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Review of the Just one more turn for that classic thwippit thwippit thwippit thwippit...
Korg Electribe Analog 
Modeling Synthesizer

by Rich the TweakMeister

I have it sitting right in front of me as I type. When i bought it,  I was a bit unclear about whether the Electribe would respond to its own controllers over MIDI from a sequencer.  I am very happy to report--yes--you can twist the knobs going in and hear the result on playback.  And it sounds exactly as you expect it to sound.  The Electribe A found its permanent home just north of my computer keyboard, and south of the monitor.  Why do I give it such premium studio space?  One reason. Control!  I can use it as a mini controller, I can sync it to Logic Audio and control playback from the large buttons.  I can Tweak the knobs and watch my data go right into a track.  Best of all, I can record a track and then afterwards, do some serious knob tweaking and have ALL the changes faithfully recorded in Logic, dynamically changing the passage as much as I want.  

I have a Korg MS-20 sitting here too.  Why would I want an Electribe when I have the real thing? Well lets be clear on one thing.  Analog Modeling that the Electribe uses is NOT Analog, but a purely digital representation of analog dynamics.  Can you tell the difference?  Yes you can.  In addition to being much richer and thicker sounding, analog synths have a certain fluidity and instability.  One note never sounds exactly the same. The knobs smoothly alter sounds, yet in a sometimes unpredictable way. The Electribe is perfectly predictable.  You tweak a setting and it will always sound like that.  Also when you start resonating at extreme settings, the digital nature of the sound shines through. That is a strength or a drawback, depending on what you want.  To sum up, there are some analog sounds that the Electribe can only hope to simulate.  But, its much better than a sampled analog waveform and it can fool most of the ears, most of the time.  Its very much like the difference between hearing a sampled acoustic guitar in a track and having a real acoustic track.  You begin to notice that certain nuances always sound the same, rather than always different.  But in the mix, often the sampled guitar wins out due to one issue...

Control.  That's why I got it and I am not disappointed.   The ability to have a 303 style interface with its step pattern arpeggios and use it to not only sync to my sequencer but to talk to all my other modules and samplers as well.   As great as my MS20 sounds, it will not sync to MIDI unless I take pains to get the CV jack a signal it will understand.  All my knob twists can only be recorded as an audio track and there is no editing after the fact.  With the Electribe I can go in the hyper editor in Logic and redraw controller curves and get the sound exactly the way i like it.  And there is no hassle of keeping large audio files on my hard disk.

Some Cons: Here's where it falls short:  There's no amp envelopes.  If you want to program a sound with a long release you are flat out of luck. What you get are two knobs for EG Int and Decay.  These give you most of the combinations of a typical Attack/Decay/Sustain Filter envelope, and for basses and short note synths, that's all you need. To get a long release you have to use the delay to emulate it.  Another issue with the Electribe is that velocity is not supported.  Too Bad!  But  then again, in the old vintage gear velocity was not supported either.  Positively you can tweak the filter very fast and the box will track it.   If you want the sound of an LFO, you will have to do it through the chorus.  There is no dedicated LFO in the unit otherwise.  The good news is that if you want those square wave gated type techno LFOs syncopated to tempo you can get them.  The bad news is if you are a creative LFO-ologist, you are going to miss dedicated lfos to pitch, filter and amp.  But a little creativity goes a long way on the Electribe. 

Similar item, similar sound, but much more tweakable

The Korg MS2000R

Since its introduction in 1978, the Korg MS Series of synthesizers caused a sensation by its sound, looks, and flexibility in sound creation. More than 20 years later, a new MS instrument is born, fusing the functionality of the SQ10 analog sequencer and VC-10 vocoder that were also part of Korg's lineup. The MS2000/MS2000R simultaneously returns to the origin of synthesizers and opens a new universe of possibilities.  Tweak: Great price, Kill Sound.  If you were waiting, the time is nigh!

 

Some Pros: Most delightful is that the Electribe has a strong 'thump factor" that is lacking on nearly every sample playback synth.  The Thump factor refers to the tendency to produce uneven bass waveforms that cause your woofers to go "thump" and oscillate through the room.  You can rattle the pictures on the wall with some bass tones on the Electribe, just like we used to with real analog synths.  The lower mids are very pronounced.  This is what many equate to an 'analog' sound. The biggest asset, as mentioned before, is the MIDI control over the box when used with a sequencer.   I like the delay.  It can do syncopated delays based on the tempii of the preset.  That's very, very cool for dance music.  The flange/chorus is good too, and its possible to get authentic sounding Wah Wah tones, if you tweak the filter cutoff while a note is playing, and the flange is deep enough to cut through a thick mix. Its also great for making dance loops. You can also route external audio in and tweak it with the knobs.  This will give you a contemporary, lo-fi edge.

How versatile are the sounds? Very.  There is a wide variety of possible sounds with the Electribe.  Most of the common analog sounds are covered.  Especially if you are doing dance type sounds, the Electribe may give you everything you need.  If you really miss the velocity, sample some sweeps and use your sampler's extended controllers.  Quite tasty. 

Bang for the Buck?  Its a excellent deal.  Don't even think this is the only synth you will ever need.  2 note polyphony is 2 note polyphony.  As an addition to a midi rig, it shines.  It has it's own niche carved out.  Its a bass, lead and arpeggio box, and it does those things very, very well. 

Rich the TweakMeister

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