Issue 94
Read Next:

Review: KingKorg Analogue Modelling Synthesiser

Korg engages in gorilla tactics, aping designs from its own stable and others to make a lightweight monster of an analogue-styled synth.


22 April 2013

As little as 10 years ago, the synthesiser absorbing public were positively gagging for affordable analogue instruments, and the price of vintage machines consequently escalated alarmingly. However, vintage synthesisers require constant upkeep, and repairs aren’t always possible given the availability of replacement parts. Alongside their quirky, and sometimes downright cantankerous operation, these machines can become a hinderance to music production despite their often sublime sonics. At the same time, manufacturers prepared to put the effort in and construct ‘remake’ analogue-based machines, in my opinion, were cashing in on this vintage lust and charged an arm and a leg for such products. It’s with these views in mind that I find myself applauding Korg wholeheartedly. Korg realised early on what synthesists wanted: analogue-style sounds from reliable equipment and modern amenities such as stable tuning, USB interfacing, and dare I say, MIDI integration. And, they wanted all this at an affordable price point. Korg has always kept at this goal, with instruments such as the MS2000, Radias, and the well-worn Z1, and more recently with real analogue machines such as the diminutive Monotron and Monotribe.

So without further ado, let me introduce Korg’s latest analogue-styled synth: the KingKorg. Yes, it’s a big name for a synth, but the sonics possible with Korg’s latest beast are, indeed, monstrous. Let’s inspect the anatomy of KingKorg.


The name belies its lack of heft, in fact, the KingKorg is refreshingly lightweight. Unlike the machines it emulates, this unit can be carried from gig to gig without the need for a crew — it’s a mere seven kilograms — a road-case would weigh more. The top panel is finished in what Korg describes as ‘Champagne gold’, which is in fact, anodised aluminium. This is somehow indicative of a ‘vintage vibe’ although I can’t recall any synth from yesteryear being finished as such. What is indicative of the unit’s vintage styling is the array of dedicated knobs across the top panel — 28 in total and primed for immediate tweaking. All offer plenty of space around them and are suitably sized for live control. Being an instrument aimed at live performance I would have liked to see an indent or raised marker on the rotary (continuous) knobs so one could ascertain by feel where the knob was positioned before moving it. That aside, the layout makes sense, with oscillator, filter, amplitude and LFO controls to the right of the main display, and effect controls to the left. Three displays provide information as to filter type, oscillator choice, and patch name, and all are easy-to-read OLED displays — no menu-driven touchscreens here — it’s all extremely hands-on. There’s also a stack of back-lit buttons (red), and when you arc up the unit the buttons all glow in a Mexican wave movement from left to right across the keyboard. Neat! Speaking of power-up, the power button requires holding down until the central OLED displays a welcome message. There’s no click or indent confirming you’ve switched the unit on.





    CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or

  • PROS

    • Great sounding modelled selections
    • Like editing a ‘real’ synth
    • Not expensive

  • CONS

    • Multi-timbral features are lacking
    • CV/Gate needs a dedicated MIDI channel


    Korg uses all its digital trickery in the KingKorg to model analogue synths from the golden age. It’s lightweight, but grunty. And with a CV/gate output, it even talks to analogue synths, including Korg’s new mini monsters.


Out the back are a couple of unusual inclusions. Aside from the typical jack audio outputs, MIDI I/O, USB and pedal inputs, Korg includes an XLR microphone input for shunting signals into the KingKorg’s 16-band vocoder along with a CV/gate output. Included is a cable for connecting the CV/gate output to a Korg Monotribe or the soon-to-land reinvigoration of the MS20; the MS-20 Mini. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anywhere in the manual, or within the unit, a method of driving the CV/gate output from a separate MIDI channel to the KingKorg’s own internal sound engine. Apparently any multi-timbral operation is restricted to merely splitting two patches across the keyboard. As far as I can see there’s no way to use this as a dedicated CV/gate engine while simultaneously accessing sounds from the KingKorg. It is however, configurable for different voltage standards. Equally elusive was the editor software mentioned in the manual, however, I’m sure this will appear on Korg’s website soon.


