In this review, I’ll go into detail about my experiencing demoing the Korg MircoKorg. I’ll discuss in-depth what I love about the MicroKorg and what I think could use improvement. I’ll also get into what they’ve included in updates to the synth on the newer XL version, and how you can use it for performances, music production, or just for fun.
I’ll also compare the MicroKorg to a few other synths, namely the Novation Mininova and the Korg MS2000, which is essentially what the MicroKorg is based on.
And below, please take a quick moment to use our interactive table to compare the Korg MicroKorg to other notable synthesizers that are on the market (and some that we will discuss later in this review).
|Roland JUNO DS61|
|Roland JUNO DS88|
|Korg Kross 2|
|Novation Impulse 61|
The Korg MicroKorg is a 37 key synth. It’s actually a digital synthesizer, instead of an analog one. If you’re not sure what the difference between a digital and an analog synth is, allow me to explain.
Analog synths push signals called waveforms through circuitry that can be changed and filtered to make different sounds, frequencies, etc. A digital synth simply replicates this process.
Some argue that digital synths, because they copy the sounds, aren’t as authentic or pure as analog synths. And I think to an extent they’re right. There’s something about creating sounds through the onboard electronics that just sounds different, more “classic” sounding.
But in my opinion, there are some digital synths that do so well that you would never know the difference.
Below, please take a look at a list of some of the best selling synthesizers currently online:
|1) Yamaha MX88|
|2) Korg Minilogue XD|
|3) Roland JUNO-DS88|
Testing out the MicroKorg
With that in mind, I turned on the MicroKorg and got to work. I have to admit, I was surprised that so much power can come from such a small synth—especially a digital one.
At first glance, I found this synth to be a little overwhelming. There’s writing all over the face of the keyboard, and it’s a little confusing. These are all of the assignable controls that you can utilize in the whole synthesizer.
It looks pretty complicated, right? Well it’s not too bad.
Here’s how it works.
First, pick a preset. Presets are determined by genres such as trance, electronica, drum and bass, retro, hip hop, techno, and sound effects. You can choose between those by scrolling on the bog wheel on the left.
Once you’ve picked a genre, you have a row of buttons that allow you to click through patch numbers, and there are two sides to each set of patches, A and B. So, let’s say you pick A2 on trance. You can play it as is, and it will probably sound good; the truth is pretty much every preset on this synth sounds amazing. However, it might not be the exact sound you want. And that’s okay—you can tweak it.
Remember the writing I was telling you about on the right hand side of the synth? All of those are controls that you can tweak to get your sound just right. Honestly, I don’t think I would ever use every single control just for one sound. But it’s there if you need it.
The knobs above the list allow you to instantly tweak cutoff, resonance, attack, release, and tempo. These are also found on analog synths and are basically considered your standard filters. Although I should clarify that tempo isn’t really a filter, it’s just the rate at which your arpeggiator sequences notes.
We’ll talk about the arpeggiator a little later. So, if you want to tweak something other than what’s covered on the knobs directly above the list, such as pitch or LFO, you’ll need to use the knobs on the left side of the list.
So to test this out, I wanted to edit the pitch oscillator on A2 trance. So I routed the first editing knob to pitch, which told the MircoKorg to turn the cutoff filter, which is knob number 1, into a pitch oscillator. Then I was able to adjust the pitch.
So it’s really not too complicated, overall.
Are you ready for my first complaint? While it’s amazing that you can do all of this editing stuff with a digital synth, a lot of the analog synths out there have individual knobs for all of these effects. Admittedly, hunting down a knob that’s physically present and simply turning it is way faster. But hey, those synths are thousands of dollars sometimes, and this one only costs around $400, so I can’t complain that much.
