Korg Kronos – All Access Party
“thanks again to Mike for bringing the beast down, it was really fun to play with. it is definitely in a class by itself. i’m happy with how the video turned out, i ended up merging line-in recordings with the X/Y mic input from the field recorder and syncing that to the camera audio. it worked well enough, but my sync seems to be a little off for the last clip, ah well it was late. there is so much cool stereo stuff happening with both patches that you owe yourself a listen with headphones.
to give a little context to my thoughts about the machine, i started off with a Korg MS2000 in ’03, and still have that machine. i’ve always had a preference for the company based on my positive experiences with that instrument alone, and the idea of a performance keyboard with all these different high-quality synthesis types available is hugely attractive to me. i trend towards more glitchy/weird ambient tones and interesting detailed textures (think harold budd + merzbow?). i was definitely able to wrangle those sounds out of the machine with very little difficulty whatsoever, and having previous experience with the OASYS Ui helped me navigate about with a good bit more confidence.
the layout and organization of the menus on Kronos are pretty intuitive, as on the OASYS – but the reduced screen size caused some issues with me when it came to selecting smaller dialog boxes to edit, or selecting patch points on the MS20 emulator to connect. it often took three or four pokes before i was able to select the dialog box successfully. using a blunt stylus improved the situation somewhat.
the MS20 was the first synth engine i messed around with, starting with a simple preset to edit and graduating to building up a patch from INIT. the sound of the MS20 emulator itself is excellent, the unique filters behaved as they should. there was no MS20 (unfortunately!) around to A/B with this time, but i have A/Bed the soft synth MS20 directly with the real thing in days of yore and was more than impressed with the results. it is an excellent emulation.
editing the synth engine was less gratifying on the kronos than the OASYS, the control panel of the MS20 is split up into quite a few different screens. the patch panel is just as cryptic and non standard as the old MS20, which i am all for, but there are so many new patch points that it becomes a bit of a learning curve. i was excited to see the virtual headphone jack was still on the control panel for the MS20 emulation, that is a fun tool for creating feedback loops through the filter. having to switch between the patch point section and other segments of the control panel adds some steps to the process, but there have to be compromises made for the size of the screen and i could think of no better solution myself. the knobs, jacks and legending are about as small as they can be on the display and still be readable.
turning the virtual knobs is a matter of clicking on the appropriate knob on the screen and grabbing either the primary value slider or the data wheel, which is intuitive enough. what’s less intuitive is the behavior of the bank of assignable knobs on the left side of the control panel – knob 1 defaulted to ‘cutoff’ in my patch, and turning knob 1 did indeed effect the cutoff as expected – but there was no movement of the cutoff knob on the screen, as when editing with the value slider. this would normally be of little consequence, except that the MS20 has two filters and figuring out which filter cutoff was being controlled required a trip off the page.
the polysix was a little easier for me to get around, though that was probably due to the lack of a patch panel for me to get sucked into. we spent some time comparing the original with the emulation, and while we didn’t specifically discuss our individual conclusions, i felt like it sounded fine. very close to the original, though as suit & Rich mentioned some of the functionality in regards to the arp/chord memory has been changed to fit within the Kronos patch framework.
after that i went straight into the electric piano modeller, and browsed through all the basic INIT models. i hadn’t played the SV1 yet, so i was anxious to try out some of those sounds – i was more than impressed. i’ve always had a fascination with electric piano sounds, very rich in tone and sustain yet with the unpredictable transient response of an acoustic instrument. i definitely preferred the EPs in the Kronos to what i’ve heard from the Nord series, if only for the time Korg spent on those funky creaks and pops that electric pianos tend to make. i decided to use the Rhodes MK II Trem model as a springboard to dive into the effects section of the Kronos with.
before i get into that, though, mchale pointed out the visually animated adjustable lids on the acoustic grand piano models. our general amusement over this feature turned to frustration when we found that we could not modulate the opening and closing of the wooden lid with anything. what a shame! we wanted to hear what a piano would sound like when its lid was being opened and closed by an audio-rate LFO. or an expression pedal assigned to wooden lid would be hilarious too.
anyway, i found the IFX tab and started sorting through the Kronos’s internal effects. i’m not a huge internal effects person usually, but i fully expected the effects in this one to be worthwhile enough to use in a finished product. there were certainly a huge number of available slots to work with, which was cool. small dialog boxes and tiny buttons became an issue for me again on these screens, but not a great deal of editing needed to be done so sounds were set up quickly. i ended up with a reverse delay into the excellent ‘o-verb’ reverb effect, this going into the ‘hold delay’ effect, which as i said in the video, is essentially a looper. i opted to set the loop points manually by punching in and out with the joystick and sw buttons, but tempo synced audio loops can also be created it seems. granulator and stereo decimator were assigned to the ribbon and vector joystick respectively. assigning modulations to the two different joysticks makes you sit down and think for a bit sometimes, but it’s great to have both the full 360 joystick and the paddle/bender. lots of interactivity on this instrument if you spend the time to set your patches up well.
suit and mchale can talk about their own noises if they want. there were so many many parts of the instrument we didn’t even get to touch, folks were coming and going through the evening so the kronos was very busy. i definitely love the keyboard, i have no doubt it could handle any ambient pad-demand or weird noise request i could throw at it. in comparison to any keyboard in its class (with exception to the OASYS and possibly the Jupiter 80 which i haven’t played) it is exceptionally quick to sculpt sound with, afore mentioned issues notwithstanding.
i didn’t even touch the sequencer, the many other synth/sample engines or karma this time. there’s only so much that can be done in one evening, and i feel like we actually accomplished a suprising amount as it was. i’d love to own one, hopefully someday i will. maybe santa will bring me a big enough tax return this year!”