Hands-on with the Korg Pro­logue

Future Music - - FILTER -

Os­cil­la­tors

The Pro­logue keeps the two ana­logue os­cil­la­tors of the Mini­logue. Th­ese are multi-shape, with square, tri­an­gle and saw modes, and each fea­tures oc­tave, fine-tune and shape con­trols, the lat­ter of which mod­i­fies the pure wave­shapes to add asym­me­try and ex­tra har­mon­ics. Once again there are switches for os­cil­la­tor sync and ring mod.

The big dif­fer­ence here is the ad­di­tion of a third, dig­i­tal os­cil­la­tor, which Korg call a Multi-En­gine. This can func­tion as mul­ti­ple types of sound gen­er­a­tor – it can be a noise source with four va­ri­eties of atonal noise, and is ca­pa­ble of FM/VPM syn­the­sis, with 16 dig­i­tal os­cil­la­tor types of­fer­ing a range of clas­sic metal­lic and com­plex tones. Most in­ter­est­ingly though, it can also be loaded with user-cre­ated wave­forms. User mode comes pre-loaded with one mor­ph­ing wavetable os­cil­la­tor, and fea­tures another 16 empty slots ready to be loaded with user cre­ations.

De­sign and load­ing of th­ese user os­cil­la­tors will be han­dled by an of­fi­cial ap­pli­ca­tion. We’ve not seen this our­selves yet, so can’t com­ment on how it works in ac­tion. The pos­si­bil­ity of craft­ing our own os­cil­la­tors to blend with the Pro­logue’s ana­logue in­nards has us se­ri­ously ex­cited though…

Voice modes

There are four voice modes avail­able for the Pro­logue: poly, mono, uni­son and chord. A Voice Mode Depth con­trol ed­its the be­hav­iour of each. In Poly mode, the depth con­trol can put the en­gine into Duo mode, split­ting the synth into two uni­son voices. In Mono, the con­trol di­als in a sub os­cil­la­tor. For the Uni­son set­ting, the depth con­trol di­als in de­tune be­tween the stacked voices. In Chord mode, it’s used to se­lect from a list of pre­set chord shapes, with the name of each dis­played via the os­cil­lo­scope screen.

Ea­gle-eyed syn­the­sists may no­tice that a cou­ple of voice modes from the Mini­logue are miss­ing here. Not mak­ing the cut are that synth’s De­lay mode, which trig­gers the synth voices one af­ter another, and sidechain mode, where each new note causes the vol­ume of the pre­vi­ous one to ‘duck’.

Os­cil­lo­scope screen

The os­cil­lo­scope screen from the Mini­logue re­turns here. When you play a note, this pro­vides an an­i­mated vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the wave­shape. We imag­ine this will prove par­tic­u­larly handy when cou­pled with the new multi-en­gine os­cil­la­tor, al­low­ing users to get a good look at what’s go­ing on with the cur­rent loaded sound. Once again, this screen dou­bles up as a patch-browser and set­tings win­dow. Un­for­tu­nately, at least on the build we got our hands on, there’s no hid­den mini game in­cluded to match the pong-like an­i­ma­tion on the Mini­logue or the Mono­logue’s mini plat­former. It’s hardly a deal breaker, but we did think it was a nice touch…

Bi-tim­bral en­gine

Un­like its smaller sib­ling, the Pro­logue is bi-tim­bral, mean­ing it can pro­duce two dif­fer­ent synth tones at once us­ing its mul­ti­ple voices. It’s ca­pa­ble of ar­rang­ing th­ese sounds via splits or lay­ers. There’s a cross­fade abil­ity too, al­low users to blend be­tween the two sounds.

Fil­ters

The Pro­logue fea­tures a dif­fer­ent fil­ter de­sign to the Mini­logue. That synth’s multi-mode fil­ter is switched out here for a low-pass with a fixed -12dB slope. Again, there are res­o­nance and en­ve­lope depth con­trols, along with key­track and fil­ter over­drive switches.

From a sound de­sign per­spec­tive, this fixed-mode fil­ter is go­ing to be less flex­i­ble than the Mini­logue’s multi-func­tion ver­sion. How­ever, the Mini­logue’s fil­ter can be a lit­tle ‘vanilla’ at times, and to our ears the Pro­logue’s VCF sounds more char­ac­ter­ful, par­tic­u­larly cou­pled with the drive switch.

Dig­i­tal ef­fects

The DSP-pow­ered ef­fects sec­tion uses 32-bit float­ing-point pro­cess­ing and fea­tures two sec­tions: de­lay/ re­verb and mod­u­la­tion ef­fects. Each comes stocked with mul­ti­ple ef­fects types, the for­mer with stan­dard room and hall re­verbs along with longer, shim­mer­ing ef­fects, tape-style de­lay and clas­sic dig­i­tal verbs. Mod­u­la­tion, mean­while has plenty of phase, flange and cho­rus sounds to help bring patches to life.

As with the os­cil­la­tors sec­tion, users will be able to im­port their own ef­fect pro­grams into the Pro­logue us­ing Korg’s li­brar­ian ap­pli­ca­tion. Again, we’ve not seen this in ac­tion, so have no idea how easy or flex­i­ble this is, but it’s cer­tainly in­trigu­ing.

What’s miss­ing?

While the Pro­logue builds on the tem­plate of the Mini­logue, there are a few fea­tures from that synth that don’t make the cut here. Along with drop­ping a cou­ple of voice modes and chang­ing the fil­ter, as men­tioned above, the Pro­logue ditches the built-in se­quencer of its smaller sib­ling. Cu­ri­ously, there’s no au­dio in­put here ei­ther, which is in­cluded on both the Mini­logue and Mono­logue. From our first taste, we’ve been im­pressed by the sound of the Pro­logue’s fil­ter and DSP ef­fects, so it’s a bit of a shame not to be able to run ex­ter­nal source through th­ese.

...but how does it sound?

Our first im­pres­sion of the Pro­logue is that it sounds ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic. From what we’ve heard, it can do thick ana­logue poly sounds very well, with the ex­tra voices, new drive-able fil­ter and mod­u­la­tion ef­fects re­ally adding to the thick, pul­sat­ing sound. The in­clu­sion of a dig­i­tal sound source is a great fea­ture though. Even on its own, the Multi-En­gine os­cil­la­tor is great for those clas­sic ’80s-style glis­ten­ing bells and sharp-edged synths. As with the sim­i­larly hy­brid Roland JD-XA, how­ever, it’s the sounds that blend th­ese ana­logue and dig­i­tal sources that re­ally stand out.

All that said, our ex­pe­ri­ence with the Pro­logue is so far mostly lim­ited to the pre­set sounds cre­ated by Korg, and the real test will come when we get to dive in and de­sign some sounds of our own. On ini­tial in­spec­tion it seems like the abil­ity to user-up­load os­cil­la­tors and ef­fects is go­ing to be the Pro­logue’s most ex­cit­ing USP, so it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how easy and ef­fec­tive this process is.

Two years on, we re­main firmly im­pressed with the Mini­logue, so hav­ing a big­ger, more pow­er­ful sib­ling on the way is def­i­nitely wel­come. For now count us as ten­ta­tively im­pressed...

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