RE­VIEW: Korg Pro­logue 8

The Pro­logues sit at the top of Korg’s ever-grow­ing ana­logue tree! Dan ‘JD73’ Gold­man takes the Pro­logue 8 for a spin!

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

Big things have been promised for Korg’s new ‘flag­ship’ synth – but does it de­liver?

The ‘logue’ range has lots of fans (no sur­prise as they’re great)! From the mono­phonic Mono­logue, through to the orig­i­nal Mini­logue, Korg’s ana­logue di­vi­sion (for­merly headed by Tat­suya Taka­hashi) has been go­ing from strength to strength. With the ru­mour mill in full force, it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore the flag­ship poly void was filled.

The Pro­logue comes in eight- and 16-voice mod­els – we have the for­mer on test here, although we’ve also tried the lat­ter, so will pass com­ment on that a lit­tle too. The range is based on the same VCO found in the Mono­logue/Mini­logue range. Th­ese are stable (tun­ing-wise) and sound present/clear yet full and vibey, giv­ing the two-pole fil­ter lots to chew on. Some­thing to con­sider: Korg have cho­sen a sin­gle fil­ter op­tion in the Pro­logue range, which is a twopole/12dB type that has been voiced to give the Pro­logue a unique char­ac­ter (which it does)!

The hard­ware it­self is well-built and tank-like. Un­like the Mini­logue, the Pro­logues fea­ture sep­a­rate pitch and mod wheels above the key­board (which keeps things com­pact) and the case is black brushed alu­minium (tilted), with chunky wooden sides and the same OLED dis­play with os­cil­lo­scope, rud­der switches, knobs and red back­lit but­tons found on the rest of the ‘logue range. The over­all feel is classy and solid, and Korg are keen to point out that the Pro­logue’s ‘nat­u­ral touch’ key­board is made in Ja­pan. Both Pro­logue mod­els fea­ture the same keybed type found on the Korg Kronos 61 and it feels very high qual­ity and plays well gen­er­ally.

How­ever, there’s no af­ter­touch which is odd on a flag­ship board at this price, es­pe­cially as the 16’s 61-note keybed al­ready in­cluded the af­ter­touch strip on the Kronos. The Pro­logue doesn’t re­ceive AT data ei­ther. Hap­pily, there’s an ex­pres­sion pedal socket which helps, but if your feet are oth­er­wise oc­cu­pied with other synths it’s not ideal.

Power up the Pro­logue 8 and like the Mini­logue, the dis­play reads

It has that un­mis­tak­able Korg/’logue DNA that I loved in the Mini­logue

‘tun­ing’ while all those lovely VCOs get tuned (though un­like the Mini­logue you can’t play bat and ball)! The re­view unit did take a few min­utes for the lower notes to pull into pitch and I had to re-tune a cou­ple of times but gen­er­ally it was stable. The eight- and 16- mod­els fea­ture eight/16 voices re­spec­tively and both have two VCOs and a dig­i­tal ‘Multi’ os­cil­la­tor per-voice. In ad­di­tion, the Pro­logues are two-part mul­ti­tim­bral so you can split and layer two com­pletely dif­fer­ent sounds and ad­dress each part over MIDI; the caveat here is that if you cre­ate a split/layer, the voice count will be split in half (so on the Pro­logue 8, each part will have only four voices) and you can’t al­lo­cate the voices to have 15 on one part and one on the other, or four on one side of a split and 12 on the other (for ex­am­ple). Re­gard­less, for this rea­son it might be worth con­sid­er­ing the Pro­logue 16 (if it fits your bud­get) as it will give you much more flex­i­bil­ity polyphony-wise.

