Last week the bomb dropped right near the nation of Synth Freqs. And it seems that beatmakers, musicians and producers everywhere lost their minds in awe of Korg’s Minilogue analog polyphonic synthesizer. Not only is the Minilogue analog but its polyphonic but not only is it polyphonic it’s got a great sounding digital delay that acts like and sounds like a analog/tape delay, 16 step sequencer, 8 clever voice modes, a low pass and high pass filter, 200 preset memory locations and best of all it’s only $500. These joints shipped and sold out on the day they were announced. BOOM!
The Korg Minilogue is a 37 key polyphonic analog synth that packs a mean punch in a rather sexy package. As Korg states “The synth circuits for minilogue are all new ground up designs” The voicing consists of “2VCO, 1VCF, 2EG, 1VCA, and 1LFO.” It has a few well placed and thought out modulation features such as “cross modulation, oscillator sync, and ring modulator, as well as a delay with a high-pass filter.”
Additionally, the Minilogue has some really well done surprises up its sleeve like the OLED display that doubles as a Osciloscope for wave form read out, an digital delay that behaves like a tape delay and a game of pong for your playing pleasures while the analog synth warms up. I’d personally opt for a cup of coffee during boot up but, hey, whatever. Another surprise is that there is indeed a high pass filter that lives in the delay section of the front panel. The HPF can be set to pre or post filter with the output routing switch which comes in handy while shaping sounds.
I also love the little hidden utility sort of features like the fact that it has a Auto power off setting in the global menu. This turns the Minilogue off after a certain amount of hours of none use.
The Minilogue does not have a sub oscillator. Or does it? Well, when operating in Mono mode the Voice Mode Depth knob acts as a sub osc knob giving you flexibility in getting you low lows on.
The 8 voice modes are not to be confused with 8 voices of polyphony. This is a 4 voice poly synth with 8 modes in which the 4 voices can be played. The modes are;
- POLY – operates as a four-voice polyphonic synthesizer
- DUO – operates as a unison two-voice polyphonic synthesizer
- UNISON – operates as an all-unison mono synthesizer
- MONO – operates as a mono synth with sub-oscillator
- CHORD – produces chords
- DELAY – voices 2–4 sound consecutively at a delay following voice 1
- ARP – an arpeggiated operates with up to four voices
- SIDE CHAIN – when a note sounds, the volume of the preceding voice is lowered
The Minilogue’s sound is unmistakably analog. It can’t do those classic searing leads just as well as those rumbling bass sounds. It can handle the 303 nasal sounds effortlessly. Perhaps most importantly, the chords, pads and strings are warm and lush especially when taking the super smooth filter for a spin. I was so pleased to hear the detuning feature as apart of the Unison voice mode because it gives the voicing so much harmonic texture. The oscillators themselves sound great but when you start to dig in and modulate the voices with the cross modulation, oscillator sync, and ring modulator things take on new life.
I don’t know if, in my short time living with the Minilogue, that I’ve experienced the magic of the SIDE CHAIN / ducking Voice Mode but it certainly seems like a cool idea to include on a synth. The DELAY Voice Mode, not to be confused with the onboard delay, is a slick way of manipulated how the voices stagger when played. The voices are played 1 thru 4 in succession to one another and the space between them can be manipulated with clock divide which is controlled with the “Voice Mode Depth” knob. It also responds to tempo. But the magic here comes into play when you add the actual delay effect into the mix with Delay mode. Crazy space cadet stuff indeed.
The build is pretty solid and seems to balance quality with price point. It has real wood on the back. I like the approach of wood on the back as opposed to the all too typical wood sides. The top casing is a rather stylish “sand-blasted 2mm aluminum front panel” with “chassis-mounted pots and rubber-coated knobs.” The base of the unit is hard plastic which makes the entire unit light weight at less than 7lbs. The Minilogue’s dimensions play a big part in its portability as well with the width at less than 20″ and Depth at less than 12″ . I’m sure we will see these gigging out all over the place.
Let’s talk about competition and alternatives.
