“ Brand: Korg „
Hailing from Japan, Korg are one of the world's leading manufacturers of keyboards and synthesizers - they also sell a range of other musical accessories including tuners, effects pedals, and guitars (under the 'Vox' name). I've owned a number of Korg products over the years, but today i'm primarily focussing on their excellent range of keyboards.
A History of Quality Products
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My outright favourite Korg keyboard has to be the '01w/fd' - an awesome synthesiser which was first released in 1991. Not only did the 01w/fd allow you to tinker with a superb array of sampled sounds (more on those in a bit), but it also included a powerful sixteen track sequencer and a floppy disk drive to store you experiments on (hence the 'fd' in the product's title). The sequencer allowed you to create entire tracks including drum loops, and had the feel of an all-in-one porta-studio. On the downside, the 01w's keys weren't anything special (they were a little bit plasticky and not especially well weighted), but the keyboard as whole was a masterpiece. The variety of sounds that the unit could produce was stunning - rich sweeping, all-encompassing samples that anything less than a full orchestra had no right to concoct. It blew old-skool synths like the Yamaha DX7 (which I also owned) out of the water. Such was the appeal of the 01w, that it has been used over the years by Peter Gabriel, Dave Stewart, Moby, Genesis, Vangelis, and a number of other well know musicians / bands. One of the most impressive things about the keyboard was its build-quality (apart from the keys that is!) - and where many of its contemporaries had a plastic case, the 01w/fd was constructed with a tough metal surround which felt like it could have withstood enemy tank fire.
A Korg a day keeps the doctor away...
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In terms of their value for money, I generally feel that Korg products offer a lot for the price paid. No, they aren't the cheapest musical items out there, but they're always well built, generally easy to use, and packed with features. At the top end of the scale you've got tasty items like the PA2X (Professional Arranger) Keyboard which weighs in at just under £3,000 - but not all of Korg's keyboards are that costly - the cool and tiny Korg Monotron for example sells for £46 - sure, it doesn't have many features, but it's an analogue synth which is a lot of fun to use. Speaking of fun, if you fancied splashing a little more cash, then the MicroKORG Synthesiser with Vocoder can be picked up for a couple of hundred quid - Duran Duran often mess around with the MicroKORG, an i've fancied getting hold of one myself for quite some time. The microKORG's full specifications can be found here - http://tinyurl.com/ypkn7 - and the page also features a selection of samples to show what the keyboard is capable of.
A good way to get into Korg products for the first time is via eBay, and due to the fact that Korg items are so well made, you'll frequently come across ten / fifteen year old synths which are still in great condition. I actually sold my beloved Korg on eBay a few years ago and got over £300 for it even though it pretty ancient - this goes to show that anything Korg produces holds its value especially well, and can actually make for a worthy investment. Just looking at eBay now, i'm noticing 1970's Korgs selling for just under the £1000 mark - if you're lucky enough to have a VC-10 for example, you're certain to make a tidy amount. If you don't want a Korg with an inbuilt sound creation system, then you can buy a Korg 'Controller Keyboard' relatively cheaply (again, i've found that eBay is a good place to buy) - the MicroKEY for example simply plugs into your computer's USB port and allows you to directly input to your PC or Mac's music software.
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I've probably owned four or five Korg products over the years, all of which i've found to be fantastic devices which have delivered the goods in terms of performance and variety of features. To be completely honest, if I was buying another keyboard or synth today, I would immediately seek out a Korg. I've tried, tested, and owned a number of other brands over the years (Roland, Yamaha, and Casio), but i've always found that Korg have the X-Factor in terms of the quality of onboard instrument samples, and general reliability - (very) highly recommended.
This is a review of the relatively new KORG KARMA SYNTH
Cost £2000 but if you go to keystone in Londons Denmark street you can pick it up for £1000, the cheapest I've ever seen it AND the deal I negotiated!
KARMA -- Now the dictionary term for Karma is "seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad" and perhaps this is the most apt explanation of the KORG Karma as it has good and bad sides to it.
