The MicroKORG was released in 2002 and has been one of the most popular synthesizers since the turn of the millennium.
Korg based the sound engine on it’s bigger brother, the MS2000, so for under $400 you are getting a digital synth that can replicate analog sounds.
It’s no wonder why people often call the MicroKORG a powerhouse, it is exactly that, for such a small unit it is capable of creating some huge sounds.
This retro-looking synth is sturdy enough to gig with, packs enough potential for professionals and it’s also a great starting point for beginners.
How does the MicroKORG stand out from the rest?
The MicroKORG has been the go-to synth for many bands and musicians over the years, the fact that it’s compact and built to last gives you confidence that it will not fail you onstage, or even after several months on the road. It feels well-built in your hands and that is reassuring to know.
The sound engine is made up of two oscillators that not only give you the standard saw, square, triangle, and sine waveforms, but you also get an additional 64 DWGS waves (Digital Waveform Generator System), opening up a wide range of possibilities and original sounds.
These 64 DWGS waves come from the Korg classic, the DW-8000, and enables you to access various digital piano, metallic and bell-shaped sounds. Keep in mind that this is a great addition that you wouldn’t otherwise get from a purely analog synth.
You can also modify these waveforms with effects such as pulse width modulation and frequency modulation, offering more possibilities to shape your sounds. Plus, using the sync or ring modulation along with the second oscillator will give you even more complex results.
The MicroKORG’s advanced filters and effects let you feel as though you are really making the most of the two oscillators, giving you a great sense of control and appreciation of the power behind the sound engine of this synth.
Korg’s decision to include the 8-band Vocoder was a game-changer, certainly for the crowd of music lovers who just wanted to play around with robotic voices. However, as with most synths, you will find a lot more potential and features hidden underneath. The Vocoder is no exception.
The fact that the MicroKORG comes with its own microphone is a big plus, allowing you to get started straight out of the box. In simple terms, the vocoder records your voice as a modulator signal and then creates the end sound using a carrier signal, usually a synth pad or similar tone.
For those who like to experiment, the MicroKORG allows you to input external signals into the vocoder, such as guitars or other keyboards, opening up endless possibilities with how you can utilize the vocoders modulator and carrier signals.
The 6-pattern arpeggiator (up, down, alt 1, alt 2, random and trigger) is another standout feature in the MicroKORG, you can easily modify your notes using gate time, resolution, range, and swing effects. A useful latching option is also included to keep the notes playing after key release.
The MicroKORG is polyphonic and allows up to four notes to be played at the same time, for some this might be slightly limiting but for such a compact unit you do need some compromise. The range of sounds that you can pull out of this synth is still impressive even with four voices.
Lastly, the portability of this synth is excellent and can be carried around in a medium sized backpack if required. It can also run on batteries or an external 9V power pack, proving why the MicroKORG is a popular choice for traveling musicians and producers.
What makes the MicroKORG so popular?
Along with all of its standout features mentioned above, the MicroKORG is packed full of functions and options that you would come to expect from any successful synthesizer.
The MicroKORG comes with 128 factory presets, these are categorized into genres so you can jump straight into whichever style of music you are looking to create. You can choose from Trance, Electronica, HipHop/Vintage, Retro and Vocoder to name just a few.
Samples of the styles of music can give you a good idea of what the MicroKORG is actually capable of, the presets are quality in their own right but they also provide a great platform from which to start tweaking and shaping your own original sounds.
Being a digital synthesizer that replicates analog sounds, you’ve got a broad spectrum of samples to choose from. Whether its warm and rounded or the sharper, high-end sounds, you’ll soon be inspired and making music in no time at all.
The interface does include a lot of parameter control, you’ve got the standard analog filters in the form of cutoff, resonance, attack and release. You also have a handy tempo knob that allows you to control the rate at which the arpeggiator sequences the notes.
The advanced features will require some programming, but it does become easy enough when you understand how it all works. Korg’s programming lists give you a full understanding of what is possible and how you can get the most out of this small yet powerful synth.
Looking at the external side of things, if you are looking to set up the MicroKORG with a computer then you are in luck, the five knobs on the panel are all MIDI controlled and can be used alongside your software synthesizer.
You also have the opportunity to connect external audio signals through the two audio input jacks. This lets you modify and shape external sounds through the onboard filters and effects, giving you lots of room for creativity and originality.
The MicroKORG is a wonderfully versatile synthesizer that is suited to all types of users from beginners, experienced synth lovers and traveling musicians.
The intuitive interface is designed to let beginners get stuck in straight away, the vocoder and basic features will keep you entertained for hours.
The advanced features and dual-oscillator setup will give experienced users more than enough scope for creativity.
Lastly, being able to offer up digital and analog sounds (even though not pure analog) along with external connectivity marks the MicroKORG as one of the most functional synths in its price range.