Synthesizers can be pretty expensive, but the company Korg has been doing a great job of making inexpensive synths with amazing features like the “Volca” line. These are small footprint analog synthesizers that have all kinds of nifty features like sequencers, ring modulators, and delays.
The Volca synth I’m focusing on this article is the Volca Keys.
The Volca Keys is not new, having first come out in 2013, but is just as cool today as it was when it was first introduced. No other company besides Korg has been able to come up with a competitively priced synthesizer with the amazing features the Volca Keys has.
Some of it’s most impressive features are:
MIDI input – this was the big problem with Korg’s “Monotron” series. Cool as they are, there’s no way to control them with an external device. This is not the case with the Volca Series.
Three voice polyphony – of course this isn’t amazing compared to digital synths, but as far as analog goes, it’s better than being Monophonic, which is what most other analog synths are that are under $700 by other manufacturers.
Built-in sequencer, ring modulator, and delay with automation – Not only is there a sequencer, but all of the built-in fx can be automated within the sequencer. This is very cool and opens up all kinds of possibilities.
Workstation synthesizers have been around for many years. If you don’t know, a synthesizer workstation is a complete music production system built into a synth. You can arrange full songs, with drums, bass, synths, etc… Very popular workstations include the Yamaha Motif8, and the Korg Krome but these are quite pricey and not really the best choice for a lot of musicians on a budget.
Sure you could just use a computer, but some people don’t like working this way, plus if you are a solo musician who performs live, a workstation can be a better option since there’s no need to deal with laptops and audio interfaces. Also you don’t need to find VSTs, samples, and different plugins you need on a computer. Everything you need is already in the workstation. I thought I would put together a little list of some great workstations you can get for $500 or less!
1. The Yamaha MX49. Yamaha’s legendary Motif Series has been used by countless professionals, so it’s no surprise that Yamaha could make a compact, and inexpensive workstation that sounds absolutely phenomenal. Watch this demo below to hear some of the beautiful sounds the MX49 can produce. This video is in Japanese, but it really demonstrates the quality of this wonderful instrument.
2. The Korg MicroARRANGER is another great full featured workstation that has more keys than the MX49, however they’re microkeys. This can be a deal breaker for some people, but if you have small hands like me, it’s not a bad thing. Korg has done quite well with their “Micro” series, hence the legendary MicroKORG. They thought they would try this idea in workstation package. This is cool for the travelling musician who needs powerful accompaniment with a small footprint.
3. The Casio WK6600 is quite possibly the best deal and I honestly think it sounds better than the MicroARRANGER, but not quite as good as the Yamaha MX49. However it’s $200 cheaper than both of them! Casio’s name is legendary in the home keyboard market, and nearly everyone on the planet has owned one at one time or another. I still have a vintage CT370 that I use on nearly everything I record. Their build quality is just as legendary as their name, this is why you see so many Casios that have been abused for years by kids that still work great. In addition to being less expensive, you get 76 FULL SIZED KEYS on the WK6600.
So the bottom line, if you’re looking for the highest sound quality, go with the Yamaha MX49, if portability is your concern, than the MicorARRANGER might before you, and the most for your money goes to the WK6600.
Hopefully you found this article helpful and useful. If you did, feel free to leave a comment below.
There was a lot of buzz about the Korg Electribe 2, but lets not forget the older Korg Electribes were some serious music makers, especially when at the hands of a skilled user! I stumbled across this performance by christolikid les oreilles libres that is quite banging. His insane hyperactive beats are mesmerizing and he uses the sampling features of the Electribe incredibly well!
The Electribe SX EX-1 was a somewhat strange unit in that it had two vacuum tubes visible through the front panel that were attached to the amplifier section. This was a pretty strange marketing tact since “tube snynths” were a thing like…. never. But still, there definitely does seem to be a rather warm tone to the EX-1.
While searching for some Kawai K1 soundfonts (since I no longer own my K1) I stumbled across this super-cool album on Archive.org of spacey synth jams made entirely with K1 sounds. I still haven’t located a free K1 soundfont, but this album gives me something fun to listen to in the meantime.
“Obxd is emulation of famous ob-x, ob-xa and ob8 synths.
While not copying originals , some of the features were taken to a better point.
Continuous blendable multimode filter (hp-notch(bp)-hp in 12 db mode and 4-1 pole in 24 db mode).
VAM button is last played note allocation mode.
32 and 64 bit versions included.”