The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

A forum for comparing two or more synths against each other. Also known as "versus" threads.

The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby Automatic Gainsay » Sat Aug 23, 2008 10:10 pm

Here is a comparison of the sound and functionality of the popular MS-20 against the sound and functionality of the strangely underappreciated CS-15.


The Korg MS-20 is a fantastic synthesizer. It enjoys a huge notoriety due to its semi-modular arrangement and big-name-star association. It's a quality synthesizer with great functionality. Unfortunately, it also comes with a high-end pricetag.
Does it really live up to the hype?

Since the analog resurgence, the Yamaha CS-15 has been a bit of a dark horse. It features two separate signal paths and is brimming with functionality. It boasts a spectrum of sound which goes from dark, warm froth to piercing screaming rage. Despite its massive features, it has always sold for less than half of the price that the MS-20 goes for.
Why is this synth so ignored?

Oscillators:
The Korg MS-20's oscillators octave settings feature only four settings , and the settings are not the same on each oscillator. Osc 1 goes to 32', Osc 2 goes to 2'.
Both of the CS-15's oscillators have 6 (64' to 2') settings.

The MS-20 has a pulse-width setting on Osc 1 alone. There is a pulse waveshape on Osc 2, but no PW setting. Neither Osc has pulse width modulation.
The CS-15 has square waveform settings, and whenever they are chosen, BOTH oscillators have variable pulse width adjustment AND pulse width modulation.

The MS-20 has noise available on Osc 1, and a Ring Modulation setting on Osc 2. Using the noise waveform on Osc 1 means you're not getting a tone source from Osc 1. Noise (in either white or pink) can be patched in through the external input in the patch bay, but you'll have no volume control over it. To get volume control, you have to use the patchbay VCA... and you have to use the wheel to control it... removing your ability to use two of those very useful features in a function more important than simply controlling noise volume.
The CS-15 does not have ring modulation (but does have a faster LFO, but we'll get to that). The CS-15's noise circuit shares a channel with the external input, but features its own pot on the mixer, allowing you to control its volume.

The MS-20 has a small VCO mixer allowing you to control the volume of Osc 1 and Osc 2 independently.
The CS-15 has a large mixer which allows mixing of external input or noise and VCO 1 in the first channel, and mixing of VCO 1 and VCO 2 in the second channel.

The MS-20's normalled setting allows modulation of the frequency of both oscillators via an LFO knob, and an EG1 knob. The LFO knob's functionality becomes amount of TOTAL EXTERNAL if a CV source is input to that jack on the patch panel. The TOTAL input allows a single modulation source to control both oscillators, and both filters all at once. The "frequency" jack only controls the pitch of Osc 2, and the EG1 knob becomes the amount of frequency modulation applied to Osc 2 if an input is applied to that jack. Different frequency modulations can be applied to both oscillators, but the input has to come in through the CV inputs, which prevents keyboard cv control, and lacks an amount knob for either.
The CS-15 allows individual variable LFO input to each oscillator. The CS-15 also has what amounts to variable-depth invertable attack-stage envelopes for each oscillator in the "Glide" function. Attack time is controlled by a single knob, but direction and amount is decided independently for each oscillator.

Filters:
The MS-20 has two filters in series. First a resonant 12 dB per octave low pass, and then a resonant 12 dB per octave high pass. Filters self oscillate.
The CS-15 has two filters in parallel. Both filters are multimode (low, band, and high pass) 12 dB per octave resonant filters. Filters do not self oscillate.

The MS-20 allows amount of both oscillators through both filters.
The CS-15 allows independent amount of Osc 1 and noise through one filter, and independent amount of Osc 1 and Osc 2 through the other filter.

The normalled setting of the MS-20 allows independent adjustable LFO and EG2 control of the filters. The filters can be controlled independently via CV input jacks on the patch panel. This would allow the different LFO outputs to control each filter, or noise to control each filter which are functions the CS-15 lacks. EG1 and sample and hold can be directed into the filter inputs. Using S&H requires a lot of patching, though. Inverted versions of both EGs are available with patching.
The CS-15 has variable independent control over the filters through knobs for LFO and EG depth on each filter. The Filter one has EG options: EG 1, an inverted EG1, and EG 2. Filter two has EG options: EG1, EG2, an inverted EG2.

