Sonic LAB: Review New Korg Monotrons

More mini synths for Christmas..      09/12/11

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The success of the original Korg Monotron -  the single voice analog synth in a kind of mini Stylophone format clearly spurred Korg on to expand the range. As we know Korg has been doing well with its continuing miniaturization program. I can visualize some kind of secret room where they keep  the shrinking ray gun to aim at various Korg products that are not yet small enough to be called mini, or micro or mono, or perhaps not...
The fact is that we now have the Monotron Duo - a two VCO mini synth, and the Monotron DELAY - a single VCO with built-in analog delay.

They still have the same form factor with the unplayable ribbon keyboard, but the DUO now has added keyboard quantize modes, via a red button on the back - cycling though chromatic, major scale, minor scale and free modes - a great improvement for playing anything meaningful.

This now features two VCO’s - these can be used in two modes, single VCO, where the second performs as an LFO for some high-speed XMOD (they say that this is akin to the MonoPoly XMOD, but I cant really hear it), and VCO 1+2 mode - this allows you to tune the second VCO to an interval,either above or below the VCO 1 pitch.
The DUO still has the same resonant MS20-styled filter (just the Low Pass part) which really does scream when the resonance is dialled in.

This is a bit different to the original Monotron, in that it features a single VCO, low pass filter with no resonance, an LFO with TRIANGLE and SQUARE waves and an analog style delay.
First up, the keyboard bears no relation to actual pitch, making actually playing it nigh on impossible. But when you bring the delay and modulation into play you start to see what its for - mad, sci-fi like effects, which it does extremely well.
The delay is really crusty, with a delay time of around 40ms to 750ms (I’m guessing) the feedback goes off into uncontrollable distorted regeneration without too much encouragement and really sounds cheap - I mean that in a good way.
The filter is applied post delay so everything gets treated. LFO wave shapes can also be tweaked with a small micro screw on the back of the unit to dial through SAW down, TRIANGLE and SAW up. Applying the saem to the SQUARE wave moves through full PW shapes.

Both Monotrons feature an AUX in which in the case of the DUO means you can filter external sources, and in the DELAY, apply the delay effect and the filter.

Patch And Stockings
I took the liberty of opening both of these up and Korg has helpfully provided labelled patch points on the circuit board, and no doubt will release the schematics to encourage some mods.
I imagine some bright spark will hook these up in a most ingenious way so that we can all benefit from if we care to break out the soldering iron. Would be nice to get CV and gate in and out for hooking up to a modular system though.

Bottom line, these are fun and will probably sell by the bucketload. They are affordable analog synths, I still find it astonishing that a manufacturer as big as Korg are actually making something like this.
True, they are built cheaply and not designed for life on the road or serious album work, but they are a lot of fun.

Monotron DUO and DELAY available now
£41.99 / $70 each



More From: KORG
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22 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Mattsynth    Said...

The big question is; Are these instruments or toys? With there limitations and lack of a decent keyboard I myself consider them a toy. Midi input would of solved one of these problems. They are even packaged like a toy. I believe the sound will become boring very fast and there are already lots of these on eBay because of that fact. I think you are better off saving your money for a real instrument that will inspire you for many many years. Let me know your thoughts, I am very interested in what other musicians think about these boxes.

09-Dec-11 09:15 AM

Nick B    Said...

Hey matt, yes I think these do come under the impulse purchase category for some, however there are LOADs of people out there who've never got their hands on any kind of analog device and this may just get them interested.

09-Dec-11 09:19 AM

Rob Willson.    Said...

Bread and Butter for Korg, Stops the credit crunch nibbling away at the big fat bottom end.

09-Dec-11 09:35 AM

Richard    Said...

Absolutely love that crusty delay. Nick one thing I was wondering, with the original monotron there seems to be quite a lot of noise when using the Ext input, has the amp section been improved on these newer editions at all to eliminate this do you think?

09-Dec-11 10:21 AM

Richard    Said...

Absolutely love that crusty delay. Nick one thing I was wondering, with the original monotron there seems to be quite a lot of noise when using the Ext input, has the amp section been improved on these newer editions at all to eliminate this do you think?

09-Dec-11 10:21 AM

Nick B    Said...

Hey Richard, the answer is no not especially.

09-Dec-11 10:23 AM

tim lloydsmith    Said...

Monotribe plus guitar delay pedal nicer - esp as now with version 2 update - much cleaner output. Cute though & somebody somewhere will make an album with them sooner or later. (probably Brett Domino)

09-Dec-11 10:45 AM

I pads cant cure cancer    Said...

