We look at some of the synths that led to the Korg Kronos – the World’s most powerful synth workstation
The Korg Kronos is a rare thing in these modern, tech-filled times. In age where people have ‘seen and heard it all’, it genuinely stunned people with its astonishing capabilities. There had been nothing quite like it (and there still isn’t…). When the first demo videos and specifications appeared, jaws fell open (mine included). Previous instruments of this type had invariably been based on sample based sound technology to generate sounds, many to great effect. Not the Korg Kronos.
It featured nine completely different synth engines. To put that into perspective, image having a rack (or studio-full…) of nine different synthesisers, each with different characteristics, strengths and uses, then place them all inside a single workstation.
This is a workstation, however, and as such it is designed to compose music. The Korg Kronos features an onboard sixteen-track MIDI sequencer and sixteen-track hard disk recorder, making this a genuine all-in-one solution for complete music productions.
That this production powerhouse was designed and built by Korg is no accident. Korg were pioneers of the synth workstation, and there are a number of synthesizer ‘milestones’ that have paved the way for the Kronos. Here we have a look at some the trailblazing synthesisers that have led to this pinnacle…
Korg MS20 – Launched 1978
This dual oscillator, analogue monosynth is one of the vintage synth World’s most desirable. A semi-modular design, the Korg MS20 was hard-wired, but this could be overridden by using patch cables to re-route the signal flow. Used by artists from Aphex Twin, The Prodigy, Daft Punk and Royksopp to Vince Clarke, Jean Michel Jarre and Portishead and many more, the MS20 ‘s flexible routing and ease of use made a great cheaper alternative to other synths at the time. Ultimately, though, its fat sound, and characteristic filter that provided everything from ‘burbling’ tones to more aggressive sounds have seen it become a classic synth.
The Korg Kronos has a virtual MS20 sound engine, complete with patchable virtual front panel, among the 3 virtual analogue synth engines onboard. It’s frighteningly authentic, too…
Korg Polysix – Launched 1981
The Korg Polysix was a synth that brought the programmable analogue polysynth to the wider world. Far more affordable than its contemporaries, it sacrificed very little in the way of tone and functionality. With 6-note polyphony and on-board modulation effects, the Polysix was famed for its warm, smooth tone (the Mellotron-like strings being a particular favourite).
The Korg Kronos features a Polysix emulator as another of the 3 virtual analogue engines onboard, providing another ‘colour’ to its vast tonal palette.
Korg M1 – 1988
The Korg M1 is arguably the synthesizer that pioneered the concept of a synth workstation. In essence, it combined a high quality synthesizer with an onboard sequencer, providing a means to compose complex music with only one piece of equipment. There were other workstations available at the time, but it was the M1 ‘s combination of wide-ranging and superb quality sounds with analogue-style editing, and sophisticated 8-track MIDI sequencer that made it the class leader. It was also one of the first synthesizers to use PCM sample based sounds.
The Korg Kronos is a direct descendant of the M1. The MIDI sequencer is now sixteen parts, with touch screen operation, and a sixteen-track hard disk recorder nestles alongside it, for vocals, guitars or anything else. Plus, a powerful effects processor adds the final ‘sheen’ to productions.
Korg Triton – Launched 1999
The Korg Triton is yet another legendary Korg Workstation. Whilst there are several other workstations in Korg’s back catalogue that have played a part in the development of the Kronos (most notably the OASYS), the Triton was by far the most popular and most influential. It evolved out of the Trinity Workstation, but had many functional upgrades, which set the template for all other Workstations to follow.
Expanding polyphony to 62 notes, and onboard RAM to 32MB, it also added more on-board controllers, a faster operating system, and an on-board sampler with up to 16MB of RAM, this was a hugely powerful synth. All operation was carried out via a touch screen interface, meaning that in-depth editing and functions could be done intuitively.
This combination of power and ease of use made the distinctive silver synth the first choice of synth for just about any pro keys player well into the new millennium.
The Korg Kronos represents the evolution of all of this technology. Remarkably, if you were to combine all of the classic synthesisers above into one ‘super-synth’, the Kronos would easily match its capabilities. In fact, it would barely scratch the surface of the Kronos’ Power. Six more synthesiser engines are available, with super-realistic acoustic pianos, electric pianos and a cutting edge PCM engine among others. In fact, there just isn’t enough space to describe everything it is capable of.
Let’s just say this: imagine every synthesizer you’ve ever wanted or needed, then add in a sophisticated 16 track sequencer and 16 track audio recorder. Then, ‘season’ with a hugely powerful effects processor, and provide it with a touch screen interface, equally as adept in live situation or studio compositions. Put this all in one synth, and you have the Korg Kronos.
In a world of music based peripherals and software, the Kronos is an astonishing piece of hardware, guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
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