LFO:
The MS-20's normalled LFO section provides a variable LFO waveshape from triangle at center to saw and and ramp at either side of the knob. Another knob is provided for frequency. Without patching, the triangle/ramp/saw wave is the only available waveshape. With patch, a square wave (which is also shape-variable from square at center to pulse and opposite-percentage pulse at the sides) is available. The LFO is normalled to connect to the two filters individually and the two oscillators combined. With patching, both waveshapes can be directed to oscillators, filters, all oscs and filters combined, VCA, or as triggers to the envelopes or Sample and Hold. There is a great deal of variety in this respect, however the normalling is overridden when the jacks are used. Performance LFO modulation requires the use of the wheel, the patch-VCA, and the Total or other inputs, which requires a very great deal of patching and limits some of the functionality. Oscillators cannot be modulated individually without making use of the patch-VCA, the modwheel and lots of cables, unless you don't need amount control over the LFO modulation. Noise can be used as a modulation source in the patch bay.
The CS-15 has an LFO with 3 settings (sine wave, ramp wave, and sample and hold). Each oscillator has its own LFO modulation pot. Each filter has its own LFO modulation pot. Each of the two VCAs has its own LFO modulation pot. This LFO system may not over multiple waveforms at once, but it does direct the LFO to each of the 6 modules of the system, at a variable amount. The CS's LFO has a higher frequency than most LFOs, and is capable of audio-range modulation, resulting in a ring-mod sort of sound when applied to various modules.

VCAs:
The MS-20's VCA is controlled by EG2, which is an ADSR envelope with a adjustable "hold" amount. This VCA can be modulated through a jack in the patch section. The MS-20 has a second VCA in the patch section. Unfortunately, this VCA cannot be used as a second voice, as there are no outputs from the osc section. It can, however, be used as an amplifier for various modulation effects, external input, noise, etc. More than a straight VCA, it is more of a modular modulation VCA. Envelope Generator 1, which is an AR envelope, can be directed to control the VCAs in the patch section, and features a delay time knob. It requires patching to direct the EG which is not controlling the VCA to control the filter.
The CS-15 has two VCAs. Each has an initial level knob (like the "hold" knob on the MS, the amount of the pre-VCA signal which gets by without being affected by the VCA), an EG depth knob (adjusting how much an EG affects the variation in amplitude), an LFO modulation amount knob, and a switch to adjust which EG is affecting the VCA in question. The CS has two ADSR envelope generators which can be assigned to either of the filters, and either of the VCAs. Both EGs feature a "TIME X5" switch which multiplies their output by 5; generating a much longer envelope curve. EG1 can be triggered by the keyboard, or by an external source.

Controls:
The MS-20 has a modwheel which can be directed to modulate a number of the functions of it, but can only do so through the patch bay. There is no normalled setting. The most standard setting would be to have it directed into the Total jack, allowing it to control the oscillators together, and the two filters separately, adjustable via knobs in each of those modules modulation sections. The mod wheel delivers a voltage of -5~+5, which means only the top half of the wheel will be effective when controlling the VCAs. There is an "intermittent switch" which can be routed to trigger both envelopes together, or EG1 independently.
The CS-15 has a unique pitch bender comprised of a spring-weighted slider which returns to zero when pushed up or down. It has three settings: N=whole step, M=minor third, W= octave. The lever aspect makes it easier to control than a wheel. There is also a brilliance slider which allows you to control the filter cutoff point of filter 1, filter 2, or both filter 1 and 2.

Interfacing:
The MS-20 is designed for interfacing. While interfacing with itself often merely generates functions which should be available to most non-semi-modular synths, the MS-20 becomes an amazing powerhouse when interfaced with other synthesizers, or other synths in the MS line. By doubling it with the less-expensive MS-10, suddenly you have an amazingly powerful semi-modular synth. The only negative aspect is that the MS-20 operates on the Hz/volt standard, which limits its ability to interface with Moogs, ARPs, etc. The most amazing feature on the MS-20 is its External Signal Processor, which allows an external signal... any external signal... to control various functions of the synthesizer. This seeming-afterthought allows your MS-20 to act as a guitar synthesizer or even a voice-controlled synthesizer. The ESP converts the pitch and amplitude of the incoming signal into control voltage and trigger, which allows you to control the synthesizer's pitch, VCA, filter cutoff point, envelope triggering and more with the signal. It is truly an amazing and unique feature. While its tracking of pitch isn't always perfect, with a little effort, it can be very useful. Weirdly, there is no external input level control.
The CS-15, compared to most non-semi-modular or modular analog monosynths, has an extensive interface section. The CS has separate CV inputs for each oscillator, allowing independent (even duophonic) control from an external CV source. It also has a CV output for the control of other hz/volt synths. (yes, ironically, the MS-20 can control the CS-15, and vice versa, since Yamaha was another company to embrace the hz/volt standard) Whereas most monosynths have single envelopes or a single VCA envelope with a dedicated filter envelope, the CS's two independent envelopes can be triggered individually through EG1 and EG2 trigger input jacks. There is a single trigger out jack. There is an audio input jack with a switchable input boost. There are two output jacks, low and high.


