Review: The Korg iPolysix for the iPad reminds Us the 80s were Cool

Korg’s Polysix and its younger brother, the Poly-61, combined analog sound with digital control in the early and middle 1980s. The Poly-61 was the first synth I ever owned and Quarkspace’s Jay Swanson and Darren Gough could say the same thing. Both models provided classic sounding leads and their polyphonic capabilities allowed for interesting pad and organ patches.

Enter the second decade of the 21st Century, and Korg follows up their excellent iMS-20 iPad app with the iPolysix, making those classic sounds — and a host of other cool features — available to iPad owners. This app is a must for anyone looking to fortify their arsenal for the creation of both forward-looking and classic electronica.

Korg iPolysix for the iPad Features

  • Two Polysixes Replicated on the iPad
  • Includes Drum Machine and Mixer
  • Polyseq Polyphonic Step Sequencer
  • Dual Kaoss Pads to Control Effects, Melodies, and Chords
  • Create your Own Sounds, Patterns, and Songs
  • Integration with SoundCloud for Track Sharing
  • Available for $29.99 from the iTunes App Store

Let’s dive in and check out some of the cool features of this Korg app which combines classic analog sound with modern tablet control.

A Clean Architecture and Intuitive Interface

The iPolysix app interface sports an architecture similar to the iMS-20, with two notable improvements. Two instances of the Polysix are included — each with its own Polyseq polyphonic step sequencer, which makes sense considering the original, unlike the MS-20, was a polyphonic synth. A six-part drum machine with a mixer rounds out the basic sound generation features.

Korg iPolysix iPad Screenshot

Korg’s iPolysix app beautifully simulates the interface of the Polysix. Screenshot by Author.

The hardware interface of the Polysix is nicely replicated on the iPad’s touchscreen, with the host of knobs of buttons responsive and easily accessible. The app’s interface for the management of sounds, patterns, and songs works in the similar, intuitive manner as the iMS-20. The app’s navigation bar includes that file management functionality as well as buttons to access settings and help, as well as export and share songs.

A sub-bar appears underneath the navigation bar, controlling access to each synth instance and its sequencer. You can also load new sounds from the sub-bar. When using the drum machine, the sub-bar handles the navigation between the six different drum parts — both sound and sequencing.

Two Synths — each with its own Polyphonic Sequencer

The iPolysix nicely simulates the synth architecture of the original Polysix. Both the single VCO (with a sub-oscillator) and its resonant VCF feature the standard synth options. A modulation generator can be applied to one of the VCO, VCF, or the VCA.

The Key Assign Mode allows switching between polyphonic, unison, and chord modes — the latter being especially musically interesting at times. All the controls on each synth — knobs and switches — can be automated at the pattern level. Each synth and drum sound has its own effect unit and there is another Master Effect available on the mixer.

A virtual keyboard with two wheels for controlling pitch-bend and modulation are great for the sound creation process and also useful for pattern entry. Two Kaoss pads can be used to play sounds or modify their parameters. A whole host of exotic scales are included for melody generation using the Kaoss pad.

Korg iPolysix iPad Screenshot 2

The iPolysix’s polyphonic step sequencer. (Not that I am taking advantage of polyphony in the pictured pattern!) Screenshot by Author.

The Polyseq polyphonic step sequencer is a great addition to the iPolysix. It works similarly to the sequencer on the iMS-20 with the obvious bonus of the polyphony. A variety of control options are easily accessed from the sequencer interface.

A Six Part Drum Machine and a Mixer

Like the iMS-20, the iPolysix includes a six part drum machine. Each drum sound uses the app’s synth engine, so it is possible with the step sequencer to use them for some extra melodic content in addition to only drum beats. An effect is also included for each part.

An automated mixer ties everything together, with a nice interface featuring faders and pan-pots. The included Master Effect setting is a great place to add reverb to the entire mix, or something more experimental sounding.

The app features a built-in export to SoundCloud feature, but this is something I haven’t used, since apps for beat creation like Rebirth, the iMS-20, etc. get used predominately for backing tracks in our studio. I usually end up recording the track directly into ProTools on my laptop, although Audiobus support means I could do the same thing on the iPad with BeatMaker 2, Garage Band or any number of iOS apps.

The iPolysix is highly recommended for anyone wanting a slightly nostalgic method of creating state of the art electronica tracks on their iPad. I can’t wait to see what “Gadget” Korg has in mind for their next iPad app.


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