Let me clarify that I am not advocating that the Minilogue is the only analog poly synth. Nor am I promoting some idea that the Korg Minilogue is the only affordable analog poly synth. After all, there are the Analog Four, Tetra and the Mopho x4 which are all polyphonic analog synthesizers. I’ve even mentioned the Prophet 6 in comparison to the Minilogue and while I know they aren’t in the same category, one can’t help but to think of the leagues of Beatmakers and producers out there that desire the P6 as their poly analog synth. To that end I’d have to add it to the list of potential alternatives or desired poly analog synths. All of these are more expensive and in some cases, nearly 6 times more expensive than the Minilogue. So among other things, the blaring difference about the Korg Minilogue over those others is its price point of $499.
On the other end of the spectrum you have the well modeled VA’s such as the Yamaha line of Reface synths and the Roland line of Boutique synths which are all re-imaged virtual analog models of the classics. The Refaces are the same price as the Minilogue at $499 but they have their limitations and again they are VA’s (well modeled or not they are VA’s). Conversely, the Roland Boutiques line of VA’s range from $299 to $399. They each have 4 voice polyphony and they too have their limitations such as lacking sufficient midi implementation for Midi CC control messages. Side eye to Roland for that!
So what are the pros and the cons?
- four voices
- Polyphonic Analog
- Perfect Price Point at $500
- Digital Delay acts and sounds like an Analog/Tape Delay
- High Pass and low Pass Filter
- has an Oscilloscope
- Cross Mod
- 8 voice modes all for use as poly, mono, unison etc
- Chord mode
- 16 step sequencer
- Audio in
- Synch in / out
- only 4 voices
- No Mod Wheel
- Diagonal Slider seems a bit loosey goosey
- No CV
- Limited routing and modulation
If I could change anything about the Minilgoue I’d ask that Korg include CV or design towards allowing easy modification for adding CV. I’d also ask for better mounting of the diagonal slider so that it is as firmly in place as all of the other knobs and switches. Additionally, I realize I’ve listed this as a pro and a con but I do believe it belongs in both places… it’s a four voice poly analog synth which is great but we’d all love to see an affordable 8 voice poly from Korg as well. Korg Megalogue perhaps?!
The back panel is home to the typical things like 9v power connection, USB, 5 din Midi in and out, stereo out and headphones. But it also has the audio input for running signal into the Minilogue to be effected by the Filter and delay sections. Also, there are Synch in and out connections which is used to synch Volcas and the like.
All in all, given the feature set and price point for the Minilogue, I don’t see that there are a lot of alternatives. Yes, I know that there are other analog synths on the market but this is something new and rather special. For a mere $500 you get a poly analog synth that excels as a DUO-phonic and MONO-phonic (with sub osc) analog synth. You get 16 step sequencer with motion sequencing that records up to 4 knob movements. You get a killer effects processing unit using the audio in to run signals thru the delay and filter. Minilogue gives you ring modulation, synch, cross modulation and a gang of other cool features at a crazy good price point. I can’t imagine anyone in the market for a synth of any sort under $1000 not considering this little beast. The Minilogue is an easy recommendation and addition to any beatmaker’s set up.
We will see this one again, I’m sure, not only in a gang of studio and live set ups but on our BBoyTechReport Certified Dope Gear list of 2016 for sure. That said I hereby stamp the Korg Minilogue “Certified Dope!”
• 4-voice polyphonic synthesizer with on board effects & sequencer.
• All-new innovative redesign of analogue synth circuitry.
• Instant recall of 100 factory Presets plus 100 additional user Programs.
• 8 Voice Modes (mono, poly, unison, duo, etc.) offer maximum flexibility.
• 41 dedicated panel controls deliver immediate parameter access.
• Real-time oscilloscope provides visual feedback of parameter changes.
• 16-step polyphonic sequencer can automate up to 4 synth parameters.
• Sync In and Sync Out jacks allow you to expand your session setup
For more on the Korg Minilogue go to http://www.korg.com/us/products/synthesizers/minilogue/