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sexta-feira, 3 de fevereiro de 2017

Some departures in the groovebox department... - Korg Electribe 2 / Roland MC-09 - Part.1

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you probably remember my past post about why I'm not so keen on recent groove boxes -

This past weekend I ended up selling two of the groove boxes I had in my setup, a Korg Electribe 2 and a Roland MC-09.

Despite I don't think I'll really end up missing those machines, since I truly prefer my Sequentix P3 as a sequencer over any of those two, I think they are still pretty nice and can be really useful in some situations!

I had both of these machines for less than a year, and have to admit I ended up not exploring these two machines as much as I probably should have (especially the Roland MC-09...), but the impression I got from both of them was pretty positive, they just weren't what I needed in my setup.

However, they might be just what you need for your setup, so I felt it would be nice to post a review on both of them, starting by reviewing the Korg Electribe 2 in this first post!

The first thing I can say about the Korg Electribe 2 is that it is a really nice groovebox that easily allows you to produce a complete track without needing other gear!

Nice bright screen!
You have a nice sequencer available that you can easily use to trigger your drum sounds, play a melody or bass line, or even to trigger chords.
And to make things easier, you can select the scale you want to use and you also have a transpose button, so that the pads show only the notes you really want to be featured in your song!

The synth engine has a nice sound to it, based on the King Korg, and it is pretty easy to program your own sounds, since all the parameters are available in the front panel!
You might get only a single oscillator, but fortunately there are several algorithms available for it, sample playback oscillator that uses the built-in samples, but there are several VA oscillators algorithms available that in fact end up giving you two oscillators.
And you also get several different filter types available (some that try to emulate the filters available in classic synths!) and an LFO available in the modulation section!
However, I must say I find the EGs available a bit limited, but since this machine is aimed at more percussive sounds, I'd say they are up for the task.

And to polish the sounds, you get a single IFX (insert effect, with several effects to choose from) for each part, plus a MFX (master effect, which you can control using the touch-pad, making it a bit similar to a Korg Mini KaossPad)!

When you also take into account this machine is really portable (despite it could be a bit lighter...) and runs on batteries, you can see it's the perfect machine to take around and use in very portable setup!

Comparing it with the previous model, the Korg Electribe EMX-1 which I owned before, I have to say I feel the newer model is actually a huge improvement!

Some things are missing in the newer model, like the nice Valve Force section (analog tube circuit), the extra pair of outputs or the set of 3 stereo effects that could be chained together, but you gain a lot to compensate for these losses!

In the Korg Electribe 2, all the parts offer you the exact same possibilities, so you have no actual distinction between the synth and drum sounds!
This is a huge advantage as you can have a filter in your drum sounds, which was impossible in the previous model!
And you can also use all the parts as synth parts (or drum parts), rather than being limited to 9 drum parts and 5 synth parts.

I also feel that the pads are a huge improvement over the small buttons available in the previous version, as it makes the Korg Electribe 2 a much more enjoyable machine to play your grooves with!
And when it comes to lay a track, I found that the possibility to play chords with it is a huge plus!
The possibility to change the notes for each pad play, by changing the scale and transposing, can be nice as well, despite I have to admit the layout of the previous was not worse (but I understand it would be very hard to put quality pads like the ones used in a single row without making this machine very huge...).

The other big plus is the single IFX (insert effect) per part, which might not be as nice as a chain of effects with 3 effects in some cases, but in most cases I feel it has the upper hand!
And as mentioned before, you also get the equivalent to a Korg Mini KaossPad built-in for the MFX!

A comment on the overall sound comparison is harder for me to do as I never had both at the same time, but I honestly like the sound of the Korg Electribe 2, as I did like the sound of the Korg Electribe EMX-1 that I had before, so I wouldn't expect it to sound much worse than the previous model (if it does actual sound worse...) and that the extra features it has are definitely worth it!

Korg Electribe 2 in the original box with manual and other extras!

So, if this is such a great machine, why did I get rid of it?

First of all, I don't really enjoy the way current grooveboxes work when it comes to switching patterns, as that means changing the sounds as well (but if you want some deeper thoughts on that, check the post I mentioned earlier in this post!).

Also, the lack of individual outputs is a big let down to me, as I really like to record the different parts independently to process the different sounds with my hardware effect processors.
I know individual outputs on more recent machines is not that usual, but at least some extra outputs would have been really nice!

And to use it as an external sequencer, I would prefer to use my Sequentix P3.
The Korg Electribe 2 is a nice sequencer to trigger drum sounds, but to sequence melodies or bass lines, it is not really the kind of sequencer I enjoy, as I can't really edit the notes in the sequence on-the-flight, as I am able to do on my Sequentix P3 (in which I have a knob per step to change the note played and another parameter in realtime!).
It is a shame it is only an 8 track sequencer, but I usually like to use it together with my Roland TR-909, for drum sounds (with some processing it can sound quite different to the regular sounds, and it can control other equipment as well), which gives me a quite powerful setup (together with the Roland MC-202 and Roland TB-303 sometimes as well).

It really wasn't the machine for me, but if I played live regularly and needed a very compact setup, there was no way I would have gotten rid of it!
As I said before, it is definitely a machine with a nice interface, nice sound and the portability it offers make it a very interesting device!
But considering I do most of my music in my personal studio, I couldn't really justify keeping it (especially when I'm having a problem with too much gear for too little space available...).

Despite I would definitely recommend this machine, I have to say I'm really disappointed with Korg to have made this machine like this...

In case you are not aware, there is the Korg Electribe 2 Sampler as well, which is basically the same machine, and in fact, there was an hack before that allowed you to transform your Korg Electribe 2 into a Korg Electribe 2 Sampler, and vice-versa...

The main differences between the two machines is that you can sample with the Sampler version, but you have less filter and VA oscillator algorithms...

I find this very frustrating, as it is a really nice machine, and having the possibility to sample with it would have made it a truly amazing machine!
Maybe for me the Sampler version would have actually suit me better, but I would find it a bit sad to lose the extra filter and VA oscillator algorithms...

Also, as a last note in case you are not aware of it, this machine can be a bit of a noisy...
The unit I had unfortunately had a considerable amount of noise when the Audio In Thru option was activated, despite the signal would be ok when it was deactivated.
I've seen people mentioning it could be due to the power supply, but I have to admit I never tried changing it...

In case you are more interested in a machine with sampling, you'll probably be interested in the second part of this post, as I'll be talking about the Roland MC-09!

Despite most probably know it to be an old Roland TB-303 emulator, it can do so much more and has a very interesting looper built-in!

So if that sounds appealing, be sure to tune in for that next post ;)

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