Sonic LAB: Korg microSTATION Review

Size isnt everything - or is it?      22/11/10

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10:35 mins


The pixies have been at work at the Korg miniaturization plant again. This time their tiny fingers have produced a  workstation and called it the  microSTATION.
First seen at Musik Messe, it raised questions like  ‘’how could you play it?’ and ‘but why would you want it?’ Now it’s  time to find out...
Korg microSTATION is a 61 key, 120 voice, 16 part multi-timbral workstation with a 16-track sequencer.
There’s 49MB of wave ROM which contains much of the Korg standard sound set with the familliar program (single sound) and combi  (16 parts) structure , though with reduced multi-sample sets. All waves are mono.
Waves are processed using the EDSi (Enhanced Definition Synthesis Integrated) synthesis engine, which is based on the same engine found in the M50 and microKORG XL. In practice, this gives you an eminently usable set of sounds, if you are a fan of Korg, then these should be fine for a variety of applications. The icing on the cake is the inclusion of 8, yes EIGHT effects engines: 5 Insert, 2 Master and one Total effect.
You get 134 effect types, which cover a lot of ground and spice up even the most dull single waves - although the synth engine does a pretty good job on its own.

Is Small  Fiddly?
Well yeah but no but -  actually not too bad - the keyboard does take a bit of getting used to , I found that  to begin with I kept playing an octave plus one note, but with a bit of practice you can be pretty fluent.
For real time control, the Korg joystick gives an extra axis, and the now standard knob matrix for accessing common parameters gives you four (Cutoff, Resonance, EG Depth, Release)  as  two more layers  - Layer 2 -  user assignable, Layer 3  Arp Gate, Arp Velocity, Arp Swing and Tempo, plus an external MIDI control layer works well, though I did find it would always default to the middle (user assign position).

USB/MIDI and Editor
USB over MIDI is possible after installation of the Korg driver so you can use it in the DAW. While you’re at it, you may as well install the editor - this makes a world of difference to editing all aspects of the microSTATION, even though its not the most polished UI. An additional plus, is that will run as an insert in a software instrument type so you can work directly from the DAW - a nice touch.

I guess I’m somewhat prejudiced about Korg workstation sequencers, I never really got on with the M1, then the 01/W which were the workhorses of previous MIDI setups of mine. But this one is really easy and inspirational to use, the 16 track select buttons give you an easy way to move between tracks - flipping into mute mode gives you quick on/off control of all tracks too. Very easy to record ideas either with the internal voices or external MIDI gear. In fact, I’m prepared to forgive all those previous aberrations based on this sequencer.

Dual poly arpegiators are also available - though you need to be in Combi mode to access them both. But they are pretty flexible affairs with the usual patterns and 12 assignable pitches and up to 48 steps. Easy to setup drum patterns from any of the included drum kits - which aint bad either.  Store your favorite riffs in 640 user locations, that should keep you going for a bit.
Oh, yeah - theres also an SD card for storing patch, sequencer and arpeggiator data

Small But..
Actually, there’s not too many  downsides I can think of,  obviously if small keys ain’t your thing, then you’ll need to look elsewhere. My only real gripe is that there is no octave transpose buttons. I’m told you can setup one of the assignable knobs to affect the coarse pitch of  both oscillators, but its not the same is it? Surprisingly I found it eminently usable and quite an enjoyable instrument to use. If my M1 or 01/W had been this good I’d have been over the moon.
I guess if you need a small bit powerful unit to work on composition or as a way to access a bunch of sounds you don’t already have - eg workstationy, keyboardy, synthy - then this is a pretty good bet.

Available now priced at:  £449 UK $599 USD


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