Kronos includes 9 different sound engines, including the entire range of recent Korg different synthesis technologies and new ones. Sound Engines Like its predecessor OASYS, Kronos has nine different sound engines: The HD1 High Definition Synthesizer which Korg first introduced in the OASYS uses sample-based synthesis and wave sequencing to generate sounds from the multisamples stored on an internal solid state drive.
Korg have written a dedicated Expansion Instrument (EXi) to make best use of their two new families of grand piano samples. Despite being very simple to use, the results can be outstanding.
Note: the built-in Preset PCM ROM is 314 MB The SGX-1 Premium Piano sound engine utilizes continuous (un-looped) stereo piano samples sampled at eight velocity layers per key and played directly from the internal solid state drive to produce either a Steinway-styled or Yamaha-styled acoustic grand piano. The samples are directly streamed from the solid state drive by using VMT (Virtual Memory Technology) This synth engine didn't exist on Korg Oasys. The EP-1 MDS Electric Piano employs the same Korg "MDS" modeling introduced in the SV-1 Stage Vintage Piano released in 2009 to produce electric piano sounds. The sound engine offers four models based on specific classic Rhodes electric pianos and two based on Wurlitzer pianos, with software control over hammers, tines, reeds, and mechanical noise elements.
Unlike most workstation sequencers, the Kronos’s Track Data Map can show the status of all 16 MIDI tracks, all 16 audio tracks and the Master track simultaneously.
It also simulates amplifiers, cabinets, speakers, and effects associated with those historic electric pianos. This synth engine didn't exist on Korg Oasys. The CX-3 Tonewheel Organ engine is carried over from the Korg CX-3 modeled tonewheel organ released in 2001 (not Korg's 1980 CX-3 based on octave-divider technology). The CX-3 engine models classic tonewheel organ, including rotary speaker effects, vibrato and chorus effects, and tube amplifier. Nine hardware sliders on the Kronos' control panel function as organ drawbar controllers.
The back panel of the 73‑note Kronos. On the left is an IEC port and a power switch; in the middle a pair of USB A ports and a single USB B socket; and at the right we find the bulk of the Kronos’s connectivity. This includes a pair of quarter‑inch audio inputs with accompanying trim pots and mic/line buttons, four individual outputs and a stereo main output on quarter‑inch jack sockets, MIDI In, Out and Thru ports, S/PDIF I/O and three footswitch sockets.
This synth engine first appeared on Korg Oasys. The AL-1 Analog Synthesizer models analog subtractive synthesis, with a range of modeled oscillator waveforms, filters, hard sync, analog-style FM, and ring modulation. This is another sound engine passed down from the Korg Oasys. The MS-20EX Legacy Analog Collection models an expanded version of the original Korg MS-20 semi-modular monophonic analog synthesizer originally released in 1978. This engine is basically another version of the version released by Korg in their "Legacy Collection" software previously and also found on Korg Oasys. Similarly, the PolysixEX Legacy Analog Collection models an expanded version of the 6-voice Korg Polysix analog synthesizer produced by Korg from 1982-3, and also previously released as one of the software synthesizers in that same collection.
Two new expansion (EXs) PCM libraries provide the basis of myriad drum kits and percussion instruments, all of which can be further sculpted using the full power of the HD1 synth engine and the effects
The MOD-7 Waveshaping VPM Synthesizer is capable of classic FM sounds and has import compatibility with Yamaha DX7 SysEx formatted sounds. The MOD-7 engine also combines Variable Phase Modulation (VPM), waveshaping, ring modulation, samples, subtractive synthesis, and modular patching to create a wider range of sounds than would have been possible on a classic Yamaha DX-series synthesizer. This synth engine first appeared on Korg Oasys. First released by Korg as an expansion to the Korg Oasys, the STR-1 Plucked String Synthesizer engine creates sounds derived from the physical properties of struck or plucked string sounds. This sound engine is well-suited for creating sounds like guitar, harpsichord and clavinet, harp, and bell sounds, as well as other sounds based in the physics of a plucked string but not directly related to any known instrument. In terms of size, there are three variants of the Kronos. There are 61, 73, and 88-key versions of this workstation, with the latter two employing graded hammer action keys, and the 61-key version with synth action keys. Other capabilities The Kronos has a 16-track MIDI sequencer combined with a 16-track 24-bit audio recorder.
AL1 is a deep, complex and sometimes daunting ‘virtual analogue’ synthesizer, but it’s worth getting to know because the range of options available make it more flexible and more capable than most hardware VA synths or plug‑ins .
