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Korg MicroKORG Synthesizer / Vocoder

  • Product Description
  • Product Video
  • Product Accessories
  • Warranty is a KORG Authorized DealerState-of-the-art analog modeling and multi-band vocoding are finally available in a compact, portable instrument. With 37 keys and 128 user-rewritable programs, the microKORG Synthesizer/Vocoder is perfect for the performer, producer, computer musician or beginner looking for an affordable synthesizer. The new microKORG delivers the quality sounds and features you expect from Korg at a price that will astound you.

Powerful synthesis
The microKORG boasts the same dual-oscillator DSP synthesis engine found in Korg's critically acclaimed MS2000 and offers a wider selection of waveforms than any other modeled synth. Oscillator 1 features a total of 71 waveforms. These include traditional analog waves like saw, pulse, sine and noise, plus more unique choices like Vox wave and cross wave. Together they provide a cool selection that can be modulated to produce an extensive range of timbres. In addition, 64 exclusive DWGS waveforms from Korg's classic DW-8000 enable the microKORG to reproduce a broad collection of imitative sounds. Sounds like bells, electric pianos, guitars, basses and more that would be difficult reproduce on an analog synthesizer. You can also apply Ring and Sync modulation from Oscillator 2 to create the kind of complex timbres that are the true sign of an advanced synthesizer.
Four filter modes are available, offering -12 dB (2-pole) low pass, high pass and band pass configurations plus an extra steep -24 dB (4-pole) low pass setting. All include resonance. Two classic ADSR envelope generators and two MIDI-syncable LFOs provide the power to shape your sounds. Add a Virtual Patch matrix that lets you create advanced modulation settings – routing the Mod Wheel to control filter cutoff or pulse width, using an LFO to control panning or amp level, etc. – and you have performance that is unheard of from a synthesizer in this price range!

Classic vocoding
The microKORG has an 8-band vocoder with many advanced features. You can capture and "freeze" the formants of your voice, and then play it across the keyboard, or shift the formant frequency to make your voice sound male, female, like a child or just plain wacky! Best of all, the microKORG comes with its own microphone so you can start having fun right away.

A full range of effects
Three types of modulation effects (chorus/flanger, phaser, ensemble), three types of delay effects (stereo, cross, L/R), and a two-band equalizer add the finishing touch to the microKORG. The delays can be synchronized with the arpeggiator or to an external MIDI clock – a great feature for live performances or for laying down tracks. All effects can be edited to create your own, unique sounds.

Great sounds and expression
Korg has used all of the microKorg's synthesis power in the creation of 128 great-sounding presets. They cover a wide range of the latest musical styles plus many vintage favorites. Sixteen vocoder Programs are also included. The Pitch Bend wheel, Modulation wheel and five other knobs provide flexible realtime control over filter cutoff, attack, release and other important parameters. The Edit Mode allows you to fully edit the existing sounds, or to create your own new ones.

Flexible arpeggiator
Six types of arpeggio patterns (UP, DOWN, ALT1/2, Random, Trigger) are built in, with control over tempo, gate time, swing, and up to a 4-octave range. You can turn individual steps on or off within a pattern, providing the feel and functionality of a step sequencer.

Audio in
Two external audio input jacks are provided, so you can run other instruments, CDs and more through the microKORG's filter and effects, allowing you to process sounds in truly creative ways.

A compact MIDI controller
The microKORG's compact size is perfect for the musician or DJ looking to add a synth to his or her setup when space is tight. It's also a great choice for use in a computer-based music setup. The five realtime knobs on the front panel can transmit MIDI messages (control changes), so they can be used as controllers for software synthesizers. Use the 37-note velocity-sensitive mini-keyboard for controlling other gear or for recording and editing with your sequencer. And thanks to battery-power, the microKORG is the ultimate portable controller when used with a laptop computer!

Clear control and classic looks
There's no complex menu structure – all parameters are located on the panel for easy access to any function. A large dial and LED illuminated buttons provide easy program selection even on a dark stage. With its beige-gold body, wooden side panels and retro-influenced design, the microKORG has a look that's both vintage and funky.

