Korg microKORG XL+ review
Korg's microKORG mini-synths have been a Stuff favourite for years, thanks to their combination of gadgety portability and awesome sonic power. Perhaps spurred on by the recent competition from Novation's Mininova, Korg has now extended the microKORG family with a third member, the XL+.
Korg microKORG XL+ review – solid foundation
A few years ago the original mini-keyed microKORG was joined by the XL (extra large in sound but not size), which brought an improved vocoder for vocal effects, a new brain capable of recreating a wider range of sounds and a more playable keyboard. The XL+ builds on that with new sounds and a slightly tweaked front panel.
microKORG XL Plus – Mellotron sounds
Many of those new sounds are actually recreations of very old sounds. Sorry, make that "retro" sounds. For example, there are some accurate renditions of the legendary Mellotron, a synth that predated the sampler by about 20 years, using recordings of acoustic instruments on strips of magnetic tape connected to the keys. For this reason, the first thing any new XL+ owner must do is dial up the "Tape Flute" sound and play the opening chords to The Beatles' Strawberry Fields Forever. That's the law.
microKORG XL+ colour schemes
The XL+ comes in two new colour schemes, but beyond that and those extra sounds it's business as usual. Straight out of the box the XL+ is a very versatile synth, covering the bases from techno bleeps, trancey parps and dubstep wobbles (dubstep now gets its own notch on the "Genres" knob) to organs and pianos more suited to rock set-ups.
microKORG XL+ vocoder
The vocoder is pretty awesome (the same as on the XL, better than the original microKORG but marginally beaten by the Mininova) and the additional audio input remains, so you can put any other gear through the XL+'s filters and effects. Extra sounds are available for free from Korg, and while the front panel isn't great for editing, the Mac and PC sound editor gives you the freedom to create your own from scratch or just mess around with the presets.
microKORG XL+ arpeggiator
It's the amount of musical potential that's packed into the XL+ that makes it so special. Not only do you get a great synth with one of the best vocoders out there, you also get an arpeggiator which is brilliant for adding movement and rhythm to sounds or for playing semi-automatic basslines. Still, it would have been nice to see the USB connection upgraded to carry digital audio as well as MIDI data.
Every music-making set-up should have room for a microKORG, and the XL+ is just as deserving of a place as its predecessors.
Review by Tony Horgan.