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It's been used by Air, Atomizer, Bare Naked Ladies, Beck,Prodigy, Yesterdays, The Killers, KMFDM, Royksopp, Owl City, LCD Soundsystem,Jean-Michel Jarre, Nick Rhodes (of Duran Duran) and The Pet ShopBoys.
Each voice of the microKORG consists of two oscillators (OSC1 and OSC2). OSC1 provides basic analogue waveforms such as sawtooth wave, square wave, and sine wave, as well as VOX Wave (human voice formats) and 64 DWGS waveforms from Korg's classic DW-8000 digital synthesizer. This is a total of 71 possible selections, more than any other modeling synthesizer! Many of these waves can be further shaped to produce classic effects like pulse width modulation, FM and other forms of waveshaping. By applying ring- or sync-modulation from OSC2 with its three basic analogue waveforms, you can easily create extremely complex sounds that would be impossible using just a single oscillator. An external audio input can be used to route audio into the microKORG and process it with the filter and effects sections.
The EG (Envelope Generator), which applies time-variant change to the sound parameters, is a classic ADSR design (Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release), and can also be used as a modulation source. Two types of LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) are provided, letting you apply cyclic modulation to the sound parameters. High-speed DSP processing ensures that vibrato, wah, and tremolo effects are produced very smoothly.
This is an eight-band vocoder (the sixteen filters are used in pairs) that can not only simulate the classic vocoder sounds of the past, but also shift the filter frequencies (Formant Shift function) or even adjust the level and panning of each frequency band to dramatically transform the tonal character and create highly original sounds. In addition, the Formant Hold key freezes the formants of the input vocal signal, allowing you to capture your voice and play it on the keyboard. Since the microKORG ships with a microphone, you can start using the powerful vocoder function immediately.
The microKORG is perfect for use in a computer-based music production setup. Since the five knobs on the panel can transmit MIDI messages (control changes), they can be used as controllers for software synthesizers.
I was concerned on first looking at the Microkorg that I was in for hard time programming the machine, given its relative paucity of controls (see the 'User Interface' box later on). To a great extent, I'm afraid my fears were realised. If you are heavily into sound programming, I'd strongly suggest you find a suitable computer editor, or get used to 'ship-in-a-bottle'-style twiddling. Also, thanks to the absence of any other form of screen, Korg have had to resort to cryptic LED messages to display some of the parameter values, and it will take time to become familiar with these.
The microKORG features a DSP-based synthesis engine, designed around the same engine found in the Korg MS2000. In Korg's terminology, the fundamental unit of sound is referred to as the "timbre". Each timbre consists of a pair of multi-function oscillators. Two timbres can be combined in one patch to create a four-oscillator "layer", which can in turn be used to create more complex sounds (although doing so halves the polyphony from four notes to two) Oscillator one (OSC1) can produce one of several virtual analog-style waveforms, including sawtooth, square, triangle, and sine waves. Alternatively, OSC1 can produce a so-called "VOX" wave (which simulates human vocal formants), white noise, and one of 64 different digital waveforms created via harmonic additive synthesis. Some of these 64 waveforms (which are really single-cycle wavetables) were originally featured in the Korg DW-6000 & DW-8000 digital-analog hybrid synthesizers of the mid 1980s. The second oscillator (OSC2) is limited to sawtooth, square, and triangle waveforms.
The microKORG shared several features with the earlier discontinued Quasimidi Sirius, in particular a built-in vocoder