What’s That Sound? – Korg M1 Synthesizer is The Sound of 80s / 90s Pop and Dance Music

In this series, we’ll take a look at the instruments behind some of the most iconic dance music sounds. In this first edition, we look at the Korg M1 keyboard.


The Korg M1 was an immensely popular keyboard in the late 80s and early 90s in pop and dance music. The M1 features builtin AI Synthesis for full digital sound creation and sampled and synthesized waveforms which can be shaped with the usual analog-style editing like filters and envelopes. The M1 was popular due to its realistic acoustic instrument recreation and synthy techno sounds as well.

The M1 also had a full-fledged 8 track sequencer, which was very sophisticated for the time. It also has a host of digital multi-effects as well including reverb, delay, overdrive, EQ, chorus, rotary speaker, and more. The M1 is a powerful workstation and is still widely used in studios now. You can find units for good deals on the used market but since they’re digital keyboards, software VST versions do well at emulating the M1. We go over a few software options further down in this article.



The most recognizable sound on the keyboard is probably the “M1 Organ,” made famous as the main melodic line of Robin S’s “Show Me Love.”

The famous organ line on “Gypsy Woman” by Crystal Waters is also a M1 organ patch, along with some M1 piano on top.

The early 90s rave / house classic “Plastic Dreams” by Jaydee was also uses the iconic M1 organ and went on to influence countless other records during the early 1990s.

Some of the sounds are popping up in modern pop and dance music lately as well. “Need In Me” by Flashmob on Defected Records was released in 2012 and uses a M1 bass patch (or a sound that sounds remarkably similar to one).

Getting the M1 Sound

Korg Legacy Collection M1 VST / AU


While you can still find the 61-key M1 workstation and rack mount version on the used market, Korg also offers almost all of the M1′s sounds and functionality in the Korg M1 VST/AU plug-in form as part of the company’s Legacy Collection. We are users of this software and can attest to a high quality sound and lots of presets that you’ll recognize for a reasonable price of $49.99.

M01D – Korg’s M1 on Nintendo 3DS

Korg’s legendary M1 is so popular that there is even a portable version of the synthesizer that is available for the Nintendo 3DS game system. The M01D from developer Detune offers much of the same functionality as the Legacy VST version for $34 on the Nintendo eShop

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