Perfect to be used with laptop computers, live electronica rigs, DJ's, non-keyboardists and much more!
Same dual-oscillator DSP synthesis engine as the MS-2000, with 71 waveforms to choose from!
8-band Vocoder with a built-in Microphone, and formant "freezing" / shifting functions!
37 velocity -sensitive mini-keys
128 fully-editable cutting edge Programs, grouped into musical genres
5 Realtime control knobs send MIDI controller data
Flexible arpeggiator with 6 types of patterns and ability to turn individual steps on and off like a step sequencer!
Multi-mode resonant fi lters include 12dB (2-pole) low pass, high-pass, high pass/band pass and a -24dB
(4-pole) low pass type!
Two ADSR Envelope Generators and two MIDI-syncable LFOs.
Two audio inputs for processing external sources like CD or instruments through the filter and effects!
Three types mod effects, three types MIDI syncable delay effects and a 2-band EQ for every Program!
Virtual Patch matrix works like a modular synth to modulate and shape sounds!
Portable! Battery powered, too!


Sound Generation Method: Analog Modeling Synthesis System
Synthesizer Program: Multi Timbral=2 (max, Split/Dual Mode)
Voices=4 voices
Sound Source=2 Oscillator + Noise Generator, Multi Mode Filter(-24dB/oct LPF,-12dB/oct LPF/BPF/HPF), EGx2, LFOx2, Virtual Patchx4
Vocoder Program: Voices=4 voices
Sound Source=1 Oscillator +Noise Generator, EGx2, LFOx2, 8 Channels vocoder, level and pan of each channel can be edited, Format Shift function
Programs: 128 programs Effects: Modulation effects (3 types), Delay (3 types), Equalizer
Arpeggiator: 6 types Keyboards: 37 Keys (mini-keyboard, keyboard has velocity)
Inputs: AUDIO IN 1,2, Level switch LINE/MIC, [AUDIO IN 1, 2 (LINE)], [AUDIO IN 2 (MIC)]
Outputs: L/MONO, R, Headphones
Control Inputs: Assignable Pedal, Assignable Switch
MIDI: IN, OUT, THRU Display: 3 characters x1 line with 8 segment LED
Power Supply: DC 9 V (AC adapter), or six AA alkaline batteries (sold separately)
Power Consumption: 6.4 W (MAX)
Dimensions: 524(W) x 229D) x 71(H)mm/ 20.63''(W) x 9.02''(D) x 2.8''(H)
Weight: 2.2 kg/ 4.85 lbs.
Accessories: AC adapter (DC 9 V, 600 mA), Condenser Microphone

*Specifications and features are subject to change without notice.

The first thing you notice about Korg's new microKORG is the styling. In keeping with the analogue modelling that forms the heart of the beast, large knobs, mini-keyboard and wood-effect end panels conspire to produce a casing reminiscent to synths from an earlier era. Itメs not a large synth by any stretch ヨ it does fit neatly on top of a 19inch rack or cluttered desktop. The unit is described in the blurb as being aimed at the DJ or computer based musician and can be powered either from the supplied standard 9-volt wall wart or by six AA batteries. The unit also comes with a flexible goose-neck type condenser microphone to be used with the vocoder.
Around the back, thereメs headphones, L+R plus MIDI In, Out and Thru plus two audio inputs ヨ input 1 takes the supplied microphone on minijack, with an alternative 1/4inch jack for dynamic microphone input and input 2 takes a standard jack line input. Both inputs have gain controls.

Inside the cute case, the microKORG packs considerable punch - a 4 voice polyphonic analogue modelling synth and flexible vocoder with virtual patching, 128 presets, effects engine, step arpeggiator and a surprisingly complete MIDI implementation. This synth engine is the same one used in the MS-2000 and can therefore accomplish much of the same level of synthesis as itメs bigger brother.

The microKORG's keyboard offers 37 mini-keys which transmit velocity but not aftertouch. While this may not be enough to satisfy experienced keyboard players, it does offer enough playable surface area for most simple applications.
The 128 preset programs are arranged in 8 banks - 7 of these contain synth presets and are named by musical genre (trance, techno/house, electronica, etc.) while the 8th bank contains vocoder presets. Each bank holds 16 programs, arranged in 2 sides. The presets supplied are all useable and eminently tweakable through the performance knobs, which appear to be surface-mounted, felt a wee bit delicate to me.

Program selection
The performance knobs give quick access to 5 parameters. Usually, these are assigned to filter cutoff, resonance, EG attack, EG release and tempo (for the arpeggiator). These 5 knobs also double up for deeper parameter access when in edit mode, of which more later.

