It would be easy to mistake the Korg Monotribe for a toy. You're almost certain to find it described as such elsewhere but don't you believe it. This true analogue synth and drum machine combo is a retro-modern classic.
This is what it sounds like... If you think you can handle ten minutes of this nonsense, scroll to the bottom for the director's cut.
If it wasn't for the bowel-trembling bass and razor-edged screeches, it could actually fall into that toy category as it's so easy to use. Even if you don't know what the knobs and switches do, you can spend hours tweaking away and coming up with new sounds.
The Monotribe takes the ribbon-controlled Monotron synth and boxes it up with an analogue drum machine. It's a pretty basic drum machine with just three sounds (bass drum, high hat and snare drum) but the crucial factor here is that everything is based on analogue circuits. That means the bass drum is a massive sine wave, unsullied by the minute steps and clicks of digital audio. On a big sound system you'll feel the difference – rubbery and more bouncy than digital drum machines.
Review continues after the break...
The drums and synth share the same 8-step sequencer. This works well apart from the lack of steps. For more intricate rhythms you have to double or quadruple the tempo, which shortens the length of your patterns.
A world of possibilities
In the synth section it's much easier to program notes than it was on the Monotron (which was like playing an untuned guitar with no frets). There's also a new white noise generator for swishy, wooshy sounds, plus a handful of other wave-bending knobs, and you can feed other sound sources through the filters for further warping and mashing.
This all means you can use it for chunky basslines or totally spaced-out bleep odesseys. There's no MIDI nor USB but you can get the Monotribe to play along with other gear using the audio sync feature.
Downsides are few but the main one is that the audio has a litle bit of soft hissy noise over quiet sections. And one tip: to get the best out of that bass drum you'll need to put it through a compressor.
People often say "They don't make 'em like they used to". Well, now they do.
As promised, that ten minute director's cut...