Korg Monotribe

By | April 12, 2011

Korg announced the new Monotribe at Musikmesse this year.  A simplified Electribe with the popular MS-20 filter clone and fully analogue 1-OSC synth (rebirthed first by the Monotron) + drums. Some details were leaked just days prior (semi-interestingly, leaks that seemed engineered by Korg) and then after release some basic specs and videos were made available. However, due to the poor quality of the demonstrations and the fact that the floor guys didn’t have any decent time with the machine before the show, not much else has been made clear. Alot of questions linger.. Thankfully, one of the floor-reps recently posted more information to the Korg Forums, I’m going to round up his info with the additional info that’s scattered around the net.

  • The sequencer performs similar to a traditional analogue sequencer. “Active Step” lets you turn off individual steps. When a step is off, it does not work like a gapper or muting, but skips the step entirely.  This combined with point #2 below means you can create some pretty creative sequences and variations off a single pattern despite the seemingly sparse interface.
  • Each Step on the sequencer can holds notes/hits, so using the default length of 8, each step contains 2 16th notes.  You enter the second note by holding down a Part and entering in the additional step note/drum hit. When both steps are enter, the sequencer LED will blink twice for the step. This in turn lets you use it as a 16 step sequencer as well as much more varied rhythms than the 8-step sequencer would lead you to believe. It’s not 100% clear if this double-step feature works on all Parts or just the drums, but without a doubt it works this way for the drums.  Update: The double-step editing does not work for the synth, the synth’s input is only recorded when Record is on, there is no step-by-step input. To achieve a similar goal, you’d turn FLUX mode ON (no quant.). For precision you could drop the tempo seriously low while recording with Flux on and then restore the tempo after you’ve entered your synth sequence.
  • FLUX mode is quantization. As expected, if you record the synth in realtime instead of using step-edit, it will record the non-quantized notes. Additionally, it changes the mode of the LFO from sync’d to free running.
  • The Gate button lets you control the length/gating in realtime. When held down, you control the gate length by using the ribbon controller. This input isn’t recorded.
  • Not everything is recorded in the sequencer. The Octave Switch is recorded and so is note-input from the ribbon controller, but that’s it. Rhythms cannot be ‘tapped out’, you must select/deselect their steps. No potentiometer movement is recorded.
  • The Drum sounds are not editable, but are true discreet analogue generated sounds (this will lead to ALOT of mods almost right off the bat;  decay, attack, etc.).
  • “Rhythm” controls rhythm volume.
  • A button combination will let you tweak the Tempo in ‘fine’ adjustments instead of the default ‘wide’ mode.  The tempo range runs from approx 40-400 bpm.
  • One pattern can be stored into memory and be recalled when powered on (a lesson learned by the lack of this on the Kaossilator?).
  • Like all of the Electribes, it is possible to select a drum sound part without them being triggered, but by default they will.
  • Sync. It’ll be easy to sync up, esp. if you already own some analogue gear or are familiar with CV. Although it’s not clear if it is true CV or not or what level the voltage would be, Korg’s website says ; “Audio line level pulses can trigger the Sync Input so the monotribe can be synchronized to a DAW system, for example. In addition, the polarity of the pulse waveform can be changed for both the input and output, so you can enjoy synchronized performance with a variety of equipment equipped with Sync connections.”
  • Price: The list price in germany is 237€ while some pre-sale sites out of England show the price is to be as low as 217€. Korg products typically go cheaper in the states than in Europe (after currency exchange), so I’m guessing the price will be 230-259 USD (MSRP) when released.

The more interesting bits from Korg’s website:

• The powerful sound of true analog synthesis
• 3-part analog drums, using discrete analog circuitry
• Popular Electribe-style sequencing.
• Active Step and Flux features for realtime dynamic loop manipulation
• Advanced multi-function ribbon keyboard; Chromatic, Continuous, & Wide modes
• Auto-tuning provides stable pitch for accurate chromatic playability
• Selectable oscillator waveform, noise generator, and versatile LFO
• Uses the same VCF (filter) circuit as the classic MS-10/MS-20
• Sync In & Out jacks allows synchronized integration with multiple units
• Battery operation, built-in speaker and compact size deliver on-the-go groove-making

Auto-Tuning Analog

Analog synthesizers of yesteryear were prone to drift in pitch. But no more! The monotribe’s auto-tuning circuitry provides stable chromatic playability, and will not go out of tune. This auto-tuning technology also means no warm-up time, no servicing for pitch calibration, no sensitivity to temperature changes – just the great sound of analog VCO.

Classic Analog Components – VCO, LFO, VCA
The VCO offers a choice between sawtooth, triangle and square wave. White noise can mixed in to the oscillator signal in any amount. The Octave selector covers a broad range, from deep bass to piercing lead-lines. Three EG (Envelope Generator) presets provide the VCA with impressive versatility and dexterity. The LFO can be patched to the VCO and/or the VCF, creating impressive dynamic effects. The Range switch allows the LFO to deliver stirring cyclic changes over tens of seconds (SLOW) or superfast (FAST) audio-range FM ringing. Switching the LFO Mode to the 1-shot setting allows the LFO behave as a second envelope generator.

Vintage MS-10/MS-20 Filter
The monotribe features the same VCF circuit found on Korg’s classic MS-10 and MS-20 analog semi-patchable synthesizers. Distinctively analog, this sharp and powerful filter adds dramatic change to the sound, imparting the uniquely memorable character of Korg’s early analog synthesizers. Using the audio input, any audio source can be enhanced by passing through the filter section.

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