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Korg Inc.
FormerlyKeio Electronic Laboratories
Founded1962; 61 years ago (1962) (as Keio Electronic Laboratories)
FoundersTsutomu Kato
Tadashi Osanai
HeadquartersInagi, Tokyo, Japan
ProductsElectronic musical instruments
ARP Instruments

Korg Inc. (株式会社コルグ, Kabushiki-gaisha Korugu), founded as Keio Electronic Laboratories, is a Japanese multinational corporation that manufactures electronic musical instruments, audio processors and guitar pedals, recording equipment, and electronic tuners. Under the Vox brand name, they also manufacture guitar amplifiers and electric guitars.


Donca-Matic DA-20 (1963)
Tuning of Sébastien Érard harp using Korg OT-120 Wide 8 Octave Orchestral Digital Tuner

Korg was founded in 1962 in Tokyo by Tsutomu Kato and Tadashi Osanai as Keio Gijutsu Kenkyujo Ltd..[1][2] It later became Keio Electronic Laboratories (京王技術研究所) because its offices were located near the Keio train line in Tokyo and Keio can be formed by combining the first letters of Kato and Osanai. Before founding the company, Kato ran a nightclub. Osanai, a Tokyo University graduate and noted accordionist, regularly performed at Kato's club accompanied by a Wurlitzer Sideman rhythm machine. Dissatisfied with the rhythm machine, Osanai convinced Kato to finance his efforts to build a better one.[3][4]

The company's first product was an electro-mechanical rhythm device, the Disc Rotary Electric Auto Rhythm machine, Donca Matic DA-20, released in 1963.[2] The name "Donca" was an onomatopoeic reference to the sound the rhythm machine made. Buoyed by the success of the DA-20, Keio released a solid-state version of the Rhythm machine, the Donca matic DE-20, in 1966.

In 1967, Kato was approached by Fumio Mieda, an engineer seeking to build keyboards. Impressed with Mieda's enthusiasm, Kato asked him to build a prototype, and 18 months later Mieda returned with a programmable organ. Keio sold the organ under the name KORG, created by using the first letter of each founder's name plus "RG" from their planned emphasis on products targeted for the organ market (emphasizing the letters R and G in the word "organ").[3] In 1970 the firm name changed again to Keio Giken Kogyo Inc. (京王技研工業株式会社).

Prototype No.1
miniKORG 700S

Keio's organ products were successful throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. Concerned about competition from other organ manufacturers, Kato decided to use the organ technology to build a keyboard for the then-niche synthesizer market. Keio's first synthesizer, the Korg miniKORG, was released in 1973.

During the 1970s, Korg's synthesizer line was divided into instruments for the hobbyist, and large expensive patchable instruments such as the PS series. In the early '80s, Korg branched into digital pianos.

M1 (1988)
Triton (1999~2004)
OASYS (2005)
Kronos X (2012)

Korg is credited with a number of innovations. The "key transpose" function was Kato's idea after a singer at his club needed her accompaniment played in a lower key, which the accompanist wasn't able to do. Korg was the first company to feature effects on a synthesizer, and the first to use a "sample + synthesis" sound design. The M1 workstation, released in 1988, sold over 250,000 units, making it the bestselling synthesizer ever at that time. The M1 is still to this day regarded as the perfect workstation.[3]

Relationship with Yamaha[edit]

Yamaha Corporation has always been a major partner of Korg, supplying them with circuitry and mechanical parts.

In 1987, shortly before the release of the M1 Music Workstation, Yamaha acquired a controlling interest in Korg. The takeover of the company was amicable, with Kato drawing up the terms, and the two companies continued to independently develop their product lines and compete in the marketplace.

In 1989, Korg recruited the design team from Sequential Circuits as they were relieved of their duties by then-Sequential owner Yamaha.

In 1993, after 5 successful years under Yamaha's control, Kato had sufficient funds to repurchase most of the Yamaha shares.

Recent history[edit]

Korg has since diversified into digital effects, tuners, recording equipment, electronic hand percussion, and software instruments.[5][6]

In 1992, Korg acquired Vox, then primarily a manufacturer of guitar amplifiers.[7]

Korg was the exclusive distributor of Marshall Amplification product in the US for decades. This arrangement ended in 2010.[8]

Kato died of cancer on March 15, 2011.[9]

MAXI KORG 800DV (1974)
900PS (1975)
PE-1000 (1976)
MS-20 (1978)
VC-10 (1978)
Korg Λ, Polysix, and Trident


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "L'Histoire de Korg". Musicarius [le blog].
  2. ^ a b "The History Of Korg: Part 1". www.soundonsound.com. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  3. ^ a b c Julian Colbeck, Keyfax Omnibus Edition, MixBooks, 1996, p. 52. ISBN 978-0-918371-08-9
  4. ^ File:MiniKORG700S (1974).jpg
  5. ^ "The History Of Korg: Part 2". www.soundonsound.com. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  6. ^ "The History Of Korg: Part 3". www.soundonsound.com. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  7. ^ Dave Hunter, "50 Years of Vox[permanent dead link]" , Vintage Guitar, June 2010
  8. ^ Gordon Reid, "40 Years of Korg Gear" , Sound On Sound, Oct 2002
  9. ^ "Korg Mourns the Passing of Chairman Tsutomu Katoh Archived 2011-09-09 at the Wayback Machine", Keyboard Magazine, March 15, 2011

External links[edit]