Monday, March 28, 2011

Korg Poly 800, Keyboard 1984

Korg Poly-800 synthesizer two-page and one-page advertisements from the inside front cover (and/or page three) in Keyboard Magazine starting in February 1984.

This was the first Korg ad to feature the Poly 800 - and Korg obviously wanted to hit the press with a loud synthesized bang. And as far as I'm concerned, they *almost* did everything right.

First, they kept the marketing campaign running for an extended period of time. The two-page version of the ad ran in that costly front-of-mag advertising space for a full six months - from February to July '84. Then, they switched it up with a one-page version of the ad for the August and September '84 issues of Keyboard for a total ad run of eight months. Then, after a bit of a break, Korg brought back the one-page version of the ad to page three of Keyboard from July to November '85.

Next, the layout it top-notch - well balanced, bright, with adequate white space. The ad contains a nice centre-fold photo of the instrument with the name of the instrument in big fat letters. Even the rather long winded tag-line is well placed and comes with a dash or wordplay.

Also, unlike a lot of introductory synthesizer ads that feature a HUGE photo and little or no ad-copy, Korg made sure to use those two pages of space to get a fair bit of synth info about the Poly 800 out to the masses. They give details on the eight voices, 64 programs, 50 parameters of control, the polyphonic sequencer, noise generator, on-board chorus, 4-way joystick (awesome!), MIDI and even the headphone jack.

If that isn't already enough of a feature buffet, Korg also let readers know that the keyboard also doubles as a 13-pound keytar! Although, I do think they could have used a better photo of Chuck Leavell rockin' out on his Poly 800. Not only does the one hand position look a little uncomfortable, but Chuck himself looks like he is having an awful hard time trying to lift that thirteen-pounder. Don't get me wrong, I respect his musicianship, but I think Korg was smart to not try and cram that photo into the one-page version of the ad. Just sayin'.

And finally, to put the icing on the cake, Korg even advertises a price. All this for "less than $800". Normally, I would have suggested going with the ol' psychological $799 price tag, but providing a number that lines up the price of the instrument with it's name is another small win for Korg.

The only thing Korg seemed to have missed out on with this product launch was the lack of any promotion in the Spec Sheet section of Keyboard. If there was one, I never came across it. But that's small potatoes with this smooth launch.

For real Poly 800 fans, the most awesome surprise about the instrument was still to come. The month after this ad stopped running in 1984, the October '84 Spec Sheet section of Keyboard let readers know that they could also strut around on stage with a reverse color keyboard version of the synth:
"Korg Synthesizer Keyboard. A limited edition of the Korg Poly 800 with a reverse color keyboard is now available. All other features of the Poly 800 remain unchanged: 64 memory positions, 256-note sequencer, MIDI, and six-segment envelopes are standard. Price is $849.00. Korg, 89 Frost St., Westbury, NYT 11590."
Korg even had the balls to charge an extra 50 bucks for the privilege of sporting those reverse keys around your shoulders! Worth every penny.

I happened to come across a reverse key version of the Poly 800 a long while back at my local music store. It was just sitting there all lonely. So, ten minutes and $99 later, it was at home, strapped around my shoulders, and plugged in.

Quite honestly though, back then, it just didn't do it for me at first. I thought there were just too many limitations. I was a bit of a synth-snob back then.

But over time, the more I played with it, the more fun it became. The chorus adds good movement to bass sounds without being too noisy. And combine that the noise generator together with the organ-like DCOs (each with its own extended envelope!) and you can start coming up with some great sounds. I use it a lot as a sample source for my chiptunes. It can almost sound Nintendo-ish sounding.

My GF came over and saw it on the floor as I was trying to take a picture for this blog post, so I just had to try it on for her. The next thing you know, we were trying to emulate Chuck's pose from the ad. The results....? About as uncomfortable as getting an open-mouth kiss from your drunk aunt during a family reunion.

Chuck must have very flexible wrists and knee joints of steel... :D

End note: And yes, that is a Green Lantern pillow on the chair behind me. It rawks almost as much as my reverse colour keyboard Poly 800.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I would've loved to be a fly on the wall of the original photo-shoot. "Ok, Chuck...your picture is going to have to fit under the product name and between two boxes of copy. Can you get lower? Maybe a bit lower. Just a bit lower. Lower...lower...that's it!"

Had Chick Corea been double-jointed, that might have been him squeezed in there...

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