The recorder can record up to four tracks simultaneously. 185 effect types are available. They can be applied as 16 internal effects, 12 insert effects, and 2 master effects. In addition to these effects, a separate 3-band EQ for each track is available. Kronos features the Kay Algorithmic Realtime Music Architecture, or KARMA, a complex arpeggiator that generates complex musical phrases in realtime based on the input of a performer. KARMA was developed by Stephen Kay and first appeared in the Korg KARMA keyboard workstation. Kronos is capable of sampling audio and has full sample editing functionality. Sample import and export are supported. Import sample formats supported include Korg, Akai, SoundFont, WAV and AIFF files. Kronos sounds can be computer edited using Kronos editor software. Kronos can also be integrated within a computer digital audio workstation as a software plug-in.
The enhanced patch panel of the MS20EX synthesiser allows you to do everything that you could on the original synth, and much more. Unlike a modulation matrix, this encourages you to try hooking things up in new and interesting ways.
The 73‑note version of the Kronos employs the fully‑weighted RH3 keyboard found on Korg’s SV1.
We keyboard players are a funny lot, and never was this more obvious than when Korg allowed the first sounds from the Kronos to trickle out into the world. But what was it? Based on what they heard, enthusiasts speculated that it was an updated Wavestation, a new Karma, some form of vector synth, a hardware‑based Legacy Collection, and even a sampler/resynthesizer. Another popular idea was that it would be an updated MS20 with MIDI, memories and advanced effects, and one person even went so far as to state that this would be the only product that anybody would ever want from Korg. We now know that they were all correct; well, all except the MS20 extremists. So, when it was revealed, did the synth aficionados of the world cheer? No. Having been presented with something that has the potential to be the most flexible sound source and music-production keyboard yet developed, many greeted it with caution. But they’re the ones who are going to miss out, and here’s why...
Throughout this review I have been comparing the Kronos to the OASYS, which I am able to do because, having reviewed it in 2005, I bought one. And, as far as I am concerned, it remains the sexiest, best sounding and most desirable workstation yet developed. But today, the Kronos — while foregoing the gorgeous and unusual OASYS physical design — retains all the audio quality of the OASYS. It also offers the expanded PCM libraries for the HD1 engine, the excellent SGX1 pianos, the fabulous EP1 electric piano engine, set lists, improved audio handling, and more. In other words, it’s more flexible and in many respects more powerful than the OASYS. Yet it no longer occupies the stratosphere of synth prices; indeed, it appears that it will cost little more than its (supposed) competition, with Korg anticipating that the range will be priced from around £3000. So while there’s nothing surprising about the Kronos — it’s an enhancement of existing technology — I’m impressed. I mean... really impressed. I need to lie down for a while.
Abridged Kronos Specification
Abridged Kronos Specification
|Keyboard:||61‑key semi‑weighted; 73‑ and 88‑key piano‑weighted.|
|HD1 Synth Engine||314MB ROM, 1505 multisamples, 1388 drum samples.|
|Expansion Libraries||EXs1 ROM expansion; EXs2 Concert Grand Piano; EXs3 Brass & Woodwinds; EXs4 Vintage Keyboards; EXs5 ROM Expansion 2; EXs6 SGX1 German D Piano; EXs7 SGX1 Japanese C Piano; EXs8 Rock Ambience Drums; EXs9 Jazz Ambience Drums.|
|Wave Sequences||165 preset, 374 user.|
|Expansion Instruments:||SGX1 acoustic pianos, EP1 electro‑mechanical pianos, AL1 virtual analogue synthesizer, MOD7 FM synthesizer, STR1 plucked string synthesizer, MS20EX virtual analogue synthesizer, PolysixEX virtual analogue synthesizer, CX3 virtual tonewheel organ.|
|Available Sample RAM||148MB after factory libraries loaded.|
|Internal Drive||30GB SSD.|
|Memory||1664 Programs, 1792 Combis, 152 Drum kits, 256 GM2 Programs and nine GM2 drum kits.|
|Set Lists||128 lists, 128 slots per list.|
|Sampling||48kHz, 16-/24‑bit, 4000 samples, 1000 multisamples maximum|
|Effects||Insert Effects: 12; Master Effects: two; Total Effects: two. 185 different types with side‑chaining; 783 presets, maximum 32 presets per type. EQs: one per track.|
|KARMA||2048 preset Generated Effects (GEs), 1536 User GEs, one module in Program mode, four modules in Combi and Sequencer modes.|
|Drum Tracks||697 preset patterns, 1000 user patterns.|
