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Twynthesisers

Posted under Early Korg Serials at . Last updated 2022-07-28 06:47.
Tags:MS-20, Korg

I was trying to work out some details about the Korg MS-20 earlier, and found pictures at Matrixsynth. (Naturally.) One that I came across was of MS-20 serial number 141567, which has a note on the page to the effect that it had been on the site previously, which isn’t unusual. So I checked the previous appearance and noticed something odd — in the 2016 (a) pictures there’s no heatsink screw, but in the 2020 (b) pictures there is.

It gets stranger. In the 2016 pics the front-panel screws have plastic washers, which is common; but there are none in the 2020 pics. Both sets of pictures show the serial number, 141567, but they aren’t the same number plate — both the punched and printed numbers are positioned slightly differently, and the W for Watts is in a different position; and the screws are a little different. And I think the punched numbers are different sizes.

MS20 141567 Numberplates
(These photos have been warped a bit to flatten and match the plate sizes; in reality the screws may be in the same positions and the plates may be slightly different. Either way, the model and serial numbers and supply ratings are clearly different.)

On (a) there is one mark on the case around the numberplate which may be a scratch, and it’s not in the (b) picture. There are also some slight textural differences in the plastic ends in some pictures, the sort of thing that you might think was just lighting if there wasn’t reason to doubt.

There are some differences which could have arisen in four years, like rust, scuffs, and marks on the carrying case. But the case would have to have lost what looks like a small abrasion, too.

What are we looking at here? Clearly not the same numberplate, and I don’t think these are the same instrument. Unless Photoshop? No obvious sign of it. And why? Or, one instrument which has been deliberately modified, swapping parts out? Unlikely, as both seem in very good condition. And why would you change the numberplate? Or, I’ve been suspecting for years that there might be some fake synths out there — anything that acquires some value is likely to be forged eventually. But a forgery of this quality would not be remunerative? They both look very much like original MS-20s. So, might Korg have botched printing the serial number? It’s probably the most economical assumption. Odd all the same.

And then, if that could happen once, how many times? A whole batch perhaps?[1] And could this explain some of the inconsistencies that seem to exist around MS-20s’ serial numbers and physical characteristics? Possibly not — or it would need to be a fairly frequent issue, and if so, then why has it not been discussed to death on a hundred synthy fora already? Perhaps this was a unique event. Who knows?[2]

If we accept that it’s a misprint the other issue that comes up is, which one is the misprint? Difficult to say, perhaps, but it might be worth considering the numberplates. There seem to be three types [3], one with no box line round the power ratings (update: this seems to be the export plate), one where the W is printed close to the line and one where it’s further away (update:  the latter two seem to be Japanese domestic-market). Dividing the known sample images between these categories:

close-Wfar-Wno-line
140014
140090
140097
140163
140218
140255
140277
140353
140363
140367
140419
140426
140438
140451
140466
140514
140591
140624
140645
140665
140893
140895
140934
141002
141014
141056
141066
141104
141118
141151
141163
141213
141219
141256
141272
141317
141447
141509
141532
141567a
141567b
141575
141576
141595
141605
141720
141800
141822
141832
141846
141954
141968
142002
142018
142029
142037
142053
142064
142090
142104
142113
142146
142273
142283
142292
142319
142377
142520
142525
142542
142560
142567
142659
142715
142726
142796
142810
142811
142823
142835
142863
142888
142899
142989
143015
143063
143175
143281
143312
143314
143347
143356
143371
143376
143418
143475
143490
143502
143510
143555
143566?
143694
143741
143763
143980
144008
144132
144243
144340
144419
144468
144507
144571
144668
144677
144764
144796
144807
144809
144812
145003
145022
145045
145063
145103
145125
145147
145162
145169?
145213
145326
145359
145372
145374
145452
145497
145565
145616
145639
145695
145773
145914
145930
145976
146311
146323
146421
146502
146504
146513
146530
146656
146739
146799
146815
146845
146861
146971
146984
146992
146995
147040
147054
147114
147120
147141
147239
147262
147324
147325
147345
147562
147577
147624?
147677
147765
147777
147855
147882
147888
147891
147918
147945
147963
147965
147966
147969
147985
148015
148029
148126
148358
148364
148421
148457
148514
148721
148753
148855
148878
149126
149201
149206
149245
149286
149363
149394
149400
149500
149534
149542
149560
149615
149668
149744
149762
149850
149947
149968
149984
439010
439039
439093

(This table will be updated as and when I see more numbers. Last update 2022-09-25.)

There’s no clear indication of anything here. The far-W numberplate type on (b) seems to have fallen out of use in the 3500s, so it’s statistically more likely to be the earlier. But that’s only if there are no more specific factors that could be indicative . . . and perhaps there is:

Given the samples currently known, it seems as though there was a changeover from a close-W batch of plates (possibly including 141567a) to a far-W batch (possibly including 141567b) at this point. What if the changeover was the occasion of the misprint — setting the printer to start at the last old number you have a note of, rather than a new number? Easy to do, and it would result in there being only one duplicate rather than a whole batch, which given that no duplicates seem to have been common knowledge already, seems more likely.

On which basis — especially if this was not only a new box of blank plates, but the division between entire MS-20 batches, with the heatsink screw also changing — 141567b may have followed 141567a in actual order of production. [4] And then, it would be the misprint. (In a sense. Of course, in the same sense, every MS-20 from 141568 up would also be a misprint.)

That being said, a few more samples could give a different impression. It’s only a possibility.


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Notes

  1. An earlier example of a Korg serial number probably going wrong can be found here; a number seems to have been corrected by hand.  
  2. 2022-07-27: I’ve been told that it’s not a unique event, and am awaiting what I hope will be photographic confirmation of another set of twins.  
  3. This doesn’t include cases where the numberplate is replaced by importers in some countries.  
  4. A similar argument could be constructed for the plastic washers, though they are subject to later removal (or even addition). In practice, before (a), 141532 and 141509 have none, and after (b), 141575 and 141576 do have them, so it doesn’t really work. I’m not generally keeping track of the presence of washers, mostly because few available pics are clear enough.  

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