Conclusions:
The MS-20 has a huge amount of notoriety. Admittedly, it has a desirable trademark sound, and was also used extensively by talented synthesizer musicians in the 90s in such a way that it gained a following it didn't have upon its initial release in the 1970s.
The MS-20 is among the most stable fully-analog synths to come out of the 1970s. It is amazing that it wasn't more internationally popular then, as oscillator stability was quite sought after. The sad thing about the stable oscillators is that they lack a warmth and character which is present in other less-stable oscillators of the day.
Perhaps the greatest weakness of what would be an incredibly powerful synthesizer is the fact that Korg didn't give the MS-20 independent oscillator output, or knob-controlled individual oscillator modulation controls. Without the ability to direct, redirect, or individually control the oscillators, the MS-20's modular status is severely hampered. The result is that the rest of the patch-based functionality becomes more about modulation and less about modularization.
The second greatest weakness is that what appears to be the mighty patch section is often used at length to create mundane effects most other synths can achieve with a knob turn or two. This can be very frustrating when you are trying to create a unique patch, but can't because so much of the functionality is caught up in getting the mod wheel to control a portion of your patch, etc.
The aspect that gives the MS its trademark sound is the set of resonant self-oscillating 12db/oct serial filters. Their design focus seemed to be these filters, and the result is wonderful, if a bit limiting. The whole of the patch section seems to be primarily aimed at modulating the filters. This isn't a problem, as the filters are very interesting, but this further decreases the idea of the synthesizer being very modular; instead resulting in looking like the synth has very powerful patching-based modulation possibilities. This distinction may not matter to many, but were this NOT the case, the MS-20 might have been on par with much more powerful and expensive synths like the ARP 2600. Also, it might have been nice if the user had the ability to put the filters into a parallel formation instead of a serial formation, at least from a modular perspective.

The CS-15 is the most underappreciated analog synthesizer. It is consistently valued at prices beneath those of less-powerful but more famous synthesizers. When one examines the staggering functionality and rich sound spectrum the CS-15 is capable of, it becomes quite baffling as to why it is not much more sought after.
There aren't very many synthesizers which are actually two entire individual monophonic synthesizers tied together. This parallel formation allows for a vast variety of sound on its own... a variety that far exceeds the timbral capability of even the most expensive non-parallel synth. If you add to this power the individually selectable envelopes and full-featured multimode filters, the sound possibilities extend far beyond that of most non-modular analog synthesizers.
The value of multimode filters cannot be overstated. The ability to have a lowpass and, say, a bandpass used in tandem within the very same sound in a parallel fashion cannot possibly be matched in versatility by synths with a single filter or serial filters.
Yamaha directed the LFO to 6 different modules and made it adjustable in each of them. The same LFO going to two different filters with two different oscillator tones going through them... that is a sound that can't be matched outside of a powerful modular synth.
The fact that Yamaha gave adjustable PWM AND PW at the same time in its square waves is astounding... and the fact that each oscillator can have all of these aspects adjusted individually and then be used together... another wonderful sound not often matched outside of modular.
It is a shame that Yamaha didn't apply the powerful realtime modulation section present in the CS-15D into the CS-15, but the unique and selectable filter cutoff controlling brilliance slider is a unique and useful tool.

Overall, it would seem that the sound and effective functionality of the CS-15 exceeds, in some cases vastly, that of the MS-20. If a person was seeking the MS-20 for its unique and desirable sound, or its unique audio processing functionality, there is only one place that person is going to get it. But on the whole, the CS-15 is a more immediately playable synthesizer with a richer analog sound, and possessing of more function.
‎"I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question." -Charles Babbage
"Unity and Mediocrity are forever in bed together." -Zane W.
http://www.youtube.com/automaticgainsay
User avatar
Automatic Gainsay
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
 
Posts: 3961
Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2007 12:22 am
Location: Tacoma
Real name: Marc Doty
Gear: Minimoog, 2600, CS-15, CS-50, MiniBrute, MicroBrute, S2, Korg MS-20 Mini, 3 Volcas, Pro 2, Leipzig, Pianet T, Wurli 7300, Wurli 145-A, ASR-10, e6400.
Band: Godfrey's Cordial

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby xpander » Sat Aug 23, 2008 10:51 pm

i'm just going to watch this space for RobotHeroes to chime in with some hate about the length of this novel.
User avatar
xpander
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
 
Posts: 1541
Joined: Sat Jun 02, 2007 7:15 am
Location: los gatos, california
Gear: UltraProteus, Xpander, 200e, Minimoogs, Radias, Prophet VS, PolyEvolver, Arp 2600

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby Automatic Gainsay » Sat Aug 23, 2008 10:54 pm

xpander wrote:i'm just going to watch this space for RobotHeroes to chime in with some hate about the length of this novel.


