The launch of the Minilogue was a big statement from Korg, the Japanese company who have been designing and producing innovative musical instruments for well over 50 years now.
The Minilogue is a fully programmable, keyboard-equipped, 4-voice analog polysynth.
It’s a small piece of kit that packs a punch, but the big surprise is that you can buy all of this for under $500. It could easily sell for a lot more with all of the power it holds underneath its stylish exterior.
The standout features of the Korg Minilogue
The Minilogue is a four-voice polysynth that opens up a world of powerful analogue sounds, Korg have packed a lot of features into this mini-synth, making it versatile for both beginners and experienced synth musicians. The price tag will leave you wondering just how Korg managed to fit everything in.
Dual analogue oscillators are at the heart of the Minilogue and they offer up amazing flexibility. Both VCOs are open to modification via the Shape control knob, allowing you to change the shape of the selected waves and create some beautiful harmonic sounds.
One of the biggest standout features is the fact you have eight different Voice modes for each of the four voices. The usual poly, mono and unison modes are included, but it’s the extra modes that start to show how much creativity lies within the Minilogue.
We’ll talk in more detail about the individual Voice modes later on, but the Minilogue’s strength certainly shines through when you see just how well the VCO and Voice mode components are designed. It gives you everything you need to start creating big sounds straight out of the box.
The 16-step sequencer comes from years of experience and insight from the Korg design team. Record in real-time or use the more traditional step programming method. You can change the length of your sequences and also save them as patches.
The Minilogue comes with 100 empty banks as well as 100 preset sounds. Empty banks is a simple but often overlooked feature, it’s a great feeling not having to worry about overwriting any existing patches. For a mini-synth you’ve still got plenty of room to store your own sounds..
You also have some nice little bonus features, including the oscilloscope display, a unique feature that shows itself to be quite useful. Essentially, this visual display allows you to check how the patch changes affect your sounds in real-time.
The much talked about tape-style delay will interest all of those synth purists out there, this onboard feature will let you create the classic atmospheric synth sounds of yesteryear.
If you’re looking for a visual demo of the Minilogue in action, look no further than the demo at the bottom of the page.
What makes the Korg Minilogue popular?
For a synth under $500 you might think that there aren’t too many positives to talk about, but the Korg Minilogue is different, it certainly has a lot going for it other than the relatively cheap price tag.
Korg had to go through a total redesign to create the Minilogue, it’s a completely original concept built for the modern-day musician. The analogue signal path has been revamped and the result is wonderful, especially when you consider that this is still a mini-synth.
The Minilogue is a tough synth and feels like it will cope with life on the road, you’ve got a total of 41 switches and dials and all of them feel strong due to the sturdy metal shafts underneath. Korg have certainly not sacrificed design in order to meet the $500 price tag.
As mentioned earlier, the flexibility when using both of the VCOs with the Shape control is impressive. However, you also have plenty of modulation settings to play around with including cross mod, ring mod and oscillator sync, opening up a wide range of sound possibilities.
The filters have some built-in effects that you don’t often see in other synths. The velocity tracking function reacts to how hard you are pressing the keys on the keyboard, giving you varying effects and plenty of scope for experimentation.
The VMD (Voice Mode Depth) is a great addition that works alongside the eight Voice modes, opening up different functions depending on which mode is selected. However the eight different Voice modes themselves are the surprise package in the Minilogue setup.
Poly mode lets you play four voice chords or melodies. Duo mode cuts your voice down to two notes giving a richer tone. Unison mode combines all voices together to create bigger sounds while the Mono mode allows you to strengthen up basslines and leads.
Chord mode gives you entire chords with just a single key press. Delay mode creates a unique effect where each voice is generated in turn to give you delays and echoes. Arp mode activates the standard arpeggiator and the Sidechain mode cleverly brings out the lead notes in chords.
The Limitations of the Korg Minilogue
One obvious thing about the Minilogue are the slim keys, they are neither mini-keys or full size, lying somewhere in the middle and this might irritate some of the seasoned synth players. They certainly are not impossible to play but they will take some time to get used to.
The pitch bend lever is a single sprung slider that lies to the left of the synth just above the keys. The design is certainly a break from tradition but we can’t see it being as useful as the typical mod wheel. It can be a little restricting when it comes to workflow.
The black knobs with black lines is not the most user-friendly design we have ever seen, especially in dim light where it becomes quite an issue to see what you are actually doing. It’s not a huge issue and it is possible to buy different colored knobs if you wanted to change them.
Preset options out of the box are not groundbreaking, they lean quite considerably towards the EDM genre. Other noted issues are the lack of pedal and CV inputs. Also, some people might even find the 16-step sequence slightly limiting, but you can’t have everything for under $500!
The Korg Minilogue is a powerful four-voice synth for the price you pay.
The build quality and flexibility you gain from the Voice mode and filter features are reassuring and inspiring, plus the cool oscilloscope display is an added bonus. All of the main features have their own controls which is mostly unheard of for a mini-synth.
When you put together all of the well-designed components, this synth becomes very versatile and great for experimentation, so it’s safe to say that the Minilogue has more than enough to keep any level of musician entertained.