Thursday, February 9, 2012

Korg Wavestation "Portraits" ad featuring Jan Hammer, Keyboard, Electronic Musician 1991

Korg Wavestation "Portraits" 1-page advertisement featuring Jan Hammer from inside front cover of Keyboard Magazine and Electronic Musician, April 1991.

Hard to believe that by the time this Jan-Hammer-endorsed advertisement appeared, the Wavestation had already been in reader's minds for over a year. Sure, the introductory Wavestation ad may have first ran only nine months prior in July 1990, but readers of magazines such as Keyboard and Electronic Musician were hearing the wave-sequenced-buzz of vector synthesis technology months before.

For example, the original Wavestation Spec Sheet appeared a full four months earlier that the intro ad in the March 1990 issue of Keyboard Magazine. And Keyboard knew Korg had something special on their hands, because they opted to print a relatively large photo of the keyboard below the blurb. Only a few pieces of gear get that kind of star treatment:
"Korg WS Synthesizer: The WS Wavestation synthesizer is the first offering from the Korg R&D group in San Jose, which comprises mainly former Sequential Circuits personnel, including founder Dave Smith. The WS incorporates 32-voice, 16-bit digital vector synthesis, which was originally developed by Sequential for the Prophet-VS. Over 500 multisampled waveforms and sounds are included and can be linked together into user-programmable wave sequences. Dual programmable multi-effects, both joystick and wheel controllers, a 61-note velocity- and pressure-sensitive keyboard, 240 x 64-pixel graphic LCD, and RAM and ROM cards ports are included. About $2,500.00 . Korg USA, 89 Frost St., Westbury, NY 11590. (516) 333-9100."
This is an awesome Spec Sheet that not only provides some good technical information and preliminary pricing info, but also shows that either Korg was taking good advantage of the Dave Smith connection in it's promotion of this synthesizer, or that Keyboard knew their shit when it came to the design of the instrument. My guess is probably both. :)

But that wasn't the only early sighting of the Wavestation. Not even close.

If you were lucky enough to pop in to the January 1990 NAMM show, you were way ahead of the game. I don't think I would be out of touch with reality if I said that the Wavestation was one of the top darlings of the show. Unfortunately for readers, NAMM news at the time didn't usually hit the gear mags until a few months later. In the case of the Wavestation, that was April - a month after the Spec Sheet appeared.

The April 1990 issue of Electronic Musician listed it under the heading "The Ten Products People Told Us We Had To See", recognizing it both for the addition of Sequential's vector synth technology and for its PPG-style waveform "scanning". Interestingly, in the same NAMM article, EM also gives nods to the newly introduced Yamaha SY22, another synth offering vector synthesis, by including "'s good to see that this type of synthesis didn't get lost in the cracks of MIDI history". Agreed!

Keyboard's April 1990 NAMM report gave the Wavestation top billing in the synth section of the article, and introduced the instrument with "Perhaps the most intriguing keyboard...". Not a bad start. They also reported on its PPG- and Sequential roots, also noting it's Prophet-VS-style joystick, and its MIDI-synchronization capabilities.

Side note: I would be remiss if I didn't point out that my man-crush (As my GF refers to Trent Reznor) was also featured in this issue of Keyboard Magazine, posing with his Emax sampler...

But that is enough history for one blog post...

This ad is a major shift in direction from the previous "Make Waves" advertising campaign. And I'm not just talking about design - but also the addition of an endorsement deal from none other than Jan Hammer. Personally, I only knew him from his Miami Vice soundtrack days (looks like he kept a shirt or two from the show), and even though I wasn't a fan, I sure as heck knew the soundtrack. Even more so, the music video. Not so much for his use of the Wavestation.

This ad continued to run for four months - April to July - and in that last showing in the July issue of Keyboard, we see a slight addition to the ad.

Let me read that again for you:

"Now with expanded memory and more sounds"

Whaaaaaat? That's right. As far as I can tell, that is the first sign that the new EX version of the Wavestation is just around the corner. It would still be a good four months before the Spec Sheet for the EX upgrade would appear... but this post is getting a little long, so will save that for my next one.

Oh - and end with this... :D

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