On the good side, this machine sounds bloody fantastic. All of the individual programme sounds are excellent (e.g Piano is faultless, vibraphone and music box are superb and the strings are excellent)
but the real fun starts in the combination files which picks a number of individual sounds and fuses them together, adds a bit of Karma magic and hey presto it sounds incredible!!!!!!!!!! Remember the KARMA is run off of the same engine that powers the TRITON so you know you're getting top class sounds. You then have a plethora of realtime controls (12 in total) all of which can be programmed so you can add effects, effect the tone or just go crazy with! The thing that makes the KARMA stand alone is the clever looping system it uses (if you go on the KORG website it will give you a much more indepth explnation of this) in short you can mix and match which ever sounds you want however you want, play one note and the KARMA takes over turning you into the next best thing since....well what ever you fancy. You can create music using the built in sequensor and save all your work via the built in 32 bit memory or save it on the hard disk drive!
So whats not to like?
not alot but there is one distinct downside. Its tricky to use.
just how tricky is explained in the 5 huge instruction manuals you receive....YES 5!!!!!
in short, you will get lost in a maze of different functions.....its all there but you just can't find what your looking for. e.g setting the real time controls takes you a day to work out (granted once you know how to do it, it gets easier) but thats not allstoring your own sounds is more challenging than sudoku (for me at least). and you will need to get Carol Vorderman......scrap that go for einstein to work the sequensor. The magic phrase being "I JUST WANT TO RECORD A SOUND FROM THE COMBINATION FILES! (all will become clear upon purchase!).
The screen itself is small and a little dimly lit........did I mention the sequensor?
All in all, this machine has enough sounds to blow beethovens socks off, but to get the most out of the machine you would literally have to go to university and study about it.....for the rest of your life!!!
Personally I would stick to the much more user friendly KORG TRITON, it doesn't have as many whistles and bells but it works.
Hope this helps?
This is an amazing bit of kit....once you work out how to use it!!!!
Korg are one of the premiere names in digital instruments and effects, and are most importantly *the* name when it comes to synths, particularly as they set the standard with the Trinity and Workstation series'. The X5D is the still current descendant of the original X series (the X3 being a favourite of Babylon Zoo - remember him?...) of synths, and though it's slightly aged it still remains a great synth for two simple reasons: a) it has one of the lowest prices for a brand name synth and b) it's still a great synth. It's also the ideal synthesizer for beginners as the learning curve's rather short, and because it's very small and light (more than even some standalone keyboards) it's also an ideal live instrument. There are a number of lovely presets that you can use straight out of the box, and it is MIDI compatible, so you can use it to input, receive and relay MIDI data. The X5D has been an award winner for obvious reasons. When the X5(D) first came out it was amongst the first batch of affordable synths to break past the £1,000 price barrier (it was about £800) - making them more affordable then ever, and now the X5D's still here for just under half-price and is just about holding off competition from other modern synths. It has to be said though there are not many special features that make this stand-out; there are no luxuries such as an arpeggiator or 909 bass machine style knobs for extended sound control, but you do get what you pay for, a synth that is good and nothing more. The instruction manual's a little old and lacklustre. A thick tome that can be used to help get you on your way to playing, and then after it's the ideal reference for advanced operations such as sound editing and creating - you don't need it really as you can fiddle away, but some of the technicalities will help you acheive what you're really after and faster. As said before the X5D is a MID
