David's Korg DS-8 Page

Note: this page is neither affiliated with nor endorsed by Korg. It is simply the page of a DS-8 enthusiast.

I am no longer updating these pages.   I will leave them up indefinitely for the benefit of DS-8 users all over the world, but I do not plan to add any more content.

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KORG DS-8

Introduction/Background 
In 1987, the Yamaha DX-7 (and its multiple incarnations) was undoubtedly the most successful commercial synthesizer of the time. Curiously, though, the DX-7 employed one of most incomprehensible synthesis schemes ever realized: FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesis. Attempting to make a more "user friendly" implementation of FM synthesis, Korg created the DS-8. 

The DS-8 never experienced much popularity. While some may argue that its short life in the spot light was because it lacked capability and it never really lived up to its expectations, I am of the opinion that its demise had more to do with a changing market than anything else. Within months after introducing the DS-8, Korg released its monumental M1 and the rest is history: FM faded away as waveform sampling became the "next big thing." 

(Incidentally, the Korg 707 is essentially a small, 4-octave DS-8 intended for live, stand-up performances. There are a few minor internal differences, but it has the same programming architecture as the DS-8.)

DS-8 Features 

FM synthesis, a la subtractive synthesis "paradigm"
8 voice multitimbral
Multi-effect digital delay
100 patches / 10 combinations
Most major MIDI functions
Split keyboard
Velocity and Aftertouch keys
Performance sliders for timbre and amplitude envelope

DS-8 Reviewed
DS-8 advertisement, circa 1987Keyboard Magazine reviewed the DS-8 in July, 1987. Here is an excerpt: 

"...what does it sound like? There's an unambiguous answer to that one: It sounds a lot like a DX7 (the old one, that is). Considering the ways in which Korg has limited access to FM parameters ..., the DS-8 is capable of producing a remarkable variety of sounds." 

"As for features, the DS-8 is pretty competitive with other relatively inexpensive synthesizers, and it's multi-timbral to boot. " 

My opinion: 
It is easy to program (compared to Yamaha DX series FM synthesizers) and its real-time sliders can add spontaneity to live performance and studio sessions.  Its MIDI capabilities are pretty good considering how old it is.  For a while, I used my DS-8 as my primary MIDI controller and it did quite well.  Its keyboard isn't too clunky and the unit seems well built. 

However, being an FM synthesizer, it doesn't make very "approachable" or "familiar" sounds.  The DS-8 is good for unique solo voicing and textural layering but it isn't well suited to be a stand alone unit (meaning I would not recommend it as a first or only keyboard.) 

 

 

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My DS-8

DS-8 Today
A used DS-8 today would probably go for about $100-$200, depending on condition and accessories. I certainly wouldn't pay more than that. Because it never really caught on, there aren't many sounds for it and not much support for it.  It makes a decent MIDI controller.  If you intend on buying one, ask the owner if he or she has replaced the battery. 

 


KORG DS-8 FAQ

Even though it didn't sell well, there are enough DS-8's out there on the used market that I get get a lot of e-mail. It appears that I may have the only site on the web dedicated to this relatively unknown synthesizer.  To date, I have had contact with 300+ different DS-8 owners via the net (this page averages about 250 hits per month).  Here are a few common questions and the answers I usually give. 

Q1) I just picked up a used DS-8.  Where can I get the manual? 
A1) Just do a google search, you can find it in pdf. 

Q2) Do you have a manual?  Will you copy it for me?  Please, please, please, will you copy it for me?!?!?!?
A2) Yes, I have a manual.  It is copyrighted by Korg and I do not have their permission to copy it for general distribution.  So, no, I will not copy it for you.   Sorry.  See Q1.

Q3) Where can I find RAM/ROM cards? 
A3) In short, they're rare.  They were even hard to come by when I bought my DS-8 new back in '87. 

Q4) I finally found a RAM card!  How do I use it?
A4) The DS-8 stores 100 sounds (one bank) in its internal memory.
Depending on which card you have, you can store either 1, 2 or 4 banks. In all cases, the sounds in bank 1 can be accessed along with with internal sounds using the Ext Program selector (the button next to Int which is to the right of the LCD screen). Sounds contained in the other banks
(2-4, if applicable) can only be accessed when transferred to internal memory bank.

Card functions are Functions 4,5 and 6. In order to save to a card, External memory protect must be off. This is done by selecting Function 4 and turning Ext to Off. Function 5 is used to save data to a card. To save data, the card must be formatted. If you attempt to save to an unformatted card it will first prompt you to format. You will use the UP/YES key to answer yes. Depending on how many banks your card supports you will need to select the destination bank. Loading from a card is done with Function 6 and is similar to saving, in that you choose the source bank and use the cursor buttons and the Up/Yes and/or Down/No buttons to make selections.

Q5) Where can I get more sounds? 
A5)  I had quite a collection until my old MIDI computer died.  I have recovered a few and made them available for download (see below).  Try searching google. 

Q6) Is there a way to restore the factory sounds? 
A6) First, you will need to download the factory sounds.  Click here.  Then, you will need a computer with MIDI and software that supports SYSEX data transfer.  Then see the next question.

Q7) How do I upload data to the DS-8? 
A7) The MIDI OUT of the computer (transmitting) should be connected to the MIDI IN of the DS-8.  Turn off internal memory protect.  Set the DS-8 to SYSTEM EXCLUSIVE ON (Function 8).   Transmit the data using your MIDI program.

The DS-8 must be set to the same MIDI channel that was used to store the data. Typically this would be channel 1.  But if you're not having luck with channel 1, try all the other channels.

