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Microphone Month 2

Korg microKORG Review

The preprogrammed sounds are top shelf, and you can make pretty much any sound you can imagine.

I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by Korg’s MicroKORG unit. Being a drummer I haven’t had much opportunity to sit down with a synthesizer so I really didn’t know what to expect

Opening the box, I felt a little better: this pint sized powerhouse features a clean layout, easy to read and understand controls, a 37 mini-key velocity sensitive keyboard, the familiar pitch bend and mod wheels and even a flexible gooseneck condenser microphone for use with the 8 band vocoder.

I plugged the unit in and patched it into the line inputs on my MOTU audio interface and began going through the 128 preset sounds. Monitoring was provided by my Event Studio Precision 8s. The presets are divided up by genre into 8 groups: Trance, Techno/House, Electronica, Drum n’ Bass, Hip Hop/Vintage, Retro, Sound Effects/Hits, and Vocoder. Each group has 16 programs. Without any tweaking at all this unit is amazing. Just running through the presets I found some huge basses, cutting lead sounds, pads, vintage synthesized strings and even some amazing rhythmic patterns featuring the programmable arpeggiator. Using the large selector knob and oversized, lit program keys it was a breeze to switch quickly between programs. Many of the sounds have that classic analog grit and biting tone that could prove useful in a myriad of situations.

After spending a good long time playing the presets, I wanted to get my hands dirty doing some actual sound creation. Opening the manual I quickly figured out how to both edit preset patches and start brand new patches from scratch. The MicroKorg offers 2 sound generating oscillators each with 64 waveforms to choose from, so the sound creation capabilities are vast. Of course each waveform can be edited and tweaked with complete independence greatly expanding the range of tones available, and if that wasn’t enough: each waveform can have it’s own programmed arpeggiator sequence. I should also mention Korg’s “Virtual Patch Matrix” which allows you to control different modulation parameters such as filter cutoff, pulse width, panning etc. from the mod wheel or an LFO.

So what does this all add up to? Incredible sounds and limitless possibilities Being able to edit so many parameters independently means that you can have a program where moving the mod wheel changes the cutoff frequency on one waveform and modulates the pitch on the other at the same time. With the programmable arpeggiator you can choose up to six patterns with control over tempo, gate, time, swing and up to a 4 octave range. Even cooler is the fact that each waveform can have an arpeggiator pattern that’s totally different.

If this was all the MicroKorg offered it would be an amazing unit, but Korg has thrown in a bunch more cool features: a classic 8-band vocoder ready to use out of the box with the included condenser microphone, two external audio input jacks to process other instruments through the MicroKorg’s filters and a built-in effects processor offering flanging, chorus, phasing, delay, and EQ.

This is a unit that could prove indispensable for gigging keyboard players, composers, sound designers, and studio owners. All of the preprogrammed sounds are top shelf, and you can make pretty much any sound you can imagine, whether it’s a recreation of an analog classic or a brand new creation. With MIDI I/O and the ability to run on battery power, the MicroKorg could also be the perfect companion to the mobile studio. Chalk up another hit from Korg!

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