KORG has a big update for its electribe and electribe sample line – with features that, while subtle, are just what you asked for.

The latest generation KORG electribe and electribe sampler were the “music production station” grooveboxes we all really wanted to like. First off, they do bear that beloved electribe name. And the layout looks clean and appealing – 2×8 pads, clean knobs, a little X/Y pad. They do things you’d like in mobile hardware: the electribe is a synth/sequencer, the electribe sampler doing what it says on the tin (and actually sampling) in a similar design. And there are innovative new features, like the ability to export directly to Ableton Live’s native file format – something we’ve only seen (in official form, at least) from KORG.

In fact, the electribe sampler in particular has some key tricks that Novation Circuit I love so much lacks. The electrie sampler can genuinely sample from an external audio input. It has more sample slots. And it has the ability to use an SD card (the Novation box is limited to 60 seconds of internal audio, non-expandable).

electribe_BL_slant_rgb_s

Here’s where things get tricky, though. By being more ambitious than devices like Novation’s Circuit or Korg’s own volca series, the electribe also raises expectations – particularly given that there’s so much you can do on a computer. And that means there’s more chance to disappoint on workflow. So while it’s all fine and dandy to dump on laptops and sing the praises of standalone hardware, well… there’s a reason we still keep the laptops around.

And so, it’s a good thing I didn’t review the electribes when they were first released, because what I heard was … well, let’s say atypical for KORG and electribe. It’s not so much that there was anything fundamentally wrong with the electribes as a kind of typical death by a thousand cuts workflow wise.

But Korg has been steadily improving the electribes, and if you heard some mixed reviews early on, maybe the end of summer is actually the right time to give these a look. (Ah, the joys of firmware and software updates – if only we could re-edit Batman versus Superman and Suicide Squad after their initial releases!)

So, in recent versions: version 1.14 added key shortcuts for changing scale and arpeggiator settings, and improved how scales and X/Y and editing worked. Version 1.15 fixed an audio noise bug.

And now version 2.02 offers some absolutely essential features.

electribe_BL_snap_rgb_s

The big one: you can Chain patterns. You can do that by repeating a chain or chain “to” a particular pattern.

Wait, the even bigger one: there’s an Undo feature. Whatever the previous operation – edit, sequence record, or (yipes) erase, you can now hold shift plus < and save your butt. Plus there's an "original value" function which shows the saved value of a parameter on the display when selected. As a bonus, KORG are also offering 200+ new patterns to add when you download. If you own the KORG hardware, this is already good news. If you don't, though, this to me makes the whole package far more interesting - and I'm asking KORG to send me the sampler unit to review in September, so stay tuned. (Honestly, the biggest problem I had with KORG this year wasn't niggling complaints about the electribe line - it was that the volca fm and minilogue were each so stupidly amazing that it was hard to think about anything else. You must agree, because the minilogue is everywhere and the volca fm is impossible to buy.) Also, because I'm a superficial person living in a looks-oriented world whose head is quickly turned by beauty ... uh ... yeah, they've replaced that dull red and blue matte plastic with a much more electribe-ish metallic red and blue. And it looks really handsome in photos, as you can see. electribe_sampler_RD_snap_rgb_s

And remember, all this is US$399.99. The metallic units are available this month, but apart from the paint scheme they’re identical to the original models and those can also be updated to the latest firmware.

At that price, this is definitely worth considering, so watch for our September review. In the meantime, with undo and chaining, I’m already keen — especially when you watch what else these can do. In videos:

Here’s a nice demonstration of how pattern chaining is working. (Also, it’s got to be the most hilarious juxtaposition I’ve seen ever of dramatic 3D opening graphic and … charmingly cheap camera in low light. I love YouTube.)

This video goes into some detail on how sample management works – and how it works with Ableton Live.

On one hand, this gets into some of why people find the electribe annoying – like the fact that you can easily forget to export samples, or that loading samples takes time. On the other, it’s a reminder of just how powerful the electribe sampler is – loads of sample space, customization on SD or via audio input, powerful sample manipulation on the unit as standalone, and nice export workflows to Ableton.

Oh yeah, and – resampling, one of the coolest things about this hardware.

So, you can listen to Paul Hartnoll of Orbital, rant on about not looking at computer screens. But… actually with all due respect to one of my personal heroes and musical inspirations, I have to feel that’s missing the point.

What matters about hardware like the electribe isn’t looking away from the screen or avoiding presets – both of which are eminently possible with computer software, too, if you like. (And in fact, creating your own presets and saving them and having access to screen real estate I think are each good things!)

I think it’s about accessibility and immediacy – about really being able to get into sound and play. And having that in hardware that has fixed workflows and controls, something that’s portable and friendly, is so lovely. Now, it also means that something as simple as not having undo (cough) can be a deal breaker. But I’m really excited to give the electribe a go, particularly alongside gear like the Circuit or volcas.

If you’ve got questions – or want more tips – we’re also in touch with KORG’s product specialists, who are some of the best in the industry. (Not to mention nice to see some random YouTube strangers who also show some expertise!) So do feel to ask. And if you’ve got one, we’d love to hear how it’s going.

http://www.korg.com/us/products/dj/electribe/

http://www.korg.com/us/products/dj/electribe_sampler/

  • M

    It’s great to hear that you are in contact with Korg reps and we could get feedback about the electribes – something that a lot of the customers are really missing is exactly better communication and feedback. Getting into the subject, you may have stumbled across the petition for bug fixes and feature requests that started before the release of 2.02 update https://www.change.org/p/help-make-continued-software-updates-for-the-new-electribes-a-priority-for-korg-inc
    This petition’s points has been carefully collected and voted upon on the korg forum and could serve as an accurate guideline for what the users would like to see in future updates. Things like easy transposition, the extremely crucial note tails being cut-off on pattern change, arpeggiator or step-jump sync are still missing but maybe the most important question pwould be about Korg’s general commitment with the electribes – should we actually expect more steps in the right direction or this was a cosmetic refreshment? Thank you!

