This year for Christmas my wife bought me the Korg Monotron Duo and Delay synths, and after a few days playing with them, I figured I would do a quick review. I’ve had my eye on these for awhile, ever since I saw the review done on Sonicstate.com last year. I wasn’t really expecting serious music making tools, but for roughly $40 each on sale, I figured they’d be fun to mess around with occasionally.
I ended up just running the Duo directly into the Delay, since that seemed to really open up the possibilities of what kinds of sounds I could make. I won’t go into a blow by blow of the specs and connections, that info is easy enough to find elsewhere (and on something so simple like these, there’s not much to talk about anyway). Instead I figured I would just list some of the thoughts I’ve had now that I’ve had a chance to explore the sonic possibilities I could achieve with these little boxes:
– They’re definitely nice and small, easily something you could stick in your pocket along with some headphones. That said, not sure how much fun I’d have sitting in a park just playing with the Duo on it’s own. There’s some neat timbres it can do, but even with the option to set the keyboard strip to 4 different scales, it’s really not a “playable” synth in terms of melodies and the like.
– Both units have a decent amount of background hiss on the outputs, these are not nice and pristine sounding synths. Turn the feedback up past 11 o’clock and the Delay unit starts to create it’s own hiss feedback loop even. 🙂 Still, when you start playing with them, it’s really not too noticeable.
– The units are so small and light, that I found it hard to find something to set them on so they would stay put while I manipulated them. Sure I could pick them up, but sometimes I wanted to tweak both at the same time and they would tend to slide around on my desk easily.
– Because there’s not any sort of fixed scales on the Delay synth, trying to play the keyboard for anything other than swoopy pitchy bends is impractical. And since the only LFO onboard is hardwired to OSC pitch anyway, the Delay unit is largely ideal more for FX sounds and textures. While it can’t do melodies all that well, I still found this Monotron to be the more playable (and fun) of the two.
– These are analog units, and thus succeptible to temperature fluctuations. I noticed that patches I made on the Duo would sound different if I powered it off for awhile, and gradually sound more like I remembered after being left on for a little awhile. That said, it was very rare I could completely recall a patch 100% after power down, it often sounded just a tiny bit different.
For me the Monotrons really came into their own for making these dense textures and noise-scapes, not so much for your typical synth sounds. I’d crank the delay feedback up, and use the keyboards of both units to add new sounds and colors into these soundscapes. The results often were noisy and harsh, they break up pretty quickly once the delay starts feedback on itself.
But it’s pretty fun none the less, and I’ve found myself spending an hour or more just playing around with these little guys and enjoying the tweaking they offered for such few controls. If I had to recommend one over the other I’d say the Delay is the more versatile and fun to mess with it. But combined, the two make a good combo and compliment each other nicely.
So while they might not be the first choice for something you would use for repeatable and easy to recall sounds (no patch memory at all), they are great fun for just geeking out in the studio and getting hands on with some analog sounds. Here’s a short recording I made while doing one of these tweak sessions last night, just to give you a taste of some the overall sounds it can do. Careful, it’s pretty loud too!
Well, the end of the year is almost here, but I’m not done with the blog yet . Check in next time as I talk about how the Traktor S4 has once again become my main DJ tool of choice despite some of my reservations a couple years ago when it was first released. Until then!