Bryan Ressler

Synth Stuff


Korg DW-8000

Over the years I've had many email exchanges with people trying to get their DW-8000s to work again, many of whom used my DW-8000 Battery Replacement HOWTO to replace their memory backup battery. Since I have a ton of experience and knowledge about this particular synth, I decided to create a page that collects all the knowledge and resources I've got related to this great synthesizer.

Unless noted, everything here is stuff I created myself (as in, not ripped off from some other web site). Exceptions are annotated with a source URL. Contributions are welcomed, and will be attributed (email me).

NOTE: Almost everything here also applies to the Korg EX-8000, which is just a keyboard-less DW-8000 as a 2U rackmount sound module.

COMMERCIAL AFFILIAITONS: I DO NOT work for or have any other commercial affiliations with any of the companies mentioned on this page. Long ago, Korg bought and re-sold my patch editor software through their dealer channel, but I no longer have any business ties with Korg (only nostalgic ties).



Click for larger image. Source: Passagen.


Synthesis Type Subtractive
Oscillator Type Digital Waveform Generation Synthesis (DWGS)
Filter Type Digtally controlled analog low-pass, 24 dB per octave
Polyphony 8 voices
Polytimbrality Monotimbral
Oscillators 2 oscillators per voice, 16 DWGS waveforms
Envelopes 2 ADBSSR envelopes (filter, amplitude)
LFOs 1, four waveforms, can modulate filter or pitch
Effects Digital delay with modulation
Weight 24 lbs (10.9 kg)
Dimensions W 39.3" (998mm) x D 13.3" (338mm) x H 4" (101mm)
Power consumption 31 watts

Source: DW-8000 Owner's Manual.


Owners Manual

The Korg DW-8000 Owners Manual (.pdf, English, 11MB). Copyright © 1985 KEIO Electronic Laboratory Corp.

Service Manual

The Korg DW-8000 Service Manual (.pdf, English, 4.6MB). Includes schematics. Copyright © 1985 KEIO Electronic Laboratory Corp.


Check out my DW-8000 Patch Page.

Battery Replacement

The DW-8000 has a CR-2032 coin-sized battery to maintain its patch memory when it is powered off. The failure of this battery is the most common failure mode for the DW-8000—the battery was meant to be replaced after five years. In reality, many of these batteries survived much longer than that.

In order to save 4¢ or something in the manufacturing costs, and to ensure a continued revenue stream for Korg Service Centers, Korg chose to actually solder in the backup battery, rather than put it in a socket. For this reason, replacement of this battery is a bigger deal than it should be. If you're handy, however, you can replace the battery yourself, and put the battery socket in there that Korg should have provided in the first place. For the full procedure, see my DW-8000 Battery Replacement HOWTO.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Over the years I've answered hundreds of emails related to the DW-8000 - usually when people are having problems. I've collected a lot of the most common questions and answers here. If the wording seem a little awkward here and there, it's because I'm using word combinations that will maximize people's ability to find these answers using an internet search.

Q: Is the DW-8000 manual available online?
A: You've come to the right place (see above).

Q: Where can I get a replacement DW-8000 power cord?
A: The DW-8000 uses a vestigial two-conductor, rectangular-block power cord, rather than the (now standard) IEC three-prong power plugs that computers and more modern gear use. The simple solution: Korg sells them for $16 on this page (it is item number 60002100), or Sam Ash part PWC178. They are also widely available online and on eBay. A better solution (in my opinion) is to retrofit the DW-8000 with an IEC power receptacle. This HOWTO and this HOWTO do a great job of describing how to replace the two-prong jack with a standard three-prong. You'll be glad you did.

Q: How long does a DW-8000's battery live?
A: It depends. The official line is that the batteries live for five years, but many, many users report batteries that live ten to twelve years or sometimes even longer. One factor is how much the DW-8000 was turned on during its life, since when the unit is powered up, the battery doesn't have to keep the memory alive.

