It aims to do what for sampling what the insanely-popular microKORG keyboard has done for synths: that is, invade bedrooms and bands everywhere, and inspire a kind of love that other hardware finds elusive. But it also combines the micro-keyboard form factor and mic with everything that has made the KAOSS Pad series popular. It’s kind of a bundle of things about KORG that the masses love. So, perhaps that’s why the microSAMPLER leaked well before its introduction. I’m about the last to cover it, I think, so let’s see if I can get right to the point of what the microSAMPLER looks to be, and what it isn’t.

It’s a sampler for keyboard lovers. As the video notes, the world doesn’t need another sampler with pads. The keyboard is put to good use. It’s velocity-sensitive, though with mini keys to keep it compact. You can map different samples to different keys, slicing up your sample so that different lengths (from a 64th note to two measures). You can give keys different one-shot samples, for drum-style sounds. You can play looped samples. And you can map a single sample across the keyboard.

It’s built for capturing live. The mic has been torture-tested in lousy acoustic environments and onstage in the microKORG. It’s the design of the interface that makes this fun – and potentially worth considering over the software solutions that aim to do the same stuff. “Auto-Next” mode lets you tap in BPM from a source and automatically slice on the fly.

That isn’t an iPhone slot. The microSAMPLER has slots in which you can stick stuff, as noted by engadget. Yes, the photos and videos show iPhones and iPods, but they aren’t a dock, and you can put something more interesting in there – like a Game Boy or a PSP running LGPT. Rich Formidoni, the specialist you see in the video, tells me he’s tempted to use them for pretzels or mints. Heck yes. You can even sample the crunching sound. And I have just two words: aftermarket cupholder. (Coming soon to the CDM Store?)

You can resample and add effects. Resampling lets you “bounce” samples with effects or grab your playing to produce new samples. And the effects are borrowed from the KAOSS series, including tasty and distinctive-sounding ring modulator and grain shifter effects.

Loops and patterns. You can overdub pattern recordings into a pattern sequencer, switch between patterns, and take advantage of a loop recording feature derived from the KAOSSILATOR.

It’s really, totally ugly. I mean that as a compliment. Like somewhere deep in the Korg product design archives, the case design for the microSAMPLER has been lurking in a pile of schematic drawings from 1986. Not ugly in the bizarre way, like when KORG unveiled a camouflage version of the microKORG (handy for use in a duck blind). Ugly in a cool way, as if we’ve always had microSAMPLERs. Is “timelessly dated” a phrase?

It’s lo-fi when you want it to be. You can sample at a full 48 kHz (though, oddly, not at 44.1), but you can also crank down to 12 or 6 kHz for retro sampling capabilities. Updated: there is a decimator, too. I didn’t see it in the specs, but the microSAMPLER in fact has a 24-bit to 4-bit decimator effect. You can resample that, so while you can’t natively sample at lower bitrates, you get the same result.

It weighs only 4 pounds, and connects to your computer via USB, with editor/librarian software for Windows and Mac and import of WAV/AIFF files.

It runs on batteries.

Sample memory: 8 banks, 39 samples per bank, 160 seconds maximum per sample, for a total of between 21 and 170 minutes of mono samples depending on your sampling rate. (Check the specs.) That seems just enough to sacrifice some of the flexibility of computers with the accessibility of hardware.

US$750 I believe is list price, so, given what we’ve seen from KORG products before, expect a street below that.

microSAMPLER

The KORG piece is not without competition. Roland has just unveiled an updated version of its popular SP-404, the SP-404SX. It’s really the opposite of this unit; it’s a conventional, compact rectangle with pads as controllers. (Actually, it’s too bad Roland doesn’t have an option for a gooseneck mic for the SP-404.) At the other end of the spectrum, Native Instruments and Tim Exile have their own software-style solution to how to sample creatively live, using Reaktor under the hood – which means you get some very different-sounding granular effects than what’s accomplished by the KORG DSP. That’s to say nothing of loop samplers in the recent versions of Logic and Live. And I’m personally intrigued to see other takes on how to put together live samplers. In fact, I don’t think you could really compare any of these methods – we’re lucky enough to have commercial and DIY solutions that provide a range of options. So mostly what I’d like to see, aside from looking at the hardware, is people doing interesting creative an artistic work with these capabilities. There’s certainly no excuse for boring performances. Sample on. (Now, I’d better go off and practice.)