It is long, but not because I'm a textual blowhard... just that I wanted to cover most of the bases regarding both synths!
Still, doesn't help my reputation at all. :wink:
‎"I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question." -Charles Babbage
"Unity and Mediocrity are forever in bed together." -Zane W.
http://www.youtube.com/automaticgainsay
User avatar
Automatic Gainsay
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
 
Posts: 3961
Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2007 12:22 am
Location: Tacoma
Real name: Marc Doty
Gear: Minimoog, 2600, CS-15, CS-50, MiniBrute, MicroBrute, S2, Korg MS-20 Mini, 3 Volcas, Pro 2, Leipzig, Pianet T, Wurli 7300, Wurli 145-A, ASR-10, e6400.
Band: Godfrey's Cordial

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby filtermod » Sun Aug 24, 2008 12:33 am

Automatic Gainsay wrote:
xpander wrote:i'm just going to watch this space for RobotHeroes to chime in with some hate about the length of this novel.


It is long, but not because I'm a textual blowhard... just that I wanted to cover most of the bases regarding both synths!
Still, doesn't help my reputation at all. :wink:


Nope, most of us still think you're well informed and helpful. I guess you'll just have to deal with it.
you can't fix stupid
User avatar
filtermod
Junior Member
Junior Member
 
Posts: 179
Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2007 7:07 pm
Location: trolling some internet forum

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby xpander » Sun Aug 24, 2008 2:00 am

filtermod wrote:I guess you'll just have to deal with it.

bah, it's just another versus thread.
User avatar
xpander
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
 
Posts: 1541
Joined: Sat Jun 02, 2007 7:15 am
Location: los gatos, california
Gear: UltraProteus, Xpander, 200e, Minimoogs, Radias, Prophet VS, PolyEvolver, Arp 2600

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby Automatic Gainsay » Sun Aug 24, 2008 2:09 am

xpander wrote:
filtermod wrote:I guess you'll just have to deal with it.

bah, it's just another versus thread.


That was rude.
If you found the comparison (which I'm sure you didn't read) in error or lacking content, feel free to address the issue. Otherwise, see if you can keep from proving that mockery is the simplest and least impressive form of humor.
‎"I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question." -Charles Babbage
"Unity and Mediocrity are forever in bed together." -Zane W.
http://www.youtube.com/automaticgainsay
User avatar
Automatic Gainsay
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
 
Posts: 3961
Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2007 12:22 am
Location: Tacoma
Real name: Marc Doty
Gear: Minimoog, 2600, CS-15, CS-50, MiniBrute, MicroBrute, S2, Korg MS-20 Mini, 3 Volcas, Pro 2, Leipzig, Pianet T, Wurli 7300, Wurli 145-A, ASR-10, e6400.
Band: Godfrey's Cordial

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby xpander » Sun Aug 24, 2008 3:00 am

this is the kind of thread that usually preceeds a Gear For Sale listing! :D

AG, i'll be pissing you off day & night at this rate!

i scanned the novel, though... i looked for features that stuck out between the two and remember you calling the '15 the most underappeciated analog- a pretty bold statement! i 'd still rather have an MS-20, though- it's an old school OMD thing, i think.

speaking of which, you can look forward to my Old School Minimoog vs Minimoog Old School youtube pretty soon, it will be bee's knees.

ahem, deadliest topic indeed...
User avatar
xpander
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
 
Posts: 1541
Joined: Sat Jun 02, 2007 7:15 am
Location: los gatos, california
Gear: UltraProteus, Xpander, 200e, Minimoogs, Radias, Prophet VS, PolyEvolver, Arp 2600

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby Automatic Gainsay » Sun Aug 24, 2008 3:48 am

xpander wrote:this is the kind of thread that usually preceeds a Gear For Sale listing! :D

Ha ha, that's true... however... my coffin will require enough square footage to include the Minimoog, 2600, and the CS-15... let that prove the veracity of my claims.
I've already sold two MS-20s, I'll likely never sell this CS-15!

xpander wrote:i scanned the novel, though... i looked for features that stuck out between the two and remember you calling the '15 the most underappeciated analog- a pretty bold statement! i 'd still rather have an MS-20, though- it's an old school OMD thing, i think.

