Songwriting UK — Winter 2017

(Axel Boer) #1



of relentless part-time jobs
sandwiched between studies, and
the day finally arrived when I’d managed to
save enough money to go out and purchase
my first real grown-up synthesizer: the
Korg M1. Arguably kick-starting the
workstation revolution, the M1 was such a
profound success that, to this day, Korg are
still evolving and honing the workstation
Korg’s Kross 2 is an entry-level 61-key
workstation aimed at packing as many
useable features and sounds as possible into
a low-price portable format. Arriving four
years after its predecessor, with a street
price of £689, it expands and improves on
the design of the original, adding several
new features and addressing some of the
misgivings of the original machine.
The Kross employs Korg’s EDS-i
(Enhanced Definition Synthesis -
integrated), boasting 120 note polyphony,
and a selection of over 130 effects. For
preset fans, you’ll find over 1000 sounds
ready to go covering every conceivable
style of music. Each preset brings with it an
accompanying rhythm track to jam along
to, helping kick start the creative process.
For the synthesis aficionados among us
hoping to dig deeper, you also get the
normal raft of filters and modulation

The newly added Pad Sampler allows
you to record or import sounds of up
to 14 seconds in duration straight to
the drum pads, with up to four being
playable simultaneously. You can import
your own sounds via an SD Card. This
is an extremely useful inclusion enabling
the user to trigger pre-recorded backing
tracks, or record vocal/instrument ideas
directly into the Kross 2 without any need
to even look at a computer. Great for life
on the road, or quickly switching on and
capturing moments of inspiration without
having to resort to setting up your DAW
and separate interface. The Korg Kross also
comes with a VST Plug-in, and full editor
accessible via USB (which carries audio as
well), enabling you to use the keyboard as
a controller and easily integrate into your
existing setup.
Out of the box, my immediate
impression was positive, if not
outstanding. Reviewing what is dubbed as
the limited ‘red marbled’ edition, the Kross
stood out visually among the rest of my
studio, and I can’t claim this as a positive.
However, having viewed the marketing
campaign for the Kross 2 and the seeming
emphasis on the vibrant, portable aspects

matrix. There are also readily available
‘Favourites’ and ‘Split/Layer’ functions
in addition to a ‘Category’ dial providing
a visually appealing, practical way of
browsing through the 1,000 plus presets.
In use, the workstation is intuitive to use
and pick up, with a nicely playable keybed
that – whilst leaning towards a more synth-
style action and lacking aftertouch – is
perfectly adept at more subtle, expressive
playing. In keeping with the accessible
nature, there’s no deep-menu diving, and
most functions can be easily navigated via
the large screen which provides a focused
visual indication of what’s going on.

In terms of niggles, I found the
accompanying documentation lacking in
some areas. Understanding the capabilities
of the USB interface features was left to
trial and error, as the brief outline included
was too generic, and lacked detailed steps.
In addition, despite the Korg Kross Editor
and VST Plug-In being advertised as
‘supplied’ with the machine, a complete
lack of documented direction as to where
this can be obtained left me to be unable
to assess this side of the keyboard’s
functionality. Searching the Korg user
forums, it’s clear I wasn’t alone.
However frustrating, these criticisms
are not fundamental, and could be easily
addressed, leaving us with a portable, low-
cost keyboard that sounds superb, has a
great feature set, and plays well.
With stiff competition from Yamaha’s
MOXF, and Roland’s FA ranges, the
entry-level workstation market offers a
lot of choice. For songwriters growing
weary of the infinite possibilities of
computer DAWs, and looking for a top
value, portable, easy to use and great
sounding songwriting tool with a feature-
rich package sympathetic to modern
day workflows, the Korg Kross 2 comes


Great price, gorgeous sound, easy
to use and an adaptable feature set

recording, a vocoder and pad sampling, it
was hard not to hark back to the days when
filling a boot with my Nord Electro, Korg
MS2000, Akai MPC2000XL, Emu Proteus,
and mixing desk, was a well-rehearsed
laborious job for each gig. A cost-effective,
feature-packed solution like the Korg Kross
2 would’ve been an absolute dream.
During the first few hours of becoming
accustomed with the Kross 2, I worked my
way through the vast quantity of presets.
Across the board, the sound quality is
absolutely superb. In an age where 50GB
sound libraries are the norm, the palette
of sounds in the Korg holds its own,
admirably. The pianos are wonderfully
bright and detailed, electric pianos fizz and
sparkle, the organs full-bodied and gritty
when called upon, and the orchestral presets
would sit perfectly in any mix. As a fan of
synths and keyboards throughout history, it
was great to see some classics represented,
such as sounds from Korg’s own classics
such as the DW8000. In addition, you’ve got
the ever-present Mellotron samples, some
classic pads, beefy drum samples covering
everything from realistic acoustic samples
to contemporary samples, and last, but
by absolutely no means least, that classic
90s house piano courtesy of the M1 Piano
The much-maligned lack of realtime
controls on the original Kross has been
addressed with the inclusion of a new user-
friendly control section, which consists of
two knobs controlling a host of features
straightforwardly accessible via a simple

In an age where

50GB sound

libraries are the

norm, the palette

of sounds in the

Korg holds its own,




of the synth, it’s clear middle-aged synth
studio veterans constitute a small portion
of the intended market. Furthermore, the
availability of the ‘Super Matte Black’ finish
provides an alternate option for the less
aesthetically daring.
The moment you pick the machine up
it’s hard not to be amazed at the slight
physical nature of it. Weighing a mere
3.8kg (without batteries) yet offering a vast
array of quality sounds, sequencing, digital
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