Korg Gadget: Reviewing the Synths — Part 1

Korg’s recent release of Gadget gives iPad musicians something similar to Propellerhead Reason on a tablet computer. Last week’s Gadget update added support for Audiobus. With 15 different gadgets — each essentially the equivalent of a separate iPad synth app — the amount of sonic possibilities can get overwhelming.

Korg Gadget Screenshot 2

Korg Gadget sports an easy-to-use vertical interface suitable for bringing the freek. Screenshot by Author.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at six of the synths included in Korg Gadget. Future articles will cover the other six synths and Gadget’s three drum machines. Note that all the gadgets are named after cities.

The PCM Synthesis of Marseille

A PCM playback synth, Marseille arguably offers the most robust collection of sounds within Gadget. Its organization of patches is pretty similar to the General MIDI standard. The virtual keyboard allows for one-touch chord play which serves well for real-time loop sequencing when paired with one of the many pad patches.

Two effects — each with knob-twiddled control of two parameters — and an ADSR envelope round out Marseille. Expect this synth module to provide a measure of sonic versatility to many Gadget creations.

Chicago brings that TB-303 Flavor

If you are looking for that classic acid bass sound for your project, Chicago makes a great choice. Even its shiny metallic interface is reminiscent of the Roland TB-303. A host of automatable controls — including the all important filter cutoff and peak — add to the utility of this gadget.

A basic arpeggiator makes creating quick bass lines a bit more convenient. One effect includes everything from reverbs and delays to a ring modulator and decimator. A virtual tube amp controlled by either a gate or an ADSR envelope finishes off the sonic stew.

The Virtual Patch Cords of Dublin

Another gadget offering quality bass sounds among other classic virtual analog tones is Dublin. Its wood-grained interface even adds a patch bay, putting pseudo-modular sonic exploration within touch. The control layout feels Moog-like, with the VCO, VCF, VCA, and Mixer sections located where they should be; a button press switches between the synth and patch bay sections.

Drive and Tone controls are Dublin’s only effects, but the added functionality of the patch bay makes up for the absence of multi-effects. Dublin should please aficionados of classic electronic music, but probably not Irish music fans.

Phoenix provides Polyphonic Analog Sounds

Folks who love those classic polyphonic analog sounds of the 80s need to explore Phoenix. This gadget seems to fit somewhere between the Oberheim line and Korg’s own Polysix. The easy-to-follow interface has separate panels for the synth and modulation controls.

While a delay is the only effect type for this gadget, it is useful in giving some of the patches life.  My only complaint is wishing Phoenix provided the one touch chord play feature as with Marseille.

Gadget goes to Berlin School

While you can go “Berlin School” by using Dublin, Berlin is another worthy source of bass or lead synth mayhem. Its interface reminds one of the early 70s ARP synths but more closely the Electro-Harmonix Mini Synthesizer (which I sadly lost many years ago). Berlin’s monophonic, sync-modulated sound bites through a dense mix, making it especially useful as a lead synth.

The EH-inspired controls are split into two panels covering the VCO/modulation and the VCF/VCA. A delay is the only effect, but a vibrato adds to Berlin’s sonic footprint. The nasally low pass filter is pretty cool as well.

Kingston: Home for the 8-Bit Chip Tune?

Who knew Kingston, Jamaica was the home for 8-bit chip tune music? Well not really, but Kingston is a gadget offering those classic blips and beeps of the NES music scene. Its interface even looks more like an arcade game than an old-school analog synth.

I don’t imagine using Kingston too much in my projects, but it makes a great gadget for anyone interested in getting their 8-bit mojo on. Well, maybe some of those low-fi outer space sounds would work in a Spacerock tune!

Keep a lookout for the other TabMuse articles covering the rest of Korg Gadget’s robust supply of synth and drum machine modules.


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