Q: How do I know if my DW-8000 needs a new battery?
A: The primary symptom is that the DW-8000 forgets all its patches if you power it off. Also, it may make no sound or...bad sound because of memory corruption. You might see strange symbols on the LEDs (again a result of memory corruption). If you are able to successfully tape-load patches into the DW-8000, then power it off for a few minutes, power it back on, and the patches are gone, that's a sure sign of a bad battery.

Q: What about EX-8000 battery replacement?
A: The procedure is the same, at least in spirit. There is some board inside the EX-8000's case that has a soldered-on CR2032 battery. You find that, and replace it with a socket, being especially careful about between-board clearance.

Q: Can't I just replace my DW-8000's battery with an exact solder-in replacement instead of adding a socket?
A: Of course you can! The part you want is Interstate Batteries LIT1875. BUT: you are being shortsighted. You'll have to do this whole crazy thing again in five or ten years, and if you follow my directions and put a socket in there, you'll just be able to slip a new battery in instead of warming up the soldering iron. Your call.

Q: Is there a procedure for erasing the memory on the DW-8000?
A: There is, but you should only do this if you've replaced the battery and still can't get the synth to accept a tape load. This procedure will ERASE ALL 64 PATCHES from the DW-8000s memory and reset its MIDI channel to 1.

  1. Turn off the DW-8000
  2. Press and hold the "5" and "8" buttons in the Programmer section
  3. Turn on the DW-8000
  4. The DW-8000's patch memory has been erased
Q: My DW-8000's arpeggiator seems like it isn't working - any advice?
A: Check that you have the Arpeggio Clock (parameter 87) set to 1, 2, or 3. If Arpeggio Clock is set to 4, 5, or 6, the arpeggiator will be waiting for MIDI Clock messages at MIDI In, and if none are seen, it will appear that the Arpeggiator is "stuck." This is the most common solution for apparently nonfunctional arpeggiators.

Q: I'm using my DW-8000 as a controller keyboard. How do you octave-shift the keyboard up or down?
A: Sadly, the DW-8000 has no octave shift or keyboard transpose capability, which does limit its usefulness as a studio controller keyboard.

Q: Is it possible to get just one patch out of a tape load?
A: No. Tape loads set all 64 patches at once. If you need to extract a single patch, you'll need a computer patch editor/librarian, such as the free one at Deaf Eddie's.

Q: How do I do a tape load using the DW-8000 tape dumps on your page?
A: First of all, if you're thinking, "I don't have a cassette player any more!" fret not. You're sitting in front of the modern replacement for a cassette player - your computer.

If your computer has a sound card or some kind of on-board audio, you're already close to having what you need to do tape dumps into and out of your DW-8000.

To load the DW-8000 from your computer, you need to connect the line out from your soundcard (the green jack) to the "From Tape" jack on the DW-8000. To do this you'll need a 1/8"-male-to-1/8" male audio cable. Then follow these steps below (which are tailored for PC):
  1. Set the "From Tape" level to "High" with the swich next to the rear-panel "From Tape" jack.
  2. Set the rear-panel "Write" switch to "Enable."
  3. Set the rear-panel "Tape" switch to "Enable." The DW-8000's display will show "7APE" (7-segment for "TAPE").
  4. Load the .WAV file up in some .WAV player, such as Windows Media Player, WinAmp, etc.
  5. Press the LOAD key on the front panel.
  6. Play the .WAV file in your sound player application.
  7. The front panel Value LEDs should show the bank number being written (1 through 8) as the tape load proceeds.
  8. If the load is successful, the DW-8000's display will say "Good," or "Err" if not. If you get "Err," press the front-panel Cancel button, try changing your computer's sound volume, and try again.
The procedure above is outlined in the DW-8000 Manual pages 48 and 49.

Q: Is there a computer patch editor/librarian for the Korg DW-8000?
A: A guy named Anthony Ruggeri wrote a PC patch editor/librarian that is availble free from Deaf Eddie's cool EX-8000 site. If you're running XP or Vista, make sure to set the the compatibility mode to "Windows 95" for that program.

