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...
 
Details 
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.

Sequencer/Arpegiator
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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21 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Gustavo    Said...

Good review!!

Someone digging his new fisheye lens ;)??

22-Nov-10 06:26 PM


Nick B    Said...

Well, not new, just a bit more variety y'know....

22-Nov-10 06:35 PM


Benedict Johnson    Said...

People have said some very cruel things about the MicroStation, such as what's the point in playing pianos on mini-keys and whats the point in having 61 keys just for playing synth-patches? It all makes sense in the context of the MicroKorg XL and Microsampler. The MicroStation pretty much fills the gaps between what those two don't do. It provides 'lots of' instrument patches (no world/ethnic bank?) along with a sequencer that appears to be useful in live performance.

There are some excellent patch-by-patch video demos of the MicroStation on Youtube, uploaded by "triumphthruxton" - they are worth checking out.

When trying out the MicroStation I noticed it contains "MACARTO" big strings and "GOSPEL ORG" among its patches. This made me smile because they were two of my favourite sounds from the old Korg X5 (the only keyboard I've ever gigged to death).

22-Nov-10 11:14 PM


Benedict Johnson    Said...

Oh, Nick - you forgot to make your usual joke about being able to play a gig on a bus ;)

(of course, due to the battery powerability of the MicroStation)

22-Nov-10 11:19 PM


Velocipede    Said...

Another nice review, Nick.

23-Nov-10 03:34 AM


Nick B    Said...

Hey Benedict, honestly, I would have - but it is not battery powered.

23-Nov-10 04:23 AM


Benedict Johnson    Said...

NOT BATTERY POWERED!?!? Nick, please accept my sincerest apologies.

23-Nov-10 07:41 AM


marcjx3p    Said...

Hey Nick, how would you compare the microstation with the Juno di soundwise and the sequencer ease of operation?

23-Nov-10 08:34 AM


Nick B    Said...

Marc, soundwise, its a tough call - I would say if the piano is important to you, then the Di edges it,they gave it some extra love and it does show. But the Korg has some lovely electro mechanical keys, Di from memory has some nice strings, though Korg doesnt excell at those. There's also perhaps more classic sounds in the Korg set, but they arent all relevant.

Sequencer, the microStation wins - very easy to use

24-Nov-10 05:56 AM


marcjx3p    Said...

Thanks for your respond, Nick! I have a hard time choosing between them, and I think if the microstation had battery option, it would have been an easier choice. But I guess it's more important to me, to get the ideas down as quick as possible...than gigging on the bus..

24-Nov-10 12:33 PM


Marc JX8P    Said...

Good grief, there's a Marcjx3p now as well?!? :-) Hi there Marc!

24-Nov-10 01:03 PM


   Said...

Dad..??

24-Nov-10 03:43 PM


marcAbsynth    Said...

boring boring boring... ( not the review - the korg ) combis and GM sets belong in the last century - lets see some innovation - we don't need this kakakaakaka korg !

25-Nov-10 11:25 PM


Korger    Said...

Just a micro-x with minikeys?

27-Nov-10 08:13 AM


peterkadar    Said...

Micro X was Triton based.

This is more like a slimmed down M50. Interestingly, the Micro X has a larger wave ROM

27-Nov-10 06:10 PM


Peter K.    Said...

Great review Nick!

I disliked the lack of octave shift buttons as well. Perhaps Korg could use the << and >> transport controls as octave shift buttons while in Program and Combi mode.

We should collectively persuade Korg to add that feature if possible in an OS update. They're at a good, central location for the job too.

27-Nov-10 06:20 PM


GNeuman    Said...

Nice review, thanks very much, Nick, but nothing revolutionary to my ears......

Is the Jupiter 6 busted or not, I'd much rather have that:-))

29-Nov-10 07:42 AM


Synthgeek    Said...

As usual, a very nice review Nick. Thanks.

A lot of people miss the point on this little wokstation, as well on the PS60.

The idea is to have a tool that is easy to carry to a gig or rehearsal, with a good sounset. My back welcomes the idea of not have to carry some huge workstation around. It can fit in to any car's backseat. I'm seriously considering one, as I really don't need care for batteries.

31-Dec-10 01:18 PM


George    Said...

Nice review.

My opinion for the microstation is

Pros: 1. Very portable and lightweight you can curry it easily around, in gigs or in the studio, and also fits nicely in your desktop. 2. It has so many features which normally you can find only in the expensive workstations (16 track sequencer, combis, dozens effects, and many more) 3. Is bundled with software editor which allows you to customize your parameters from your Pc and at the same time it gives you the ability to use the microstation as Vst instrument in your favorite DAW. 4. The electronic preset sounds are in a decent level. If you really know how to make electronic music, you can perform, compose and record masterpieces on it. 5. From the aesthetic point of view is an very beautiful unit

Cons: 1. Is very poor and thin in the acoustic instruments (piano, strings, horns, woodwinds). 2. The workflow, particular in sequencer mode, is not so intuitive with the very small (only two lines) screen. 3. You can save your arrangements as midi files only in the SD card. Not USB to device included.

Conclusion:

• The Korg microstsation is a good and affordable workstation, but it appeals particular in ‘electronic musicians’’. If your intension is to write and perform electronic music and at the same time your budget is tight, then the korg microstation is the keyboard that you really need! If you don’t want to make and perform electronic music, then go further.

19-Jan-13 02:39 AM


Robert    Said...

Picking this up this weekend! Thanks for the review..BTW what about the "TEMPO" control can you change it in realtime?

Thanks, Rob

15-Feb-13 04:18 PM


Robert    Said...

Picking this up this weekend! Thanks for the review..BTW what about the "TEMPO" control can you change it in realtime?

Thanks, Rob

15-Feb-13 04:18 PM


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