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Korg Electribe EMX-1 Reviews
REVIEW OF KORG ELECTRIBE EMX-1
USE/EASE OF USE
The presets sound good for the genres they are emulating, but useless for the genres of music I produce. They show off what the Electribe can do and how much can go on at once. Mainly, the presets were made and put on the Electribe to get it sold for the "wow" factor. I did not buy it because of the presets, I bought it because of the weird, noisy, loud stuff it could do once I started tweaking it.
Editing patches is pretty easy and straightforward. For the more advanced stuff such as step sequencing and motion sequencing and what not, a lot of buttons and knobs have to be used and a lot of submenus have to be accessed and that takes a bit of practice to get the hang of. But, most of the commonly used parameters are easy to access and straightforward. Making synth parts and modulating them is very easy, as well as manipulating effects and so forth.
The manual covers everything you need to know, right down to advanced MIDI programming and controlling. The manual is as straightforward as the unit itself.
The Electribe's synth parts are monophonic. Chords are possible with certain synth oscillator algorithms, but for the most part, you only get one voice per synth part. If you really felt like it, you could use as many of the synth parts as you wanted to create polyphonic sequences, but for each note of polyphony you'd want to use you'd need to use up a synth part, and you only have five. Polyphony is limited, so don't expect to pull off a bunch of lush pads.
The Electribe has three effects engines you can run simultaneously - independently or in series. In the words of the Electribe, you can "chain," or combine, multiple effects together. The only thing wrong with this is once you chain 2 or 3 effects together, it stays that way. For instance, if you have effect 1 as reverb, effect 2 as flange, and effect 3 as delay, and you've chained effects 1 and 2 together so that reverb and flange are running in tandem, that's the way it is. You can't run a drum part through flange and reverb and then run another drum part through just reverb (if flange and reverb are chained), unless you can give up delay as effect 3 and replace it with reverb. Also, you cannot have more than three effects running at a time - so whatever three effects you select for an entire pattern are the ones you are stuck with, this goes for both synth and drum parts. If you want, you could run an entire pattern through one or more effects by routing (sending) the effect to each part individually. Effect chaining is very cool, but unfortunately it limits the overall performance if you tend to rely on a ton of effects. Remember, you have 9 drum parts and 5 synth parts - 3 effects is nowhere near enough to cover this much terrain in electronic music.
However, there are plenty of wacky effects that make up for this shortcoming. Aside from the common effects like reverb, delay, distortion, chorus/ flange, and phaser, you have crazy stuff like grain shifter (takes a short sample and repeats it until another sample is taken), ring modulation (for anything, you can set the second frequency), talking mod (makes whatever you run it through sound like it's talking, basically a vocoder of sorts), decimator (messes with the sample frequency and sample depth), pitch shifter, and even high pass and low pass fitlers (with resonance) you can route to your drum phrases (or your synths if you want). The effects can do some crazy stuff, too bad they are few and far between. In short, there are some good effects that are easy to use, but the effects portion is limited in my opinion.
No expansion capablilities that I know of, but it can accept Smart Media cards for data storage. As for memory, it has 256 slots for patterns, and 64 slots for songs (string patterns together and set how long the patterns play).
As far as MIDI goes, it can sync up to MIDI clocks, the synth parts can be controlled by a MIDI controller, and you can MIDI dump all the data back and forth from a computer with a MIDI interface. I'm not too saavy with MIDI but I'm sure it's quite compatible.
Does it have an onboard sequencer? If it didn't, it would really suck. The Electribe IS a sequencer for drums and synths simultaneously. You can program everything and arrange it step by step. It's also pretty cool that you can run separate modulations to each synth part.
Velocity and aftertouch? What are those? (Sarcasm, of course) As far as I am aware of, you can't program velocity. You can program "accent" for synth and drum parts, which is similar to velocity in the regard of controlling volume step by step, but if controlling the synth parts from a MIDI controller, I don't know if the synth programs will respond or not. I seriously doubt there is any aftertouch whatsoever.
