Korg Professional Performance Series
M1 Music Workstation, S1 MIDI Production Workstation
The workstation concept comes of age. Bob O'Donnell previews Korg's Professional Performance Series Music Workstation keyboard and Production Workstation.
LETS START WITH a simple truth: a manufacturer's reputation is a direct consequence of the equipment it manufactures. With this in mind, Korg are currently putting together a line of instruments designed to put them in the big league.
The flagships of the new line, the M1 and S1, are particularly noteworthy because they're each capable of performing a number of different functions and can truly be called "workstations" - though they approach the central workstation idea from different angles. The M1 is an all-in-one MIDI studio incorporating a keyboard synthesiser with a built-in phrase-based sequencer, drum sounds (which can be sequenced into patterns like a drum machine), and two programmable multi-digital effectors (MDEs), capable of creating reverb, chorus, EQ and delay effects. The S1 is a stereo sampling drum machine/sequencer which combines 16-bit stereo sampling, 1 Megaword of 16-bit drum sounds in ROM, and a 150,000-note hardware sequencer with sophisticated editing functions.
For those of you looking for everything in a single package, the M1 Music Workstation Keyboard (labelled the 731 - its pre-production name - in the photo) is bound to be of interest. The instrument's sound generation system is not unlike the approach taken by the new Kurzweil 1000 series - sampled acoustic and digital synthesis waveforms are stored in ROM and can be altered by a series of digital filters and amplifiers. In the case of the M1, a massive four Megabytes (two Megawords) of 16-bit samples and DWGS waveforms are available and this amount can be increased with a cartridge dedicated to additional PCM samples (no user sampling is available). Included in ROM are 80 multi-sampled acoustic sounds, 30 DWGS waveforms and four drum kits with up to 30 sounds each. Up to 20 additional samples/waveforms can be added with one of the credit card-sized cartridges (they hold 256 Kilowords), so the M1 is open to future expansion.
The M1 is 16-voice polyphonic in single mode (splits, layers and other combinations are also possible) and can play up to eight different timbres simultaneously with dynamic voice allocation. Four polyphonic outputs are available and a sound or sounds can be assigned to any of these outputs for individual processing. Though that may not be necessary because of the M1's two internal signal processors, either of which can be used on any of the synth or drum sounds. Both MDEs are completely programmable and the processors can be used separately or together and in series or parallel. If all that isn't enough, the M1 also has microtuning capabilities.
The M1 helps you turn all this into music with an onboard eight-track sequencer. Any of the tracks may play internal sounds or control external synths over MIDI. The basic capacity is 2500 notes but this can be expanded to approximately 7500 notes with a RAM card - the cards can also be used to increase onboard program storage from 100 to 200. The 61-note keyboard on the M1 is velocity and pressure sensitive and the instrument's control capabilities include velocity crossfading and pitch-bending using aftertouch.
If you're looking for a way to control a number of synths from a central point, the S1 MIDI Production Workstation is probably more your baby. The S1 combines the features of a sampling drum machine - including 16 velocity-sensitive pads, 1 Megaword of internal drum sounds and another 512K (expandable to 2Meg) of RAM for user-sampled sounds - with a disk-based 150,000 note hardware sequencer. The drum machine includes eight individual audio outs as well as a stereo pair, and an update will add four more individual outs and digital I/Os. The S1 also has two trigger inputs, two MIDI inputs (which can be merged internally) and two sets of MIDI outputs.
In addition to having a continuously variable sampling rate - from 2.1kHz to 44.1kHz - the S1 allows you to select the degree of quantisation - 4-, 8-, 12- or 16-bit in mono or stereo. As a consequence, the available memory in a basic unit can vary from three minutes at 5kHz using 8-bit mono samples to three seconds at 44.1kHz using 16-bit stereo samples; the choice is yours. The S1 is 12-note polyphonic, has a multi-level digital amplifier envelope (but no filtering), can play samples up three octaves and down as far as you can go, and has the ability to both playback and sample at the same time (for resampling).
How do you go about editing sounds? Well, if the 80-character LCD isn't good enough, how about a monitor and an IBM XT-compatible ASCII keyboard? In the tradition of Roland's high-end samplers, the S1 offers the option (in an update) of connecting these peripherals for easier editing. In fact, the S1 is basically an IBM XT compatible which will be able to run a variety of programs. The operating system - which was developed and written in the US - is loaded from disk, easily updated and can be stored, along with sample and sequence data, on a hard disk using the SCSI port which is also included with the update.
The S1's sequencer, which will also be available separately as the Q1, takes advantage of the monitor and keyboard options, making the unit a dedicated music computer. The 3½" floppy can store up to 150,000 notes and can load and save sequences while it's running - a feature referred to as "virtual disk operation". The sequencer contains 16 tracks and each track can have 16 parts, all of which can be simultaneously recorded. The S1 also reads and writes any form of SMPTE and can simultaneously sync to SMPTE, MIDI Time Code, MIDI dock, and MIDI Song Position Pointer. The internal resolution is an impressive 192 ppqn and the tempo range is 40-300bpm.
Speaking of tempos, another feature of the S1 and Q1 is their ability to create and store constantly varying tempo maps. They can also store mutes and up to 10 cue points per song. You can use these for punch-ins, which can also be done manually, for autolocating or for rehearsal loops. In fact, you can loop in Play or Record mode and in Record you can choose an "Add/Merge" mode for drum machine-style programming, or an "Erase/Replace" mode for tape-recorder style recording.
The S1 also supports note and event editing and will play back notes as you manually step through them. Filtering, three types of quantisation, transposition and transformation (changing pitch-bend data into aftertouch) can be performed either on an entire song or on specific sections. If that's not specific enough, you an select ranges of notes to be affected by these operations.
The S1 sequencer can take advantage of the built-in merging feature and can rechannelise any part on any track to the MIDI channel of your choice. Finally, the S1 (and Q1) also function as MIDI SysEx recorders for storing patch information, sample dumps and any other SysEx data.
Korg have a couple of serious machines in the M1 and S1. If they turn out to be the first of a new generation of workstations, things could get really interesting.
Prices To be announced
Gear in this article:
Preview by Bob O'Donnell