KORG MS-50 1979 Modular Analog Synth
For “The Dark Side”, I mean the real nightmare always lurking, while playing with vintage machines: Their tendency to break apart, often in the middle of an important session.
Always the best option, if possible, is to be able to do some small fixes in “DIY mode”, to save money and have the repair done promptly. The older the machine, the easier the repair is, usually. This is valid, if some rare parts availability, doesn’t interfere in the logic.
Doing some tests recently, I found that the auxiliary VCA section of my Korg MS-50, had one of its jacks broken inside. The plug was not kept in its place, like if there was nothing inside to retain it. I suspected the positive pole plate got broken.
Good occasion to open up the synth and look what’s inside ;)
As soon as I unscrewed and removed the later panels, I remained impressed by the fact that in the interior of its panels the Korg MS-50,..ehm…IT’S EMPTY! :D It’s pretty impressive how Japanese technology was advanced, considering that this synth was in production, since 1979.
In the interior of the Korg MS-50, there are just a couple of thin PCBs, plus the PSU board.
What occupy much place, are the plastic slots for the jacks metal connectors plates.
The only thing really modular to me, is the placement of the jacks in the front panel, simulating the modules of a real modular synth. Modules can be connected through external connections only , same as a modular and not as the rest of the MS series, where some internal patching is placed already.
This not complete modularity, can look a bit suspicious by the most purists, but the sounds that this machine is capable to create are fantastic, even with it’s limited single oscillator configuration.
The Korg MS-50 have been pictured in Aphex Twin studio and should have been used by The Chemical Brothers.
Inspecting the interior, (with major relieve) I discovered wasn’t necessary to disassemble the whole synth, as removing the main PCB from the front plate, must be a really tedious process, considering all the jack bolts, to unscrew.
The cause of the fail for the broken jack, resulted in being the connector plate of the + polarity, that I found off its slot.
Just some glue solved the problem, a much easier solution than what I thought was necessary, at the beginning.
To test the VCA repair, I decided to make a demo, squeezing from the Korg MS-50 single oscillator, all its waveforms. I triggered them from its two Envelope Generators and a Korg SQ-10 Analog Sequencer that plays the sequence.
Sawtooth – VCF – VCA – Valve audio preamp
PWM – Divider – VCA2 – Adding Amp
Triangle – (no ADSR) – Adding Amp
Adding Amp – Audio Amplifier – Transformer audio preamp
The signal split is sent to two different preamps, to spread it into the stereo field. No effects apart some dynamics control, have been used.
Interesting articles on the MS series:
A post regarding MS-50 adjustments: