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Korg 03 Symphony
3 3 out of 5, based on 1 Review

Cool early ROMpler if you can find one cheap enough


3rd January 2021

Korg 03 Symphony by enossified

  • Sound Quality 3 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 1 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 3
Korg 03 Symphony

I bought my O3 Symphony when it was being blown out for $99. Original price was about $300.

It is a 16 voice, 8 part multitimbral sample player, what we call a ROMpler these days. It looks like Korg took an M1, chopped off the keybed and sliced off about 1/3 of the top. It uses a wall wart (ugh) but otherwise is well built...all metal casing, nice buttons.

By default it powers up in monotimbral mode, but is easily switched into multi mode where the user assigns a sound, MIDI channel, volume and pan (L, center, R only) for each part. That's all the control you get. Some of this can be controlled over MIDI. It does respond to program changes, for instance. It's velocity sensitive, responds to pitch bend, sustain pedal, MIDI volume. Setup is by a simple 7-segment LED and all the parameters are on the top panel so there's almost no need for a manual. Voices are dynamically allocated.

You cannot alter the sounds in any way...no filters, no EGs, nada. The saving grace is that the sounds are good for 1990 when this thing was being sold. It also has a card slot and a small number of additional sample libraries were available. I owned two: Groovy Piano gave me my first sampled piano while the other was an orchestral winds card, with clarinet, oboe, trumpet, tuba, etc.

The factory sounds are two pipe organs, two choirs (supposedly used by Vangelis), two strings, brass ensemble and a mutlizone jazz guitar/string bass/drums patch that I used for the drums only. I found the choirs and strings very Mellotronish due to the low-fi samples. Those plus the piano is what I used most.

In the 21st century, one in good shape might be worth springing $50 for if you find a few of the sounds to your liking. If the seller has some of the cards as well, great. Otherwise don't expect to find any, they are even rarer than the Symphony itself.

There was a matching P3 Piano module that had (doh) 2 or 3 piano sounds. It had the same control interface and accepted the same cards. This one I'd pass on for any price.