Among the biggest synth manufacturers, Korg is one that is likely to do the unexpected. The company often surprises the world with its innovations, which are usually impressive. In this Korg Minilogue review, we discuss with great detail a portable four-voice hybrid synth. Despite the affordability, it has many interesting features, one of which is the genuinely analogue signal path.
Continue reading below to learn more about:
- The appearance of Korg Minilogue
- The build quality and durability of the synth
- The available connection options on the synth
- The signal path of Korg Minilogue
- The distinctive features and capabilities as a hybrid synth
- The sound quality of Korg Minilogue
- The recommendation whether to buy or not to buy Korg Minilogue
Build and Design
Right after you take it out from the box, you will be impressed by the look and build of Korg Minilogue. The front panel boasts a 2mm-thick sand-blasted anodized aluminum, which has a very nice texture. It feels really tough and sturdy. The overall appearance emits a very strong future/retro vibe.
Meanwhile, the rest of the chassis is constructed from tough yet lightweight plastic. The back panel is made from Pyinkado wood. This wood is acquired from a South Asian tree, and is known for its incredibly durable properties. It has a total of 14 metal paddle switches, just like music centersand video recorders from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
On the control panel, you can find 29 black-colored plastic dials. You can replace these plastic caps with something more blingy if you really so desire.
Korg Minilogue has an excellent build quality. Note that every plastic cap of a dialactually shields a durable metal shaft. You will be pleasantly surprised that the dials feel really sturdy, despite their plastic looks.Obviously, Korg Minilogue is designed not only to meet a particular price point, but also to last for a long time. In fact, it feels even more premium than many more expensive synths in the market.
On the right side of the synth, you can find a perfectly-shaped OLED display which functions to show parameter values and changes, patch names, four sequencer motion lines, and a real-time oscilloscope. There are eight red-backlit buttons lined under the display. Besides helping in the overall navigation, they also double as sequencer and page/editing buttons.
Fortunately, you won’t have to deal with these buttons too frequently. When doing general sound making or sequencing, you only work with your fingers and ears. You don’t need pay close attention to the screen. Such intuitive design is very convenient to use.
Two of the greatest assets of Korg Minilogue are the small, compact footprint and the lightweight construction. It only weighs about 2.8 kg (6 lbs). So, it is very portable – a great advantage for gigging and touring synth players. This can be achieved thanks to Korg’s Slim Keykeybed. However, unlike the other models which utilize the Slim Keykeybed, Korg Minilogue is velocity-sensitive, although without receiving or transmitting after-touch. As the effect, Korg Minilogue is fast and enjoyable to play.
Rear Panel and Menu
Korg Minilogue keeps things simple on the rear panel. There are just a few sockets. There are just two outputs, one is a quarter-inch monophonic output and the other is a quarter-inch TRS headphone output. And there is just a single-channel quarter-inch audio input.
Next to those sockets are 3.5mm Sync Input and Output sockets and standard five-pin MIDI Input and Output connectors. There is a USB type-B socket which can carry MIDI, but keep in mind that it doesn’t carry audio. Finally, there is the power port along with the cable hook and the on/off switch. There aren’t many options, but the essential are present. You can already get things done with these connectors. (You can read also : Korg Minilogue Vs Roland JD Xi)
When connecting an audio source into the input, the external audio is injected into the signal path before the low-pass filter. This way, you can affect and control the external audio in the usual manner. Unfortunately, Korg Minilogue does not have a ‘Hold’ function for the audio VCA. Without holding down a key or running the sequencer, drones and some other treatments will not be possible.
Korg Minilogue’s Edit Mode has 3 menus, which contain 45 additional parameters that are dedicated to the programs, sequencer, and global setup. Most of these additional parameters have obvious functions, such as master tuning, local on/off, patch naming, MIDI and sync parameters, and so on.
The other parameters are for controlling the important aspects of the sound, such as the portamento, the sync modes of the LFOs (whether the four voices are bound to each other or to the sequencer), and whether the MIDI velocity affects the sound loudness or not. The vital parameters for the sequencer include the swing, length, and gate time. Over time, you will become very familiar with these menus.
