The Korg A1/A2/A3 FAQ - 2/9/2000


This document is not produced by Korg or connected in any way to the Korg Company. The name Korg and the product names A1, A2, and A3 are the property of the Korg Company. Other commercial product names are the property of their respective owners (talk about your circular references). This document is produced and maintained by the Korg A1/A2/A3 Users Group (also not affiliated with the Korg Company) and is intended for private, non-commercial use. Nobody, I repeat nobody, connected with this document wishes to infringe in any way upon anyone's commercial rights, intellectual property rights, personal rights, or steal their hubcaps for that matter. This information is presented "As Is" and there is no guarantee of accuracy, so use it at your own risk.


This FAQ was compiled by Sterling Munro ("ssm" at gateway dot net) from postings to the Korg A1/A/A3 user's group mailing list, and perhaps other sources as well, who knows? For most items credit is given to whatever author's posting was found in the archived messages that seem to answer the topic. In many cases the same questions and answers were posted numerous times (hence this FAQ) and there may be a few folks who provided helpful answers but are not credited here, sorry. In other cases several posters added additional info or a different slant on things, and so several posts are included here with respective credits. The overall credit goes to the all the participants, of course.

Which unit?

Most of the information presented here relates to the Korg A2 and A3. We are pleased to be able to present some information on the A1 as well, based on posts over the past year. However, bear in mind that our information on the A1 is still rather thin, and the applicability of most of the other information in this FAQ to the A1 is questionable.

Index to the Korg A1/A2/A3 FAQ

  1. Factory reset (re-initialize all patches to factory presets)
  2. Back door boot-up and other start-up procedures
  3. A3HACK
  4. Rear output switch settings and mods
  5. Internal battery
  6. ROM cards
  7. RAM cards
  8. SYSEX
  9. LCD display
  10. Input and output jacks
  11. FC6 foot controller
  12. Contacting Korg
  13. Voltage conversion
  14. Expression Pedals
  15. Chains
  16. MIDI settings lost when powered off

A. Factory reset (re-initialize all patches to factory presets)

From Aaron Waite (actually, numerous people have posted this info; in this post Aaron credited Dotte on Synthzone):

Start with the A3 turned off. Press simultaneously the up and down buttons(with the arrows on them) and while pressing them push the main power on switch to start up the A3. You will now get a message in the long green display stating: "Parameter Initialize? Yes / No". Chose "Yes".

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B. Back door boot-up and other start-up procedures

1. System configuration edit mode ("back door")

From Chris Conley:

Read these directions before you get your unit to try it. It is a little bit tricky.

  1. Hold down "Utility" button + "UP Arrow" + "A" button.
  2. Turn the Unit On.
  3. The Unit will display "How do you do?"
  4. Before this leaves the screen press the "F" button.
  5. You will now see the screen says, "Special M/R D/R"
  6. Change "M/R" to "M/S" using the button underneath the "M/R"
  7. Change the "D/R" to "D/S" just like the above.
  8. Press Exit.
  9. The system will load like normal
  10. Go into the Utility menu
  11. Press "F"
  12. Here you will have a bunch of choices from different system editors to system clock. You scroll through the different options by using the up and down arrows. I really wouldn't suggest screwing around with the system editor. But there are options for card use, such as expose hidden parts, sum status. There is a setting in one of the menus to load in a hex file for system update I would suppose. This menu is really great if you are buying a used unit to find out how much time it has on it using the "System Clock Feature".

2. Diagnostic mode

From Robin Simmons:

If you press the "chain" button and the "B" controller button together, then power up it will again give the initalize yes/no option. If you press "no" it will go into a diagnostic menu. This gives options on checking all LED displays, controller buttons digital values on rotation, FC-6 check MIDI check etc. It can also produce a 1khz sine wave output in either left or right channel. Useful if you have a faulty connection in your rig. It also gives an output DC offset adjustment, for the more techy.

From Chris Conley:

You can test your volume pedals. The LCD displays the amount of voltage on hot and on ground, so as you move the pedal back and forth you can see the change and even get an idea of the curve of your pedal.

See also Expression Pedals.

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From Pete Lyall, author of A3HACK.EXE:

1. Usage syntax:

The A3hack command expects the following syntax:

A3hack 'bank_to' 'bank_from'


  • 'bank_to' - a system exclusive dump of the a3 programs that you want the other algorithms added onto...
  • 'bank_from' - a system exclusive dump of the patch bank that has the algorithms you want (probably one of the card images).


a3hack my_patches.syx nyc_guitar_card.syx

This will put the algos from the nyc_guitar_card into an image of your patch dump. Once you reload 'my_patches.syx' into your A3, you can use the extra algorithms from the nyc_guitar_card as well as the built-in chains.