The furthest panel to the left has a volume knob, the arpeggiator, the octave shifter, and the wheels that modulate sounds and pitch bend the notes. The arpeggiator is simple and easy to use. You can edit the way it sequences its notes by selecting the arpeggiator’s options in edit select knob 2. You can set the tempo yourself, but on the back of the keyboard is a spot where you can connect something else that has a MIDI clock which will use its own tempo in sync with the MicroKorg’s.
You have two audio inputs on this synth, for running external sound through it and processing effects and such. You have MIDI in, out, and thru, so you can connect it with computers and other MIDI compatible devices like the Korg VolcaKeys, for instance.
It’s polyphonic and you can play four notes at the same time, which isn’t a ton, but then again it’s a small keyboard and you don’t really have a lot of room on it to begin with. There are no speakers on this synth, so you need speakers or headphones, but you have the option for stereo or mono outputs, depending on your preference.
It also takes AA batteries or a 9V power supply. You can also connect it to a computer and use their sound editor program, although I would just use it through my DAW probably. One downside is that it doesn’t have a USB to host port, so you can’t easily plug it into the computer with a USB cable.
You should also know that the MicroKorg doubles as a digital voice synthesizer, also referred to as a vocoder.
What’s a Vocoder?
You were probably wondering what that dangly thing is on top of the synth. It’s a detachable microphone that comes with the synth and is designed to be used for the vocoder setting.
A vocoder is a synth sound that takes your voice and the shape of your mouth and makes sounds out of it. Ever heard Daft Punk’s vocals? They use a vocoder. It’s like a robotic sound, basically. That’s probably the best way to describe it. Normally vocoders come separate from keyboards and cost a lost of money. Well, lucky for all of us, the MicroKorg’s vocoder is built in and it is awesome.
What’s nice about a vocoder is that it allows you to play and sing in real time, or press the formant hold button and say any sound, and it will play every note on the vowel of your choice. There are tons of vocoder settings and they all sound awesome. If you get a chance to (without getting germs) try the vocoder on this synth, I highly recommend it.
How I Feel About It
This synth has been around for a long time. At least a decade. I know a lot of famous musicians have used it to create powerful synth melodies that stand out. It’s just a lot of fun to play with. It’s portable, light, and weighs a little under five pounds (with no batteries). It feels good to play, the keys are definitely small but they’re still velocity sensitive, and they’re springy enough to shred on if the need calls for it.
I mean, I love analog synths, but I really love the MicroKorg. It’s just really well made, it’s easy to use once you get the hang of it, and it’s affordable, at around $400 brand new.
Here are just five quick specs of the MicroKorg that I thought were worth noting:
- 37 keys
- 4 voice polyphony
- 128 programs
- Assignable filter controls
Here is a full list of the specs as listed on their website.
MicroKorg vs MicroKorg XL vs MS2000
They’ve made newer versions of this synth, one of them being the MicroKorg XL. The XL is really great; it’s updated sound-wise, although I would argue that a lot of the MicroKorg’s original sounds are somewhat timeless, plus the fact that you can always tweak initial sounds to make them into anything modern.
But the fact that it’s more modern just means less tweaking.
It costs $100 more than the original, so it’s around $500 total, but the layout, in my opinion, is better. You have categories such as leads, bass, and strings (and more) that you can choose from within the genre selector. The editing list is dramatically condensed, and is much easier to read. Plus you have a USB to Host instead of just standard MIDI, which is much easier to work with. Overall, it definitely looks much simpler.
Now, before the MicroKorg, there was the Korg MS2000. If you love synths that have buttons for everything, this one is for you. There’s several more buttons and everything is analog, giving it that truly authentic look and feel. Prices range on this one. I found one used for about $479, but they probably go higher and lower depending on their condition. If you thought the original MicroKorg was complicated, you’ll probably hate this one. It’s 44 keys though, so it’s definitely bigger than the other two modern synths.
The MicroKorg is s synth that has a lot of appeal on the market. And while there might be a learning curve, if you’re already in the mainframe to acquire this synth, then I think it’s likely that you’ll be quite happy with your purchase.
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