Korg PS-3300

Korg PS-3300


image_caption = Korg PS-3300
synth_name = PS-3300
synth_manufacturer = Korg
synthesis_type = Analog subtractive
polyphony = 48-note polyphonic
timbrality = Multitimbral
oscillator = 144 VCOs (3 per key)
filter = 144 Low-Pass VCFs (3 per key)
9 Band-Pass VCFs
attenuator = 144 VCAs (3 per key)
144 Envelopes (3 per key)
lfo = 6 LFOs
keyboard = 48 keys
price = ¥1,200,000 in 1977 [http://www.korg.co.jp/SoundMakeup/Museum/PS-3100 (Ref: Korg)]
S/H Price: £10,000 in 2003 [http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/Feb03/articles/synthsecrets46.asp (Ref: SOS)]
ext_control = CV/Gate, [http://www.kentonuk.com/kenton/retrofit_kits.shtml Kenton MIDI Kit]
dates = 1977


The gargantuan Korg PS-3300 is one of the biggest and rarest synthesizers ever made. Only around 50 units were produced by Korg due to higher than expected production costs. It is a much coveted synthesizer by professional musicians and collectors alike as it has a big and unique sound which has been described as an orchestra of synthesizers. It has attained near mythical status due to its rarity and the fact that it was adopted by many of the now legendary artists that were the synthesizer pioneers. At its release back in 1977, along with the smaller PS-3100, it was a landmark synthesizer in many respects. It was the worlds first fully fledged polyphonic synthesizer where all 48 keys could be played at once and articulated independently of each other. Still to this day, the Korg PS series of synthesizers (PS-3100, PS-3200, PS-3300) retains the honour of being the only fully polyphonic analog "(pseudo)modular" synthesizers in existence.


The layout of the front panel clearly shows the modular origins of the Korg PS-3300. Oscillators, filters and envelopes are all arranged in vertical narrow strips, much like the front panel of the Moog modular synthesizer with patch points at the bottom of each strip. No patching is required to start playing since all the normal connections has been made internally, this is often referred to as a "semi-modular" configuration and is easier to use than a conventional modular with unconnected modules.

s (Triangle, Sawtooth, Ramp, Rectangle, Pink Noise and White Noise). The filters have the usual Frequency Cut-off and Peak (Resonance) control knobs and the envelopes have Attack, Decay and Sustain control knobs plus an unconventional Release function which can be controlled by a foot pedal. The envelopes and LFOs are notable for their wide range, for example the Attack of the envelope can be several minutes at it's most extreme and the LFOs are very fast, extending into the audio range.

Each of the three PSU-3301 synthesizer units has its own individual audio output and many Control Voltage output and input options for oscillator, filter, envelope and LFO. This semi-modular design provides a vast number of modulation possibilities, being freely patchable by making connections with cables. There's also a Resonator (see below) per unit and two positional crossfade knobs which sets varying Volume and Filter Frequency Cut-off for a synthesizer unit across the keyboard allowing complex layers of sound to be created when all three units are played together. Further amplitude modulation with the LFO as modulation source can be controlled with the Amplitude Modulation knob, enabling constantly evolving sounds as the different layers fade in and out. LFO modulation of oscillator and filter also have their own dedicated intensity control knobs and here lies some of the secret behind the big sound of the Korg PS-3300. Since it is possible to modulate each of the three oscillators and three filters per key with an individual free-running LFO, for a total of six free-running LFO modulation sources in parallel, the effect of an ensemble of instruments can be created.


A much desired feature of the Korg PS-3300 is its Resonators which is a set of three band-pass filters per PSU-3301 synthesizer unit. The frequency of each of the bands can be set with control knobs on the front panel or modulated with an LFO or an envelope to add animation to the sound. There is also a depth control for the level of resonance desired. These band-pass filters are in addition to the usual low-pass filters that are common to all analog synthesizers. Indeed it is these Resonators that gives the Korg PS-3300 its distinct sound and sonic flexibility. For example, large synthesized choir or orchestral type sounds (often referred to as "pad" sounds) can be made to sound more authentic and richer than those obtained with just a low-pass filter since the Resonators, when static, can be used as formant filters. There is also great scope for phased, spacey and abstract synthesizer sounds by modulating the peak frequencies of the Resonators as previously described, a much favoured technique used by Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre on many of their recordings with the Korg PS-3300.


The oscillator section of each PSU-3301 synthesizer unit have the usual global tuning knobs; an octave switch with footages 16, 8, 4, 2 and there are separate control knobs for coarse and fine tune as well. However, along the very bottom of the synthesizer unit there are an additional set of individual miniature tuning knobs for each of the twelve notes in the octave, making it possible to tune it to scales other than the Western standard of Equal temperament. This is a completely unique feature for a polyphonic analog synthesizer which allows the Korg PS-3300 to be tuned to exotic scales such as the Byzantine scale or Eastern scales that have a different Musical temperament than Western scales.

Audio Mixer & Modulation

On the far right hand side of the front panel there's a fourth unit labelled "PSU-3302" which is a mixer and modulation section where the three audio channels from the synthesizer units are mixed into a single channel with separate outputs and volume control for line and headphones. There's also three external mixer inputs for effects loops or other sound sources. The mixed level can be modulated by control voltages from an LFO or envelope enabling for example fade-ins while playing the keys. The Modulation part of the PSU-3302 unit comprises an extra envelope, Sample & Hold and two Control Voltage Processors, as well as inputs for the Korg PS-3010 Polyphonic Keyboard and the Korg PS-3040 Dual Foot Controller.

Original Sales Literature

Notable Artists

Artists who own and have used a Korg PS-3300 in their recordings:

*Jean-Michel Jarre
*Kraftwerk (now owned by Karl Bartos)
*Klaus Schulze of Tangerine Dream (now owned by film composer [http://www.lampmusic.co.uk/scoring.htm François Evans] )
*Keith Emerson
*Vince Clarke
*Matt Black of Coldcut
*Space (electronic band)
*Gino Vanelli

Artist Gallery

External Galleries

* [http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2007/03/07/buy-klaus-schulzes-korg-ps-3300/ Klaus Schulze's Korg PS-3300]
* [http://www.flickr.com/photos/matrixsynth/sets/72157600287833963/ Korg PS-3300 gallery at flickr.com]
* [http://www.sequencer.de/korg/korg_ps_synth_trident.html Korg PS-3300 gallery at sequencer.de]

References & External Links

* [http://www.korganalogue.net/korgps/index.html Korg PS-3300 Owner's Manual and Schematics at Korganalogue.net]
* [http://www.korg.co.jp/SoundMakeup/Museum/PS-3100/ Korg PS-3300 at Korg Museum website]
* [http://www.vintagesynth.com/korg/ps3300.shtml Korg PS-3300 at Vintagesynth.com]
* [http://matrixsynth.blogspot.com/2007/05/korg-ps3300.html Korg PS-3300 at Matrixsynth blog]
* [http://www.sequencer.de/syns/korg/PS3300.html Korg PS-3300 at Sequencer.de]
* [http://www.jarrography.free.fr/details_equipement_audio.php?id_equip=15 Korg PS-3300 at Jarrography]


*After Bob Moog was given a demonstration of the Korg PS-3300, he is quoted as saying that it was "the best polyphonic synthesizer for sheer versatility in sound shaping and potential for animated, fat sounds".
*Vangelis can be seen playing the Korg PS-3300 in the "Chariots Of Fire" video.
*A Korg PS3300 recently perished in a studio fire in Norway.
*On the 31st of July 2008, a Korg PS3300 was sold within hours in a buy-it-now auction on ebay (item #220263972378) for $21,000.

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