* Prices may differ from that shown
Ok, i own a Korg ESX and have been using it in conjuction with various other hardware modules. I missed out on the first range of electribe products but recently i had the chance to pick this unit up for £45.
I purchased this mainly to see how much Korg had updated the ESX. I found this unit to be a little gem, the most obvious thing about this unit when comparing it to the ESX is that there are no valves, somthing that gives the ESX its uniqe sound.
When using this unit i was balancing performance and value for money and i had to remind myself that i only paid a little over £40 for this.
So how did i find it? in a nutshell, fantastic, the preset sounds that default with the unit are nothing special but you have your usual 303, 808 and 909 emulations, some of the presets sound a bit outdated now but if you wanted to use the preset sounds you would just buy one of the other modules in the series, this is, after all a sampler, and as that it does its job well. The effects are the standard phase, flange..etc but its the units ease of use that stands out when compared to say a MPC.
The soft padded, buttons that light up make it feel like a bit of a toy and this is the case of the ESX aswell but its a slight niggle.
Considering the price of these units now these are a steal, if you need a competant sampler without spending big cash then this might just be your unit.
Right okay what is it ????
Its a piece of hardware studio equipment,hardware meaning it runs away from the computer not software.Its a machine which you use to produce sounds and play around with drum beats and just generally using to just jam with and make music on the fly.You are able to wire it into your computer and sequencing programme whatever that may be.It just gives you a more hands on feel and approach to making music, it is so much fun ,and i like to call it my little inspiration machine lol , but hey im sad like that.
The basic in built sample sound great there is no compression or audio delay,and they are by no means weak sounding as is what normally happens with the in-built samples.The samples do sound a bit gritty due to the sample rate being 32kHz,but that is what like about it as it gives your music a nice edge , it does not sound to polished.It gives your songs that organic feel which also so makes them stand out from all the computer sounding crap that is floating about out there.I like to use it for creating drum patterns so don't really need to much of a hi fi sound as you want your drums to essentially be the grit of the track .
Right first off the downside of them, you can only use one at a time, this really is a huge disadvantage,it really limits what you can do and what you may want to do with your sounds,for example adding a bit of reverb to a kick drum, you will not be able to add an echo onto the clap of the same sequence ,this is extremely frustrating.The effects ain't half bad really considering the price nothing to great,but i have it wired into my computer via a smart cord so i can twist up the sounds more using my software.They really are quite limited to be fair but for the price you pay for it you cant really complain.
This is the fun element of the machine you never know what you are going to come up with, that is why i like to just jam with a few sounds and see what comes out.You can test samples by switching them into your sequence, this lets you hear what your baseline or synth will sound like over your drum pattern.And although it shows a 16bar pattern you can change it to 32, this is best for adding variation to your drum patterns.
Ease of use and Interface
I probably should have started with this but oh well.The interface although looking quite daunting is surprisingly easy to get used to,i think i had the hang of things after about an hour.It comes with a manual but id recommend that you download the user guide before you purchase it.
The manual is available from the Korg website.
You can get your grove on by using the 16 bar light pattern as a guide and just pressing which part of the loop you want to make your assigned noise.Kind of like messing around with a casio keyboard with the effects patch on, except you control what goes where.
Once you have got up and running it is possible to make a whole track using just this piece of equipment and a sequencer.You are able to load up your own samples onto the smart card which means you can expand away from the 100 pre-set samples with great ease.
You can pick up a few tips and tricks that they don't state in the manual too, this is a few things i personally picked up on.When you start it up load up the demo songs and yes they sound like all the rest of the stuff you hear on the radio but what you need to look out for is the patterns they use.If you take their drum pattern and replace it with your own sounds and speed it up to your required bpm you can get some very professional loops rolling.Its not a very original way to make music but it is a good way to learn about making music.
Specifications and Features
128 user patterns
Pitch, filter, and effects knobs to alter samples
Step sequencer creates complex patterns with ease
Time slice lets you divide phrases into pieces and reassemble
Eleven types of effects
Maximum Sampling Time:95 (mono) / 47.5 (stereo) seconds, saving to
internal memory (this is actually incorrect it is actually 98secs)
Number of Samples:100(mono) + 50(stereo)
Memory:128 patterns, 16 songs
Input:AUDIO IN (1/4" stereo phone jack, Level switch LINE / MIC, Gain adjustment knob)
Sequencer Pattern: 64 steps maximum per part, motion sequence, 1 parameter per part, 64 events, effect on/off, roll, and reverse can be recorded for each part (all three can be recorded for each part)Song 256 patterns maximum per song.
It has a very sturdy feel to it. I've been careful with mine and as yet have suffered no problems with it.I have read that it is also a hassle to replace the battery, and that a professional is recommended to do this.Due to the amount of complex wires and circuitry if any thing does go wrong it is very likely that you wont get it working again so use extreme caution when travelling with it , and don't leave it where someone will spill a drink or fag ash on it. ALSO THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT,tHEY HAVE STOPPED MAKING THE SMART CARDS FOR IT , SO I RECOMMEND THAT YOU SOURCE A FEW OUT IF NONE COME WITH THE MACHINE.
Right you can pick them up for about £150 off e bay , but do remember they are likely to be 7/8years old as this is when they were manufactured.Its not bad and does the job, considering thr price its pretty sweet,I would not purchase another one though if anything were to happen to this one, so i recommend you look at other alternatives as this is a very dated piece of kit now.Also the fact that you can only add one effect at a time is a real piss off, and has caused me to rarely use this as it is time consuming and frustrating, and i like to have fun when i am making music.So i really wouldn't bother if i were you,as you will be wasting your money.