Synth Site: Korg: Z1: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.8 out of 5
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pmarafio a professional user from USA writes:
What a sleeper this thing is! I have been tempted for months to try one out and I finally went ahead and did it. Although it's only been about a month, it's clear that this is a unique instrument.

I have been using (and will continue to use) a nord lead 2 for analog sounds. The nord is a great sounding synth and it's the easiest synth to program that I've ever had. I have four major complaints about the nord that I sought to address with the Z1:

1 - the nord has an absolutely pathetic keyboard 2 - the nord has no character LCD. Either you have a great numeric memory for your patches or it's hit and miss since there are no names for them. 3 - the nord has no built-in effects. You have to resort to halving your polyphony to use the "unison" feature to fatten the sound or go buy an outboard and deal with programming two separate units for each patch. 4 - the nord has no numeric keyboard for patch selection. This, and the crap keyboard, makes it nearly useless as a controller for rack units.

OK, enough bitching about the nord - its sound saves it and I doubt I'll ever part with it despite the aforementioned design flaws.

I initially figured the Z1 would be a similar VA type synth but with the annoying things about the nord addressed. If only life were that simple!

Yes, the Z1 has a fabulous keyboard! It is playable and far more inspiring than most organ type boards. It's built like a tank - solid and high quality. The display is excellent and highly readable, it is a good controller for other boards - particularly my Triton Rack. And it has a good assortment of onboard effects.

How does it sound? In a word - phenomenal!

It has the fat analog you expect from a good VA. It also has real clarity and definition on the simulation patches - brass, strings, electric piano. It can produce screaming Sherinian-type leads. Combined with the ultra-cool controller pad and nicely designed pitch and mod wheel it is a highly expressive instrument.

The PCMCIA card is well implemented. You can store a zillion patches in multiple banks on a 4 MB card unlike the nord which only gives you 3 banks regardless of how big the card is.

An underdocumented feature is the series of knobs below the display that can be programmed to control various performance parameters. One of my favorite uses of these is for organ drawbar setting in real time. In that regard they are similar to the Kurzweil K2500/K2600 sliders - very effective in realtime live tonal adjustments for old school Hammond players like me!

Much of the bad press on the Z1 centered around two things:

1 - A bear to program 2 - The included brass, EP, guitar, organ, and reed models

On point 1, I agree. Using the Z1 reminds me of the old days when I got my first DX7. A million possibilities but it required a bottle of Excedrin to work with. There are so many possibilities for routing, modultation, control, envelopes, filtering, oscilator models, et - your head will spin. This is where the nord is the king - it's easy as pie to get good sounds, not so wit hte Z1 although every tweak does seem to produce another interesting sound! I'll say this much - I can get the nord to sound like total cheeze but the Z1 always pumps out an interesting sound. It *is* difficult however so be forwarned. Fortunately, there are plenty of monster sounds already programmed so you may not need to stray very far to get what you're looking for. Add to that the fact that few keyboardists own Z1s which means the chance of you having that unique sound, even with stock patches, is very good!

Now for the second complaint - which I think may sum up why I feel most people completely missed the boat on this synth. The organ, EP, brass, reed models make this one of the most innovative instruments I've ever owned. To hear the sound of a trumpet embouchure respond to velocity sensitivity on the Z1 takes your breath away! You can't possibly recreate this stuff on a rompler or sampler. Perhaps the only remote chance of getting close would be something like Kuzweil's VAST and "Fun" programming - talk about bears to master!! THe organ models are good -although I prefer the balls of the Triton organs or the NI B4 VST. THe reeds are interesting as are the plucked sounds and strings. The electric pianos are very cool and well programmed.

I believe Korg undersold this very unique feature - the predetermination of applying VA and an ultra powerful synth architecture into semi-real recreations of acoustic sounds is brilliant and unparalleled.

What makes this such a cool synth is that it accomplishes my primary vision in sound syunthesis. It "implies" real instruments but in a surrealistic way. Think of a Dali painting. It is highly detailed and has traces of photorealism, yet it takes your vision to places unimagined. You can relate but your senses are pushed into virgin territory. *That* is art in its highest form. The Z1 does something similar with sound. How many analog synths can you stomach? How many "Lucky Man" lead patches can you listen to? On the other hand, how many samples of brass, piano, EP, strings can you possibly have in your arsenal? Everyone can make those sounds now. Sure we need them on stage and in the studio - no doubt. However, that other surreal sonic universe is so under explored...that is where the Z1 hit a grand slam. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that many people were there to witness its brilliance.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Thursday-Dec-04-2003 at 22:18
Dirty Den a professional user writes:
Where do you start to say what this thing can do? This must be the most conplex synth ever constructed. Its potential is endless. Every sound is a winner. I downloaded the free editor and that has made in depth programming less difficult and time consuming. You get the full picture of what it can do. The optional cards provide a lot of rich and usable sounds. This synth is a must for all serious keyboard and pc musicians.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-Nov-08-2003 at 17:52
A massive synth which is just such good value. This is a much better deal than the Prophecy. Just about any sound is possible. I downloaded a great shareware pc editor the other day which makes the complex stuff very easy. Buy with confidence. This is a well build and well supported synth which will go on for years.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Thursday-Oct-30-2003 at 16:04
Nick a professional user from Chicago U.S writes:
A wonderful synth pure magic to play and awesome sounding, arguably the best ever. Full marks Korg!

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Sunday-Oct-19-2003 at 17:42
Michael a professional user from Canada writes:
I love the Z1 it is imho the greatest synth ever made, I call it my silver dream machine. I owned and collected synths for over 20 years from the Jupiter 8 to the DX7 to Prophet VS to the Z1. It is a machine without parallel.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-Oct-18-2003 at 08:50
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