Hybrid analog/digital synthesizer


Aaahh... the Poly-800.  This is the synthesizer that made me upgrade to my first "real" synthesizer (a Casio CZ-1000) in 1987.  Back then I had a Gem DSK-8 accompaniment keyboard, but a schoolmate of mine had a Poly-800, and I often got to play it.  I fell in love with it.  It was capable of those gorgeous analog strings and pads that my Gem really couldn't do.

The Poly-800 has a very recognizable sound - typically '80s Korg.  The joystick is great and allows the player to add nice touches to performances (and the odd "helicopter/Martian/atomic bomb" effects in between if you bend it down instead of up).

Other cool features include Chord Memory and Hold.  There is also a simple sequencer that is very easy to use and a welcome plus at gigs.

The programming is typical DX7-style, mid-80s early digital:  an edit button, a keypad, and a myriad of parameters that can be changed - rigorously - one by one.  It's easy, but time consuming.

I find this synth to be similar in concept and function to my first synth, the Casio CZ-1000.

The sound, however, is what counts, and the Poly-800 doesn't disappoint.  If you can live with the limitations (low polyphony, only one filter, no velocity etc.), this synthesizer will reward you with great sounds.

Korg Poly-800 audio demos

Factory sequence:

Korg Poly-800 factory sequence  - a short demo showcasing the built-in sequencer.

Factory patches:


Stream all preset demos below:

Preset name with audio demo My comments
11 Strings Beautiful, delicate string pad
12 Acoustic Piano Typical analog piano.
13 Synthe Brass Totally '80s!  This is one of the Poly-800's signature sounds.
14 Flute with Chiff Well programmed to include the noisy attack portion.
15 Resonant Sweep An outstanding synthesizer sound with a great acid, slow resonant filter sweep effect.
16 Bowed Cellos Better used as analog pad.
17 Full Organ Electric organ sound, pretty cool.  Another signature sound.
18 Fat Synthe Meaty, big-sounding synth, great for chords.
21 Percussive Synthe Obligatory comp synth a 'la '70s early polyphonic.  Useful.
22 Muted Brass Very '80s!  Thus, great.
23 Square Wave Lead Another "Lucky Man" lead synth.  Unfortunately there's no portamento on the Poly-800.  Useful nonetheless.
24 1999 This sound is probably inspired by the Oberheim OB-  riff in Prince's "1999".
25 Low Strings Warm, analog-sounding string pad.  The Poly-800 excels at these kinds of sounds.
26 Percussive Synthe (2) This is probably a typographical error, but in the manual sound 26 is named like sound 21.  I renamed it "2" :-)   And this is just a great sound!  Rubbery, warm and just the right glue for your mix!
27 Bright Perc. Organ OK Hammond impersonation.
28 Science Bass Reminds me a bit of the synth bass in "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat.  A classic 1980s synth bass sound.
31 "Lambda" The Lambda was Korg's own string-synth.  This excellent preset is composed of gentle bells fading into low strings... excellent for atmospheres, pads, and haunting ambient pieces.
32 OB Cross Again a reference to the Oberheim OB series (OB Cross, = OB-X), very popular during those years.  Cool ana-pad.
33 High Strings Small string ensemble playing in the high register.
34 Double Crescendo Bass Says it's a bass but sounds better as brass...
35 Synthe Bass I The Synthe also was a dedicated bass-synth from Korg
36 Reverse Bowed Synthe A cool reso-synth.  Biting.
37 Jazz Guitar As usual, the jazz guitar preset is good.  An easy instrument to emulate.
38 Helicopter One of the Poly-800's best tricks is modulation.  Plenty of fun to be had with special effects, like this.
41 Double Tongued Bass Again showing off those envelopes.
42 Synful Eyes Typically '80s, good for Madonna, Talk Talk, etc.
43 "Wet Ones" Funny reso-synth.  I'm playing a bit with the joystick - opening the VCF modulation.
44 Science Strings Haunting, mysterious... string/organ!
45 Synthe Bass II Variation on a theme.  Good.
46 Crescendo Brass Realistic brass ensemble.
47 Chorus Piano Ok, but with the polyphony down to 4, a bit though to play without dropping notes.
48 Jet Plane Or sci-fi noises.
51 Synthenelli Now, what did the programmer mean by "Synthenelli"?
52 Synthe Flute/Brass Just what it says.
53 Synthicord I Synthesized Harpsichord.  Classical quality.
54 Synthicord II "Synthi'er" variation of the above.
55 Saxo-Brass Great fusion lead sound!  Think Pat Metheny band.
56 Square Wave Ensemble A nice, gentle, calming sound!  Great for New Age.
57 Chime Piano Excellent sound!  The programming of the "hitting" part is just great, almost FM'ish in character - but all done rigorously in digi-analog subtractive.
58 Pipe Organ Another Poly-800 signature sound.
61 Bowed Violas A bit synthetic - otherwise, ok string sound.
62 Digi-Brass Great trombone sound!
63 Organ Upper Manual With percussion.  Jazzy
64 Obi Brass Do you think the Poly-800 programmer liked Oberheim synths? :-)
65 Soft Piano Soft, child memories..
66 Reverse Sweep Another good reso-synth.
67 Accordion Like the jazz guitar, accordion is easy to emulate in analog.  Great job, in this case too.
68 Steel Drums Nice.
71 8-Note Brass Typical '80s poly.
72 Honky Keys A nice honky-tonk piano, but again, with 4-voice polyphony, hard  to play without note-stealing.
73 Organ Lower Manual Very cool sound.. however notice how the single filter opens when adding the right hand...
74 8-Note Strings A bit thin.
75 Reso Synthe Great, warm, huge analog reso-pad!
76 Echo Synthe Variant of the above.
77 Black Hole Disappearing in the hole...
78 Trilling Pipes One-finger melody.  The multi-stage envelopes.
81 Brass in 5ths Great sound!!!  Just like in King Arthur's castle.
82 Percussive Pipe Organ Clean, crispy and cutting organ sound.
83 Lunar Flutes Hypnotic, haunting... great sound!
84 Synthe Bass III Variation again.  More "Moog" this time.
85 Vibes Gentle and unobtrusive.
86 Low Flute The noise breath attack is too hard.
87 "Who Me?" Interesting envelope programming.
88 UFO Swoop The Martians are coming...


Korg Poly-800 video demos


Korg Poly-800.wmv  - a video of playing the presets and using the joystick

Korg Poly-800 fly-by.wmv  - a short video on the details of the front panel

format:  Windows media

Korg Poly-800 pictures (click on thumbnails to enlarge)

the synth                 front panel                   full package (source: eBay #


 scanned (badly) ... by me.

Korg Poly-800 manual

  • small and portable;
  • great '80s look;
  • warm analog sound;
  • can be strapped-on for a total '80s experience!
Features at a glance
Year of release: 1984
Polyphony: 8-voice
Presets: 64
Keyboard: 49-keys (four octaves)
Responds to velocity: no
Sound generation method: analog
MIDI: yes, in-out
Sound expansion capabilities: No
Misc: on board step-sequencer; pedal input to step through presets
Effects: basic Chorus (delay was added on Mark II)
Controls: joystick controls Pitch Bend, DCO , and VCF modulation
Outputs: stereo L+R
Weight: 10 pounds




SITE Type of resource DESCRIPTION
www.korg.com Home page Home page for Korg, one of the three most important Japanese synth manufacturers.
www.baudalign.com/poly800.html User page Includes filter modification