Q8) How do I hook MIDI up to my computer?  Can you help me figure out what I need for my sound card so I can connect my DS-8 and run MIDI programs?
A8) At one time, I used to keep up with all the latest in MIDI gizmos and gadgets.  These days, I'm lucky if I can find time to even turn on my system and play a few Bach Inventions.  I use an old PC, so I don't have a lot of experience with newer MIDI setups.  In short, I'm really not the best person to answer these questions. 

DS-8 MIDI IMPLEMENTATION

(partial list)

RECOGNIZED RECEIVED DATA 
Channel Messages

System Real Time Messages

System Exclusive Messages
(1) Device ID Request
    Byte         Description
    1111 0000    Exclusive status
    0100 0010    Korg ID 42h
    0100 nnnn    Format ID 4nh (n=ch)
    1111 0111    EOX

(2) 1 Voice Dump Request
    Byte         Description
    1111 0000    Exclusive status
    0100 0010    Korg ID 42h
    0011 nnnn    Format ID 3nh (n=ch)
    0001 0011    DS-8 ID 13h
    0001 0000    1 voice dump request 10h
    1111 0111    EOX

(3) 1 Voice Dump
    Byte         Description
    1111 0000    Exclusive status
    0100 0010    Korg ID 42h
    0011 nnnn    Format ID 3nh (n=ch)
    0001 0011    DS-8 ID 13h
    0100 0000    1 voice dump 40h
    0ddd dddd
    .
    .            1 voice data (80 bytes)
    .
    0ddd dddd
    1111 0111    EOX

(4) All Voice Dump Request
    Byte         Description
    1111 0000    Exclusive status
    0100 0010    Korg ID 42h
    0011 nnnn    Format ID 3nh (n=ch)
    0001 0011    DS-8 ID 13h
    0001 1100    All dump request 1Ch
    1111 0111    EOX

(5) All Voice Dump
    Byte         Description
    1111 0000    Exclusive status
    0100 0010    Korg ID 42h
    0011 nnnn    Format ID 3nh (n=ch)
    0001 0011    DS-8 ID 13h
    0100 1100    All voice dump 4Ch
    .
    .            All voice data (7544 bytes)
    .
    1111 0111    EOX

(6) 1 Combi Dump Request
    Byte         Description
    1111 0000    Exclusive status
    0100 0010    Korg ID 42h
    0011 nnnn    Format ID 3nh (n=ch)
    0001 0011    DS-8 ID 13h
    0001 1001    1 Combi dump Request 19h
    1111 0111    EOX

(7) 1 Combi Dump
    Byte         Description
    1111 0000    Exclusive status
    0100 0010    Korg ID 42h
    0011 nnnn    Format ID 3nh (n=ch)
    0001 0011    DS-8 ID 13h
    0100 1001    1 Combi Dump 49h
    0ddd dddd
    .
    .            1 Combi data (56 bytes)
    .
    0ddd dddd
    1111 0111    EOX

(8) All Combi Dump Request

(9) All Combi Dump

(10) Panel Mode Request

(11) Panel Mode Change

(12) Keyboard Mode Request

(13) Keyboard Mode Change

(14) Paramter Change

(15) Voice Write Request

(16) Combi Write Request
 

MIDI IMPLEMENTATION CHART

FUNCTION TRANSMITTED RECOGNIZED REMARKS
Basic Channel  
Power On  
Setting Range
1 -- 16  
1 -- 16
1 -- 16  
1 -- 16
Memorized
Mode  
Power On  
Message Default
- 
1 
x
- 
 
OMNI=On/Off
Ignore
Note Number  
Actual Notes
24 -- 108  
---------
0 -- 127  
24-108
-
Velocity  
Note On  
Note Off
- 
 
x
- 
 
 
9n, v=1..127
Aftertouch  
Keys  
Channels
 
o
 
o
-
Pitch Bender o o -
Control Change  
 
 
 
 
10  
64  
65  
96  
99
- 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
o
- 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
o
- 
Pitch MG*  
Timbre MG*  
Data entry***  
Volume*  
Panpot*  
Damper pedal*  
Porta switch*  
Data increment***  
Data decrement***
Program Change **  
Actual Number
0 -- 9  
------
0 --99  
0 -- 127
-
Exclusive *** o o voice dump, etc.
Common  
Song positions  
Song select  
Tune
- 
 
 
x
- 
 
 
x
-
Real Time  
Clock  
Command
- 
 
x
- 
 
x
-
Auxiliary  
Local ON/OFF  
All Notes OFF  
Active Sensing ****  
Reset
- 
 
 
 
x
- 
 
 
 
x
123 -- 127

Notes:                                               o=YES, x=NO
* Transmit/Receive if CNTRL is ON in FUNCTION
** Transmit/Receive if PROG is ON in FUNCTION
*** Transmit/Receive if EXCLUSIVE is ON in FUNCTION
**** Transmit/Receive if ACT is ON in FUNCTION

Mode 1: OMNI ON, POLY; Mode 3: OMNI ON, MONO              
Mode 2: OMNI OFF, POLY; Mode 4: OMNI OFF. MONO

DS-8 Patches

Sounds and Sound Banks 
I have a modest collection of sounds, some of which I programmed myself (particularly the ones that have Japanese names).  Feel free to help yourself.

SYSEX binaries (zipped):
stock.zip - factory sounds
b2.zip - miscellaneous
b3.zip - some of my own mixed in with factory sounds
b4.zip  - some of my own mixed in from some I got from Korg (you may need to set the DS-8 to channel 10 to load this one)

I used to have quite a lot more sounds, but my former MIDI computer -- an old 8088 -- died and went to PC heaven, taking its ancient 20MB hard drive and my precious sounds and sequences with it.  I have learned a valuable lesson about backing up data!

Copyright 1995-2000, 2011 David C. Copley  last updated Dec2011 after nearly a decade of being archived