those interested in its sound.

Not a bad deal, although "free" is always better. :o)

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