2. Description and examples

A3hack is a tool for mixing the additional chains (usually from a RAM or ROM card) with an A3 sysex bank. For example, I wanted to mix the algorithms (chains) from my guitar ROM card with my regular internal A3 bank. I can do this by:

  • Dump my internal bank (via SYSTEM EXCLUSIVE) to my computer. (ex: A3RAM).
  • Load the A3 Guitar RAM card into the A3's internal area, and then dump THAT bank to another file on the computer (ex: A3GUITAR).
  • Use A3HACK to create a new hybrid bank, containing the new chains, as well as the original patches and chains. (ex: a3hack A3RAM A3GUITAR A3RAMGTR)

It's that easy.

Thanks to Saloranta Jari for telling me what the offsets were, and doing the initial binary edits to pave the way!

3. Source code

(Pete Lyall posted the source code to the user group on 2/3/99. It is somewhat lengthy and therefore is not repeated here. If you need it, just go to the message archive, accessible from the Korg A3 page, and find that date.)

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D. Rear output switch settings and mods

1. Input/output switching values

The A3 switches between +4dB and -20dB. The A2 switches between +4dB and -10dB.

2. Output switch mod

From Robin Simmons:

The A3 has a gain switch on the rear, you know the one works great one way can't get any distortion in the other.... I believe the mod was to split this switch in two. The switch is a double pole, that is two switches in one body. One half switches the input gain, the other the output gain. The mod is to allow the input or output gain to be switched independently of each other. Drill and place a changeover switch adjacent to the first. De-solder one half of the original switch and wire the vacant holes to the new switch.

From Adam Brannon:

You need to use a simple 2 way mini toggle switch. Make a note that when you are looking at the top of the circuit board the switch is on and from the back of the unit, it is the right set of legs you will need to lift. They are right next to one of the white snapdown connectors. There are 6 legs that need to be lifted. if you look at the bottom of the board where the 6 legs are, you will notice that 4 of the 6 legs connect to the same board trace. The center pole on the mod switch can be soldered to any one of these 4 holes. The 2 remaining holes are soldered to each of the 2 remaining poles on the switch. The factory switch controls the output and the mod switch controls the input.

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E. Internal battery

From Jim Carr:

You are probably aware that many pieces of music gear contain internal batteries. They are used to feed power to internal memory chips when the unit's power is turned off. As like most things, they have a finite life span, and usually die when you are need them most. The Korg A3's internal battery is a CR802 type battery (This is just one brand's reference number. For example, Duracell uses DL2032 and someone else uses CR2032 for the same battery. ), is about the size of a small quarter and should cost no more than about $3-4. Installing it is easy. You just pop the screws on your A3 and remove the cover. The battery will be right there staring you in the face (much easier to change than my M1 as I had to remove a couple of circuit boards to get at that one). Or, if you prefer, you can take it in for servicing, pay $50 and wait a few days. (Not that I have anything against the service guys...we all have to make a living). Anyway, the A3 does give you some warning that the battery is low (it displays a message telling you at power up). Assuming you've saved your internal patches to card or disk, you should be able to change the battery, reload your patches and continue working. Good luck.

(A suggestion from Sterling: as long as you've got the unit opened up to replace the battery, might as well inspect your input and output jacks and resolder them, or have someone else do it who knows how to handle a soldering iron.)

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F. ROM cards

(from various posts) ROM (Read-Only-Memory) cards were manufactured for the A2 and A3 series by Korg and by third-party makers. A3 cards will work in the A2, but not vice versa. The A3 cards included new chains and effects beyond the twenty chains that were originally available. The A2 came with most of the new chains and effects as well as the original twenty (plus some chains only available on the A2). Apparently these cards are no longer manufactured, but are occasionally offered for sale used. SYSEX dumps of all the cards are available at the A1/A2/A3 web site

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G. RAM cards

(from various posts) RAM (Random Access Memory) cards were manufactured for the A2 and A3 by Mitsubishi for Korg, but not any more. The cards were marked "MCR-03." Several other commercially available cards seem to work fine; see the following.

