Korg Kross 2
How do you make an affordable workstation synthesizer? Korg answers the question with the second generation of Kross.
Trying to do a hundred things well isn’t easy, especially on the cheap, but that hasn’t kept Korg from turning Kross 2 into basically everything but a hairdryer. It’s an extremely capable instrument with a surprisingly affordable asking price.
Lightweight and portable, Kross 2 can run on six AA batteries for up to seven hours. The backlit Korg logo makes a scene when it flashes all colours of the rainbow and thankfully you can switch this off. The keyboard is available in both 61- and 88-key versions, with the latter having a fully-weighted keybed. You can get it in grey, black or a luxurious red marble look.
What exactly can this thing do? Over 1000 presets fill Kross 2’s menus — from synth basses to acoustic pianos to distorted guitars — that range from inspiring to tolerable. You zone into the preset ballpark using the Category dial. You can recall your Favourites via the 16 pads, and the Bank Select button multiplies this by eight — plenty of space to save your go-to patches.
The two knobs in the dedicated Realtime Controls section let you tweak sounds. Switches cycle through the knob functions in pairs; like cutoff and resonance, attack and release, etc. These knobs give you some expressive control, though you’re locked into the pairings dictated by the switches; there’s no way to have knob 1 control cutoff and knob 2 control release time. In the left corner are pitch and mod wheels with two user-assignable buttons above.
128MB of PCM memory lets you expand the internal sound libraries. The EDS-i (Enhanced Definition Synthesis – integrated) engine comes with seven effects units — five insert and two master — for spicing up those presets. The arpeggiator is great fun with synth tones and very simple to use. There’s a sampler with 16 pads and you can even record your own samples straight into the Kross 2. Additionally, the keyboard can act as an interface to both send and receive audio over USB. This thing does a lot.
Kross 2’s breadth of capabilities means it’s not always user-friendly. Menus can be cryptic, several functions are accessed through ‘Shift +’ button combinations, and the screen readouts aren’t always self-explanatory. Paying attention to the manual is a must if you want to access the synth’s considerable power. Things like programming drum sequences, splitting the keyboard, and mapping samples to pads. Yes, Kross 2 can do it all, but you’ll never figure out ‘how’ on your own.
The built-in sampler is executed quite well. You can record samples via the Line In jack, edit the waveform start/end/loop points, and assign it to one of the 16 pads. You can also bring in audio from an SD card via the slot on the back. Samples can be assigned to the 16 pads which, for the most part feel pretty good, though I did find they can miss a beat when triggering rapid double or triple hits.
Obviously the Kross 2 is a far cry from the Kronos — Korg’s ‘proper’ workstation that’ll set you back four times as much. Nevertheless, Kross 2 provides a solid entry point into the keyboard workstation world. When you count up all the things you get for the price tag — a synth, sequencer, sampler, arpeggiator, USB interface, and piles of sounds — it’s a pretty desirable tool for an aspiring arranger.