  • Austin Cairns

    I really appreciate this new update. The undo feature is huge, though I feel like the pattern chaining is a little clumsy. That said, I have very few qualms with the Electribe 2. I’ve been doing some ambient tracks with it for the last year or so and it’s even become my main sequencer for my modular setup.

    The layout is very intuitive to me and I feel like there is a workaround for most issues. I do consider it a budget machine and I enjoy working within it’s confines.

    Here’s a link to my most recent ambient track utilizng just the Electribe 2 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJR6EK7Mxe4

    • synapticflow

      Nice!

  • Polite Society

    I was wondering, are you able to play samples chromatically, what kind of pitch range can you get, and are you able to play them polyphonically? I’ve read around but get conflicting information.

    Are you able to do stutter/retrigger effects on steps?

    I was also wondering if you can layer the synth oscillators with the samples, or if it’s either/or.

  • Arnaud

    Like Peter said, I really want to like the Electribe Sampler. I was very excited when Korg announced it! But when I tried it in a shop, I found that the “note tails being cut-off on pattern change” issue is a deal breaker for me

    Korg should give attention to the petition made by the members of korgforums.com. It summarize what are the most important issues that are probably preventing people (like me) to buy it. Hopefully all of these issues can be fixed via fimware updates.

    The petition is here :
    https://www.change.org/p/help-make-continued-software-updates-for-the-new-electribes-a-priority-for-korg-inc

    The petition already has 716 supporters : that’s a lot, considering how specific the subject is!

  • fgvyti

    KORG really dropped the ball with these new electribes imo…………the ESX1 is still the greatest sampler/drum machine hardware ever (yep, even better than the trendy Elektrons) and all it needed was to be enhanced and refined.

  • Mendo

    I have the Korg e2s since a few months but only used it now-end-then because it’s summer… So my experience reflect what I observed spending little time and using it by trial&error, i.e. not reading all manuals, etc.

    I find it fun to tweak sounds and it provides a intuitive may to sequence sounds. The sampling & sequencing is more direct and enjoyable than sitting in front of a DAW. One can get started quickly with patterns and then have a tool for live playing The basic functions are accesible with the buttons / knobs.

    The variety of functions and modifuication options are quite OK. But then, some effects have only 2 parameters, e.g. I did not find a feedback parameter for the delays.

    Then, there are many secondary features or functions that run in connection with others. For a starter or someone just occasionally using the device, it’s often a bit difficult to fiddle out the way the different parts of functionality and interfaces play together. For many functions, it seems that one would need to either learn the shortcuts, print the mappings and have the paramter guide next to oneself. Still, many funtions are hidden in the sub-menus.

    Ideally, the menues would change and adapt based on the order the hardware buttons are pressed. For example, if the step button was last pressed, the first menu item would be the definition of number of steps, etc.

    This way, users are guided and would not need to think to much about where to find what in the menus. The device woudl gain more intuitivity for advanced features.

    When editing the sample start/end, I would like to be able to have the sample playing in loop mode to get direct feedback on the changes…

    Also, the accessability of the menus & options with the “” & “” could be improved.
    For example, when I am in some sub-menu, the cycling of the menu options with “” takes time. Maybe assigning the cycling to value knob and the parameter change to the edit knob (as the name says) would help here.

    Summarising, the usability of the menus & editing of samples as well
    as interoperability and connectivity with iOS or computers could be
    greatly enhanced.

    Although I have never used a Circuit, this post describes it well:
    “the love for the Circuit is because its a powerful, intuitive instrument thought to be played in a non-linear manner with everything just a touch away as opposed to the E2 which is different more rigid and step-by-step tool which also has it strengths. Novation’s communication and great love for the product is just a bonus here and korg should learn big time.”
    Source: http://www.korgforums.com/forum/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=691668#691668

    What’s Korg’s own take on this appraisal?

    Here are my questions for the Korg product specialists:

    * For what use is the USB port intended for and why is it not possible to transfer samples using USB?
    * What does Korg plan for integrating the hardware Eletribe devices with the iElectrive (simialr as seen with the Novation Launchpad series)?
    There are many good posibilities the iOS version could support users: sample assignment, pattern development, parameter editing, chaining, performance …
    * What do they think of addressing the Changeorg. list shall be attended
    * What does Korg think of a Ableton Link integration?
    * The Eletribes are a good stand-alone device as groove-box. But the sample management & present management is very cumbersome let alone the nonexistent support to display file names longer than the display. Actually, the sample management and USB import support is somewhing where I expect to be the PD Toraiz way more helpful to my workflow. Why is there no computer editor software for the tasks that hidious with the display: sample management, present / pattern definition, chaining?
    * Why can the display not support longer file names via cusor “”?
    * With new pattern change lock activated, one can only write or return to all original values. Why is there new save confirm or YES/NO? Best: if pattern changed, there should be warning: “Pattern changed: press WRITE or EXIT”
    * How do they see their product in relation to the PD Toraiz?

  • cooptrol

    Have they fixed the annoying voice stealing and limited poliphony when using delays? I had to sell mine as soon as I got it and found out that.

  • James Tillman

    Was researching articles on the electribe and came across this. Why is every company jumping on Abletons dick? Seriously what is the need to make ever device feature as if it was made exclusively for Ableton? So you can export in Ableton format. Great woo hoo. What about Fruity Loops or Reaper or any other DAW that is better than Ableton live for goodness sake.