This is an electronic instrument. Don't expect anything to sound like a real brass ensemble or string quartet or choir. Maybe a cheezy version of it due to the PCM waves, but pulse width modulation on the Electribe does not sound nearly as good as other synths I've used. This machine is intended for making electronic music, and it does this very well. If you want realistic sounds with a sequencer, get a workstation.
The only electronic genre this machine lacks in sounds for is industrial, which is what I produce. Granted, by running the drums through a lot of distortion, you can attain a power noise/ Terror EBM sounding drumbeat, but most of the uneffected (or effected) drum sounds aren't as punchy and gritty as I'd like them to be. If you are into techno, trance, electro, or anything else that isn't as harsh as industrial, the Electribe is great for those genres. But for people wanting to make REAL industrial (and not synthpop industrial-wannabe crap), the Electribe will take a lot of tweaking. I use VPM and Cross Modulation a lot to create metallic, staticy, overtone rich, FM-like sounds. Also, Waveshaper (WS) works wonders for creating incredibly harsh sounds.
I have to give this category a 7 because of lack of velocity/ aftertouch programmibility, lack of sound programmibility (the MicroKorg can do a lot more synth-wise), and lack of harsh, pounding drums. But, the rest of the capabilities really make this a unique machine.
The appegiator slider kinda bothers me since the display model at the store was missing the plastic piece that goes on top of the metal stub. I would definitely carry this around in a case that has lots of padding and I would take into consideration that the knobs are plastic and can break off, and they are about 1/2" to 3/4" tall. But, the unit itself is made from metal and is very, very durable. I wouldn't drop it since it has vaccuum tubes (and the vaccuum tubes produce such a nice overdrive), and vaccuum tubes tend to be very fragile. Other than that, I'm pretty sure I can depend on it because I've never had a problem with Korg before. I would gig without a backup, but I would keep a close eye on it to make sure it didn't break or get stolen at a gig.
If it were lost or stolen or broken, I might buy a new one. It depends on if they have a new version by the time this might happen, or if the used price of this unit drops. I have grown fond of what the Electribe can do in terms of sequencing and plan on using it live when I get the chance.
I have been making electronic music for over a year now and have been making music in general for over two years. I own mostly Korg gear: a microKorg, X50, and an 01/W. I also own a Xiosynth that I'm having problems with and I have to ship it back to the manufacturer and get it replaced (one of the keys is not responsive).
I love the fact that more than one thing can go on at once with this unit. I am used to synthesizers that produce one sound at a time and recording that sound then recording another and layering them. It is nice to be able to program everything together and hear it all at once for a change (in real-time, too), it definitely helps creating music. However, I hate the fact that the synth section is slightly limited compared to other virtual analogs. For instance, I can ring modulate two oscillators, I can sync two oscillators, I can cross modulate two oscillators, just like on the MicroKorg - but I can't run them in unison unless I switch the knob over to unison. You can run oscillators in unison, yes, but each type of modulation that would normally be able to be run in tandem on a VA are separate and isolated from each other, they are considered different oscillator algorithms. This makes it difficult to get thick sounds that sound different than JUST unison saw or unison square waves. One thing I wish it had was more effect routings, 5 might be less limiting than 3. I tend to rely on my MicroKorg for my virtual analog sounds and leave only a handful of synth sounds to the Electribe.
I compared it to some products, but nothing in the category of this. Everything else I looked at was a VA synth and I wanted to go for something that could do a bit more than just make one sound at a time. It would also be nice if it was able to program in other time signatures besides 4/4.
It definitely helps me make music, despite a handful of drawbacks. Maybe the "EMX-2" (if it's going to be made) will solve some of these kinks. I'm glad I bought it.
As from the age of fourteen I have been extremely interested in ELECTRONIC Music and I started to look around the web for the right synths for me, and came accross Dolphin Music. I searched intill I found the Korg Electribe EMX-1.
I listend to their Demos on Korgs Website and soon realised that is what I wanted so I bought it. And what an amazing machine it is! For the price is fair, it has Smartmedia card storage and a stereo pair of Russion made 12AX7 valves.
It even has a nice colour to it!
I'll say no more, buy and see for yourself!
-DJH Trance producer