From Andreas Rabenstein:

As far as the RAM cards are concerned, I think you should contact Mitsubishi directly. They were the original manufacturers. Refer to the so-called Bee Card series. I think the 16 kByte type should work out fine. (By the way, this is the explanation for the "BC" logo on the ROM cards). I asked them for information several years ago, and they were very helpful. But it may well be that they don't support this product any more. Mitsubishi is a big Japanese Company, so you'd have to find out which subdivision deals with the Bee Cards. (Don't ask Mitsubishi Automotive, for example).

From Jim Huff:

There was (is?) another company that made a compatable RAM card. I have one which I bought about five years ago. On the card it says Chrystal Voice. It works exactly the same as he Korg RAM card. There is no address or phone number on the card itself. Does anyone have any information about Crystal Voice? Maybe they would be interested in offering these again.

From Andreas Rabenstein:

I know the ATARI Portfolio hand-held PC used the same cards. A 16 kB RAM card should work fine, I think.

From Shiv Naimpally:

I just got some Atari Portfolio 64k RAM cards. I plugged it in, formatted it and then did a save. No problem-o. It did mention when formatting that the battery is low but I am not surprised. I need to buy some new lithium batteries for the cards.

From Aaron

This has recently become a VERY frequently asked question, and I assumed the info provided here was enough for people to find them on their own. My bad. As a stated above, the best bet for finding a compatible RAM card is the "Atari Portfolio" memory card made for a little, old Atari handheld computer "back in the day". Ebay is your friend (repeat after me) "EBAY IS YOUR FRIEND". If searching for that name doesn't do the job, the Ebay user "myatari" is a source I've used in the past. They also have a website - . Now... Who's your friend? If you said "Ebay", you get a cookie. No more asking on the mailing list, m'kay?

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SYSEX (SYStem EXclusive) is a data file storage and transfer format for MIDI devices. The A2 and A3 are capable of receiving SYSEX "dumps" (i.e., from a computer or another MIDI device) and transmitting SYSEX "dumps" (i.e., to a computer for saving or to another MIDI device). Many of the ROM cards for the A2 and A3 are available in SYSEX files on the A1/A2/A3 web site. To load them onto your unit, you must download the desired file and unzip it. Connect a MIDI cable from your computer's soundcard MIDI Out port to your unit's MIDI In port. Then use a SYSEX software program (MIDI-OX seems to be the current favorite - to load the file into your unit. With the A3 you must go into the Utility menu and select MIDI, then LOAD, then tell your software to send the file. With the A2 you do not need to go into the menus, it will receive the SYSEX file automatically. Note that the SYSEX file coming in will overwrite whatever is currently stored on your unit, so you may want to save your current settings in a SYSEX file of your own. To do this, run a MIDI cable from your unit's MIDI Out port to your computer's soundcard MIDI In port, then tell your software to receive a file. On your unit, go into the Utility menu and select MIDI, then SAVE.

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I. LCD display

There is no known way to adjust the brightness or contrast of the LCD front panel display. Readability depends on the viewing angle and room lighting. Some users report that the display gets dim over time. Marius "The Phaser" tells us that U2's The Edge has an A3 with an orange LCD display, possibly an early model or "beta unit."

From Mike Foo:

Anyone of you who has the guts to strip the LCD display would notice that on assembling the display back, it displays garbage. That's the alignment problem of the LCD display with the circuit board. If the alignment is correct, there won't be any garbage displayed.

You would also not that there is a thin strip behind the LCD crystal which is wired up. This thin strip would light up if you would switchon rack. This is the backlight that everyone's been talking about. Seems like it is hard to get the backlight strip alone. May have to buy a totally new LCD display of that length and strip the backlight to replace the dim one.

From Robin Simmons:

I had a look on the Web and found this:

It sounds Like the korg has an electroluminescent disply, and looking at the expected life on the graph, you could see why they are startingto die! These people look as if they could replace the electroluminescent part. You can even cut the stuff to size. The problem would be how to get the old stuff off without breaking the display itself? It looked expensive at first, but you wouldn't need the high voltage power supply as this is already built into the korg.

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J. Input and output jacks

(from various posts) On the A2 and A3, the jacks are unfortunately not very sturdy. It is common for the jacks to become loose, develop intermittent connections, and eventually break off of the circuit board where they are mounted. If you are handy with a soldering iron, just open up your unit and re-solder the jack back in place. Otherwise, have the work done by a competent repair professional. If you are a wiz at this sort of thing, you might just replace the jack with a sturdier, chassis-mounted jack, although there might not be enough room without some modifications. As a preventative measure, you may wish to just open up the unit before the jacks go bad and inspect and solder all the jacks.