Updated: how loop recording works. In fact, you can get LoopStation-style loops which loop at the length of the initial recording. But likely to be more ideal is the ability to match tempo on the fly. Here’s an explanation from product specialist Rich:

The length of a conventional sample won’t determine the system tempo… but when you’re using the Looper effect, which records like a Kaossilator, it will continue to loop the same amount of time you used to record.

It does work the other way around, though. Samples can be set to timestretch on the fly, on an individual basis, to fit whatever the tapped system tempo is.

I think that actually covers what most people want – even if it would be cool to set the primary tempo to the length of a loop.

  • http://truechiptilldeath.com peter

    Id put my smokes and keys in mine.

  • http://www.prospectmusic.com jon

    I'm pretty content with my software based sampling tools but admittedly I find this thing to be genius. I hope it does well.

  • http://xfader.com regend

    24-bit to 4-bit? Does that mean it locks in on 12-bit? I'm curious about how it sounds…What do the A/D and D/A's sound like. This is going to require a test drive.

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    The specs are awesome, but… why is it SO UGLY???

  • jus

    It is very ugly but i want to see if you can use one as a hardware loopstation ala the RC-50/Jam Man

  • graham

    both the new sp-404sx and this new microSAMPLER look pretty awesome!

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

    See, I love that it's ugly. It's ugly in all the right ways. It's ugly enough that you'd want to figure out a way to give it a custom paint job. (Um… not camo or pink, though, KORG, please.)

    As near as I can tell, you can get LoopStation-style record functionality out of it — but I'm not entirely positive about setting tempo based on loop-length; I'll ask.

  • mountbank

    I think its wonderful, I have been waiting for something like this for years. A mod wheel of some sort would have been great but not essential. I love the fact it runs on (rechargable) batteries.

  • http://www.myspace.com/casimirsblake Casimir's Blake

    So close, and yet so far.

    I've wanted some sort of portable hardware I can stick my own samples in and just play. This could do it but I'm concerned about the mini keys.

    The Nord Wave is hideously expensive, and not available as a module.

    The Blofeld is portable but is limited to 60MB of RAM.

    But at least, finally, we're seeing the sampler re-invented. It's long, long overdue now that flash RAM (hell, RAM in general) is abundant and inexpensive. But I would prefer to see a module with more RAM and multisampling / multi-timbrality.

    The Microsampler DOES look tremendous fun though. Korg have done it again!

  • decrepitude

    Awesome! Yes, Peter PLEASE find out about looping in detail. They should give Beardyman one of these if it operates anything close to the KP3. The SP404SX is intriguing, but I don't get the impression it's capable of loop recording on the fly.

  • Geoff Smith

    looks really fun however I can't help wishing akai would do a similar thing with there mpc1000 i.e. keep the sequencer/sampler but shove a small keyboard and some basic preset sounds in there. That would be really tempting.

    G

  • Vlad

    It looks so 80s it hurts! And I mean that as a compliment, really. And I can't wait till this cutie reaches our plains (sadly, last time it took about a year — with Kaossilator).

    Just one question: why this cheerio muzak in the background of the ad? I mean, ok, we all LURVE muzak deep in our hearts, but it plays even when the guy shows the sampling capabilities of the unit. Bizarre. But so 80s again!

  • http://www.PatternMusic.com RichardL

    > and you can put something more interesting in there…

    Fightin' words!

  • http://www.twitter.com/mrtunes mr. tunes

    so it might have loopstation functionality, this is good. but it has no foot control at all right?

  • http://muzik4machines.com tb

    so does it do kaoss pad 3 /live recording of the loops (ie, set loop lenght to 8 beats, and hit record for a perfect 8 beats loop?