There are also a number of commercial products for both Mac and PC that know how to talk to the DW-8000 such as MIDI Quest.

Q: What is the procedure for resetting the patches on the DW-8000 to their ROM presets?
A: Believe it or not, the DW-8000 doesn't have any ROM presets, so there is no way to restore them. The only way to reset its patches is to send a set of SysEx patches (which is what they did in the factory) or do a tape load.

Q: How do you do a MIDI "bulk-dump" on the DW-8000?
A: The short answer is "you can't." The DW-8000 dates to the dawn of MIDI, and while it does have a fairly robust SysEx protocol, it doesn't have a single SysEx "dump all patches" request. That was a painful oversight, and one that they corrected in virtually all subsequent instruments. The only way to back up all the sounds at once is to do a tape dump or use a MIDI patch librarian that knows about the DW-8000.

Q: How do I hook my DW-8000 up to my computer so I can save/load SysEx patch files?
A: These instructions are tailored to PCs:
  1. Get a USB MIDI interface for your computer. A very simple, inexpensive one that I use on my laptop is the M-Audio USB Uno.
  2. Once you’ve got a MIDI interface, use two MIDI cables (DIN-5 male-to-male, available at any music store) to hook the computer MIDI Out to the DW-8000 MIDI In and the computer MDI In to the DW-8000 MIDI Out. (The USB Uno described above has the cables built-in).
  3. Get MIDI Ox or some other SysEx dumping program.
  4. Follow the directions on my page to do the SysEx loads.
Q: Is there a way to transfer patches from one DW-8000 to another?
A: Not directly. You could either do a Tape Save on one and a subsequent Tape Load on the other, or use a MIDI patch librarian to store the patches from one and load them onto the other.

Q: I just got this new <insert fancy MIDI controller with lots of knobs and sliders here> do I program it to change the DW-8000's cutoff and resonance?
A: Be warned: you probably can't. The DW-8000 predates the standardization of controllers, such as controller 74 for cutoff and controller 71 for resonance. It even predates the NRPN thing. So the way you do it is you send a SysEx "parameter change" message. The message contains the DW-8000s MIDI channel, the "address" of the parameter you want to change, and the new value. The message is documented in the DW-8000's manual.

To get a hardware controller to send this kind of message, the controller has to know how to plug the slider or knob value into the middle of a SysEx message. There aren't very many controllers that are sophisticated enough to do this - the Kenton Control Freak is, and that's what I use. With it, each slider movement causes as SysEx to be sent. This allows me to do what you're wanting to do (resonance and cutoff), along with a bunch of other parameters, all at the same time.

Q: But I'm super hardcore! Show me what SysEx bytes I need to send to the DW-8000 to change cutoff and resonance!
A: OK, you asked for it.

To change filter cutoff, you need to send the following SysEx to the DW-8000:

F0Exclusive status
42Manufacturer ID: 42 = Korg
3nWhere n = the MIDI channel of your DW-8000: 30 = channel 1...3f = channel 16
03Device ID: 03 = DW-8000
41Message: 41 = parameter change
15Parameter offset: 15 = VCF cutoff
mmParameter value: 00 to 3f, which would be the value from the slider scaled to 0-63

To change filter resonance, you need to send the following SysEx to the DW-8000:

F0Exclusive status
42Manufacturer ID: 42 = Korg
3nWhere n = the MIDI channel of your DW-8000: 30 = channel 1...3f = channel 16
03Device ID: 03 = DW-8000
41Message: 41 = parameter change
16Parameter offset: 16 = VCF resonance
mmParameter value: 00 to 1f, which would be the value from the slider scaled to 0-31

If your controller can do this (especially the "scaling knob/slider values" part), it is officially kickass. So if you succeed, send me an email to let me know which controller you used and I'll list it here.

