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Top 10 Vintage Synths (Under $10,000)



Korg MS-20 (1978)

The dual-oscillator, dual-filter MS-20 is a compact semimodular monosynth that didn’t make much of a splash when it first shipped. Its single-oscillator sibling, the MS-10, was even less in demand. They never sounded as pretty as their competitors, and for the most part, they still don’t. Once the MS-20 started showing up in classified ads and pawn shops, though, budding synthesists and starving musicians made edgy music with it, and its charms were more widely recognized. Now its distinctive tonal palette is so popular that Korg has resurrected the MS-20 in a choice of colors and sizes and added MIDI and USB connectivity.

Many features make the MS-20 unique. Its External Signal Processor (ESP) pairs a frequency-to-voltage converter with an envelope follower. That allows you to more effectively use it as an audio processor for vocals and other instruments than most other synths. It has only one assignable bipolar wheel and a momentary button for triggering modulation. Because you can reconfigure it with patch cords, its flexibility breaches hardcore modular territory at a much lower cost. With voltage-controlled highpass and lowpass filters in series, nonstandard envelopes, a modulation generator (LFO) with a waveshaping knob, and other features not found on most synths, the MS-20 has a voice and a vibe all its own.

Note: Korg has resurrected the MS-20.

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