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September 21, 2011

Korg Kronos Review

Filed under: Synthesizers — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 2:00 pm

Presented at the NAMM 2011 and already available since this summer, the Kronos represents a new step in the workstation market — a cruel world where every product becomes immediately obsolete as soon as the successor is launched. The Kronos is very innovative and comprehensive, but will it be able to break this fatal rule?

A Snap Shot: A Mini-Review

Korg KronosKorg Kronos

 

Korg KronosKorg Kronos

Sample Reader HD-1

Korg Kronos

Named HD-1, the first sound-synthesis engine is dedicated to playing back PCM samples. The HD-1 is a polyphonic instrument with up to 140 voices. The Kronos uses three different PCM-memory types: ROM (permanent memory), EXs (library of pre-loadabable samples; not to be confused with the Exi, which are the additional synthesis engines), and RAM (for user sampling). The ROM memory includes 314 MB of samples. The EXs expansions dedicated to the HD-1 engine (that is to say without the EXs6 and EXs7 expansions that are dedicated to the SGX-1 engine) use 2.6 GB of memory in total: 274 MB for the EXs1 (ROM Expansion), 361 MB for the EXs2 (Concert Grand Piano), 714 MB for the EXs3 (Brass & Woodwinds), 157 MB for the EXs4 (Vintage Keyboards), 458 MB for the EXs5 (Rom Expansion 2), 170 MB for the EXs8 (Rock Ambience Drums), and 472 MB for the EXs9 (Jazz Ambience Drums). The Kronos distinguishes itself from competitors by its low data compression without quality loss for EXs loading. This 10% reduction cannot be compared with the 1:2 or 1:3 ratios usually used by similar products. Note that the SGX-1 streaming engines do not use RAM sampling. The PCM banks provided were taken from the Oasys and its expansions, which are clearly superior to the M3 in terms of versatility and quality. The stereo strings sound good and are sorted in several stereo sections, while the vector joystick allows you to mix them gradually within certain given combinations. Voices are well conceived and sound good. They are sorted in different versions (classic, pop, jazz, with different vowels or articulations). You’ll also find fairly good guitars and basses extending the possibilities offered by the STR-1 engine. The quality of brass ensembles is a bit lower in the preloaded bank because of a slight lack of brilliance and expressiveness. You’ll find more dedicated additional banks that are more advanced and better conceived. The quality of solo instruments (clarinet, flutes, sax, trumpet, trombone…) is pretty good. Once again, it is superior to the M3 (more memory) although we noticed an obvious relationship and a common sound color. The sound of acoustic drums and percussions is very accurate and expressive: punch, nice timbres, multi-layer control via velocity, high-quality sample recording, sound versatility… equally useful for pop, rock, jazz, latin, and world music. In short, it’s perfect! Electronic drums are on the same level and are greatly enhanced by the fantastic multi-effects.

Let’s take a look at other features…

Conclusion

To sum it up, these are the pluses and minuses as I see it:

Advantages:

  • Sound quality and versatility
  • Incredible overall performance
  • Simultaneous multiple synthesis
  • Dynamic voice management
  • Well thought-out design
  • Inaudible transition between programs
  • Size of the internal memory
  • Samples streaming (SGX-1 piano banks)
  • Modulation possibility at every stage
  • Very powerful effects
  • USB audio/MIDI interface
  • Performance/money ratio
  • Possibility to patch some engines with others
  • Direct-to-disc 16-track audio sequencer
  • Karma mode, if you can manage it…

Drawbacks:

  • … because it turns too complex to be easy to use
  • Boot time should be shorter
  • No real hardware pads
  • The RAM of the sequencer and the limitation to 16 MIDI tracks
  • Some checkboxes are too small on the display
  • No streaming for user samples (yet)
  • No wind instruments (brass, woods) modeling (yet)

To read the full article with sound samples see: Korg Kronos Review

January 18, 2011

Best of NAMM 2011: The Top 11

Following tradition, we present to you Audiofanzine’s Top 11 gear picks from NAMM 2011.

The organizers of NAMM 2011 promised us to ‘take it to 11’ this year at Anaheim.  Were they referencing Spinal Tap or giving a nod to the year 2011? Or maybe even Audiofanzine’s traditional Top 11 NAMM list 😉 ?  Either way, this was a very busy and interesting NAMM.  Pre-NAMM rumors came true, the Steinberg website crashed, and Audiofanzine started shooting reel the night before doors opened.  Being jet-lagged from Europe apparently has its advantages.

