Look out, baby synth market: Korg has taken the wraps off the successor to their insanely popular microKORG. I miss the faux-retro stylings of the original, but it looks like Korg has addressed a lot of the weaker points of the mK with the R3:

R3 Product Page [You've heard the rumors; now it's up]

How’s it look? Let’s translate from Korg-speak to CDM-speak:

  1. Grown-up MMT synthesis from the RADIAS: 2 oscillators per voice, sawtooth, pulse, triangle, formant, noise, DWGS waveforms, noise generator, and external audio from the two onboard jacks selectable as an input. As with the RADIAS, sawtooth and pulse are borrowed from the costs-as-much-as-a-car OASYS synth.
  2. Modulation and filtering: Cross-modulation, pulse-width modulation, unison voice-thickening, and Variable Phase Modulation — so, in other words, they didn’t strip out features from the RADIAS. Dual filter design with multi-mode resonant filters.

  3. Distortion: Drive/waveshaping circuit, with 12 waveshaping distortion modes including hard clipping and decimator. A good thing, too, since I wound up having to route other starter synths (hello, Roland SH-201) through my computer just to get decent distortion.

  4. Multiple envelopes + LFOs
  5. Hard-core, sequenced modulation: The “Modulation Sequencer” allows you to step through 16 modulation steps, routed to various parameters. One thing I Like a lot about Korg is that they think through how this works in performance, so you can easily step forward, backward, loop, and record knob movements.
  6. Step sequencer/arpeggiator: 8-step arpeggiator with built-in patterns with individual note controls for duration. (I’m confused that there aren’t 16 steps, though, as on the modulation sequencer, so I may be missing something.)
  7. Formant Motion vocoder: The vocoder on the microKORG was lots of fun, and it’s a feature the competition is missing, but it didn’t have the best sound quality. The R3 borrows the 16-band vocoder from the RADIAS. And Korg doesn’t mess around: there’s an actual XLR, selectable audio inputs, AND a built-in gooseneck mic that looks less fragile than the microKORG’s.
  8. FX: Two-band EQ and two insert effects for each timbre, plus a master effect with reverb and delay. Delay and LFO can be MIDI clock synced.

But enough of specs. Let’s take a look at it this way. Everyone has been trying to come up with a perfect starter synth, but the microKORG always had the edge of sounding great and including higher-end synth features and a fun vocoder. The only problem: onboard controls were hard to use, the keyboard was too small to play, the mic was fragile and silly, and there weren’t enough controls that worked well in performance.

The R3 could be a serious threat, because it corrects all of these problems. There’s a real keyboard. Onboard controls look easy, accessible, readable, and ready for playing live. There’s a serious arpeggiator/step sequencer for modulation and patterns, and you can actually use it live without getting lost in menus. And the infusion of a new sound engine and vocoder complete the package.

To be perfectly honest, of everything I’ve seen at NAMM so far, the Korg M3 looks like the synth I’d actually want to play. I can’t wait to get my grubby hands on one.

Availability: May 2007
Pricing: TBD (is anyone announcing pricing at this show?)

  • Tom

    Yesssss: An upgraded micro Korg with 37 full size keys – all my dreams became true. Unfortunately they've dropped the cool retro look :-(

    Hope, this babe will be not too expensive …

  • Fatlimey

    The real problem with NAMM is that it takes until NAMM the following year to actually save up, sell off excess gear, place an order and actually get delivery of any of these products. Heck, I'm still waiting for delivery of my Akai MPD24.

    I wish I was rich.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Fatlimey, totally with you. And I'm not making any promises about availability — we're still waiting on some stuff covered on this site early last year!

  • http://www.curved-air.com actuel

    Don't you mean the "R3":

    "The M3 could be a serious threat, because it…"

    "…seen at NAMM so far, the Korg M3 looks like the synth…"

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yep, R3. "M" would have made more sense, for micro… except I think the R stands for Radius. And the 3 stands for, uh…octaves?

    Expect more mistakes like that before NAMM is done.

    Now, if only they could have used a catchier name. It's small, but it sounds phat. Little Phatty? ;)

  • inasilentway

    I definitely want one! Then I'm going to build some wooden sides for it, y'know, to make it sound more vintage.

    And the plus is, Microkorgs will be on blowout, so if they're down to $200 or $250 I'm going to pick one up to tide me over until I can afford the R3.

  • http://sleepwalker79.multiply.com s o n i c b r a t

    There's a KORG M3 apparently… it's a new synthesizer workstation based on the OASYS…

  • http://robotporn.de Philip

    I never liked the look of the MicroKorg. The cheap pseudo-1997 $5 computer microphone looks so ludicrous on stage, and if you don't use it, there is still this microphone holder slot that totally spoils the rear.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Actually, now I know why I slipped on M3. It was a successor to the M1. So there already has been an M3. (I think it was technically the M3/R.)

