Anyone who has bought a Korg Trinity will be aware of the drain on a bank balance the purchase of the machine can instigate if you buy all the add-on options that have appeared since the machine's launch: ADAT interfaces, external SCSI ports, flash RAM, hard disk recording and editing -- wonderful, isn't it? But until now, Korg's Prophecy, launched at the same time as the Trinity, seems to have been left behind. So, let's encourage Korg as they begin to redress the balance, and give a round of applause for two new patch banks for the Prophecy: PHC11, subtitled 'Analogue and Vintage Models', and PHC12, entitled 'Modern Models'. Both are available from Korg as either ROM or RAM cards, and will soon be available on diskette (TFD13 and TFD14, prices to be announced) for the Solo board installed in the Trinity Plus, Pro and Pro X.
First on the menu are the 'Analogue and Vintage' sounds, and I'm going to find it hard not to list half the patches as favourites. There are some cracking synth basses, including three described as Classic Moog Bass -- which they certainly are. The hard sync leads are also a treat, capable of punching though a mix and into the middle of next week, and some of these make excellent use of the Prophecy's ribbon -- great for Pictures At An Exhibition fanatics. Then there are the lead patches... one so realistic that I checked that I wasn't playing anything through my MIDI/CV converter! But, as a class, my true favourites have to be the Soft Leads, many of which capture the warmth and spirit of a big analogue synth. Having said that, I shouldn't omit the sexy Comb filter sounds, nor the arpeggio patches, some of which feature polyrhythmic elements or long sweeps that extend the nature of the 'sequence' considerably.
Of course, there are a few duffers -- especially in the SFX and Motion categories -- but these are inevitable when anonymous programmers are second-guessing what you would do if you had the knobs of a big modular synth under your grubby digits. But before moving on, there's one final compliment to be dispensed: every sound in this bank is derived from the Prophecy's Standard, Comb, Modulation and (on just five occasions) VPM/VPM models. There isn't a reed, brass or plucked string model in sight or earshot. This, of course, is exactly as it should be. Well done Korg!
The second bank of sounds concentrates more on the Prophecy's 'instrumental' capabilities. Of these, the solo brasses probably shine most brightly (although quite a few of these are too breathy, with too much delay and too much reverb), but there are other stars, including a smattering of good 'wave motion' patches, fat and squelchy basses, and modern percussion. But if there has to be a criticism, it's that too many patches are derived from the analogue models. Consequently, the card includes a whole bunch of Vangelis-esque, Emerson-esque and Tangerine Dream-esque patches that would sound much more at home in the Analogue and Vintage bank. Indeed, with nearly a quarter of the patches derived from the Standard analogue model alone (plus another handful from the Comb and Modulation models), there's a bit of a trade description problem here. Maybe the programmers weren't constrained tightly enough, or maybe it's impossible to stop people pretending that the Prophecy is an analogue synth.
So, did I hate 'Modern Models'? Not at all; many of the sounds are damn good. It's just that they weren't what I expected. For me, the 'Analogue and Vintage' card simply fulfils more of its promise. Call the second card 'Modern Models' and I'll give it 5/10. Name the same selection 'Mixed Models' and it'll get 7/10. See what I mean?
To summarise: these sounds won't be to everybody's taste. But if that's true for you, I can't imagine why you would want to buy a Prophecy in the first place. On the other hand, if you like the Prophecy enough to shell out nearly a grand for the synth itself, you're going to love these cards. So let's offer Korg another round of applause. On the whole, they've earned it.
Excellent recreations of many classic analogue patches.
Good selection of fashionable basses and leads.
Top-notch Prophecy sounds without the hassle of learning to programme.
Insufficient use made of the brass, plucked string and reed models.
The plucked strings and reeds lack the quality of the best analogue patches.
The log and other controllers could have been programmed more imaginatively.
The Prophecy, while relatively difficult to programme, remains the cheap and reliable alternative to a room full of vintage synths and MIDI/CV converters. A further 128 classic sounds handed to you on a plate can only add to the instrument's appeal. Treat the brass, strings and reed sounds as a bonus.
£ PHC11 & PHC12 ROM cards, £50; RAM cards £89. Prices include VAT.
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