A great product, that makes those with I pads look like #unts. A real instrument, a real oscilator, ten times better, ten times more value. Well done Korg. PS KORG make a tb 303 clone for under a ton!!!

09-Dec-11 01:32 PM

Ian Page-Echols    Said...

Can't wait to play around with these things! Can anyone with the first Monotron tell those of us who never tried one if that one is still worth getting compared to these two, or is it somewhat replaced by maybe the Duo?

09-Dec-11 03:29 PM

Koshdukai    Said...

...with a real keyboard and... oh wait, erm... with a real MIDI input? nope... not true either.

It's a cool analog tone generating TOY :)

...or a device ready to be stripped out of the plastic casing and integrated as part of a bigger modular system just like another fancy module, IMHO.

09-Dec-11 03:49 PM

dv    Said...

I've seen them get converted to module format, so it's pretty cool that you can get them as a starting point and then convert them.

10-Dec-11 03:36 PM

EMwhite    Said...

Thanks Nick. You said "Modeled Filter", do you mean not the exact MS20 filter but still Analog and 2 pole?

Also, wondering about how delay is implemented, can you post a view of the topside of the Delay board? Is there a low-cost BBD chip onboard? 750 ms. is generous but I suppose it's clocked slow/lo-fi.

Interesting still comma very.

10-Dec-11 11:48 PM

I pad? Is thta a feminie hygene product?A bad name.    Said...

It is a very worrying trend that sonic state is actually reviewing a 'hardware device' considering their funding must be coming from apple given their . IPAD this , APP that . What is the world coming to when Apple is missed out of a review and not even referenced. Steve Jobs was Jesus, he will be turning in his grave to see sonic state , disrespecting him in and the product followers ,in this brazen way. Shame on sonic state.

11-Dec-11 04:34 AM

FRB    Said...

Sonic State: Selling Software and toys ? No thanks. I am a musician, not a retarded impulsive buyer. Sorry for potential interested pepole in this rapid boring products.

11-Dec-11 07:17 AM

Nick B    Said...

Answers: I would get the DUO if you are thinking of a Monotron - the first one is fun sure, but its not very playable.

Modeled filter - I think its analog modeled. I would be surprised if they actually had the exact same circuitry in there

Last two - I wish Apple did pay us, but sadly your conspiracy theories are as ever, misplaced. iPads and APPs are very popular, we are a news and review site and so reflect the market.

13-Dec-11 06:53 AM

Alex Juno    Said...

Hey Nick, we opened up the machines and had a peak inside, it's not a modelled or VA filter on any of the monotribes or monotrons, but real analogue, it's 99% the same components of the original MS20 filter. That's why it screams at high resonance.

The delay part of the monotron delay is however digitally modelled, but that's the only digital thing about either of these.

Let's hope they sell well and korg will make one with a keyboard later this year, how about something they could add to the micro line? the micromono or something :)

15-Dec-11 08:29 AM

dan    Said...

sweetwater's got 'em on sale for 49.99, free shipping. no. brainer.

16-Dec-11 01:14 AM


'Analog modeled' usually implies that it's made with DSP's. These are real analog devices, except the delay, which IS modelled, is it not?

BTW, in the toys vs. instruments debate... They are both. They are toys, and instruments, like the old speak n' spell, or the Casio keyboards many of us started with.

One thing to remember is that they do have an input to the filter, and it can be modulated... so that's pretty cool.

In the end, I don't know how important the question is. If it's fun and you can make cool sounds with it, you could find a way to put it into your music. I wouldn't compare my original Monotron with my Voyager, but they're both analog and fun, that's for sure!

14-Jan-12 04:29 PM

Destinite    Said...

With regards to the toy/instrument comment(s), I think it's about time that tired argument got put to rest. With talent and a good idea, you can make good music with anything.

The delay isn't even an INSTRUMENT, per se. As was said in the review, it's more of a space-age FX deal. I picked the delay up last night and have spent hours just tweaking around with it. I could definitely see using some of the sounds I get out of it as some background ambience in one of my tracks.

04-Mar-12 12:35 AM

Jezza10181    Said...

Is it possible to be able to plug a keyboard in to one of these things? someone mentioned that it lacked a proper keyboard, and i wondered if this were possible

19-Sep-12 04:57 PM

Jezza10181    Said...

Is it possible to be able to plug a keyboard in to one of these things? someone mentioned that it lacked a proper keyboard, and i wondered if this were possible

19-Sep-12 04:58 PM

Avgardisme    Said...

I think it's possible... If you use this piano as a module.

Btw I enjoy these pianos, it looks like a WSG, but in better format. I bet this is an interesting deal to buy the Delay version, even if there's no double VCO. :(

07-Oct-13 05:46 AM

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