Apr 19

It is strange how quick a week goes by, yes it has been a week since I was playing around with some great synths, pianos and keyboards at Frankfurt’s fantastic Musikmesse 2013. I wanted to contribute to the overwhelming noise and atmosphere and after a few beers and a rather painful neck massage (thanks for that), I worked my way around the halls to have some brief momments with the following:-

1. Korg King Korg and Korg MS-20

I love the King Korg Synth, I found it had a lush sheen and smoothness to the sound, it certainly has a character of its own. The King Korg has some great filters based on their own and other makes. There is one based on the Korg Radius, the Moog, the Prophet, the Oberheim and the TB303 throwing some acid in there as well. Screen is a little bit small, but you can control everything from the knob tweaking controls so it is not a problem. There are 3 effect types of insert effects again all in front of you to select and there is a step arpeggiator and with a full analogue tube and an EQ it is excellent. There is a facility for favourites as well as librarian software to manage your patches and you can connect analogue gear to it as well as a microphone for some vocoder effects. I want a King Korg because it is a synth that instantly grabs your attention and some awesome facilities that you will not find all together anywhere else.

The Korg MS-20 Mini derived from obviously the MS-20 is close to my heart. I have loved this like the bands I have been in that have used one. this is not analogue modelling but truly an analogue synth with a hands-on patch bay for you to physically patch with cables. It is 86% of the size of the original MS-20. It has a CV Out so you could connect it to the King Korg as mentioned above. The differences between the original and the Korg MS-20 Mini is that apart from its size it has MIDI In and a USB connection. It is absolutely great fun and really helps you understand what Analogue is all about.

2. Nord Lead 4

As well as the Nord Lead 4 keyboard, I also saw a Nord Lead 4 Rack at Musikmesse 2013. The Nord Lead 4 is a two-oscillator virtual analogue synth engine. You have some new performance features, filters, effects and four-part multi-timbral functionality. It is great for making some of those classic eighties sounds. Have a look at this clip from Musikmesse 2013 :-

3. StudioLogic Sledge Synth

I badly wanted to try out the 61 note StudioLogic Sledge Synthesizer because Waldorf provide the Synth engine. With its bright yellow colour you can hardly miss it. It is an eight-voice virtual analogue polysynth with a synth-action keyboard with aftertouch. To be honest the disappointment for me was the keyboard action which was not particularily great. The sound however is great and you have a lot of hands-on control with 32 Pots, 3 rotary switches, 1 rotary encoder with push function,2 x 16 digits backlit LCD, Pitch and Mod Wheel. With 256 sounds and 3 Oscillators per voice you need to try the Sledge out for yourself.

4. Waldorf Rocket Analogue Synth

Keeping with the Waldorf theme, I was pleased that I tracked down the new Waldorf Rocket Synth. I wish Korg would make the King Korg into a portable piece of hardware like the Rocket. The Waldorf Rocket is as Waldorf describe it – a sound design machine that is just great fun has a quality sound all for a great price. I tried it at the Waldorf booth and it is very powerful, portable analog synth and it seems great for bass and lead sounds and I even got some Pad sounds from it. I particularly liked the envelope boost knob and I had loads of fun overdriving it.

I think the filters do sound very much Waldorf. They can screech if you want them to and are deep and open. I did not have too much time with the Waldorf Rocket but I enjoyed its ease of use with plenty of knob-twiddling fun.

5. Korg Kross Synth

Well here is another synth that Korg have named with a ‘K’. We now have the King Korg, the Kronos, the Krome and now only just released the new Korg Kross. Korg certainly give you some variety, choice and synths to meet different budgets. The Kross is a great value-for-money synth, especially if you are after an 88 note keyboard. I was surprised to hear that both its 61 and 88 note versions will run on batteries. So it is very portable but it does have some intersting specifications for its cost and weight, one of which is its step sequencer that they have taken from their Electribe and you also get a mic input and built-in audio recorder.

Both models are very lightweight with the 61 note weighing a tiny 4.3 kg which is 9.5 lbs and the 88 note only 12.4 kg which is 27.3lbs. The Kross is black on top but underneath and around the sides it is bright red and has a handle built into the base to aid portability even further. You get a good selection of sound patches with the Korg Kross. There is an area for 640 User Program patches and 512 come pre-loaded and there are 384 Combinations of which 256 are pre-loaded and lastly for drums the user are can have 48 and you get 32 already loaded.

6. Novation Bass Station II

Here is another of my favourites from the Musikmesse show – Novation’s new Bass Station II. It is another small, portable 25 note analogue mono-synth with full sized velocity sensitive keys with aftertouch obviously based on their original Bass Station. Novation have brought it upto the needs of 2013. It is also obviously designed for bass and I loved its filters and its step sequencer which are very much Novation. I wish I had more time to play with its wonderful modulation section which is really powerful – I will have to re-visit this.

Again another synth designed for fun – The Novation Bass Station II has lots of analogue tweakability with ample pots, switches and sliders for a great hand-on experience as well as great effects. You get 64 powerful presets and space to store 64 of your own, which is the same storage as the Roland Gaia. Personally, I find that this is a bit small in 2013 but I suppose this synth is really for bass and 128 should be enough for your needs and you can store more on your computer.

7. Kawai Grand Piano

As you walk around the Halls, there are some lovely acoustic grand pianos. One that caught my eye was this Shigeru Kawai SK-EX grand piano which Kawai have recently upgraded. This is their flagship model producing a beautiful warm and rich sound. There is a fantastic quality about this piano – just imagine you had something as elegant as this in your lounge that screams at you “Play me, Play me”.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.