  • Up to 24 voice polyphony
  • 300 programme memories
  • 127 oscillator types
  • Up to 3 oscillators per timbre
  • Up to 2 timbres


KingKorg is an analogue modelling synth. The name of the game here is approximating the sound of synthesisers manufactured from the ’70s and ’80s — the golden age of analogue synthesis if you will. Korg has focussed on replicating the more popular synths from this era. The engine behind this is Korg’s ‘Xpanded Modeling Technology’, or XMT, and is derived from  Korg’s Radias system from 2006. Aside from PCM waveforms covering all your basics such as the M1 Organ, and recreations of voltage controlled oscillators such as square, saw, and noise, the system also includes Korg’s DWGS (Digital Waveform Generator System) originally developed for the DW8000 (a brilliant synth in my opinion), but with 64 DWGS waveforms, four times as many as the original. All the staples of analogue sound creation are set and ready to mould.

What is unique however, is how the KingKorg provides preset oscillator setups which include combinations of waveforms — combinations prepped for sculpting sounds with classic tone, yet primed for use in modern compositions. On top of this, KingKorg includes modelled filters, unabashedly aping (sorry) classic machines such as the Roland TB-303, Oberheim machines, the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 ‘Rev 2’, Moog, and Korg’s own Radias and MS-20. Then there are high and bandpass versions of each filter to add an extra twist not possible using the original machines. But does the KingKorg replicate these synths perfectly? I can’t tell you because I sold all my old analogue gear (apart from a few choice morsels). So I can’t really compare. Does the KingKorg sound good? Hell yes! Whatever’s going on with ‘Xpanded Modeling Technology’ is, indeed, a splendid thing.

Of course no analogue-inspired synth would hold its own without an arpeggiator of some description. KingKorg provides a programmable step arpeggiator where duration, interval, and on/off status of each step can be set. It certainly isn’t Korg’s outlandish KARMA arpeggio construction kit developed with Stephen Kay, but it doesn’t have to be. This arpeggiator/sequencer is pretty standard — in many ways like the synths that inspired virtual analogue machines like the KingKorg, yet it’s still possible to get notes falling where you need them.

Bringing it all home is the comprehensive effects section, all quickly editable from the three large knobs on the left of the KingKorg. This section is intuitively arranged into three groups. ‘Pre’ effects such as ring modulation and distortion; modulation effects like chorus, phase, flanging and rotary speaker simulation; and reverb and delay effects. The tape echo is excellent and the BPM delay syncs to MIDI clock flawlessly. High and low EQ knobs provide a nice slope at each end of the spectrum for quick changes also.

To the left of these is a single knob with the word ‘Tube’ above it. The knob provides drive to a tube situated to the left of the KingKorg, and there’s a neat little metal grille cut through the top panel so you can see the tube in action. If you can’t see any change there’s also a red LED under the grille that glows more as drive is added. Pointless, but kinda cool — in a ridiculous kinda way. Same could be said of the multicolour LED inset into the KingKorg logo like a crown jewel, which changes with the moving filter cutoff. Regardless, the drive circuit sounds great on countless sounds, and a ‘Boost’ button takes the drive/tube circuit to another level again. It’s a nice touch.


Would I own one? If I were after a synth to replace a number of instruments I wouldn’t dare take outside for fear of them breaking down, yes. If I needed a bunch of standards such as organ, electronic keys, strings and pads, and wasn’t concerned with those sounds being ‘realistic’. Yes I would! If I wanted some analogue style sculpting with a great collection of filters and analogue sounding oscillators? Yep, I sure would. In fact, for the price, I reckon it’d be best to own two KingKorgs. Now that… would be huge.

KingKorg includes modelled filters, unabashedly aping (sorry) classic machines


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More for you

Filter by
Post Page
Reviews Korg Issue 94 IK Multimedia Steinberg Dynamic Microphones Audix Issue 93 Drum Microphones Issue 92 Digital Console Yamaha Issue 91 Audio interface Zoom 500 Series SSL Wireless Microphone Systems RØDE Issue 90
Sort by
Issue 94