Retro Ads: Korg VC-10 Vocoder

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Today’s retro ad comes from the days when a $1,299 mini vocoder keyboard was considered affordable. The Korg VC-10 polyphonic 20-band vocoder, produced from 1978 to 1982, was limited compared to other vocoders of its time, but its small size, convenience and sound helped it become a tool for many prog acts such as Yes, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Keith Emerson and others.

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The VC-10’s filters would vocode any mic or instrument fed into it, and you could even put an external instrument, such as guitar, through its filters, which would then go through the vocoder. In that way, it could become like a talk box for a guitar.

The VC-10 stayed relevant after its production run. Whenever analog vocoding came back in style, it would be there. Bands like Air and Goldfrapp used in the late ‘90s/early 2000s.

These days, the influence of the VC-10 shows up in several small-format keyboards with vocoders, all of which holdover the gooseneck mic attachment from the VC-10 design. Now, cats who would have used the VC-10, such as Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran, will reach for something like the Roland JD-Xi or Korg MicroKorg XL+, both of which sell for $499 each and include robust synthesizers and effects.

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