Korg’s Monotribe became the surprise hit of gear announcements at this month’s Messe trade show. It’s little, it’s cute, and it seems entirely focused on synthesis and pattern-making fun.

Plenty of videos have circulated, but odds are you haven’t seen the Japanese-language demo above (well, Japanese titles – the video itself speaks the international language of synth). It’s a nice jam on Monotribe and the recently-released Kaoss Pad Quad.

Korg’s James Saveja answers some questions for CDM, rapid-fire style.

CDM: Can you describe the drum voices?

James: Drum voices are all analog. A nice punchy snare, kick and hat part.

CDM: How does the sync work?

James: It’s audio sync. You can use a pulse to keep things synced.

CDM: What’s the workflow like for the step sequencer?

James: Very easy. Hit record and the sequencer runs, and captures what you’re doing at the moments where you’re traversing the 8 steps.

CDM: Pricing I gather won’t be announced until the summer?
James: We’re getting close. Sooner than summer for sure.

CDM: Any impressions you wish to share?

James: I only got my hands on it for a few minutes at the show, and I gotta tell you, it’s got a very special vibe. It’s built like a tank, and the user interface feels extremely substantial. Sturdy knobs and switches, etc. It was a pleasure to play with. I’m excited to get my first production one. Yes, even [product managers] have to wait sometimes! =)

More details: Korg has also posted additional specs on the components. To me, the main thing remains their distinctive-sounding MS-series filter. And I think it’s telling that Korg, of all the major manufacturers, has actually returned to their back catalog of analog designs; in some ways, it’s surprising that no one else has. I’m not entirely sure about an analog pulse being a “return to modular” – that seems to overstate the case a little bit – but it is very, very easy to use a pulse to sync.

From the source:

Classic Analog Components – VCO, LFO, VCA
The VCO offers a choice between sawtooth, triangle and square wave. White noise can mixed in to the oscillator signal in any amount. The Octave selector covers a broad range, from deep bass to piercing lead-lines. Three EG (Envelope Generator) presets provide the VCA with impressive versatility and dexterity. The LFO can be patched to the VCO and/or the VCF, creating impressive dynamic effects. The Range switch allows the LFO to deliver stirring cyclic changes over tens of seconds (SLOW) or superfast (FAST) audio-range FM ringing. Switching the LFO Mode to the 1-shot setting allows the LFO behave as a second envelope generator – a truly powerful addition!

Vintage MS-10/MS-20 Filter
The monotribe features the same VCF circuit found on Korg’s classic MS-10 and MS-20 analog semi-patchable synthesizers. Distinctively analog, this sharp and powerful filter adds dramatic change to the sound, imparting the uniquely memorable character of Korg’s early analog synthesizers. Using the audio input, any audio source can be enhanced by passing through the filter section. Process an instrument, a voice, or a complete mix form CD or MP3 and create larger than life filter effects!

Sync Jacks: A Return to Modular
The monotribe provides both Sync In and Sync Out jacks, empowering multiple monotribe units to play and work together for a synchronized performance. Not just other monotribes, either. Audio line level pulses can trigger the Sync Input so the monotribe can be synchronized to a DAW system, for example. In addition, the polarity of the pulse waveform can be changed for both the input and output, so you can enjoy synchronized performance with a variety of equipment equipped with Sync connections.

Monotribe Product Page

By the way, one dirty little secret: almost all gear from recent decades uses some analog circuitry and some digital circuitry, this of course being no exception. I’ll let you conclude from that what you wish. To me, it’s design and use that gives electronics soul, not how analog or digital something is. What the Korg devices remind us is that analog circuits remain an affordable, practical solution to many problems.

Anyway, rest assured we’ll be watching for one of these boxes to arrive in the New York metro area. (Hmmm… I’m in NYC. Korg is on Long Island. The Monotribe and a number of other pieces of gear run on battery power. Synths on the Beach party, anyone?)