NAMM 2011 will be remembered as the year of the tech hard gear.  From the deluge of products that were released this year, it was really hard to limit our list to just 11 items.  Hence, we added our Very Honorable Mentions section.  I remind our readers again, that the list is presented in no particular order (the products at the top of the list are not ‘better’ than others), there is no real way to compare products from different classes, and at the end, this is just our opinion.

The Top 11

omg11.  Spectrasonics and Bob Moog Foundation OMG-1

Oh my god!   Designed by Spectrasonics’ Eric Persing, the OMG-1 is the product of a collaboration between Spectrasonics and the Bob Moog Foundation.  The components are a Moog Little Phatty analogue synthesizer, two iPod touches, two Apple iPads, an Akai LPK 25, an Apple Mac mini, Spectrasonics Omnisphere and the new Spectrasonics TR app. These are all integrated into a hand-crafted curly maple cabinet created by American artisan Daniel Auon.

It is a sight to behold – and strictly a one-off that you can’t buy [note: gear that you can’t buy…a strange concept indeed]. However, Eric Persing is donating the OMG-1 to the Bob Moog Foundation, which will be offering it as a prize in a competition that kicks off on 15 March.

2.  Cubase 6

 

cubase 6Wasn’t 5.5 just released?  Well, Cubase 6 and Cubase Artist 6 offer enhanced features within the Project window. The newly introduced Track Edit Groups option is designed to refine the work with multitrack recordings, allowing related events on multiple tracks to be grouped and edited simultaneously, while the new Lane Track offers convenient multitake comping for selecting and consolidating audio parts to form the perfect take. The redesigned transient and automatic tempo detection, phase-accurate audio quantization and drum replacement functions incorporated in Cubase 6 help to smooth out  glitches in live-recorded drum tracks. The Key Editor has further been enhanced with an Inspector panel and the groundbreaking Note Expression feature for creating and editing multiple controller values on a single-note level. Also included is the new Dynamics Lane, which allows real-time listening of dynamic changes while automatically in sync with dynamic notations from the Score Editor.  For all new features you can check out Steinberg’s site, which has since recovered…

3.  Eventide Space

The little reverb box that could! Eventide Reverb in a compact case for Guitar, Stage and Studio. Space features 12 of Eventide’s signature reverb combination effects taken from the H8000FW and Eclipse V4. These effects, previously available only in Eventide rack processors, are now available in a compact package.  It has reverb algorithms combined with delays, pitch shifting, tremolo, modulation, and special effects.  And how does it sound? Wonderfully wicked!

4.  Dave Smith Tempest

tempestDave Smith is tempting us again with his new analog drum machine.  Tempest is a collaboration between Smith and instrument designer Roger Linn.  Tempest is Smith’s first to utilize analog synthesis to generate the sounds. “We’ve designed a very flexible new synth voice for Tempest,” said Smith. Linn added, “The design of Tempest reflects a rethinking of what a drum machine needs to be in the current era. It’s not so much a drum machine as a new musical performance instrument for the creation, manipulation, and arrangement of beat-oriented music, with an intuitive and efficient use of human gestures.”  Tempest’s 16 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads are arranged in an 8 x 2 array to facilitate both real-time and step entry of beats. Two pressure- and position-sensitive Note FX slide controllers provide a new method of performance and control.

5.  Korg Kronos

kronos

Korg teased us mercilessly before the show started, but finally Korg introduced the Kronos Music Workstation. Kronos unites nine individual synthesis engines in a single instrument. Together, they represent the legacy of Korg, and the history of the electronic keyboard industry itself, Korg says.  Kronos’ details and features are too numerous to include here so please check out the official press release here.

6.  Kemper Profiling Amplifier

The Kemper Profiling Amplifier is a new concept for guitar amplification in the digital domain. Following the idea that every guitar player should be able to bring his personal sound of the tube amp setup he owns into a reproducible format, The Kemper Profiling Amplifier is designed to “learn” the sonic behavior of a guitar amplifier and offer the tone and feel the player knows from his “real” amp. According to the manufacturer,  “now there will be a profile available of basically any sonic condition the tube amp setup can provide.”  The Kemper Profiling Amplifier comes with profiles of classic tube amps, including the classic speaker cabinets which are a part of the profiling result…

And the list goes on till 11!

Very Honorable Mentions

The following products represent other gear that we simply could not fit on the Top 11 list, but would have certainly made it had the list been longer or NAMM 2011 less hectic!  Congrats to the manufacturers for making this NAMM one to remember.

 

To see the full Top 11 list with video demos please see:  Best of NAMM 2011

 

January 14, 2011

Winter NAMM 2011 Day 1 Highlights

So without further ado I present to you some video demos that were shot by our team down there in Anaheim:

To see more visit: Winter NAMM 2011 Videos and News

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