Is this Korg’s best bang for the buck workstation?
By David Bryce
I feel pretty safe in saying that when it comes to workstations, Korg rules the roost….and, for the most part, pretty much has ever since bringing the best selling synthesizer of all time (the venerable M1) to market in the mid 80’s. Sure, there are other companies that have made (and still make) excellent workstations, but Korg’s unrelenting commitment to that market segment combined with a constantly growing set of unrivaled features has made them the big dog in this arena.
So, how does their latest affordable workstation stand up to the other offerings on the market? Let’s find out…
What You Need To Know
Frankly, I’m amazed at how many features Korg was able to pack into this bad boy, especially when you take the price point into account…and it’s not just the feature set that impressed me – the majority of sounds I played were really pleasing, and should be able to be used happily by any pro. They’ve even included legacy sounds, such as the pianos from the M1 and SG-1D! The pianos and EPs in general are quite good…although I do admit I appreciated them even more when I MIDI’d it up to a weighted 88 key controller – not terribly surprising. Some of the other standout banks for me included the Bells, Strings, Lead and Pad synths…and the Guitar bank, which has a few articulation sounds incorporated that took me pleasantly by surprise. I expected the synths to be impressive,…but honestly did not expect the depth and realism that I found in the acoustic sounds. Even the brass sounds (which I’m typically not a big fan of in keyboards) were some fun to play. I compared similarly named programs from different banks in the Kross to those in my Kronos, and was pleased to hear very little difference – if any, in more than a few cases.
I’m also impressed that they were able to give dedicated controls to as many of the functions as they did. Pitch and mod wheels, two assignable front panel switches, transport controls for the 16 track sequencer, step sequencer and audio recorder, cursor keys, four navigation keys, four Mode buttons, 16 buttons for the step sequencer, dedicated Sound Selector knobs, Split and Layer buttons, Arp and Drum Track switches, Master Effects and Audio In toggles – even a Tempo knob and Tap Tempo button! There are more than a few instruments costing a bunch more than this that don’t have half those features or controls.
The Combis are where a lot of the fun in this instrument can be found – that’s where I really lost track of time. 16 slots let you layer and split multiple programs all over the keyboard, and add two Arps, a step sequence and a drum part, if desired. It’s difficult to play through them without getting inspired - you can pretty much compose songs and sonic soundscapes in real time.
On that note, one of the things that I think Korg has really gotten right is the ability to quickly set up sequences from either Combis (using Auto Song Select) or templates. It’s simply amazing how quickly you can get an idea out of your head and into this instrument, and then burn it to audio and overdub vocals. I simply love this feature.
Overall, this is a remarkable instrument. Expressive sounds, a ton of power, more dedicated controls than you can shake a stick at, a price point that’s hard to believe…and you can play it anywhere! It’s going to be hard for me to sit on my back porch without thinking of playing keys from now on.
Musician's Friend's Korg Kross online catalog page ($869 MSRP, $699.99 "street")
Korg's Korg Kross web page
Korg Kross demo video:
David Bryce is a composer/producer living in Thousand Oaks CA. Specializing in keyboards and synthesizers, Bryce is also comfortable with guitar, bass, drums…and can sort of play some horns. He operates his own state of the art professional recording studio, where he does music and audio production, and is also an accomplished voice-over artist, with credits ranging from radio and TV spots in markets across the USA through industrial presentations and computer video games. He currently plays keyboards for a few LA based bands, and spends a large portion of his days consulting with a variety of professional audio and musical instrument manufacturers.