So what’s this much-lauded mutli-os­cil­la­tor all about? Firstly, it of­fers a noise cat­e­gory fea­tur­ing four types of noise (low/high pass/peak fil­ters and dec­i­ma­tion) which you can use for mak­ing sound ef­fects or to add grit to sounds (though it’s a shame you lose the whole os­cil­la­tor if you just want noise). Us­ing the shape dial you can also af­fect dif­fer­ent pa­ram­e­ters in­clud­ing cut­off, band­width and the dec­i­ma­tor’s sam­ple-rate too (ef­fec­tively it’s a bit-crusher). Next up is VPM, which is Korg’s own FM syn­the­sis. Here the im­ple­men­ta­tion is ba­sic but it works very ef­fec­tively for all man­ner of clas­sic and new FM sounds – also the VPM mode has its own en­ve­lope for sculpt­ing how the sound evolves over time. Us­ing VPM feed­back you can rad­i­cally shape the se­lected VPM type and there are 16 handy VPM os­cil­la­tor con­fig­u­ra­tions on­board in­clud­ing types such as Air, De­cay, Fat, Creep and Throat. Th­ese pro­vide many dif­fer­ent tex­tures to add into the mix along­side the VCOs or to use in iso­la­tion. The re­sults us­ing VPM are ex­cel­lent and in ad­di­tion, the shape dial can change the mod­u­la­tor depth, plus, if you turn the shape while hold­ing the shift but­ton you can change the ra­tio amount for more

over­tones/har­mon­ics. You can also choose whether the multi-os­cil­la­tor goes through the ana­logue fil­ter or not, which is nicely flex­i­ble. While VPM looks sim­ple on the sur­face, in prac­tice it’s one of my favourite parts of the Pro­logue. Down­sides? Well, it would’ve been nice if it was pos­si­ble to cross-mod the ana­logue os­cil­la­tors via the dig­i­tal ones (as on the Roland JD-XA) but that’s not pos­si­ble here.

The fi­nal cat­e­gory in the multi-os­cil­la­tor is USER. This un­for­tu­nately isn’t user-sam­ple up­load (which would have been great) but in­stead this sec­tion fea­tures 16 user os­cil­la­tor slots which can be pop­u­lated with cus­tom-made dig­i­tal waves (open source) via the just-an­nounced soft­ware de­vel­op­ment kit board. Th­ese user waves and mod FX (once cre­ated) can be ported into the Pro­logue us­ing a li­brar­ian and then pro­cessed just as any other na­tive wave. How in­ter­est­ing this gets down the line is down to the devel­oper up­take and mem­ory lim­i­ta­tions but it’s cer­tainly in­trigu­ing!

Mov­ing on to the sound-shap­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties and mod­u­la­tion, like the Mini­logue, the Pro­logues have a voice-mode depth dial which changes role de­pend­ing on the se­lected mode (four modes). In Poly mode this be­comes a poly-uni­son con­trol for big­ger sounding poly patches, in Mono mode it adds a sub os­cil­la­tor, in Uni­son the voices are stacked in mono and fi­nally, Chord mode al­lows var­i­ous chords to be trig­gered from a sin­gle note; th­ese all add to the sonic pal­ette greatly. Again (like the Mini­logue and Mono­logue), each of the ana­logue os­cil­la­tors has a three-po­si­tion wave switch and each wave can be mor­phed in width/ char­ac­ter us­ing the shape dial, once more ex­tend­ing the tonal land­scape. Mod­u­la­tion-wise, there’s a fair amount on of­fer, though I was hop­ing for more op­tions than the Mini­logue (and there are fewer). Firstly, there’s poly-por­ta­mento, cross mod and a pitch en­ve­lope for the VCOs, with a sin­gle clock-syn­ca­ble/au­dio-rate­ca­pable LFO per-layer with three wave­forms (the LFO can ad­dress one of three targets at a time in­clud­ing pitch, shape and cut­off). As there’s no mod ma­trix as such (and with just one LFO), it does feel a lit­tle lim­it­ing at times, how­ever, one of the cho­rus ef­fects can add vi­brato at least. I es­pe­cially miss the LFO en­velope­mod from the Mini­logue which was ca­pa­ble of de­layed vi­brato ef­fects and I think for a flag­ship there re­ally should have been two global LFOs and gen­er­ally more flex­i­bil­ity mod-wise. How­ever, let’s not for­get the ADSR en­velopes (fil­ter and VCA) which are nicely snappy and de­tailed and that there’s also ring-mod, sync, voice pan­ning (to add width and drama) plus drive. In par­tic­u­lar, this drive boosts vol­ume and dirt in a very mu­si­cal way, though I have to ques­tion the choice of a flick switch here; a dial would have al­lowed a lot more range and nu­ance (like the Mono­logue). One other fi­nal note: while there is a ba­sic arpeg­gia­tor on­board, the Mini­logue/Mono­logue se­quencer has sadly dis­ap­peared and along with it, the mul­ti­ple lanes of mod­u­la­tion se­quenc­ing and ideas gen­er­a­tion – a loss that many will miss. Per­haps Korg can add it down the line in firmware? Fin­gers crossed!