By the way, as long as you've got the unit opened up, you might as well replace the internal battery too!

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K. FC6 foot controller

1. Cable

The FC6 can be connected to the unit with a standard MIDI cable. However, this will only allow bank switching control, and the FC6 will need a separate power supply. If the FC6 is connected using the special Remote cable, the FC6 can be used for bank switching or for individual effect on/off, and you can run foot switches and volume and wah pedals directly from the FC6. Plus, the FC6 will draw power from the A3.

2. Running pedals and switches from the FC6

From Barry Castaneda:

If you are using the FC6, you may plug any expression pedal into the pedal jacks on the back of the FC6. if your pedal does not seem to do what it is supposed to when it is plugged in to the FC6 it may not be broke at all. The problem may be fixed by going to the utility menu on the A3. Here is the reason: If you plug your expression pedal right into the back of the A3, the utility menu lets you select which jack does what. For example, jack 1 may be used for volume, parameter (wah), bypass, effect up, etc. If parameter (wah) or volume are assigned to one of the jacks on the back of the A3 then parameter or volume can not be controlled from the FC6. So, assign bypass or channel up (anything but volume or parameter) to the pedal/switch jacks from the utility menu on the A3 and then you will be able to run vol and wah from the FC6 (with two pedals).

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L. Contacting Korg

Korg has a website at However, it has no information on the Korg A1, A2, or A3. You can call them at 516-333-9100.

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M. Voltage conversion

People who move from parts of the world that use 120 volt electrical service to parts that use 240 volt, and vice versa, can modify their unit to operate on either voltage.

From Gray "Massive Brain" and Nick Burman:

Changing the transformer between 110v and 240v.

  • First change the plug.
  • As with all repairs - Plug in the A2 ** but leave the power off. This will ensure it is still grounded (Earthed, for us Britons!)
  • Undo the top of the case. I like to use a grounding bracelet that has a crocodile clip on one end - clip that on the chassis of the unit. Just so you don't short out anything.
  • Looking from the front, with the knobs facing you, there are five connectors for the transformer, numbering left to right: US/CDN MODEL: Black on 3, yellow on 5 - UK MODEL: Black on 1,yellow on 5
  • Simply unsolder and resolder the black on the other lug. Easy!!

**NOTE from Sterling: I would recommend leaving it unplugged altogether to avoid a lethal electric shock. If you are concerned about grounding, clip a wire from the unit's chassis to a proper grounding source, such as the chassis of another piece of equipment that is plugged in with a proper 3-prong grounded cord.

From Mike Foo:

I've got a japanese A3 which uses 100V AC. It's wired: black on 4, yellow on 5. True to conversion advised, the transformer seems to be the same. I've got mine converted the same way ... works fine now at 240V with black wire on the first pin. Just FYI, I've also measured the secondary outputs. If you use pin 2, you get approx 21.6V(red,black) , 11V (blue-blue) outputs with 240V on the primary. If you use pin 1, you get approx 19V, and 9V with 240V on the primary. My Japanese model originally used pin 4 and pin 5 with 100V on the primary achieving the same secondary output voltages if used on Pin 2 and Pin 5 on 240V.

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N. Expression Pedals

From Jim Huff:

The A3 (or A2) also accepts two pedals directly into the unit. There are setting in the utility menu to specify what the pedal controls and this would determine whether you want a monentary (for program up or down) or an expression pedal (for volume, or parameter control).

Almost any momentary or expression pedal will work with the A3. Korg, Roland, and Yamaha makes several reasonably priced pedals that will work.

From Sterling Munro:

Using an expression pedal with the A3 set to control "parameter" it will control the Wah effect in chains that have it. In other chains it controls volume, in others it controls the speed of a modulating effect, in others the amount of pitch shift. The chain lists have more info [available at].

If the pedal you use with your unit is working backward, such as volume decreasing when you rock it forward, you can reverse the connections by (1) opening up the pedal, de-soldering the wires from the jack, and re-soldering them in reverse, or (2) making up a cord that has the tip of one end connecting to the sleeve of the other, and vice versa, or (3) modifying an existing cord the same way.