|Sequencer/Recorder||16‑track MIDI sequencer, 16‑track hard disk recorder, master track. Four‑track simultaneous recording, maximum 200 songs, 300,000 audio events, 400,000 MIDI events. Resolution: 480ppqn. Real-time Pattern Play and Record (RPPR): 1 Pattern set per song.|
|Screen||TouchView, eight-inch TFT, 800x600 pixels.|
|Analogue Outputs||Main L/R, four individual, headphones.|
|Analogue Inputs||Two quarter‑inch TRS balanced jacks.|
|Optical S/PDIF||In & Out, 24‑bit, 48kHz.|
|Control Inputs||Damper, assignable switch, assignable pedal.|
|MIDI (DIN)||In, Out, Thru.|
|USB A||Two connections to external USB devices.|
|USB B||MIDI & two‑channel audio interface, 24‑bit, 48kHz.|
There has been much speculation regarding the maximum polyphony of the Kronos and how this compares with the OASYS. In general, the Kronos manages slightly lower polyphony, but not by huge amounts. For example, HD1 polyphony on the Kronos is 140 notes and on the OASYS 172, while the AL1 synth figures are 80 and 96 respectively and those for MOD7 are the same, at 52. The Kronos’s CX3 synth actually offers more polyphony, at 200 notes compared to the OASYS’s 172. The published figures do not tell the whole story, because the OASYS is affected by the use of power‑hungry effects, whereas Korg claim the Kronos is less susceptible to this. Note that the Kronos distributes its resources as best it can, so if half its processing power is being used by one of the engines, only half will be available for the others, and the polyphony offered by each will be reduced accordingly.
The Kronos will come in three flavours. The first will be the 61‑note, semi‑weighted version reviewed here. The flagship of the range will be an 88‑note version that will use the excellent RH3 keyboard already used in the M3 and the SV1, so if you’re planning to use the Kronos as a stage piano, this will probably be the one for you. The model in the middle will use the truncated, 73‑note RH3 keyboard first seen on the smaller of the two SV1s. This is great for electro‑mechanical pianos, but a fully‑weighted action is not ideal for playing organs or synth solos. Given that the middle of the range has traditionally been a 76‑note, semi‑weighted model, Korg have either had great foresight or have been a bit misguided in bucking the trend. Time will tell.KARMA 2 Explained
KARMA 2 Explained
The simplest way to describe KARMA 2 is as a complex arpeggiator that, instead of playing static sequences of notes, generates quasi‑random elements to emulate what a human player might do when presented with the need to play a similar phrase or pattern. With eight scenes per Program, a KARMA module can create anything from simple arpeggios to complex performances. When used within a Combi, up to four modules can be applied, to create anything from evolving soundscapes to auto-accompaniments of whole bands and orchestras.
KARMA 2 generates its effects using a set of algorithms called Generated Effects (or GEs). There are 2048 preset GEs in the Kronos, and space for another 1536 user‑defined ones. If you can get past the initial hurdles, you may never stop finding things to do with them.
Guts Of The Kronos
The Kronos is, as the OASYS was before it, essentially a PC in a keyboard‑shaped box. Rather than using the Core processor (the direct descendant of the P4 used in the OASYS), Korg have adopted the Intel Atom for the Kronos. Although this choice has been criticised elsewhere, I think it’s an astute one, because the Atom is small, uses less power than a Core, runs cooler, and is less expensive. Sure, for any given clock rate it’s less powerful, too, but since Korg have avoided the power-sucking monster that is Windows and run optimised code in a Linux environment, the swings outweigh the roundabouts, both in terms of price and of performance.
The Kronos is highly upgradable. Installing any forthcoming EXs libraries should be a doddle, and new synth engines could also appear, should Korg decide to develop them. As for the hardware, the provision of USB means that you can add external devices to extend its functionality, and increasing the internal memory should also be possible. There have been no announcements regarding expansion as yet, but I can’t believe that Korg would be unaware of users’ interest in this, especially where the issue of PCM and sample RAM is concerned.
OASYS — RIP?
Korg appear to have been careful to avoid calling the Kronos the OASYS MkII, which would have been just as appropriate. I suspect that there is a commercial reason for this. If they had done so, it would have been reasonable for OASYS owners to expect some or all of the Kronos’s new libraries and facilities to be made available as upgrades. By divorcing one from the other, the company are, in effect, saying, “How can we put Kronos inside OASYS? They are different products.” As an OASYS owner, I hope I’m proved wrong.