Most im­por­tantly, on the sonic front, the Pro­logues de­liver mas­sively and I found them very in­spir­ing to work with, de­spite the afore­men­tioned ‘lim­i­ta­tions’. The char­ac­ter is def­i­nitely Mini­logue-like at times but big­ger and bolder and the fil­ter (with low cut) sounds great, with bags of per­son­al­ity. Ad­di­tion­ally, the fil­ter has a huge range of sweet spots with a res­o­nance that can boost thick­ness/bass or add juice and pierc­ing highs. It has that un­mis­tak­able Korg/'logue DNA that I loved in the Mini­logue (pre­cise, warm and with at­ti­tude) and it gives the Pro­logue a ‘look at me’ char­ac­ter (much like the DSI/Tom Ober­heim OB6). In fact, the wiry, furry, edgy sounds the Pro­logues pro­duce can sound al­most OB6-ish; sim­i­larly this is an ‘ear-turn­ing’ ma­chine that ex­cels as the main fo­cus in a track or for back­ground lay­ers too. How­ever, it also de­liv­ers huge bass and cut­ting, sear­ing leads, clas­sic FM sounds, warm fi­brous pads and punchy synth-brass – a tes­ta­ment to the ver­sa­tile sound en­gine. In­ter­est­ingly, the Pro­logue fares best, not on those of­ten over-used clas­sic VCO sounds but in­stead on moody, hazy, tex­tured epic at­mos­pheres. With a lit­tle voice-pan­ning, along with the ex­cel­lent re­verbs, de­lays, and mod ef­fects cou­pled with the vibey VCO and multi-os­cil­la­tor, the sound pal­ette moves into far more fu­tur­is­tic or con­tem­po­rary ter­ri­tory – and that’s where this synth re­ally de­liv­ers by the bucket load! FM VER­DICT 8.6 De­spite a few omis­sions, the Pro­logue sounds in­spir­ing. Unique ana­logue char­ac­ter, lay­ered with VPM sounds and ef­fects. Mag­i­cal!

LAY­ERS: Conec­tiv­ity: Ef­fects:

Two ef­fect pro­ces­sors on­board, one for de­lay and re­verb and one for mod­u­la­tion ef­fects. In par­tic­u­lar the re­verbs are some of the finest I’ve heard on­board a synth

Full-sized head­phone jacks and L/R out­puts, an as­sign­a­ble ex­pres­sion pedal jack and a sus­tain jack. There’s also USB, MIDI, plus DIN MIDI and Sync In and Out.

You can layer two tim­bres with in­de­pen­dent MIDI chan­nels or oth­er­wise split the key­board at a userde­fined point MOD­U­LA­TION/EX­PRES­SION/LFO: As­sign the mod wheel or ex­pres­sion pedal to tar­get one of 32 des­ti­na­tions, while the per-layer LFO can tar­get one of three des­ti­na­tions

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