Apart from a new workstation keyboard (well-covered by Synthtopia), the hardware news from Korg today is all about making the microKORG line more appealing to customers. That includes an XL+ model with additional sounds, and new color options across the board celebrating the microKORG’s tenth anniversary. (Japanese and UK sites from Korg apparently pre-empted a North American announcement of these devices planned for afternoon US time.)
If it seems like Korg is milking the microKORG line, they’ve got good reason: it’s perhaps the greatest keyboard success story of the last decade, somehow perfectly tapping into desire for an affordable synth well beyond the usual customer base. But for anyone hoping for a vastly new product announcement today, that’s not what this is. Updated: Nope, this is the news, so given the online teasing on Korg’s part and the Internet anticipation, I think well worth working out what was actually announced.
The color schemes are black-on-black and red-on-black, and available for the beloved original microKORG, the new refreshed microKORG XL+, and even the microKEY controllers. (See the announcement at Korg UK.) These are limited-edition colors, and described as “premium,” though no word on whether you pay a premium price. (The oddest color decision from Korg was a camouflage edition we saw one year at NAMM; these I think may have broader appeal, to say the least.)
The microKORG XL+ is, in terms of specifications, basically the same keyboard you might have bought when the first model came out in 2008. It’s still got a vocoder and a gooseneck mic, runs on six AA batteries if you so choose, has Korg’s mini keybed, and is powered by the MMT analog modeling engine found in some of Korg’s other synths. Apart from aesthetic differences, the main change is the addition of new sounds: the KORG SGproX piano, the M1 and the VOX organs.
Oddly, they also tout a new “genre” knob. (Yep, you guessed it. Now it has a “dubstep” setting.)
It’s easiest to see the difference when you put an XL next to an XL+, below. Basically, you get a different front panel, and the bit you can’t see is these new vintage keyboard sounds, including the M1.
In fact, with so little changing on the XL+, it’ll be even more interesting to stack up the Korg offerings against Novation’s new keyboard, which is clearly taking a page (or ten) from the microKORG.
The Novation already has some things the microKORG line (including the XL+) lack: a front-panel, dedicated knob filter and arpeggiator controls are clearly nice, and we’ll be interested to try these other control presets. Novation’s entry is also cheaper.
But for people who want something new, I imagine this will come as a disappointment. (I’ll retract that if it turns out there’s “one more thing” from Korg later today.) That’s already the reaction I’m reading in comment threads and the like online, particularly after a (possibly-fake?) Korg monotron-with-keyboard made the rumor rounds.