I was a fan of OMD in 1987, but I had no idea they were MS-20 users!

xpander wrote:speaking of which, you can look forward to my Old School Minimoog vs Minimoog Old School youtube pretty soon, it will be bee's knees.

ahem, deadliest topic indeed...

I look forward to it with great eagerness. :)
‎"I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question." -Charles Babbage
"Unity and Mediocrity are forever in bed together." -Zane W.
http://www.youtube.com/automaticgainsay
User avatar
Automatic Gainsay
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
 
Posts: 3961
Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2007 12:22 am
Location: Tacoma
Real name: Marc Doty
Gear: Minimoog, 2600, CS-15, CS-50, MiniBrute, MicroBrute, S2, Korg MS-20 Mini, 3 Volcas, Pro 2, Leipzig, Pianet T, Wurli 7300, Wurli 145-A, ASR-10, e6400.
Band: Godfrey's Cordial

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby lionsroar » Sun Aug 24, 2008 3:50 am

nice write up,
i'd love to get my hands on a CS-15.
wanted: roland sh-101, moog rogue, yamaha cs-15, jen sx-1000
User avatar
lionsroar
Newbie
Newbie
 
Posts: 22
Joined: Mon Aug 21, 2006 12:39 am
Location: wisconsin

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby xpander » Sun Aug 24, 2008 4:40 am

for shame! early OMD is essential listening, Dazzle Ships, Architecture & Morality, the first album... i guess they actually used an ORC MS-20! :mrgreen:

Image

they're back, too... one of the few popular synth bands that actually performs... and they still use the old stuff.

Image
User avatar
xpander
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
 
Posts: 1541
Joined: Sat Jun 02, 2007 7:15 am
Location: los gatos, california
Gear: UltraProteus, Xpander, 200e, Minimoogs, Radias, Prophet VS, PolyEvolver, Arp 2600

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby Carey M » Sun Aug 24, 2008 10:37 am

xpander wrote:you can look forward to my Old School Minimoog vs Minimoog Old School youtube pretty soon, it will be bee's knees.


Oooooooo! =D> Looking forward to that... Such a video could start the third world war, at least in the video comments, but that's part of the fun ;)

- CM
User avatar
Carey M
Active Member
Active Member
 
Posts: 635
Joined: Mon Mar 13, 2006 2:08 pm
Location: Turku, Finland, EU
Gear: Akai Miniak, Fender Chroma Polaris, Moog Sub Phatty, Roland SH-101, Roland Jupiter-4, Sequential Circuits Prophet-600, Komplete 8, Reaper, iPad, beer
Band: Nightsatan

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby jaypodesta » Sun Aug 24, 2008 1:06 pm

Automatic Gainsay wrote:Lots of words


You weren't joking! :D
User avatar
jaypodesta
Senior Member
Senior Member
 
Posts: 787
Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2008 11:50 pm

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby OriginalJambo » Sun Aug 24, 2008 2:09 pm

Cheers AG, I enjoyed that. Although according to a few here that might make me a masochist for words. ;)
Last edited by OriginalJambo on Sun Aug 24, 2008 3:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
OriginalJambo
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
 
Posts: 2556
Joined: Sun Jul 09, 2006 12:04 am
Location: Scotland, United Kingdom
Gear: Check my sig

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby nathanscribe » Sun Aug 24, 2008 2:19 pm

I reckon an MS-20 would complement my CS-15 nicely... (nudge nudge) :wink:

The CS-15 is a good synth, I can't argue with that, and the dual filters are very useful. I sometimes wish it had greater resonance, as the lack of self-oscillation means it doesn't really squeal - but you can get some great sounds out of these things regardless. I've said it before and I'll repeat it here - multimode filters are fantastic for cutting through in a way that a bunch of 24dB low-pass filters do not.
User avatar
nathanscribe
VSE Review Contributor
VSE Review Contributor
 
Posts: 2889
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 1:03 pm
Location: The right side of the Pennines

Re: The Korg MS-20 vs. The Yamaha CS-15

Postby guesswho » Sun Aug 24, 2008 2:48 pm

The best part of this thread is there is going to be 4 new CS-15 wanted posts over at AH (or here for that matter) - that and it just went up in price by $500. Now if only the MS-20 would drop in price by the same amount!
¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯
guesswho

Roland JP-4/Roland JU-1 w/PG-300/Nord Modular G1/M.A.M. ADX1//Casio CZ-1000/doepfer MAQ 16/3/waldorf Pulse+/waldorf micro Q
User avatar
guesswho
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
 
Posts: 382
Joined: Tue May 20, 2008 3:21 am
Location: Ontario - CANADA

Next

Return to Synth Shootouts

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests