This is a look at Korg’s classic ’80s synth, the Korg Polysix. While the synth has long been discontinued, it has a lasting legacy.

The Korg Polysix is a 6-voice poly synth released in 1981 for £899 / $1095. It was Korg’s attempt at an affordably priced polyphonic analogue synthesizer. Korg used the DDM2044 4-pole VCF, a filter which Korg also used on the Mono/Poly and Trident. Other noticeable uses of the filter were the PPG Wave 2.2/2.3, Emu Emulator, and early models of the Fairlight. There is a single oscillator per voice with Saw, Pulse, Pulse Width, and a sub-oscillator. There is a single ADSR envelope for the filter and amplifier; the VCA can also operate in gate mode. There are some interesting features for modulating the VCO, VCF, and VCA. There is also a nice delay feature on the MG (what Korg called the LFO). There are a very nice Ensemble and Chorus effect which adds a lot of movement to the sounds. The synth is pre-MIDI, but there is CV/Gate and an arpeggiator. You could save patches to a tape via the cassette interface, and it has 32 memory patches.

Things to watch out for if you are thinking of picking up a Polysix: the old batteries used for backing up the patches are prone to leaking over the main board, causing circuit damage. If you want to try the Polysix without the hardware, there is a virtual version of the Polysix in the Korg Collection. Plus, its legacy continues with synths like the Korg Modwave and Wavestate. Both these new synths have filters modeled on the Polysix, and the Modwave can create pretty good Polysix-type sounds (download my free Polysix collection for the Modave).

The Polysix has been used by artists like Tears for Fears (who have a patch on the virtual version named after them), Geoff Downes, Eat Static, Astral Projection, Jimi Tenor, Global Communications, Kitaro, Robert Rich, Keith Emerson. It’s also a great synth for synthwave and retro synth music.

Make sure you check out my videos on classic hardware synths like the TX7, Korg Karma, and MS2000, and also my virtual collection including the Wavestation and M1.

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