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Korg M1

The Korg M1 is a synthesizer and music workstation manufactured by Korg from 1988 to 1995. It became the top-selling digital synthesizer of its time.

Development

Whereas previous synthesizers had shipped with sounds chosen for different markets, Korg chairman Tsutomu Kato and his son Seiki decided that their synthesizers should use the same sounds internationally. Korg assembled an international team to develop the sounds for the M1. To create a deep blown bottle sound, the team played a pan flute over a large sake bottle.

Features

The M1 features a 61-note velocity- and aftertouch-sensitive keyboard, 16-note polyphony, a joystick for pitch-bend and modulation control, an eight-track MIDI sequencer, separate LFOs for vibrato and filter modulation, and ADSR envelopes. Data can be stored on RAM and PCM cards.

The M1 has a ROM with four megabytes of 16-bit PCM tones, including, according to Sound on Sound, "exotic instruments that previously hadn't been heard in the mainstream". The sounds include sampled attack transients, loops, sustained waveforms without attack transients, and percussive samples. The timbres include piano, strings, acoustic guitar, woodwinds, sitar, kalimba, wind chimes, and drums.

The M1 also features effects including reverb, delay, chorus, tremolo, EQ, distortion, and Leslie simulation, an innovative inclusion at the time. According to Sound on Sound, none of the M1's features were unique at the time of release, but were implemented and combined in a new way.

Legacy

The Korg M1 is the bestselling synthesizer in history. It was released in 1988 and manufactured until 1995, selling an estimated 250,000 units. Sound on Sound wrote that it "can rightly be called the most popular synth of all time".

The M1 piano and organ presets were widely used in 1990s house music, beginning with Madonna's 1990 single "Vogue". Its slap bass sound was used to create the theme tune for the sitcom Seinfeld.