Korg Polysix project gets a new life

When you are into vintage stuff you fantasize about being one of those lucky people you hear about who scores some great piece for a ridiculously low price. In my experience those sorts of deals mostly happen in the meat space, and you have to meet luck halfway at a minimum. This is why I go to garage sales, thrift stores and the like as often as I can, to give luck fertile ground to grow on.

On a visit to an occasionally fruitful thrift store (one never divulges ones sources) I made one of my best Bugatti-in-a-barn type synthesizer purchases: a Korg Polysix project for $35. Before you fall off your couch there are two points to consider: this was when a nice Polysix could be had for perhaps $800-1000 and when I say project, I mean project. Someone had removed ALL the socketed ICs.

As found with the exception that I bought that high C key separately – stuck it there so I wouldn’t lose it. You’d have bough this right? AS IS, as though anything is ever other than that. A lot of the circuit boards were loose in the case. First order of business when I brought it home was fishing all the loose screws out of it and using them to secure the boards as best I could to avoid damage when being moved around.

When I bought it the hipster musician type lady behind the counter admitted that she was the one who stripped out all the ICs as spares for her Polysix. She lowered the price from $75 (I think it was) to $35 when I said I’d put it in the closet and slowly buy the parts to restore it, but frustratingly she didn’t offer up any of the ICs to help in said restoration despite several hints.

Looking not great. Begs the question where does one start? Note that patch memory 3 button is unhappy.

I didn’t put it in the closet -closet space being at a premium in the 2 bedroom apartment I was living in at the time, rather I slid it under a car I was storing for a friend in the garage. I forgot about it until time did it’s persistent thing and a year later I found it when moving. A busy weekend later it was in a closet in my newly purchased house leaning between the Polymoog and Jupiter 6. It was during this move that my son spied an interesting phenomenon: there were a bunch of synthesizers in that closet. He asked for and was granted access to the SH-2000. And then the Jupiter 6. And then the Source. Anyhow…

In September 2020, while nearing the completion of the Maxi-Korg 800DV I decided it was time to either get the parts it needed and get it working or part it out.

PCBA shaped void is where the battery board goes. Those bright blue things are the IC sockets. I went with an inexpensive used battery board to keep costs down since I figured I could do the trace repairs.
I see a few cut wires. There was nothing too daunting about this if you can keep your focus at the right level.
The right focus level is one PCBA, one connector, one IC, one missing part. If you let yourself think about too many things at once you end up making mistakes.

I have a small cache of parts from my synthesizer repair endeavors and my first order of business was seeing what I had on hand to help this project along. I found:

  • One key – an A I think
  • Two key springs – one for a black key, one for a white
  • Several common ICs
  • Some new black oxide panel screws from when I fixed a friends Poly61 long ago

I then made my grocery list:

  • Lots of ICs including the SSM 2044, 2056 and MN3004
  • High C key with spring and some other misc keys and springs
  • Battery Board
  • Knob for arpeggio speed pot
  • Push button switch for preset 3

Over the next few months I watched eBay and Reverb and the parts began to trickle in. It took about $300 but I had everything on my list except a bunch of $2 ICs I could easily get all at once from Syntaur. SSM 2056 are used in the Poly61 so they are relatively easy to get. The SSM 2044 were a bit more challenging, but a guy parting out a Polysix on Reverb made me a good deal on a full set of 6. Yay.

While this Polysix parts shopping was going on my Moog Source went off the rails. I emailed Greg in Oakland who had done some work on it before and we set up a time for me to drop it off. Anytime. Things are pandemic slow. I asked if he would install the new touch panel I had for my Prophet 600 at the same time. Sure.

Greg is great for stuff he is willing to work on. He usually has spare parts, is quick to do the repairs, and the cost for the repairs is very fair. For these reasons I never bothered working on stuff he would work on. One slight hiccup for me is he is now a 4 hour round trip drive away. I have to make a trip to his place count. When the Source and Prophet 600 were ready to pick up I asked if I could bring more stuff by.

Would he work on my Poly61 with the battery leak issue? I’ll look at it.

Also, I have this Polysix – kind of a mess, been on back burner for me for a while. Send me a picture. I send him a few. Bring it by too – I have a lot of parts for these.

Sigma? Nope.

I know you (all 3 of you readers) were hoping I’d put together a long detailed post series plumbing the depths of despair trying to resurrect this thing and frankly that was my plan, but if you could pay $300 to avoid all that and suddenly have a functioning Polysix wouldn’t you? Thought so.

That was it. Two weeks later (April 2021) my son was enjoying the gritty arpeggiator pulses these are famous for.

Back together and making sweet music. Looks like a good honest Polysix now.
I have yet to clean it. Korg Polysix serial number 380829. I’ve seen a production total of about 30,000 cited. Serialization is a tricky thing though, who knows where in the production run this one fell.

What is next for the Polysix? I do have a list, but it is much lower priority than getting the Polymoog fully working among other projects in the queue.

  • Replace all electrolytic capacitors
  • Clean and detail everything
  • Buy a fancy reproduction hardwood case for it and move it over
  • Explore Kiwi options

I did alright on this one.

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