Each synth program consists of one or two layers, each of which is a timbre with 2 oscillators plus a noise generator, multi-mode filter, amp (including distortion), 2 envelope generators, 2 LFOs and virtual patching. The timbres are then routed to the effects engine - comprising one modulation effect (flanger, ensemble or phaser), one delay effect (stereo delay, cross delay and L/R delay) and an EQ section.

A program may also be specified as a vocoder program. In this case, an audio input functions as the modulator and the 2 oscillators (or a second audio signal) as the carrier. This is an 8-channel vocoder, comprising 16 filters in pairs (analysis and synthesis) and an envelope follower.

The step arpeggiators settings are again stored with a program. There are 6 arpeggio types on offer - up, down, 2 up/down, random and trigger (in trigger mode, all the notes played are retriggered simultaneously at the arpeggiator's tempo). Again, the microKORG offers a great deal of control over these settings.

microKORG sports quite a complex synth architecture for a unit at this price. Each timbre (two may be layered in a single program), is formed by 2 oscillators and a noise generator. Of the two oscillators, Osc 1 is the more flexible, offering saw, square, triangle or sine waves or noise, as well as the more unusual vox (simulating a waveform similar to vocal chords) and 64 DWGS waveforms. DWGS provides distinctive digital sounding synth voices, particularly useful for bells and other metallic sounds. Alternatively, one of the two audio inputs may be used in place of Osc 1, allowing filtering and effects to be applied. A pair of controllers can assigned to Osc 1 providing access to more detailed shaping possibilities, such as pulse width modulation.
Osc 2 is more basic, limited to saw, square and triangle waveforms. Osc 1, however, may affect the waveform generated, through ring-modulation or oscillator sync. Osc 2 may be detuned relative to Osc 1, for detuning or musical intervals. Both oscillators and the noise generator are routed to the mixer, allowing control over relative levels.

The filter is, again, surprisingly flexible and will happily self-oscillate. A choice is offered between a powerful 24dB-per-octave low-pass filter and 12dB-per-octave low-pass, band-pass and high-pass filters. The filter, in addition to the usual cutoff and resonance controls, offers a full ADSR envelope generator and key-tracking, both with variable depth.

The amplifier has a similar ADSR envelope-generator and both allow EG Reset, causing the envelopes to reset each time a key is played - otherwise the release level is retained from the last note. The amplifier allows you to specify the overall level of the sound, although for layered programs this acts as a balance between the two timbres, the pan position and key-tracking, as well as distortion. The distortion is a simple on-off affair, relying on the levels set in the mixer to determine how much distortion is applied.

The two LFO's are virtually identical - the only difference being the waveforms on offer. LFO 1 allows saw, square 1, triangle and sample and hold, while LFO 2 offers saw, square 2, sine and sample and hold. Square 1 is a standard square wave, while square 2 is a positive-only square wave. Both LFO's support key sync and may be linked to internal (arpeggiator) or external MIDI tempo at 4 beats for each cycle to 1 beat for 2 cycles.

4 'virtual patches' are available, allowing a some pretty creative routing, modulation source (LFO's, velocity, keyboard tracking, pitch bend and mod wheel) can be routed to pitch, Osc 2 tune, Osc 1 control 1, noise level, cutoff, amp, pan and LFO 2 frequency at a specified intensity (depth).

The vocoder is again surprisingly flexible. Vocoders work by analysing the frequency characteristics of one signal (the modulator) and applying them to another (the carrier). Typically, the modulator is voice, resulting in vocal-sounding sounds at the carrier's pitch.
Hear the vocoder
The microKORG allows the carrier signal to be the internal waveform generated by Osc 1 and noise and/or the signal from audio input 2 - the modulator is always driven by audio input 1. The modulator is analysed by 8 analysis band-pass filters and an envelope follower detects the volume envelope of each band. The carrier signal is then input to the other set of 8 band-pass filters, the synthesis filters, and processed by the envelopes detected by the envelope follower to modulate the carrier with the features of the modulator. For voice modulators, this produces the effect that the instrument is talking. The current frequency response can be 'frozen' at any time by pressing the Formant Hold button.

The microKORG also sports impressive editing capabilities for vocoder programs. A high-pass filter allows mixing in high-frequency portions of the modulator - particularly useful for emphasising consonants. The filter section for vocoder programs allows the frequencies from the modulator to be raised or lowered before applying to the synthesis filter - changing the frequency of the vocoded signal while retaining the characteristics of the modulator - this may be achieved by fixed settings (formant shift and filter cutoff), or modulated by velocity, keyboard-tracking, pitch bend or mod wheel. The sensitivity of the envelope follower may be adjusted to vary the smoothness of the attack and length of release for the vocoder output. Finally, the level and pan position of each of the 8 synthesis filters may be set individually for enhanced spatial effects.

