Born of the association in 1962 of a Tokyo nightclub owner and one of his regular accordion players, Korg Instruments has grown to be one of the top musical electronics companies in the world. The accordionist used to work the nightclub alongside a rhythm machine whose sound quality apparently ran afoul of both of their sensibilities. They worked together to develop a better one and their first product, the DA-20 or “Donca” was created.
After moving into home organs for a period of years, Korg stepped boldly into the then embryonic synthesizer industry, an instrument category that turns out not to have been a mere fad. The miniKorg 700 was introduced in 1973, aimed at the commercial market, while they at the same time maintained a presence in expensive patchable instruments more intended for the professional touring market.
The instances of groundbreaking innovation in Korg’s history are too many to list. Korg has literally changed the industry of electronic musical equipment manufacture dozens of times, and right alongside these innovations, they have been a catalyst for changing the face of music itself. It is hard to overstate the impact that Korg products have made since the company’s inception.
From the invention of attributes that would become standard features of every electronic keyboard such as key transposition and combining synthesized sounds with effects, to groundbreaking designs such as the MS-20, the Triton, and the Kronos, Korg has been a critical part of the advancement of electronically generated sound. In addition to synthesizers, Korg’s current focus now includes guitar and vocal effects, tuners, digital pianos, amplification, recording equipment, hand percussion, and software instruments.
In a musical equipment landscape that sometimes suffers from a certain brand-to-brand sameness, Korg’s commitment to innovation and an intangible sense of fun distinguishes Korg designs. One of Korg’s bold design decisions, its embrace of touchscreen technology, sets them apart from its competition. In 1995, Korg added a large touchscreen to the Trinity workstation keyboard, and they have been refining it ever since. The touchscreen remains the navigation hub for the flagship Kronos series of workstation keyboards.
Korg has never forgotten its analog roots, and perfectly in sync with the embrace of retro keyboards that is ongoing in amplified music, its 2013 line is spangled with instruments that reintroduce the analog sound with the added convenience of digital control. Korg is at the forefront of both sampling and modeling technologies, and the release of the MS-20 Mini and the King-Korg were among the year’s most anxiously anticipated releases.
There are players across the industry whose loyalty to Korg products is as firmly entrenched as a mother’s love. There are many fine keyboardists who have gone from Trinity to Triton to M3 to Kronos without even considering the alternatives.
They are likewise an important force in the huge digital piano market, both for home console pianos and portable touring instruments. The Korg key bed is revered among many as the best replication of a quality acoustic piano’s touch, and its timbre holds up under the most critical scrutiny.