Korg have been constantly coming out with great innovations and fun electronic music equipment for about as long as they’ve existed. Here I will look at some of their products that would be at home in any synth fan’s collection.
Korg Monotron Delay
The Korg Monotron Delay is a handy pocket sized synth from Korg. It is made for analog synth ‘geeks’ who want a fun, cheap gizmo for their arsenal.
Unfortunately, You aren’t going to get any real melodic content out of the Monotron Delay. This is due to the relatively small ribbon spanning 4 octaves. But as a sound effect generator for ambient sounds you can’t go wrong. The Monotron Delay has an LFO that you can switch from a Triangle waveform to a Square waveform. From here you can adjust the rate and intensity via the knobs on the top of the synth.
The most alluring feature to me on the Monotron Delay, is probably the Filter section, and the eponymous Delay. The filter in the Monotron Delay uses the same circuit as the filter in the Korg MS-10 and MS-20 synths. Though due to the small size of the Monotron Delay, the only filter control we get is the Cutoff knob. This should still be enough to create a wealth of sounds, though some may long for a resonance control. The delay within the unit isn’t an analog delay, which may dishearten some. But by all means the sounds available are still very impressive and good for creating sounds that would be befitting of a Stanley Kubrick film.
The reason the filter and delay are so exciting, in my opinion, is because using the Aux input you can use the Monotron Delay as an external filter and delay unit. So you can plug another synth, or an electric instrument and use the filter and delay from the Monotron Delay. The only issue with this is that the connectors are 3.5mm headphone style jacks rather than 1/4in jacks. This means you’ll need adapters for most applications.
On the opposite side of the spectrum to the Monotron Delay, we have the Korg MicroKorg. The synth is incredibly versatile, designed to be played across multiple genres and styles. It’s sounds can also be edited and tweaked while doing so.
The MicroKorg is ideal as a first Synth. You can use it simply with the presets, or it can be edited. Editing is done using the Synths interface, or the sound editor software. This makes the job of creating patches much more streamlined, (in my opinion!) With this wide array of tonal options, the MicroKorg has mini-keys rather than full sized keys. This is often a point of contention with Synth fans. Unfortunately to get a good range of notes in such a small package the key size has to be sacrificed! The MicroKorg does, however, have a MIDI input so you can control it with an external keyboard if desired.
A big selling point on the MicroKorg is the Vocoder. A large number of the small affordable Synths on the market come with Vocoders built in, which is great for anyone wanting an affordable Vocoder. There are around 16 presets dedicated to Vocoder sounds, along with being able to create your own and edit others. With this, you have a versatile pool of sounds to choose from, so you can go from Daft Punk to ELO in an instant.
The MicroKorg, while being great for studio and home use, excels in live performance. This Microkorg not only has a large amount of preset sounds and flexibility, it can also be used as a MIDI controller. So it’s a great way to control any other sound modules without taking up a lot of space. The MicroKorg makes a great stand alone Synth for any keyboard player. It’s really handy for bass players who need a solid bass synth on stage and as previously mentioned the vocoder makes it perfect for vocalists wanting to expand their tonal range. If no “real” instrument sounds are required, then this great, easily portable, primary Synth might be just the thing for you.
Some of the models in the MicroKorg range offer more in the realm of real instrument emulation, such as the MicroKorg XL+ which offers some piano, electric piano, organ, strings and brass sounds. The standard MicroKorg only offers a couple of Organs, a Clavinet and some string pad sounds. So use as a dedicated Synth rather than an all-round keyboard is the forté of the MicroKorg.
Korg Volca Sample
The Volca range from Korg has been increasingly more popular with each new model they release, the Volca Sample is a slight departure from the Synth based models that preceded it. This is a sample playback device with an integrated sequencer. While not quite offering the same functionality of many samplers, it comes at a nice price with lots of features. This makes it a great option for anyone wanting to work with sampling on a budget.
The Volca Sample comes with 100 preloaded samples with the ability to add your own samples. You can do this through a computer, or through the iOS Audio Pocket app. While the official app is only available for iOS devices, Android users aren’t completely out of luck as there are third party apps available.
Whether using the built-in samples or your own, you have a lot of options in terms of manipulating the samples. This has controls to adjust the start point, length and speed of the sample. As well as this, you can adjust the attack, decay, level and pan position. So there is a lot of versatility in changing how each sample sounds. Following this, the Analog Isolator controls ensure you can adjust the EQ of a sample, so you can boost or cut the high and low frequencies. For example, if you want to bring a good thud out of a kick drum, or if you want to eliminate any hiss from a sample you’ve loaded in from a vinyl record you can adjust the highs and lows accordingly.
The Volca Sample also features a MIDI input. This is good if you want to trigger samples or change parameters via an external MIDI controller. This can be very helpful if you find the small size an issue!
THe Korg Volcas battery option – and built in speaker, as well as a headphone jack – means it is ideal for those who like to create music on the go. However, it would also be a really fun fixture for any home studio. Of course, as with the whole range, the Volca Sample interacts with the other Volca products perfectly!
Korg KO2S Kaossilator
Finally, the Korg KO2S Kaossilator is another fun pocket sized synth. It has endless possibilities for someone looking for a compositional tool. This portable synth has 150 programs from Lead, Acoustic and Bass sounds, as well as Drums, sound effects and drum patterns. But the main feature on this product is the Loop Recorder. The loop recorder allows you to create a loop and overdub as many times as you like. With this, you can undo and redo to ensure you can re-record as many times as needed!
While many may shy away from the non-traditional interface, the touch pad is surprisingly intuitive. It is ideal for those who might not be as comfortable with a piano roll or theoretical knowledge. You can set the touch pad to play only a particular scale or key. This ensures you only play ‘right’ notes. Along with this you can adjust the note range. Another very accessible feature is the Gate Arpeggiator, so you can generate rhythms or beats, which can be great for inspiring different melodies or patterns.
As well as the built-in sounds, there is also an internal microphone. This can be great for adding claps or clicks to your loops. The mic input jack allows you can connect the Koassilator to an external mic to capture a wider range of sounds.
The KO2S Kaossilator is another device that is ideal for musicians on the go. There is a built in speaker as well as a headphone jack, and 5 hours of battery life with power saving mode on.