The effects engine is shared by the synth and vocoder. Two basic effects are offered - modulation, for flange/chorus, ensemble and phaser effects, and delay, with stereo delay, cross delay (where the feedback is fed into the other stereo channel) and L/R delay, where delays are alternately output left or right. The delay may be synchronised to the arpeggiator or an external MIDI tempo, at intervals from a 32nd note to whole bar. Finally, a 2-band equaliser is applied - each band featuring both frequency and gain controls.

The arpeggiator can be applied to both the synth and vocoder, 6 basic patterns are available including up, down, up/down (2 types - with the highest lowest notes sounding once or twice), random and trigger. The last, trigger, is not strictly speaking an arpeggiator pattern - simply triggering all the notes played at the arpeggiator tempo allowing a sort of triggered gate effect. Again, generous editing options are available - note length, gate time, note range (1-4 octaves), swing and key sync can all be adjusted. For layered programs, either timbre may be selected as the input for the arpeggiator, allowing the arpeggiator pattern to be layered with the chord being played. Finally, individual notes can be turned on or off using the 'program number' buttons (when in apreggiator edit mode), varying the rhythmic content of the arpeggio and is nicely implemented using the eight illuminated program keys.

Detailed sound editing is, unfortunately, a laborious procedure. As mentioned above, the 5 performance knobs double up to perform various tasks when editing sounds. To enter Edit mode, move one of the two "edit select" knobs in the centre of the synth to select a set of parameters to edit. For example, edit select 1 is labelled with positions for voice, pitch, osc 1, osc 2, etc. Underneath the performance knobs is printed a parameter grid - this indicates which synth parameters the various performance knobs affect depending on the position of the edit select knobs. To further complicate matters, the grid reads separate settings for synth and vocoder parts, with synth parameters in white and vocoder parameters in green. The current parameter value is displayed on a 2 digit LCD screen, but for some non-numeric parameters the readings are somewhat cryptic - often requiring a look at the manual to verify the meaning. It is hard to assess the state of a program at any time. When editing a preset, you must scroll through the various pages to review the current settings.
The microKORG also offers extensive capabilities for MIDI control. MIDI input can be routed so that it triggers the arpeggiator, or so that the arpeggiator remains driven by the built-in keyboard. Add MIDI filtering, controller routing, sync to external devices and an extensive range of NRPN controllers and the microKORG emerges as a well-planned device quite at home in a MIDI setup.

In Use
One a program is prepared, the microKORG is definitely fun to use. The performance knobs make just enough variation available while playing, and the arpeggiator is definitely fun to play with - although it is a shame that some parameters (turning steps on/off and arpeggiator latch particularly) are not available in performance mode. Overall, the sound of the microKORG is impressive and powerful. Synth sounds are convincingly analogue in nature, the vocoder very usable, and the degree of editing available is surprising.

One nice touch, however, is that the performance knobs do not actually update the value until the current value is reached - making it easy to check current values and avoiding extreme glitches if the knob's position widely differs from the program's value.

The microKORG is an extremely flexible synthesiser and vocoder. It really is surprising how much stuff you can edit in almost every area of the synth architecture. However, the complex editing procedure is likely to put off many you from delving too deep into this area, which is a shame as the presets often don't really use the synth as well as they could.

Korg have managed to squeeze an awful lot of synth into a small package, with a very usable vocoder to boot. We're not sure quite who this synth is aimed at as the small keys will surely put off the preset keyboardist and the difficulty of editing may put off the more serious synthesist. Undeniably, the microKorg is one cute unit and I can forsee many an impulse purchase. It really is a shame that Korg couldnメt squeeze a few more LEDs and a less cryptic display in at the price as it would have made the microKorg much more usable. However, the MIDI capabilities offer some redemption - using a MIDI controller with the unit can make various facilities of the synth more manageable, and computer editors are certain to make editing less of a pain. All in all, you get a lot of power under the hood of a microKorg and for those who are prepared to take the time, itメs a well-featured, highly editable synthesizer.


Korg warrants its products to be free from defects for 1 year from the date of purchase.