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  Lambda ES50 At a Glance
Click for larger view arrowReleased: 1979  Specifications
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AdamT ( ) writes:
Probably the best built, looking and sounding of the Korg Poly ensembles, predecessed by the PE1000 and 2000 and followed by the Delta (which was really a wooly sounding "Wannabe" synthesizer with full filter controls). The Lambda (or ES50) was also one of the few Korg Polyphonics to be cased in real wood (like the PS3300) as opposed to vinyl covered (Polysix, PS3100 etc), it looks excellent.

it has two sections, first, Percussive section with Elec Piano, Clavi, Piano and Harmonics (one of the best sounds on it), there is a Sustain rocker (for long release), variable speed tremolo, variable decay time. Secondly the Ensemble selection of Brass, Organ (more Cathedral than Hammond or Vox), Chorus (Vox Humana), strings1 and 2 (each an octave apart) and a Variable Attack/release enable with accompanying controls. an Octave up rocker transposes the whole unit up and volume and tone controls for each section. an Accent section gives filter cutoff knob for Brass and Keyclick level for the elec piano. the Tune section lets you mastertune the whole instrument as well as detune TWO of the THREE Oscillators by a few semitones (with accomanying beat LEDs)....... Yes String machine fans.. the Lambda has 3 Oscillators per voice!. Don`t think for one minute that you`ve got a preset MemoryMoog on your hands, remember that this is a divide down machine NOT a polysynth although it d! oes give it a good head start on the other stringers. lastly AND leastly there`s a Chorus/phase unit inboard just accomanied by a switch for each section.. Believe me this is the lamest part of the Lambda, it hasn`t the quality of phasing that you get from a Roland or Solina and the job is best left to outboard kit which is a shame. the only performance control is a 2-way joystick which offers sprung pitch bend left/right and unsprung chorus speed up/down. The keyboard is a 4-octave affair of excellent quality with top notch leaf switches and a good action.

One thing that stands out on the Lambda is that each note has two VCA Envelope generators (one for each of the voice sections) unlike any other (bar Korg`s earlier PE2000), this means that on long attack times each key pressed gets the right VCA Envelope like on a Polysynth!. The Brass sections filter sadly doesn`t have discrete EG`s and is multiple triggered like the Omni Mk1.

How does it sound??. Well like a typical stringer really but with the advantage of 3 OSCs (the Brass uses only 2, dunno why), The strings are far more powerful than the Rolands and the "Cathedral" organ is realistic in the upper registers, the Brass is not unlike a Polysix but with far less control, the Percussion section is totally unrealistic but useful especially if you leave the decay on its longest best used as a layer or attack phase for the strings (with the attack on long) where it is very effective especially the "harmonics" voice. Chorus (or VoX humana) certainly ain`t up to Roland VP330 standards but this could be down to the VP having an excellent chorus unit that was timed just right for that sound (Even the VP`s Humana sounded flat without it).

There could have been more Octave switching (down preferably), some mixing for within the ensemble and more control over the chorus unit but at least Individual outs, Gate trig out (to trig an external filter-input equipped synth like a Minimoog), sustain and expression pedal sockets are fitted.

Overall with some heavy external processing superb Jarresque etc pads can be made that only a stringer could make as if you feed something powerful like an Oberheim into my EQ / slow flange / Reverb effect instead and all that comes out is an overloaded muddle. there`s something about stringers that digital outboard gear loves.

If you like string machines / Ensembles give a Lambda a try, you may even Bin the Solina or Rhapsody afterward,,, but then you may not, it`s all down to personal preference. For straight Strings I prefer the Solina personally but the Lambda is really a better machine overall and IMO beats the Rolands (chorus excepted) , Yamahas and a lot of the Italians.

If you don`t like String machines or have never played one, don`t think that the Lambda is going to give you PS3300 / Memorymoog sounds on the cheap, despite having 3-OSCs it won`t!.

Comments About the Sounds:
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(Thanks to AdamT for this info.)

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