Few pieces of music hardware ever have had the impact that KORG’s electribe series has. And there was a time when playing live almost equated to showing up with this gear. Today, KORG has a genuinely new generation of that hardware, long awaited by fans. The engines under the hood are new, finally taking the tech we’ve seen on various KORG gadgets and building it into the flagship production gizmos. They allow for more live performance scenarios.
And in a first, you can use an electribe to build patterns for Ableton Live, creating on-the-go or onstage patterns you can bring back into your live studio.
And in a nod to the endless rise of the MPC-style grid, these are electribes with pads on them. There’s still an X/Y pad, but it’s shrunk to dimensions resembling a trackpad. And there are loads of knobs, the effect being oddly reminiscent of Swedish drum machine maker Elektron as much as something from KORG.
There are actually two electribes today: one called simply “electribe,” the other “electribe sampler.” (Yes, that new capitalization is official, too.)
Pad workflow. The 16 pads (2×8) can be a real-time recording keyboard or step sequencer. And you can use “step jump,” inspired by the volca series, or change length. True to KORG, there’s also motion sequencing for knobs and buttons.
These pads are apparently inherited from the taktile keyboards (yes, by popular demand, we’ll have a CDM review of that). They’re velocity-sensitive, though you can switch that off if your finger drumming chops are deficient.
Touch pad. That X/Y pad now uses a touch scale from the kaossilator – jam with your fingers without any wrong notes.
New synth engine. Yes, there’s a serious synth inside. 409 oscillator waveforms cover both analog modeling and PCM. The analog-modeled synth engine includes basic waves as well as dual, unison, sync, ring modulation, and cross modulation combinations. PCM KORG says focuses mainly on rhythm but also has multisamples for melodic material. And there’s the filter engine from the KingKORG, too – with the ability to route drums through the same filter.
Now, this isn’t really a full-blown synth as far as control; think macro-style controls of a deeper engine. That makes the electribe synth into more of a preset box than a sound programmer’s dream, but this is an electribe, after all. (KORG promises presets covering the genres you kids like so much like “trap” and “EDM,” which makes us shudder. But as with KORG gear of yore, I’m sure we’ll dial our way to the stuff we actually like.)
Per-part effects, grooves; live performance features. Of course, you really get into electribe territory once you start adding effects and such and actually jamming.
There’s now per-part compression and overdrive, per-part insert effects, and per-part groove templates, so not everything is master-bus stuff.
This being an electribe, when you do start applying master effects, you get KAOSS Pad-style control on the touch pad. Seq Reverse and Odd Stepper apply even to the sequencer. And, so you can alienate your friends, there’s a “Vinyl Break” effect. (Yay! Actually – augh! No! Turn it off!)
The performance additions look really nice. “pattern set” lets you switch patterns with the trigger pads. You can then record that sequence of pads as an “event recording” – so you can jam on arrangements with the pads, then save that jam (either to store a performance live or to experiment with arrangements).
I/O and batteries. MIDI in/out, sync in/out for the volca, mono tribe, and MS-20/MS-20 mini, and battery operation on 6 AA’s. This is simply a killer mobile unit.
The electribe sampler is basically the same as the electribe; the easiest way to tell it apart is its darker gray color.
The difference is the sound engine, which on the sampler (versus the standard electribe) is a hybrid sampler-synth engine.
You still get analog modeling sound engine. (It seems this is missing all the PCM melodic content, but that’s it.)
In place of the preset PCM engine, you can add your own samples – 999 preset and user samples, with a maximum 270 seconds of sampling time (in mono, or half that for stereo).
Time Slice automatically detects attack transients, so you don’t have to do any work to slice things up. And there’s of course pitch-independent tempo changes. You can take slices and add them to steps or parts, or add per-sample effects.
There’s also resampling, with knobs controlling pitch or modulation.
All in all, the sampling workflow looks terrific, intuitive, and very electribe-ish. Add that to the enhanced performance features, and to me, electribe sampler looks like a real winner.
You can also see the differentiation here between the volca sampler and electribe sampler. I don’t think that’s so much market differentiation between the two – there’s little risk of the volca cannibalizing electric sales – as it is that fundamentally, the volca is a different animal. It’s really designed to be simpler and cheaper philosophically.
Sample rate is 16-bit/48K. There’s a stereo minijack line input for sampling.
Both units feature USB, MIDI in and out jacks, and an SD card for storage.
When Ableton met electribe
It used to be, if someone said they were playing a live set, they actually meant they were showing up with ElecTribes. These days, of course, it’s Ableton Live. And Live is a wonderful tool, especially when combined with hardware like Push. But … yeah, we miss the old hardware days.
Then again – why choose?
What may turn out to be the killer feature of the new electribe generation is that it now exports to Ableton Live sets. KORG even says it’s a collaboration with the folks at Ableton.
Your patterns and parts are saved to scenes and clips. Open these files on your computer, and you see them inside a Live Set.
There’s even a copy of Live Lite in the box, but — yeah, you probably don’t need that.
No need for explanation here – this is huge. You now have a battery-powered unit you can use away from Ableton Live that can make drum parts, melodic parts, and even live sample, and then you can finish off songs and arrangements back on your machine. If you like starting songs on hardware and getting away from the computer, or if you want to integrate KORG’s hardware with your live set and then later turn jams into songs, it’ll be a beautiful combination.
All in all, I think the electribe is some of the best news on the market in a long time for hardware workflows.
No word yet on price or availability, but I hope we’ll be first in line for a review.