KORG KROME — AudioTechnology
Korg introduced the planet to the workstation concept and continues to develop the concept. When it comes to workstations, more is definitely more.
Review: Brad Watts
I’m surprised there’s still a market for the music workstation. The concept has been kicking around since Korg let loose the M1 way back in 1988 (ahh… what a year that was). Being part of the computer and DAW demographic I figured the big three synth manufacturers would have moved on also. However, I’d neglected to consider the swarms of gigging musicians across the globe who require as many sounds as they can get their mitts on, along with sequencing capabilities, crammed into the lightest unit they can carry. For this demographic the Korg Krome is quite likely to be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Sporting trickle-down technology from Korg’s behemoth Kronos workstation, and weighing in at a mere 7.2kg for the semi-weighted 61-note model (the unit I have here for review), 8.2kg for the 73-note model, and 14.7kg for the 88-note unit offering Korg’s Natural Weighted Hammer Action keyboard, the Krome can be easily tucked under your wing while you head to the next wine bar, wedding, birthday or bar mitzvah. Just for your reference, the 61-note Korg M1 weighed 13.5kg — and offered a paltry 16 notes of polyphony — the Krome will extend to 120 simultaneous notes. To look at this in a slightly different light, you’d need around 100 kilograms of M1 workstations to create the same amount of noise.
Whether you find it relevant or not, it’s interesting to note how far the technology has moved forward over the years; less weight, more notes, and astoundingly more affordable. Way back in 1988, the M1 would set the aspiring electronic instrumentalist back $3699 in Australia, whereas the 61-note Krome will cost you a mere $1299 — utter peanuts by comparison. The 73- and 88-note models cost $1499 and $1999 respectively.
TOUCH & CONTROL
Fiscal comparisons aside, let’s have a gander at what the Krome has on offer. To start with, Korg has been in the touchscreen game long before the phone manufacturers got in on the act. The Krome features a seven-inch colour touchscreen providing access to the inner workings of the workstation. Altering everything, from program selection through to arpeggiations, and editing of programs and ‘Multis’ (Korg-speak for program combinations spread across the keyboard). It’s clearly laid out and simple to navigate.
On the interconnection side there’s an SD card slot for saving program and sequence data, and a USB port for communication with computers using both the free standalone editing software or editing and playback plug-in. Both allow complete control over the keyboard. The software supplied by Korg functions with Windows XP and up and OS X 10.5.8 and up. In the case of Apple machines, Korg stipulates an Intel-based Mac and OS X 10.5.8 as a minimum requirement, however, the software also installs and functions perfectly on superseded Power PC-based Macs. The software quickly synchronises with the data held within the Krome whether via the standalone software or the plug-in. Korg is pretty clever when it comes to instrument plug-ins. The Krome version instigates as an audio instrument and all MIDI communication is via the Krome’s dedicated USB connection. It’s a no-brainer to pull up the plug-in and the Krome behaves as though it were a virtual instrument. My only gripe regarding the software is the size of the onscreen information — it’s incredibly small —on a high resolution screen you may `find yourself reaching for a magnifying glass.
As for the keyboard, Korg has done a nice job with the ivories. The semi-weighted design has a fair degree of ‘clack’ to it, delivering far more response than your typical ‘synth action’ keyboard. The only downfall is the lack of aftertouch, but this would have added to the cost considerably. What seems odd is why Korg didn’t add aftertouch to the 88-note piano-style keyboard version of the Krome. All that said, the keyboard is incredibly responsive to velocity and responds to the lightest touch. \
The Krome’s sound palette is as vast as you could require for a gigging machine, with around 4GB of ROM for storage of waveforms. The highlight of the repertoire is the grand piano. Korg hasn’t pulled any punches here and supplied a grand piano waveform set without the aid of looping and obscure enveloping tricks. Consequently you get the full enchilada with the grand — complete piano notes from beginning to end. This will no doubt be a major draw card for the gigging keys player (I’ll avoid the term ‘pianist’).
Along with the 4GB of waveforms is RAM for housing 640 factory sounds and a further 128 locations for users’ creations. There are 288 factory Combi patches, with room for 224 of your own. Alongside are 32 preloaded drum kits with 16 spare memory locations for user defined kits, along with 256 General MIDI 2 sounds and nine General MIDI drum kits. Overall there’s enough slots in there to keep most acts on the road.
As mentioned, the sound palette is enormous, with countless keyboards, organs, clavinets, strings, brass out the wazoo, guitars, basses. The job lot is there at your disposal. If synthesis is your game there are tons of analogue and digital emulations including various retro recreations from Korg machines from the past such as theDW8000, MS2000, Wavestation style patches as well as the venerable M1. When editing your synthesque sounds you can choose from batches of waveforms named after the classics synths they were inspired by. Take for instance MX12, A2600, Pro5, SH, JP and so forth. I just wish the patches were catalogued more accurately into each of the six banks. For example; Bank One for keyboards, Bank Two for stringed instruments, Bank Three for synthetic patches etc.
STRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
Of course, the Krome wouldn’t be a workstation without a sequencing system. Here Korg has included enough grunt to corral 210,000 MIDI events within 128 songs utilising up to 16 MIDI tracks. There’s even a cue-list function for 20 cue-lists with 99 steps in each. Combined with the 480ppqn resolution and you’ll find the Krome will handle anything the professional MIDI–ist can throw at it. If that’s not enough room then you could always utilise the SD card for additional sequencing extravaganzas.
Continuing along the ‘all singing and dancing’ theme, the Krome includes `five stereo insert effects, two master effects, and a global effect. With 193 effect styles and EQ for each of the 16 sequencer tracks you’ll have no trouble keeping the front of house full, and the pub even fuller. So who’s the Krome for? I can’t see the Krome being a synth you’d turn to for that breakaway sound in your next electronica excursion. It’s obviously aimed at the gigging guy. The piano man with a stack of MIDI files or the piano player looking for a great piano sound that doesn’t weigh in like a Wurly. Even studios looking fora range of meat and potatoes sounds for filling in the gaps when needs require. The bottom line here is the Krome is exceedingly great value. The sounds are great, it’s a true workhorse, and it won’t send your credit card scurrying. Another winner from Korg.