Is this another cheap knockoff, or a serious reissue of the original Korg Mono/Poly? Erik Hawkins dives deep into this synth’s build and architecture to find out.
Look what I’ve got – it’s the brand new and much anticipated Behringer MonoPoly, one in their succession of famous analog synth reissues. I had the original Korg Mono/Poly back in the day, when I was 16. It was my first synth, so I’m very excited to find out if the Behringer MonoPoly feels even close to the original.
The Build. Compare the weight and size to the original Mono/Poly (26.5 lbs., 5.7”H x 29.3”W x 17.7”D) versus Behringer (22.7 lbs., 3.5”H x 25.5”W x 14.2”D).
This thing is built like a tank with a full metal chassis and wood side panels. It’s quite lovely and quite hefty. Even though it’s slightly smaller than the original Mono/Poly, there’s still plenty of room to get your fingers on the controls for easy parameter adjustments.
The knobs and switches on this feel wonderfully solid.
You can tilt the front panel flat like the original, or at three levels for very comfortable access to its controls, no matter its position in your rig. I absolutely love this addition to the original design.
On the back panel we have all the connections you could possibly want: the main mono Output (which has three levels that can be selected on the front panel: High, Low, Off), Headphones, CV In/Out, Trig In/Out, Trigger Polarity switchable between Ground and 15 V, Frequency control of the VCO, Filter control of the VCF, Portamento on/off, and Arpeggiator Sync Input that will respond to 2, 24, and 48 PPQ.
There are also full size MIDI In, Out, and Thru ports, as well as a Type B USB MIDI port. The MonoPoly is USB Class-Compliant, and it showed right up as a MIDI device on my Mac for full MIDI sequencing control.
Power is provided by a wall wart. There’s a plastic cable catch next to the power port to help secure the cable so it doesn’t yank out in the middle of an excited performance. Nice touch.
The main power switch is a rocker type, located on the front panel. Here’s where you need to watch the video so you can take a listen.
MonoPoly Synth Tricks. The MonoPoly is a paraphonic synth with four independent oscillators. Each oscillator features Triangle, Reverse Sawtooth, PWM, or PW waveshapes.
The PW can be controlled manually with the Width PW knob, and the PWM can be controlled by either the VCF EG, MG 1 or MG 2. MG 2 is a Triangle waveshape, MG 1 can be either Triangle, Reverse Sawtooth, Sawtooth, or Pulse (square wave).
All four VCOs run through the same filter, which is typical paraphonic operation. It’s a 24dB per octave lowpass filter with Cutoff and Resonance. There’s Keyboard Tracking and a Filter Envelope Generator intensity control that goes from negative to positive values. The filter is self-oscillating – a wicked sounding filter!
The ability to set each of the VCOs to its own waveshape and octave opens up a wealth of amazing synthesis possibilities. There are four distinct ways to take advantage of these independent VCOs: Poly, Unison/Share, Unison (include Detune), and Chord Memory.
There’s also a nifty onboard Arpeggiator that will produce different effects, depending on the playback mode. For example in Unison it acts like a typical arpeggiator, but in Poly mode it cycles through the VCOs. The Arpeggiator’s speed is determined by Frequency MG 2. But you can also turn MG 2 all the way down so that it’s so slow you can manually cause the arpeggiator to play a different VCO with each note you play on the keyboard – a really neat effect.
The Effects button doesn’t access your typical reverb and delay audio effects, but rather it gives you instant access to hard sync and FM sound-shaping parameters. This allows you to alter the sound of your current settings at the press of a button, for extra edginess and rasp. It’s one of the features that makes the MonoPoly a wonderfully expressive lead synth.
The Bend and MG 1 mod wheels can each be assigned to the VCF, Pitch, VCO 1/Slave VCO sources. Combine these mod wheels with the Effects button and you’ve got a whole lot of real-time performance control for a very expressive instrument.
Conclusion. At first I was skeptical of another Behringer clone, but after living with this little monster in my studio for a few weeks I’m really impressed. It truly is an update to the venerable old Korg Mono/Poly at a fraction of the price. An original Mono/Poly in decent shape will run you about $ three grand, it will probably need work, and it doesn’t have MIDI (unless the mod was added). So if you ever dreamt of adding this classic synth to your studio, the \ Behringer Mono/Poly is a no brainer even at its hot-off-the-manufacturing-line retail price of $699.
The flexibility of this synth to produce everything from smooth paraphonic chords to intricate arpeggios, deep bass patches, squelching sound effects, or shredding leads is amazing. There’s a reason why the Mono/Poly is a much sought after classic synth. Its architecture has aged well, and Behringer was smart to clone this synth and to give some much-needed updates to bring it into the 21st century.
I hope you enjoyed the sounds of the Behringer MonoPoly. I know I have.