Thursday, December 27, 2012

Korg Poly-61 "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" 2-page ad, Keyboard 1983

Korg Poly-61 "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" two-page full colour advertisement from the February 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

After posting the lovely Mono/Poly & Polysix brochure last Monday, I started reintroducing myself to Korg's synthesizer family.

Looking back at my gaps in the Korg advertising timeline for Korg, I realized that up until this advertisement, Korg had frequently acquired the back-inside cover spot in Keyboard Magazine (among other placements), but only once had taken up residence on the front-inside cover back in June 1982 with a three-page foldout that included this Mono/Poly ad and a two-page "We put it all together" family ad.

The Korg Poly-61 ad campaign would change all that, and put Korg in that front inside-cover position for the foreseeable future, later placing there many of their notable introductory ads including the Poly-800 and Wavestation.

This two-page introductory advertisement for the Poly-61 appeared consistently from February to July 1983 until a one-page version took over in August for the rest of the year, running all the way to January 1984 when it was replaced by that Poly-800 ad I mentioned above. That's a year-long run - not too shabby.

The two-page version, gorgeous as it is, doesn't stand the test of time too well. The first half of the ad stays bright because of the paper used for the cover of the magazine, but the second half of the ad appears on normal magazine paper, which tends to fade a lot faster over time. The result is an ad that looks distinctly different between the two halves.

A two-pager that is not a centerfold can also be a lot more of a pain in the @ss to scan because it never lies flat enough for the scan. Unless you take the magazine apart to scan the two pages totally separately (um... no...) the middle crease is going to get a little blurry. Boo!

According to sources like Wikipedia, the Poly-61 was the "digitally controlled successor" to the Poly-6 (see ad to the right  -->  ) although some may argue that "successor" may be a bit of a stretch. You see, the Poly-61 has the distinction of being the first Korg synthesizer to use a push-button interface, and that kinda changes the game when it comes to parameter adjustments.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love cool new technology as much as the next geek, but I will always miss the multitude of analogue knobs and switches that allowed a synthesist to quickly and easily change all the different synth parameters such as Envelope Generator Attack or VCF Resonance.

Need an example? Say you are on stage trying to impress the cool chick in the short skirt by quickly making your Poly-61 scream with resonance. But now you can't just instinctively reach for the resonance knob and twist. No. Now you have to look down at the front panel, hit the "parameter" button, then punch in the two-digit program number for VCF resonance, then hit the up value button two or three times to turn the resonance up. Sure, not having a dial or switch for each parameter cleans up that front panel nicely, but to many, this was NOT an innovative move forward. And it was definitely not helping the synth guy get laid. In fact, I will put forward the theory that this may have actually helped the drummer.

To make matters worse,  many of the parameters of the Poly-61 were programmed with limited resolution. VCF resonance only had eight steps (0-7), EG attack,decay, sustain and release parameters only had 16 steps (0-15). Now compare this to the apparent 256 steps of the Polysix.  Again, not exactly seen as a step forward by many.

And to put icing on the cake, apparently the engineers removed the analog effects board that was available on the Polysix. That just blows.

But all is not lost - the Poly-61 does contain a few upgrades. For example, the beast has two oscillators compared to the Polysix's one. And twice the patch memory at 64. And personally, I really liked that Korg decided to replace the pitch and modulation wheels with their lovely joystick controller. I love that thing - the only problem being that it was only a matter of time before one of your friends broke it off while transporting it to the next recording session or stage gig.

And last but not least, when MIDI reared its ugly head, Korg man-up'd pretty quickly to slap it in to the Poly-61M.

I had a broken Poly-61 dropped off at my place when a friend dumped a bunch of synths before moving out of province last year or so. Maybe I'll dig it up and get it repaired one day. Maybe. Need to do more research first.

I'm not convince yet.

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