Tape Dumps

If you need to get patches into your DW-8000, by far the easiest and most reliable way to do that is by sending SysEx dumps to the synthesizer from a computer. My patches page has lots to choose from and a brief description of how to download patchblocks.

If you don't have a working computer-MIDI setup from which to download SysEx data, you're stuck using the old-skool tape dump mechanism. Here are 44.1 KHz 16-bit recordings of the Preload A and Preload B tape dumps, directly off my original factory preset cassette.

To use these, you'll need to connect the line out from your soundcard to the tape in on the DW-8000. Start the tape load on the DW-8000 and play the .WAV file on your computer. This is logically equivalent to a tape load from an actual cassette tape.

DW-8000 Factory Card Side A (via Greg Audrey)

DW-8000 Factory Card Side B (via Greg Audrey)

SPEAKER DAMAGE ALERT! These WAV files are recorded HOT so watch those speakers!

Preload Bank A (.wav, 4.8MB).
Preload Bank B (.wav, 4.8MB).

Little-Known Facts

Here's some little-known facts about the Korg DW-8000. If you have any little bits to contribute to this list, please email me.

  • Autoparameter—There is one "invisible" parameter for each patch in the DW-8000, which I called the "autoparameter" in my ancient ProEdit Patch Editor. The autoparameter is the parameter number that is preset in the parameter field when a given patch is dialed in. It can be useful to set a parameter like 31 (filter cutoff) as the autoparameter, so you can easily change the cutoff in realtime with the data slider. To set the autoparameter for a patch, dial in a parameter, then write the patch. The next time that patch is retrieved, the same parameter will be preset in the parameter field.

Kenton Control Freak Patch

One annoying thing about the DW-8000 (and many synths in the industry's first wave of digital synths) was the lack of knobs. You can really only control one parameter at a time in realtime with the Data slider. Of course, you want to do things like change both Cutoff and Resonance at the same time.

In my studio I have a Kenton Control Freak Studio Edition which has 16 programmable sliders on it. The Control Freak is really programmable -- you can make it do pretty much anything.

In the case of the DW-8000, it's so old that it doesn't respond to the now common controllers for things like Cutoff, Color (Resonance), Decay, etc. It is, however, possible to control these parameters with MIDI, but via an ugly SysEx parameter change message.

Once again the Control Freak pulls it off. Here is a Control Freak SE patch I created that allows you to control a ton of the DW-8000's most important parameters all in real time. You won't believe how much life this breathes into your DW-8000 until you try it. Here's the list:

Slider Usage Button Usage
Slider 1Cutoff Button 1Unassigned
Slider 2Resonance Button 2Unassigned
Slider 3Attack (Amp EG) Button 3Unassigned
Slider 4Decay (Amp EG) Button 4Unassigned
Slider 5Sustain (Amp EG) Button 5Unassigned
Slider 6Release (Amp EG) Button 6Unassigned
Slider 7Volume Button 7Unassigned
Slider 8VCF EG Intensity Button 8Unassigned
Slider 9OSC1 Waveform Button 9Unassigned
Slider 10OSC2 Waveform Button 10Unassigned
Slider 11DDL Level Button 11Unassigned
Slider 12Portamento Time Button 12Unassigned
Slider 13LFO Frequency Button 13Unassigned
Slider 14LFO Depth Button 14Unassigned
Slider 15Velocity Button 15Play a Major Chord
Slider 16Note Number Button 16Play a Single Note

IMPORTANT NOTE: Because SysEx messages are channel-specific, this Control Freak Studio Edition patch will only work if your DW-8000 is set to MIDI channel 2. If you want to modify the patch for whatever MIDI channel you usually keep your DW-8000 set to, email me and I'll tell you how to rechannelize the patch.

Control Freak Studio Edition DW-8000 Control (SYX, 6.13KB) patch.

© 2004 Bryan K. Ressler, all rights reserved worldwide.
If you find any errors in this page or have suggestions for improvements, please email me.