I compatible instrument and PC users can connect it to their computer's soundcard via a joystick adapter cable (around £20) or serial port link (Macs too), or any other MIDI device - but you will need to purchase your own cables if you require MIDI; all that's provided is a driver disk that may or may not be needed (Windows '9x users can use the generic plug 'n' play MPU-401 driver). Also take note you'll need an amplifier or a hi-fi system to connect your system to, as there are no inbuilt speakers - fortunate so you really are encouraged to hear the rich and spacious sounds the X5D has to offer. You will need guitar/big-jack leads for connection, or atleast small ones with convertor plugs. There is also a standard headphone socket. Also do take note on speaker care, as there are steps to bare in mind to make sure you don't damage your speaker equipment (speakers on last, but off first). The MIDI connections you use (if you're not using a more advanced MIDI interface) are required to be opto-isolated (ones that are not just won't work - it's a shame manufacturers don't make this clear), and you'll have to set parameters for communication either as a tone generator for incoming data or to record performances, or both. You will need a MIDI sequencing application if you plan to use the X5D as a MIDI instrument with your computer, but this is not a neccessity. The X5D has 3 standard MIDI IN, OUT and THRU sockets for sending, receiving and relaying data - whatever you require. The keyboard is black, has 5 octaves and is complete with connections for external options (such as a sustain pedal). The LCD panel is a plain dot-matrix text screen, beside which are an array of buttons for navigation through the functions, aswell as sliders etc. The only special feature here is the standard modulation (vibrato) and pitch bend (woaherr) wheels. The interface maybe basic but it's apt for it's job, it
9;s clear to understand - and you even get world text greetings sometimes when you power-up. The synthesis system relies on Korg's digital AI square standard. This system has received praise from musicians the world over due to it's quality, variety and richness in all areas. Sound editing and creation is via editing the parameters from over 430 Multisounds - subtle editing will modify existing sounds to your needs, while total reworkings can help you create total out-of-this-world unheard of sounds, to the kind of instrument you want, or hybrids. There are over 100 presets and combinations, and a GM (General MIDI bank - which plays back received MIDI data from the tone generator) bank of 136 programs. The 8mb of memory means you can store your own programs (in bank A - bank G is read only GM data). Combinations allow you to layer, split and provide various structures - which is a very beneficial tool to a productive, custom and smooth live performance on the X5D. There are 215 extensive drum and percussive sounds, which can be assigned to 2 personally made kits. In addition to 8 preset ROM drum kits. Now, the beauty of the X5D lies in the fact that it has 2 independent digital-multi effects processors that can produce various effects, many that you'd expect (distortion, delay etc.) and a few more besides (exciter, rotary speaker etc.). You can use up to 4 effects similtaneously, and it is these that can help you further mould the sound you want; be it either your own sound or touching up the already marvellous presets. No need for a seperate effects unit then! The tone generator has 64 voices and 64 oscillators in single mode, and half the amount of voices in double mode. If you don't know what I mean, as I can't explain this properly, you'll understand if you heard it during a practical editing explanation. The keys are touch sensitive as you'd expect; meaning, like when playing a real gr
and piano hard you'll get a hard response. The emulations of existing musical instruments is astounding - and you won't have to worry about getting the piano tuned here! You also don't have to be reigned in by traditional musical scales, as the X5D caters for a variety of other temperament forms of tuning for truly world unbiased music. The machine comes kitted with 2 demo songs, quite long and impressive ones demonstrating an array of world music and hearing these alone will want you to get stuck in straight away with what's on offer. Whatever style of music(s) you're into, it's likely you'll find what suits your needs, and then again you can create a modify too. The manual apart from getting you going, is a good complete reference for all technical aspects such as parameters for editing and MIDI usage (these are the things covered most vigorously), so don't get put off by it, you only need to read what you need to know. And there are outdated sections (screenshots of Win 3.x!) and obsolete info, so it may be of benefit to have a handhold if this is your first synth - and this is my first synth (an impulse buy), and it really is an ideal buy for beginners (you don't need to be a pianist, or be near good to play a keyboard, a often misconception) both because of price, features, usability, size and weight. All in all, I've said it already. If you want to get into synths, a good one and on a budget. You'd be hard pressed to find anything currently better than the X5D. There are many much better and modern synths out, but for it's class it's still virtually unbeatable. If you're thinking of buying this, soundslive.co.uk has the best (limited) deal I can find for it. It's where I got it.