Electronic Music Wiki

Manufacturer of synthesizers and other musical gear, based in Tokyo, Japan. Tsutomu Kato and Tadashi Osanai founded the company in 1962 under the name of Keio Electronics, named after the subway line near their office. Their original products were electromechanical drum machines. They went into the organ market in 1967, using the brand name Korg for these.

The company branched out into synthesizers in 1973, releasing their first synth product, the Mini-Korg -- a low cost monophonic performance synth in the Minimoog vein. They continued with monophonic models throughout the '70s; they scored a hit with the MS-20, which made Korg a familiar name in the Western Hemisphere. They also attempted some fully polyphonic systems with the PS-3100 series. These were high-end systems intended for studios and university labs, and made only in small numbers.

In 1981 Korg introduced the Polysix, its first polyphonic model with voice allocation and patch memory, at a much more affordable price than the PS series. The Poly-61 in 1983 added digitally controlled oscillators. In the mid-'80s, the company experimented with models using several different synthesis methods, but its next incarnation began in 1988 when it introduced the M1, the first workstation keyboard. From there until the end of the 1990s, workstation models accounted for the bulk of Korg's sales.

Yamaha, which had been supplying Korg with some of its circuit board assembles, acquired a controlling interest in Korg in 1987. In 1989, Yamaha assigned the Sequential Circuits design team that it had acquired to Korg. That team developed the Wavestation series, a vector synthesis machine based on the Prophet-VS, a model that Sequential had introduced just before it folded in 1987. There were plans for more models, but those were dropped after Kato bought back Yamaha's share in the company in 1993.

Since 2000, Korg has concentrated mostly on the Electribe series of drum machines, bass synthesizers, and controller devices. One interesting produce is the Legacy Series, software emulations of Korg's early models. In addition to the software, Korg offers controller devices that actually resemble the synths that the software emulates. In 2005, Korg introduced the high-end OASYS, an open-architecture synth capable of multiple synthesis methods depending on what software is loaded. It was basically a PC with DSP hardware and built into a keyboard, running the Linux operating system. It was highly regarded but did not sell that well due to the high price, and the hoped-for third party support never materialized. Korg discontinued the OASYS in 2009.

Korg also owns the Vox guitar amplifier company.