First of all, Korg Minilogue is a single-channel mono-timbre four-voice hybrid synth. It has analogue and digital capabilities, with various monophonic and duophonic options. Each voice has two VCOs, white noise, an audio VCA, and a low-pass VCF, all of which are modulated by the digitally generated LFO and shaped by the dual digitally generated ADSR envelopes. Korg Minilogue has a simple classic voice architecture, but the manufacturer has enhanced with attractive twists.
The oscillators have four octave settings with independent tuning knobs for every oscillator. When all the knobs are set to zero and the global octave switch is set to the middle, the octave settings are generally precise on 2’, 4’, 8’ and 16’.
However, there is an anomaly. The sawtooth wave sits one octave above the triangle waves and pulse. You can modify it manually through wave-shaping. Even with this anomaly, the sound range is great from nearly subsonic at the bottom to nearly supersonic at the top. Although you can only select one waveform for an oscillator at a time, wave-shaping can be applied manually for each waveform, either controlled by the LFO to create dynamic effects or via the Shape knobs.
Unfortunately, you can only apply LFO-driven wave-shaping to one oscillator. You can only use the LFO to modulate the pitch of an oscillator. Still, even with those limitations, the oscillator section is very powerful. It has cross modulation (FM), oscillator sync (both with VCO1 as modulator and VCO2 as carrier), and a ring modulator. The ring modulator uses the VCO2 input so that you can combine the output from the ring modulator to the VCO1 signal.
Even in extreme settings, everything on Korg Minilogue remains well behaved. It will deliver useful and powerful sound effects instead of sonic mayhem. Unfortunately, the sync has a problem when used with certain combinations of waveforms, pitches, and pitch sweeps.
There is a discontinuity in the sound when a standard hard-sync path is set up with the EG sweeping the VCO2 pitch. Everything also goes swimmingly. Well, you can eliminate the problem by adjusting the relative tuning, by tweaking the sweep amount, or by choosing the sawtooth as the carrier, but these workarounds are probably not what you want for the patch.
The outputs from the oscillators and noise generator are mixed before they are fed to the low-pass filter. It is very nice that the low-pass filter is selectable between 12dB and 24dB, and the cutoff range in both modes is highly precise. The cutoff control has the biggest knob on the control panel. There are additional controls for the resonance and polarity. There are three keyboard tracking modes and three velocity modes.
You can play the four self-oscillating filters like a set of wonky, slightly out-of-tune oscillators by setting the keyboard tracking at 100% and the resonance higher than the two o’clock position. You can deploy the auto-tune routine to keep them scaled. But once they have drifted a little, you can make nice, eerie patches which are typically made on vintage synths.
Finally, the signal passes to the audio VCA. At first, you may think that it is only affected by the dedicated ADSR contour generator, due to the manufacturer omitting the physical on/off switch. However, you can find the velocity/loudness relationship in the menu. Once enabled, the velocity can affect the amplitude of the ADSR contour that is applied to the VCA gain, as it is supposed to be.
Modes and Effects
There are eight Voice Modes in Korg Minilogue, which basically alter the ways the four voices are summed before being passed to the output section. Well, some of the voice modes are quite obvious, such as the Poly for four-voice polyphonic, the Unison for playing all four voices with a single key, and the Arp for invoking the arpeggiator.
The output section consists of an analogue high-pass filter and a digital delay line, along with the associated feedback loop. There are three places that can send audio to the output section. First, you can bypass the delay to send the audio VCA signal directly to the output socket. Second, you can tap the audio VCA signal together with the audio from the high-pass filter or delay loop to create a full-bodied original sound that is followed by thinner echoes.
Third, you can pass the audio VCA signal through the high-pass filter to suppress the lower harmonics and repeats. If you don’t apply any delay, you can combine the high-pass filter with the low-pass filters in the main voicing to get a band-pass filtering.
