The Korg Microkorg is celebrating 10 years of big sounds in a small box…
The Korg Microkorg is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Remarkably, the compact synthesizer was released in 2002, and has remained in production and astonishingly popular ever since. There are very few synthesizers that have been produced continuously for a period of this length.
The Microkorg has somehow managed this feat, and spawned a range of equally popular compact synths, samplers and keyboards. As a celebration of this anniversary, here’s a potted guide to the features that have made the Microkorg a tool of choice for innumerable producers and artists.
Great things come in small packages
Before the Microkorg was even conceived, Korg had been at the forefront of synthesiser technology for decades. It has designed products that have not only changed the direction it is moving in, but changed the direction of the whole synthesiser world. One such notable product would be the Korg M1, which introduced the world to the synthesiser workstation. Other brands soon produced their own interpretations. Korg has repeatedly ‘raised the bar’ for synth workstations, however, with the Trinity, Triton, M3 and most recently, the awesome Kronos.
At the time of the Microkorg ‘s development, Korg had an incredibly powerful, and popular synthesiser called the MS2000. This was Korg ‘s first ever Virtual Analogue Synth. Put simply, it was designed to look, sound and perform like a vintage analogue synth, but with digital technology, and thus all of the reliability and convenience that goes with it. With a huge bank of knobs and controllers, combined with huge sound and looks that were clearly informed by the classic MS10 and MS20, the MS2000 was an instant hit. Powerful, with authentic tone, it was incredibly easy to use, too.
Two years later, the Microkorg was launched, and the world collectively gasped when they saw it’s small size and incredible spec. The words, ‘but that’s the same specs as an MS2000?’ were often heard in synth circles (hey, they do exist…) Surely, this couldn’t be true?
Astonishingly, the Microkorg packed the same synth engine into a far smaller keyboard at a far lower price. The unit had 32 velocity sensitive mini keys, measured just over 20” by 9” and was able to be battery powered. Crucially, the synthesizer inside this diminutive package was far from ‘micro’. In many respects, the Microkorg was the same as the MS2000. It featured two oscillators, a programmable step arpeggiator, and even had an 8-band vocoder (complete with gooseneck microphone for this purpose). All of this could be edited via controls to the right of the unit. It was a powerhouse in miniature.
The Microkorg ‘s winning formula
The Microkorg has been used and occasionally abused by bands and artists from The Prodigy, to Enter Shikari, to LCD Soundsystem, to Jean Michel Jarre, to Kings of Leon and many, many more. What is it that still makes it so appealing across so many musical genres? Here are some of the key factors.
- It’s a Korg alright… – The Korg Microkorg is a bona-fide Korg synthesiser. As such, it benefits from the decades of expertise that Korg has gleaned from its position as a true synthesizer innovator.
- I could fit that in my bag, never mind my car… – The Microkorg is so small and light, it fits in a rucksack, pedalboard bag or average holdall. It can easily be carried on public transport to gigs or rehearsals.
- Going away? Take the Microkorg – With the ability to be battery powered, this is the ideal companion for the synth lover on the road, or even for buskers.
- How much? – The Microkorg is still (even ten years after its launch) a bit of a bargain, and doesn’t sound dated at all
- Good looks, as well as brains – It looks great. Retro, with chunky controls and wooden end cheeks, it leaves no doubt about its vintage inspiration.
- It sounds huge – Thick, warm, vintage tones with bags of character are available in spades. It may have the dimensions of a toy, but a toy this ain’t…
The Microkorg now has a number of siblings, but despite this the original remains incredibly popular. Perhaps it’s the retro look, or just the great sounds that appeal. There is still very little to compare to it, however, delivering as it does, power, convenience, quality and style in equal measure.
Happy Birthday Microkorg! My, how you haven’t grown… 😉
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.