Recently I got an original microKORG. It’s something like a modern classic, first released in 2002, and is still in production. While you don’t by a book by its cover, the microKORG has a distinctive vintage look. Now 13 years on, it’s retro in a new sense – it’s meta- or doubleretro.
Anyway, it’s hugely popular and not without reasons. The microKORG is a DSP analog modelling synthesizer/vocoder from Korg, and one of its best-selling synthesizers ever. It’s pretty well covered on teh internets so I shouldn’t delve further into details here.
Usually I’m abusing softsynths for my productions, so to sum up what I now was looking for was some inspiration by stepping outside the software ecosystem. For that I wanted some hardware that could produce both warm rounded and cold sharp tones, had a reasonable deal of oscillators, a sharp filter section and MIDI controller functionality. Among others, the microKORG matched this.
Moreover, it also has an arpeggiator and a patch system that let you assign different modulation routings. And it’s possible to run external audio source via the microKORG and process it with filtering and effects.
The microKORG’s signal path is straight forward and easy enough to follow, but programming a sound is a little bit muddled, due to all diving into the menu system to find the right parameter to edit. (When hooked up to a computer, there’s this software, the SoundEditor, but its interface is simply awkward.)
Two-thirds of the stock presets are bad, but it’s alright because these encourage you to make new, own and better sounds. So far I’ve made like 10 usable sounds.
Because my home studio is very small, I needed something compact that I would be able to squeeze in. First I had some trouble with noise interference and hum. It was probably ground loop, which I manage to solve by re-arranging some gear. (And no, this time I wasn’t looking for any rack versions or modules like Nord Rack 2X or Mopho, even if both of them are terrific synths.)
In this case, the microKORG suited my setup, mostly because of its size. The mini-keys didn’t bother me. If I ever need to play live, I’d anyway use my full size master keyboard with semi-weighted keys (Axiom Pro 61). By the way, I think the microKORG’s design is overrated and its build could be more sturdier.
Compared to the microKORG XL+ or R3, I prefer the raw sound of the MS2000 engine to the MMT analog modelling.