  • http://www.musicthing.co.uk Tom

    I have one, but it arrived this afternoon, so I've only played with it for 20 minutes. It's fun! Like playing with an old Akai, but without having to fiddle through endless menus on a tiny LCD screen. Presets are awful, seem to have been made by those beatbox guys on the original Japanese launch video. No pitchbend is strange. Looping is really quick and simple, and glitchy, obviously. The default FX is bit reduction, which tells you something about the people who made it. Built in mic means you spend a lot of time humming into it and snapping your fingers, which is no bad thing. You can fit a Korg guitar tuner in the slots. Or business cards. Really annoying to select presets using a pot with no detents. The Keyboard/sample buttons are a nice idea – flipping from melodic to MPC-style immediately. Gnarly timestretching across the keyboard. Um… that's it!

  • http://www.myspace.com/casimirsblake Casimir's Blake

    Might be going to demo this tomorrow, very tempted. I have an ESX which I love dearly (seriously it's so much fun and so easy to put ideas together with), but it's just not enough to make a full song…

  • http://www.myspace.com/tooltablist Mudo

    Hi Peter,

    This is not comparable with sp404ex… this unit is to compete with Sp555 which has some comparable features but loses in much ways with this.

    sp555 has pads and dedicated loop capture.

    MicroS has keys and varios loop capture modes.

    sp555 has cool Fx Unit (voice changer and DjFx Loop are really cool) mfx unit (are the same slot) and another with filter, synth (LDR controlled) like Theremin (Dbeam)

    MicroS has kaoss fx

    sp555 has xlr mic (with phanton) line in (jack) combo plug and line (rca). Outputs are rca (crappyyyy)

    MicroS has xlr plug and jack plugs.

    sp555 has midi in/out and usb. Vlink too.

    MicroS has midi in/out and usb.

    sp555 HAVEN't variphrase… and stretch is crappy too…

    MicroS has stretch and chop (the BIG reason)

    Both have sequencer but I find sp555 shit.

    Both have software editor but korg is EXTREMELY better than crappy Roland.

    Roland velocity is bad. I ever use it as FIXED velocity (retriggering problems and so on)

    Korg has synth? (or are these sounds sample based?)

    sp555 has compact flash (2gb max)

    korg has few memory…

    I will try review one of these (I will love make a compared test and post it in some place… maybe Hispasonic? maybe CDM?)

    And the last thing I'm a Beatboxer Live Looping performer (Tooltablist 'cause is not the only tool I use…)

    ;)

    I hope this helps.

  • sohat

    This likes the (incredibly ugly) evolution of my sk-1/i-pod/giga delay set up! Seems like a very convenient piece of equipment

  • sohat

    Edit: This seems likes the (incredibly ugly) evolution of my SK-1/i-Pod/Giga Delay/Electribe ES-1 mkII set up!

    Definitely would be a very convenient piece of gear.

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

    @Mudo: Yes, absolutely, agreed… I mentioned the 404EX more as point of contrast than comparison, and because the 404EX is more newsworthy than the 555 – the EX was just announced this month.

    I'd love to post your comparative review, I'm sure!

  • s ford

    i want one.

    I WANT ONE!

    the microsampler looks like it would be a lot of fun!

  • http://www.myspace.com/tooltablist Mudo

    Yes Peter I know about time-line… is incredible which Roland miss the shoot again and again… I send them a mail in august to get some ideas (I need a job, true) but it seems nobody takes the mail.

    It could be great any kind of mc909 + loop capture + pad grid… something like Ableton Live hardwared version.

    In the other hand my octint wanted a box…

    :D and the beta of maxforlive is already!

    http://www.hispasonic.com/noticias/version-beta-m

    ;)

    continue working…

  • daniel-door

    i've been calling music stores again and again, explaining the casio sk-1 features to them, asking for a 21th century piece of gear with battery powered live sampling ability…korg inc. seems to check those phone lines…but holy timetravelling monkee it's a bit…ugly…need red gaffa and glow-in-the-dark spray paint…and money

  • phillip washington

    750? Yikes.

