Korg Electribe Review
by Rob Allison
I’ll admit that I had been salivating at the thought of getting the new Korg Electribe 2 for weeks before I even had enough money to buy one. I had read many reviews and seen video’s online of how this new beast operated and let me say, It truly is a beast of a machine.
The Electribe is not simply a drum machine, nor is it a Synth. It’s both. Korg describes the Electribe as a Music Production workstations and that’s just what it is. From this singular stand alone workstation one is able to make an entire track.
The Electribe has a 16 part, 64 step sequencer where each part can be assigned a specific sound, be it a drum hit or a synth. The sequencer is fantastic and as with many other Korg products such as the Monotribe and the Volca series, it has parameter automation recording so that you can record various changes to the sounds over time such as filter sweeps and other audio manipulation.
The drum sounds on the Electribe are mainly in PCM format and you have a lot of control over the tone and rhythm of drum loops that you sequence as apart from being able to assign the swing value , there is a selection of 32 different grooves that you can assign to parts. The actual selection of drum sounds is great, there are many different styles of drum hits to suit most peoples needs, from deep house style kicks to jazz style cymbals and even a selection of tribal percussion such as Djembe’s and Conga’s are available. Then there’s the “Real Instruments” These include a few nice sounding piano’s , a few strings and some brass. If I’m honest the brass sections are one of the few things that I’m not a huge fan of on the Electribe but that’s one of the very few minor niggles I’ve had with the device and really does not affect how I use it other than steering clear of these.
The Synth engine is incredibly powerful for such an all-round device I such a compact portable casing. There are at least 50 different oscillator waveforms to choose from , each part has assignable Effect and there are 32 effects to choose from(These are different from the Master FX). There is also a powerful modulation section that allows you to modulate various parameter’s and this section has control over the depth and speed of modulation, great for LFO’s and Filter oscillations. The crowning jewel of the Synth has to be the filter selection, There are magnificent filters to choose from, these were originally designed for the King Korg Synth, but have been included in the Electribe. There is the familiar selection of Low Pass, Hi Pass and Band Pass filter, but apart from the Electribes own filter, there are numerous emulations of other filters such as Moog filters, Prophet 5 and Oberheim and well as a distinctly acid style filter which is one of my personal favourites. The best part is that all of these filter emulations are available for all three filter types (LP,HP and BP).
When Playing a Synth you have the option to play it in keyboard mode where each pad relates to a certain key , and you can set the Scale and Mode of the Electribe, but you can also play in Chord mode that allows each pad to have a chord assigned to it and you can even alter the depth of the chord for more control over the sound. The pad’s are ultra responsive and are great for playing live or in the studio.
There is also a touch pad that allows you to play individual notes of a scale , this is best used for arpeggio’s and solo’s. This same touch pad can be used to alter the Master FX which operates the same way a Kaoss Pad does in that certain values are assigned to the X and Y axis and sliding your finger across or vertically on the Pad changes these values. There is also an option to hold when you’ve found a sweet spot for your Master FX. The Fun factor that is added having this extra little touch pad should not be under rated, it can be such a useful source of inspiration.
The Electribe is a joy to play with numerous quirky features that will keep you busy for ages, You can mute and un-mute parts easily, there’s a step jump feature that works well for builds and breaks and you can chain patterns together to create longer sequences as well.
The Audio input and Sync ports allow the Electribe to sync up quite seamlessly with other devices, Particularly other Korg products. You can also use the effects and filters of the Electribe to affect external signals and audio!
Overall the Korg Electribe is a fantastic workstation, The fact that it is portable is even cooler, you can literally be anywhere and as long as you have batteries and headphones you can be making music! The battery life is great as I usually get about 5 hours operational time running on batteries. It’s super fun to play and you can come up with musical sketches and idea’s really quickly. Given a bit of time you can turn these into fully formed works that you can then perform and record your performance as well as export directly as an Ableton set where each part has it’s own channel!
It’s actually amazing how Korg have managed to put such an incredible workstation together for such a budget price! This update to the original Electribes released in the early 2000’s is certainly welcomed and this Synth is sure to have a large following for years to come.