From Barry Castaneda:

If you are using the FC6, you may plug any expression pedal into the pedal jacks on the back of the FC6. What I just learned is that if your pedal does not seem to do what it is supposed to when it is plugged in to the FC6 it may not be broke at all. The problem may be fixed by going to the utility menu on the A3. Here is the reason: If you plug your expression pedal right into the back of the A3, the utility menu lets you select which jack does what. For example, jack 1 may be used for volume, parameter (wah), bypass, effect up, etc. Here is what I didn't know- If parameter (wah) or volume are assigned to one of the jacks on the back of the A3 then parameter or volume can not be controlled from the FC6. So, assign bypass or channel up (anything but volume or parameter) to the pedal/switch jacks from the utility menu on the A3 and then you will be able to run vol and wah from the FC6 (with two pedals). I used to run the FC6 for switching sounds but had to run a cord from the back of the a3 to the volume. But now I just run a short cord to the vol pedal from the FC6. Much easier and less wear and tear on the infamous jacks.

From Nathan:

I have tried the high impedance Boss FV-50H and it works fine, but when I try the low impedance FV-50L, I don't get the full range of control.

I checked the resistance on the two pedals and the FV-50L is 0K at the fully rocked back position (no volume) and about 20K at the fully forward position. The FV-50H is OK at the back position and around 225K at the fully forward position. These measurements are the resistance between the tip and the ground of the output jacks on the pedals. This makes sense since when I use the FV-50L, I only get about the %20 of the range I get with the FV-50H. If Im using it for volume, for example, it starts with no volume, then goes up to about 1/5th of the max. There should be some means of adjusting the range of resistance. Or maybe Korg just assumed you would use their pedals.

[note: the Korg KVP-001 pedal does have an adjustment. -Sterling]

From Chris Conley:

I believe the only difference is between a low impedience volume pedal and a high impediance volume pedal would be the pot that they put in there which would be around 400-500k for a high impedience and about 25K for low impedience. Basically when you use the output of any volume pedal to control the A2/A3 the unit is measuring the impedience. So when you have the volume pedal all the way up (full volume), it is measuring no impedience or a fully connected circuit between hot and ground, when you pull back on the pedal it measures the difference between hot and ground.

On the A2 you an see how much resistance there is to ground by using the utility mode A button plus I think C button and turn the unit on. You can then see when you move the pedal the read out between 0 and 200 and something of the pedals range.

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O. Chains

Each chain has up to 6 separate effects in a predetermined order. There is no way to change the order of effects in a chain; you must hunt through the available chains and find the one that has the effects you want in the order you want. Unfortunately, there are not enough chains available to cover all the possibilities, and many desirable effect combinations are lacking.

1. A3 Chains

The A3 can keep up to 40 chains in memory available for use at any one time: the original 20 chains, plus 10 bonus chains, plus 10 additional bonus chains on a RAM card. If you use the RAM card expansion procedure, you can have yet another 10 bonus chains stored in the hidden area of your RAM card, but they are not available concurrently with the 40. To access them you would have to exchange the hidden and unhidden areas, and the hidden and unhidden bonus chains would be exchanged, too.

2. A2 Chains

The A3 comes with 99 chains. This includes all of the original A3 chains, plus bonus chains A through E from the ROM cards (for some reason bonus chains G and H are not there). The A2 also has additional chains that are not available for the A3, and most of them take advantage of the A2's stereo inputs for true stereo processing.

3. Bonus Chains

The Korg A3 originally came with 20 chains, numbered 1 - 20. Korg and some third parties released ROM cards for the A3, each of which had 100 pre-programmed patches that used the original 20 chains and 10 new "bonus" chains numbered n0 - n9, where n was a letter A, B, C, D, E, G, or H. For example, card SPC-07 "Nashville" came with patches programmed using chains 1 - 20 and bonus chains A0 - A9.

P. MIDI settings lost when powered off

This is unfortunately what I'd call a bug. Most A3's behave like yours does. Korg fixed it with a firmware upgrade late in the product's life, but I don't think there's any way to upgrade an older unit. I'm not even sure there's a way to tell which version you have without powering it on and checking - so you take your chances buying one online unless you can talk to the seller.

From katsura:

the easiest "workaround" would probably be to assign a pair of MIDI in/out ports just for A3 so that it won't control other MIDI devices no matter what the MIDI channel is.

i hope you have a 4x4 or 8x8 MIDI interface and not so many MIDI devices.

and not so easy options are: 1. buy other A3 until you find the one with the fixed firmware. 2. burn a EPROM and replace the firmware. 3. never turn it off. 4. live with it (setup after every power on).