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Microphone Month 4

Korg ZERO8 Review

The ZERO8 has looked intriguing, to say the least, since it was announced last year. It seemed, with good reason, to be the be-all-end-all electronic musician’s mixer. Only recently did I get the chance to really run it through its paces, and I wish I had done so a lot earlier. A lot of gear tries to be a lot of things at once without doing any one thing well. The Korg ZERO8 definitely tries to be a lot, and it actually does everything pretty well, and some things exceptionally.

The ZERO8 takes on many roles: analog mixer, FireWire audio interface, effects unit (think Kaoss pad), DJ tool, and MIDI controller. As an analog mixer, it’s solid. It has 8 stereo channels, each able to accommodate balanced or unbalanced line signals as well as phono input, and you can assign either of the 2 onboard mic preamps (that are quiet and pretty pleasant-sounding) to appear on any channel of the board. It’s a great way to tie in a lot of gear, especially synths and DJ gear. I used the mixer as the brain of a large DJ/Live PA rig, and it was super-clean and easy to use. And 8 stereo signals… that’s a lot of gear. Say, 2 turntables, 2 synths, a computer, 2 microphones… and then 2 other stereo devices. It’s enough to tie together the most complex DJ rig, and it’s also an awesome home base for any studio that incorporates computers and outboard gear.

As a FireWire interface, it rocks. First off, it’s class compliant – I plugged it into my Mac laptop and immediately it lit up and was ready to go. Impressive for such a complex piece of gear. Ableton Live recognized it instantly and let me route any channel freely across its 16 inputs and outputs.

But what really blew my mind is how with a quick button press, the eight encoders on each channel could either act like the channel strip on an analog console (complete with dedicated EQ per channel with switchable modes – the EQ can even be a DJ-type filter set), as eight MIDI encoders to control Ableton or any synth, or split into two groups of four for a kind of hybrid MIDI/analog mode. And the LEDs around the knobs change color depending on their role. I was freely using Korg’s built-in EQ, tweaking Ableton effects, and using Korg’s built-in effects with ease, live, in front of a crowd, within the first five hours of having the mixer in my hands. Intuitive.

And I haven’t even mentioned that there’s a built-in Kaoss pad, complete with touchscreen, that can be used on any channel, or the master buss. There’s even one built-in aux send and effect, and the effects range from simple verb and delay to decimators and weird sync’d filter sweeps.

I could go on and on about this thing but there’s too much to cover in a brief review. All I can say is this – if you are an electronic musician, in the studio or live, and you don’t have a need for many mic preamps, this thing is indispensable. It will simplify your life. And it’s so easy to use that it will instantly make your mixes, live or in the studio, that much more vibrant and hands-on. It also sounds phenomenally clean. So check it out.

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