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overview of the s3

Updated 28-01-05new

It's goodbye
After 12 years of service, I am parting company with both my S3 and this support website. Please read the main text for further information.

Inside the S3
Ever wanted to know what the S3 looks like under the bonnet? Look at the feature on 'sticky buttons' here.

S3 as an 8-track sequencer
Take a look at the newly edited Starters Guide to Using the S3 as a Hardware 8-Track Sequencer, located here.

S3 as a MIDI sound source
Take a look at the newly edited Starters Guide to Using the S3 as a Multitimbral MIDI Sound Source, located here.

Tracking down an S3
The S3 dried up at retail stores from 1993 onward, although some people tracked down occasional new models a long time after. These days, S3s can be found on the second hand market, sometimes accompanied with valuable and sought-after PCM ROM card sets. Check out the listings on Ebay or Sound on Sound. Typically you might expect to pay up to 50-75 UK pounds for an excellent condition unit. This is a significant price drop from its 1991 retail price of 899 UK pounds!


This site is in no way connected to the activities of Korg Inc. (Japan) or any of its subsidiaries. However the author would like to thank Korg UK and Korg USA for patiently responding to information requests.

All of the opinions stated on the Korg S3 Home Page are those of Owain Pedgley, except where explicitly indicated otherwise.

Created with iMac and Adobe PageMill.

E & OE.

portrait of the author

Hi... I'm Owain Pedgley (vintage picture from 1997 above!), a freelance R&D consultant and product designer. My leisure time is partly taken up with synths and MIDI gear. I've been running this site since 1995 on an on-and-off unpaid basis, just because I've been really impressed and happy with the S3.



Welcome to the Korg S3 Home Page, the world's premier resource for this pro audio drum machine, marketed by Korg between 1991 and 1993.

s3 montage

Wow, time goes by quickly. This is the first site update since June 2000. This isn't because I've been lazy! The reason is more fundamental, I'm afraid. In the passing years my S3 has become sadly neglected and is now sidelined by replacement gear. Such is the way of things. Sequencing duties have been taken over by Logic Express 6, with a 128MB loaded Yamaha CS6R rack module providing sequence (SMF) playback. This kind of MIDI power knocks the S3 sideways! My percussion needs are now provided by a variety of sources, including, somewhat ironically, some of my S3 sound creations stored as Yamaha A5000 samples.

So, after 12 years, it's the end of the road for my S3. It's a goodbye that's not just through redundancy. After much hard work, some of my S3's function buttons have finally given out. Along with my other S3 items, the unit itself is destined to a fond farewell via Ebay.

However, before parting, I thought it only right to put a bit of extra time into this website and give it what will be its final update. I haven't undertaken a new web search for S3 resources though - I'll leave that up to you! The Korg S3 Home Page is also to be wound-up, although if you, whilst reading this, feel you'd like to relocate it on your own servers and continue to be its guardian, then please contact me. My winding-up of this website also means that I'm no longer able to field your S3 questions, although if you're an S3 veteran then it would be great to hear from you and know that you're still putting your S3 to good use - do contact me.

I'd like to thank everyone who has passed me good wishes and feedback in creating this site, and in particular to Francois Boulange, Paul McMurray and Taylor Deupree, whose generosity led me to get my hands on all the PCM ROM card sets for the S3.

s3 with other gear

Used, abused, superseded, redundant, limited and dated synth gear nearly always has charm or curiosity value (though not always obvious use). Let's face it, there's a mountain of has-been synth gear out there. In the face of mounting pressure from soft synths and the mega-specified modern hardware synths such as the Roland Fantom, Yamaha Motif and Korg Triton, old equipment can easily get lost and neglected under a pile of dust in the corner of the studio. Or in the corner of a second hand shop. So here's a web page designed to keep people informed about the Korg S3 - what it is and what it can do.

Released in 1991, the S3 'Rhythm Workstation' was Korg's flagship hardware drum machine and 8-track sequencer. It uses S&S (sample and synthesis) sound production to simulate real and synthetic drum sounds. It featured in Korg's catalogues of the era alongside the Wavestation, M, T and 01/W series synthesizers.

What is the S3?

The S3 is a feature-laden drum machine which significantly out-guns its Korg 'DD' predecessors. Besides routine drum machine capabilities (with no preset patterns, incidentally), the instrument also sports:

  1. a comprehensive sound shaping engine;
  2. built-in digital multieffects;
  3. a competent 8-track MIDI sequencer;
  4. SMPTE time code sync and generation.

Basically the S3 can be viewed as a seriously feature-laden drum machine and a high-spec 8-track hardware sequencer, providing sounds from thumping electronic kits through to bongos and gongs. It's not in the league of software sequencing or up with modern boxes such as the Yamaha QY700 or recent Akai boxes, but even now, years after its heyday, it must surely rank as one of the best stand-alone sequencers on the market. (Mine has never crashed. Ever.)

On release in 1991 the RRP for an S3 was 899 UK Pounds. That was a mighty outlay for a drum box, second in price only to the heavyweight Akai MPC-60 and certainly well beyond an Alesis SR16 or Roland R5 / R8. The high price tag, combined with infrequent sightings of the device in shops, suggests to me that the S3 was one of Korg's smaller production runs. In 1993 the last trickles of stock were passed onto the customer for prices between 250 and 300 UK Pounds. It had to be a contender for bargain of 1993!

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