The Korg company got it’s start over 50 years ago in Tokyo, Japan by releasing the Donca matic DA-20 rhythm machine under the Keio brand name. Throughout the late 60’s and early 70’s the company became popular selling home organs under the new name Korg, a combination of founders Tsutomu Katoh and Tadashi Osanai last names with the R-G from organ. However, concern over competition by larger manufacturers made Tsutomu Katoh look into building synthesizers, and in 1973 the miniKorg was released! The popularity of Korg’s mini and PS lines in the 70’s led to the release of some of their most popular analog synthesizers released in the early 80’s like the Mono/Poly and the PolySix. With this article will be looking at the Mono/Poly Rack Extension – a recreation of the classic analog synthesizer made for Reason 7!
The Mono/Poly RE uses Korg’s Component Modeling Technology (CMT) to simulate the electronic components of the Mono/Poly, from transistors to resistors and capacitors. In Korg’s recreation of the Mono/Poly they included many of the interesting functions of the original. Such as the 4-Voice Polyphonic Mode, which uses each of the 4 built-in oscillators separately for 4-voice paraphonic play, as well as the unique effects section in which oscillators have 3 different ways of being synced in mono or duo mode for some insane sounds! But Korg strayed from the original by including a modulation bus section with 8 bays for near infinite modulation routing, 16-voice unison and up to 128 voices of polyphony in the new Polyphonic mode!
The Mono/Poly has 4 oscillators each with Triangle, Saw, Pulse, and Pulse Width Modulation settings. While the hardware Mono/Poly had a control for the octave of each oscillator the RE has a semi-tone control that goes +/- 2 octaves, which I find much more useful. There’s also Tune knobs for the master and Oscillators 2-4 to thicken the sound, as well as a master Detune which affects all oscillators. I have to admit I’ve never played a hardware Mono/Poly, but the RE oscillators to me sound fantastic! And when the Low Pass Voltage Controlled Filter (VCF) is introduced the possibilities become extreme – from smudgy to shrill. The VCF can also be used as an oscillator, like in the factory patch 017 Ice Resonator which uses keyboard tracking along with the Noise source to creating a haunting synth sound. In addition to the VCOs and VCF (each with their own envelopes) the Mono/Poly RE includes 2 LFOs, called Modulation Generators (MG) with multiple waveforms (Triangle, Saw Down, Saw Up, Rectangle and Sample&Hold).
The real magic begins when using the Modulation possibilities of the Mono/Poly RE! The VCO Modulation section has three different modes – X-Mod, Sync and S&X (a combination of the two). These modes can be set up singularly or as a duo, splitting the effect between Oscillators 1&2, and 3&4. One of my favorite uses of this is patch 090 Atonal Bell SFX, which uses the VCO X-MOD setting to create a spooky church bell type sound perfect for your next Witch House track! The patch utilizes three VCOs each set to a different waveform and different semi-tone. Of course Korg didn’t stop there with modulation control. With the Mono/Poly RE Korg introduced a modulation bus section with 159 modulation sources and 35 destinations! All controllable with a +/- value. And with 4 CV inputs available on the backside (all available as sources in the mod bus section) the Mono/Poly RE is a perfect synth for Reason’s Combinator.
The Mono/Poly also includes an arpeggiator, like the original, with 4 patterns (Up/Down, Down, Up, Random), 3 octave settings (Arp 1 Oct, 2 Oct and Full keyboard settings) and a Latch button. Of the 126 instrument patches included with the Mono/Poly RE the Arp patches were some of my favorites. Including the 110 Wave Seq Arp patch that utilized the Original Key Assign mode combined with the Arp to great avail – by holding down one note the arp pattern starts, and with each step a different VCO will be used. With VCOs 1 and 4 set to PWM and VCOs 2 and 3 set to triangle waves the pattern sequences thru different waves as well as transposes with each step!
I quickly fell in love with the Korg Mono/Poly RE over the last month playing with it. The VCO Modulation controls create sounds that to my ear are new to the Reason Rack. Not to mention just how well the GUI is laid out, making creating your own patches a real blast. My only gripe really is the RE comes without any Combinator patches, and with 4 CV inputs on the back this was a real missed opportunity to showcase what the Mono/Poly could do in the Reasonverse. Mono/Poly aficionados may also miss the chord memory function of the original, but with 128 notes polyphony and Reason’s fantastic midi capabilities I didn’t. Pick up your copy of Mono/Poly RE today from Propellerhead for $49 USD. Don’t own Reason? Now thru the end of February a full copy of Reason 7 comes with both a copy of the Mono/Poly RE and the new Korg Polysix RE!