    And now there's a NEW M3:
    http://www.korg.com/gear/prod_info.asp?A_PROD_NO=

    … which isn't related to the old M3 at all. And it's only partly-OASYS-like — more so than the RADIAS, but less so than, well, the OASYS. Unless it's running on Pentium hardware as the OASYS is, you have to figure they're doing something to it. The control surface and KARMA phrase stuff comes directly from OASYS, but even the sound engine is only "derived" from the HD-1. How much they sound alike, well, is a mystery until you hear it. I'll ask them. :)

    There are so many big new synths that I can't bear to post individually on them all, so I'm planning a completely-on-paper smackdown between them. Roland, Yamaha, and Korg all have new flagship workstations. The short version runs something like this: Roland expands the V-Synth, Yamaha scales down the MOTIF, and Korg finds a medium between RADIAS and OASYS. Everyone is gunning for the mid-range this generation, though that isn't stopping Korg from unveiling a new mega-arranger keyboard to compete with Roland's, or everybody from making giant, new digital pianos.

  • Kodama

    I really wish it had an XY Pad & Aftertouch!

    Then I would ditch my X-Station for it (maybe)….

  • Bird In Macaroni

    Is there any word when this will come out, or any speculation? 6 weeks? 2 months? 1 year? How long do things usually take to go from NAMM to where I can buy one?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    May 2007, says Korg. And Korg is usually pretty decent about these things, at least for US distribution. Otherwise, depends on where you are in the world.

  • Dri

    The look of it is enough to make me cringe. Cringe like a lion. A lion made out of kittens. Kittens that havent been loved by their mothers. Mothers that neglect their robots. Robots that dont have lasers.

    The synth needs more lasers.

    (We got there in the end)

  • Rozling

    It reminds me of the BBC.

    I like it :)

    Any word on how much polyphony this new one has? No! I don't want to know… this is completely scuppering my New Year's Resolution to avoid gearlust…

    BTW The MicroKorg's vocoder quality can be greatly improved by using a decent preamped mic. I completely agree with the 90s 'Soundblaster' look of the included one… a poor move.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    8-voice polyphony; you can layer 2 timbres at a time for layers / splits / multis. That's where it definitely shows it's not a RADIAS.

    But if only that actually dampened the gearlust.

  • Lewis Brock

    Well good on you guys at korg lol. I used to own a microkorg but it kind of died lol. I work as a professional electronic musician and sound designer and have an affinity for sexy synths. from what I've heard from a friend of mine at korg its a real beauty. as a blind musician, the feel and controlability matters. I've always been connected with the 3 main brands (KORG, Roland, Yamaha and Nord Lead) sorry 4. can't count lol. the R3 when it's released will be the module for my new lazer harp for stage use lol. the M3 is really worth buying if you don't want to spend money on the OASYS systemn. I've tried it and didn't like it. not accessible enough for my needs.

  • http://ilovepopwhore.com Hard Korg

    The Korg "Baby Rad"!

    Not gonna hold my breath after the HUGE dissapointment of the Korg Micro X (Great sounds but, cheap, cheap, cheap everywhere else! Not to mention the totally DORKY orange hard case that it comes with!) I'm hoping the R3 will have some meat on it's bones and be ideal for actual travel. A simple nylon gig bag would be sufficient, thank you!

  • http://www.myspace.com/dukesbeats Dukes

    Yeah i just found a website where they are selling this for £499. thats more than i thought this would be, but i guess they still got microkorgs to sell as well

    http://www.dv247.com/invt/froogle/38087/

  • Ikesquared

    I ordered one of these R3's for my live gigs. I plan to give it a whirl in the studio as well. I sold my MicroKorg and miss it alot.

    We will see what this baby sounds like with my M3.

  • iceredd46

    I just purchased a new R3 just a few hours ago and this little thing is amazing.It's not hard to navagate and it has the phattest sounds you've ever layed ears on.not to mention the vocoder itself.I also have a rocktron banshee and it is no match for this awesome little keyboard.to sum it all up…. IIII Like IT !!!

  • Jay

    Hey guys

    So how does the R3 stack up to the micron?

    Would I be correct in saying the micron is better for live use..eg when you change patches, the knobs don't move, so as soon as you move one you often get a huge jump in that parameter's value..

    thoughts??

  • http://www.sound-expert.pl VST

    Hi guys,

    I've got this fantastic synthesizer – whatsoever – I'm looking for any software to convert wav files in to formant's that I can upload them to my Korg.

    Does any know how to do it ?

  • bhe!

    i have 1 the baby rad..

    it's very amazing…

  • bhe!

    R3 or micron??

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » Korg microKORG XL: Little Keys, with Purtier Looks, Vocoder, and Sounds

  • http://www.vst-review.com Dood

    R3 or Micron?

    R3!

    R3 or Ion or SH201 or GAIA?

    R3!

  • Chris

    It’s possible to get elka synthex laser sound in Korg R3 ?