    Where's sample level knob? Sample mute button?

  • Captain Howdy

    A $499.00 street price.

  • Damon

    Waaaaay fun… And the video is very effective.

  • http://www.korg.com/nano Rich F from Korg

    Hi folks,

    We've updated this video. Here's the new link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7a2aZk7nZE

  • http://www.myspace.com/tooltablist Mudo

    Hi Richard!

    Good work!

  • Simon Lacelle

    I think it actually looks more 90's than 80's. Think Old ASR samplers or EMU romplers. Looks as fun to play with as the MicroKorg, Korg has indeed done it again!

  • Downpressor

    My first sampler was an SK-1 and as soon as I had some money I got an Akai S-7000 keyboard sampler. Something about doing it on a keyboard is fun. I own a 404 now but just never really got used to the pad method. Lets hope that the street price in Japan isnt equal to list price or I'll have to reverse import this baby.

  • griotspeak

    at 750, it is too rich for my blood…but i would love to use this. LOVE. the joy would pour from my eyes.

  • decrepitude

    It appears that in loop sampling mode the recorded sample doesn't immediately start playing back in time. Instead, you have to trigger it via the keyboard. I can see the logic of triggering it, not to mention the possibility of polyrhythmic re-triggering, but it would be great if you could also get the same functionality as the KP3.

    This situation is fairly evident in this video with Beastsick.jp:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yizAr51VuUk

    It appears that the Microsampler cannot render the recording quickly enough to allow for re-trigger immediately on the next downbeat.

    Another potential dealbreaker is the sunken parameter dials – what was Korg thinking there? You can easily see how painful it is to do a filter sweep.

  • PooPoo the Korruptah

    its need a bit more, like a mod wheel n pitchbend,,,,though im kenn to try it out.

    How does it compare to the electribe SXX model???? now, if that had keys it would be awesome!!!!!!

  • okay….so..

    this is what i would like to know..if i record a one-shot sample of my voice, like if i sing 'hey' or something..can i setthat sample across the keyboard so i have that same sample on every key in a different pitch? basically creating my own keyboard patch? and then i could play my voice in 16 note polyphony? wow. can samples be reversed? is the maximum legnth on one-shot samples 160 seconds on each key? also, does this only have 8 banks meaning..8 different keyboard set-ups to choose from? is it like the microkorg which has 8 banks but in each of those banks there are like 16 patches so you end up with over 100 sounds? or is it 8 banks with one keybaord set up one each..so 8 keyboard set ups? i hope it is like the microkorg is..also, can someone just one to me? where/how can i get one for free? this thing sounds pretty amazing..could have thrown a few other things in there but no big deal..it sounds amazing.

  • okay….so..

    also..YES..it is fucking ugly..and not really in a cool way in my opinion.. :) it should've been designed more simply like the microkorg xl..or it should've looked really cool and space-ish like the kaoss pad kp-2. even the little nano series look much better than this thing. wrong move korg..and the knobs seem terrible..gonna have to pull those out. anyway, it seems like it can do great things. i'd be more excited though, if it looked much cooler..just saying, korg..can i redesign it for korg? that would be nice. they dont have to pay me or anything..just give me a free one.

  • okay….so..

    or 4 for free..okay bye

  • Raoul

    Yes, you can record youre voice and then set that in keyboard mode so that there is that sample on the keys in different pitch. Yes it is like the MicroKorg in the sense that it has 16 diff banks(patterns) in every bank… Yes, the samples can be reversed, see the button that says "reverse"? Well that's what it does.

    Korg did a great job on the appearance of this keyboard.

  • Don Carlson

    One work-around for that would be to beatmap the  track you need to match the tempo in a DAW and then when you import the sample, change the BPM setting to match what was in the recording software. 

    - Don Carlson,  Pram Maven

  • mike

    is the sampling time/length LONGER than that of the KP3? if it is, i’d get one.