The delay is equivalent to the simplest tape delays and stompboxes, as it only has a delay time and feedback gain controls. However, it is able to create echoes, delays, and quasi-reverberant effects. And the maximum feedback gain is slightly greater than the unity, so you can create all kinds of ‘50s sci-fi sound effects.
Unfortunately, Korg Minilogue review does not have many performance facilities. It only has a sprung slider for controlling just one parameter. Considering that many vintage analogue synths can apply pitch-bend effects and two types of modulation to their sounds, it is a shame that Korg Minilogue doesn’t have such capabilities.
However, every patch (called ‘program’ in Korg Minilogue) has its own sequence. Recording and overdubbing real-time sequences can’t be simpler than this. When the sequencer is playing, just hit the ‘Rec.’ button and play. You can overdub up to four notes per step as it loops. If you don’t like the result, just press and hold the ‘Rest’ button while looping to erase the recording. You can record up to four motion sequences in each program.
The display screen will show the content of each step. You can replace individual steps. Besides notes, you can also record rests and ties. You can determine the Gate Time note-by-note. This will take lots of button pushes, but it works if you have the time.
There are 200 memories in Korg Minilogue. The 100 preset factory sounds can’t be overwritten, but you are free to use the 100 user memories however you want. Korg Minilogue has impressive monophonic and polyphonic capabilities, and it is a remarkable equal of its vintage ancestor. It can give impressively similar sounds. There is just some occasional superiority of the vintage synth when you need to mix PWM with other waves, but most of the time, Korg Minilogue is a very good equivalent.
Many people nowadays use synth keys only for triggers instead of playing conventional keyboard parts. If you only use the keys for triggers, you probably won’t mind about the Slim Keykeybed. However, if you want to play keyboard parts comfortably on your synth, you will hate the scaled-down keys. If only Korg Minilogue had a standard keyboard. With a standard keyboard, you can pursue both approaches to music making.
|- Flexible, powerful four-voice analog synthesizer. Power Consumption - 8 Watt - Fully programmable, with 200 program memories (100 sounds included) - Voice Mode lets you flexibly configure the four voices - Automatable 16-step polyphonic note and motion sequencer - Oscilloscope function shows the waveform visually|
There are many things to love about Korg Minilogue. It looks very nice with a future/retro vibe, and the build quality is great. The sound is mostly impressive, although there are some weaknesses as well. It can be quite useful and versatile for some monophonic and polyphonic uses. You should get Korg Minilogue if you are looking for an affordable synth that can deliver great vintage sounds.
Korg Minilogue Review: Specifications
- Dimensions (W x D x H):
500 mm x 300 mm x 85 mm / 19.69″ x 11.81″ x 3.35″
- Weight: 6.17 lbs. / 2.8 kg
- Keyboard: 37 keys (SlimKey, velocity sensitive)
- Polyphony: 4 voices
- Sound Generation: Analog
- Display: Real-time OLED oscilloscope with visual feedback
- Controls: 41 dedicated controls, control different parameters with a single slider
- Register up to 8 favorite programs
- Program: 200 programs (100 Users / 100 Presets)
- Voice Modes: 8
(Poly, Duo, Unison, Mono, Chord, Delay, Arp, Side Chain)
- Sequencer: 16-step polyphonic sequencer
- Audio In (6.3mm mono phone jack)
- Output (6.3mm mono phone jack)
- Sync In (3.5mm mono mini jack)
- Sync Out (3.5mm mono mini jack)
- Headphones (6.3mm stereo phone jack)
- MIDI I/O
- Type-B USB
- Power Consumption: 8 W
- Power Supply: DC9V AC adapter
- Included Items: AC adapter
Korg Minilogue Review: Pros and Cons
- Good-looking future/retro design
- Excellent build quality
- Has all the essential connection options
- Genuine analogue signal path
- Impressive sound quality
- SlimKeykeybed is not suitable for conventional keyboard plays
- Problem with certain combinations of waveforms, pitches, and pitch sweeps
- Very limited performance facilities
Korg Minilogue Review: Price
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