Monday, December 31, 2012

Korg Poly-61 "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" ad (1-page version), Keyboard 1983

Korg Poly-61 synthesizer "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" full-page colour advertisement from the front inside cover of the August 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Well, it will be New Year's Eve and a reminder of another year gone by. As I get older I'm not sure exactly how I feel about being reminded that I'm getting on in years. And blogging about ever-increasingly older advertisements probably doesn't help the situation.

But then an ad like this one comes along and all that nostalgia fills my little aging belly with joy. In this case, it's not so much the ad itself but when it first appeared that got me thinking of the good 'ol days.

When I pull this issue of Keyboard off the shelf the first thing I see is one of my favorite all time old-skool covers featuring Thomas Dolby. That cover photo pretty much summarizes what was going on in my mind when I bought my first synthesizer... and second... and third... and forth... And there was a drum machine purchase somewhere early on too. As I flip through the mag, I re-read the article on Dolby, as well as the one on Lee Curreri (you might remember him as Bruno from Fame). And I also see familiar ads for the Prophet 600, Memorymoog, LinnDrum, and of course, the Poly-61. Aaaah... memories.

Does today's advertisement look familiar? It should.  This is the one-page version of the two-page introductory advertisement for the Poly-61 that I posted last Thursday.

I've probably mentioned it a half-dozen times, but I'm gonna say it again - resizing advertisements is an art form. Pure and simple. This looks like it was Korg's first attempt at it in Keyboard Magazine. And they did a pretty good job of it, even if they had to cut off the top of the "G" in "Korg" to do it.

When resizing ads, many green designers I've worked with first try to shrink everything down except the product itself. But Korg did the right thing to focus this ad redesign around the reduction in the size of the photo of the synth.

Even at the reduced size, many of the front panel labels, including the name of the synth, are still readable. The smaller photo allowed the designer to keep that awesome "Korg Poly-61" design treatment and ad-title at near the same size as in the two-page version (with all that glowing and lens flare effects, it's hard to believe that the first version of Photoshop wasn't released for another five years). And best of all, the ad-copy was kept at  *exactly* the same in font size and column placement. Korg was on fire!  :)

If fact, Korg was on fire with the whole promotional machine surrounding the Poly-61 advertising campaign. Everything was syncing up very well.

For example, Korg included their 1983 General Catalog attached between the two ad pages the first time the two-page version of the ad appeared in the February 1983 issue of Keyboard. Readers picking up the magazine would feel this little extra bulk and flip directly to the ad and the catalog. Perfect.

Then, while the two-page ad-run was still in full swing, Keyboard ran the Spec Sheet promo for the Poly-61 in April 1983, focusing on the digital aspects of the machine and the arpeggiator. This could almost be called the "perfect" Spec Sheet:
"The Korg Poly-61 is a six-voice programmable synthesizer. It has two digitally-controlled oscillators per voice. Each pair of oscillators can be detuned for chorusing effects or tuned to intervals. The 64-program memory has full edit and program move capabilities, with a digital access control system for full control over all program parameters.  A six-digit display indicates each active program. Polyphonic, chord memory/unison, and hold key assign modes allow for monophonic bass and solo sounds as well as full six-note polyphonic playing. The arpeggiator, which automatically memorizes and plays back note and chord sequences in three different patterns and ranges, has a latch mode and can be synched to external sequencers, footswitches, and other synthesizers. Other features include a four-way joystick with separate LFO for pitch-bend, vibrato, and filter tromolo effects, and jacks for foot-switch-controlled sustain and program change. The unit weighs 24 lbs. Price is $1,495.00. Unicord, 89 Frost St., Westbury, NY 11590."
The promotion machine continued the following month when the Poly-61 was featured twice. First, in Part 1 of the NAMM Winter Trade show article, it received the top honors as the first keyboard described under the "Synthesizers" section, before the MIDI'd Prophet-600 and even Roland's long list of products including the Juno-60, as well as prototypes for the Jupiter-6, JX-3P and MC-202.

But that NAMM article didn't spend much time talking about the features of the synth because it simply pointed readers to the Keyboard Report for the Poly-61 written by the always fair Jim Aikin that appeared in the same May 1983 issue.

The introduction naturally focused on the rather low $1,495 retail price tag and a few of its more predominant features such as the clean front panel, arpeggiator and joystick pitchbend. A good portion of the body of the article is spent on the push-button programming and the parameters themselves, and some of the issues that arise:
"The parameter controls are digitized - that is, they can be set only to whole number values. And for many of them, only a few values are available. Ranges such as 0-3 (for vibrato delay), 0-7 (for filter resonance), and 0-15 (ADSR settings) are the norm. This does frankly limit the amount of control you have over the sound. There were times when we wished we could get an envelope decay setting halfway between two of the available setting, for example. But it's usually possible to find an compromise value that sounds quite good, even if it wasn't precisely what you first had in mind."
The conclusion reinforced the nice low price tag for all the features the Poly-61 has, but pointed out the lack of a second envelope generator, and that the "tone seemed a bit thin" -  recommending it for new wave over symphonic rock!

Put all those promotional activities together with a good year-long gorgeous advertising campaign, and Korg did pretty much all they could do to get the Poly-61 into the hands of musicians.

Korg probably enjoyed that New Year's Eve. And time to enjoy mine.

Have a great new year, everyone.

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