Thursday, April 14, 2011

Korg Mono/Poly, Keyboard 1982

Korg Mono/Poly synthesizer advertisement from page 46 in Keyboard Magazine April 1982.

The Korg Mono/Poly was the Polysix's partner in crime. They both started appearing in Keyboard in April 1982 and finished their magazine runs within a month or so the following winter. And although they were technically two independent ads, they often showed up directly opposite each other - and it was a beautiful sight.

The style of the Mono/Poly's ad was very similar to the Polysix and the Korg Family of Products ads that appeared during the same time period, sharing common design elements such as the dark background, glowing neon around the central photo (the Korg name in the family ad) and those peculiar white vertical lines running directly through the instrument. In this ad, those lines actually play a more functional secondary role in separating the two columns of ad-copy.

And about that ad-copy... unlike the two other Korg ads with their one column of text along the right side of the ad, the chubby nature of the Mono/Poly and thus the photo in the ad made this impossible. So the designer cleverly rearranged the text in two columns above the keyboard photo, allowing the keyboard in the photo to be angled similarly to the Polysix keyboard - although in the opposite direction. The result, the two ads still kept their balance when appearing directly opposite each other in a magazine like Keyboard. Nice!

If you happened to pick up the June 1982 issue of Keyboard, you would have been in for an even more spectacular surprise. No, not because that was the issue that included the awesome New Wave cover story entitled "The New Synthesizer Rock", which I've drooled over in past blog posts and you can read online...

No... not just because of that article. But because when you received this issue in the mail or picked it up at your local keyboard store, your trembling hands would have excitedly flipped open the cover to reveal both the Mono/Poly and Polysix ads sitting directly across from each other on the inside front cover and page 3. But then, your mind would have subconsciously noticed that that front page felt a little bit thicker than normal, and you would then realize that Korg splurged for a fold-out cover. And when you flipped open the Mono/Poly ad, it would reveal Korg's "We put it all together" 2-pager ad. Four juicy pages - it's almost enough to make your head explode.

Korg did such as good job of marketing the Mono/Poly and Polysix together that they even somehow got the instruments featured together in a single Keyboard Reports review - the same month the ads started to appear (April). Maybe it was fluke, but if not, nice work Korg!

Dominic Milano does a great job reviewing the two keyboards, positioning both as a way to "expand your set-up without spending a lot of money". He introduces both instruments in a joint introduction, before going into the details of each piece in separate mini-articles.

For the Mono/Poly - "pronounced like the popular game" - Dominic explained right from the start that new users "may be a little confused by the type of polyphony it offers at first, since there are some differences from the standard Minimoog-clone monophonics and voice-assignment polyphonics that have saturated the market". And he again brings this initial confusion up in the conclusion, while adding that "after spending some time with it, you may find some unusual and striking applications for its various key assignment modes, and that it is, with some practice, a very playable instrument". Most importantly, the review included the attractive price of the Mono/Poly: $995.00. Nice price point.

For the Polysix, Dominic explained that "it's certainly not a do-everything design, but it may do enough to suit the needs of players who are looking to extend their rigs with a programmable polyphonic who don't have a lot to spend. It doesn't have a lot of functions, but what's there has been well thought-out to give you a good sound for your money". And he concluded that it "sounded a lot nicer that we expected it to given that it has a single oscillator per voice". He specifically points out how the independent LFOs and sub-octave generator help fatten up the sound, and how the filter has "a haunting quality". Price? Another great price point: $1995.00.

The one really surprising thing I noted from the review (and included above) is that the Mono/Poly is pronounced like the game "Monopoly". I have never pronounced it this way, and now realize why so many people would look at me funny when I would refer to the synth when talking to people. And they obviously thought others would have this problem, which is probably why they included that first quote in the ad-copy of the ad that referenced the game.

For what it's worth, I have the same problem with the pronunciation of "Moog", which apparently should be pronounced like "Rogue", not "Moon". To this day I still catch myself. And so do others.

Gah! :D

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