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Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

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Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Captain Waves » Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:46 pm

The Z1 is a strange paradox of a synth.. It is such a powerful & interesting instrument, with enormous potential & should sound amazing & yet IMO generally it doesnt sound at all good. I mean the quality of the basic sound, not the range of sounds it can produce, which is huge.
I think it is one of the worst sounding synths I have ever heard. It has a crackly thin , brittle sound. People say that the Wavestation doesnt sound good ( convertors) , but I think it sounds much better than the Z1.I have no problem with the sound of the Wavestation, nor indeed with any of the other synths that I have played or heard.
I really like my Z1 though & want to find a solution, whether that is an esoteric parametric equaliser or preamp or whatever. It would be great if someone has a cost efficent way of improving the Z1s timbre.
It as if there is some basic design flaw with the convertors or something .
Does anyone else agree with me on this or might there be something wrong with my Z1?
I know of someone who processes his Z1 through an expensive preamp & that does it for him, but I would be interested to hear from any other Z1 users out there who are either happy with the sound or not & what they do to remedy/ enhance the sound if not.
I find it difficult to get on with this synth, though I have programmed some great sounds , as in they would be fantastic,if they had a bit more sonic depth or life. I really want to love this synth but need to find something that balances or enhances its sound. Any thoughts?
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby tomafd » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:34 pm

I used mine a lot when I first got it (when they were new) but I do know what you mean- it does lack 'depth' and 'warmth'. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of DX7s- great possibilities, but generally the results can be a bit thin. Like your mate, I usually strap something across it (in my case, an Avalon 737 comp/eq, valve option switched in) which helps a lot, but I find these days I use it to do jobs where 'something a bit thin' is what I'm after, rather than try and get it to sound like some monster analogue polysynth of yesteryear.

It does some things really well, though. The plucked string model (with an LFO set to S&H modulating parameters like string position and dispersion) can generate some really bizarre sounds, especially if you set the midi clock option to 'EXT' and then NOT send midi clock to it. If the LFO sync option is then set to 'key' the LFO moves one step per note, with the result that every succeeding note can sound either mildly or wildly different from the next, depending on how wide you set the modulation on the string parameters. The result can sound like a combination of harpist/guitarist/banjo player gone bonkers trying to play all three at once. You can get some pretty wild artifacts happening if velocity is also set to modulate the string 'up' and 'down' attack parameters, at the same time. No other synth sounds remotely like it.

As for the other models- the electric piano and organ are useful, but there are plenty of plug-ins around now that sound much better. I've never been much of a fan of the analog model, but the bass end can be pretty punchy, especially with (careful) use of the distortion mode in the fx.

That arpeggiator, though, is something else. With the plucked string model set up as above, and 'played' using the arpeggiator, you can get 'strums' and patterns that are just fantastic- but it does need time and experimentation. The Z1 is very much a programmer's synth and the best stuff only tends to appear with a bit of effort. It's bloody good when it happens, though... mine may not get as much work as it used to, but there are times when nothing else will do the job.
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Captain Waves » Tue Feb 10, 2009 12:33 am

Hi Tom,
How are you?
nice one! Thanks for that fantastic example of what the Z1 can do well. I look forward to checking that out. I have programmed some amazing sounds on it & a lot of them are using the lfos to wildly modulate the models in a stepped way, in a similar fashion to your example.
Yeah the Avalon would nicely do the trick I expect. Its just that brittleness to the sound that I dont like on some of the models or oscillators, & then again some sound fine.
I agree with you about the DX7 as well.. another similar paradox in its power & potential, yet I have never really got on with the sound. I love the VPM models on the Z1 though..It does what I did like from that DX FM sound nicely. Also that nice subtle D50 etherial quality. As I said I do love the Z1, but there are some problems & deficiencies to the sound of some of the models that I cant seem to fix in the programming, eg with cutoff or resonance etc.
I wonder if the Moss boards or the Moss type capabilities of the Oasis have fixed that harsh brittleness?
Take care Paul
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Chevytraveller » Tue Feb 10, 2009 12:50 am

Yeah.. know what you mean with this beastie.. had some wonderful programming intricacies, but never really delivered on the "thick" sound departments..
I used one live for a couple of years and as has been mentioned worked great in the plucked models but never cut it for analogue emulations..
I used to layer mine with a Nord lead for those kinds of patches which worked really well. Also meant I could use the wonderful arpeggiator.
I think the problems start in the modelling.. The Prophecy suffered from the same problems with it's "analogue" models. Remember that this was still in the early days of DSP modelling and so power and refinement was nothing like it is now.. :lol:
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Captain Waves » Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:07 am

The Arpeggiator is great in the Z1..I use it mainly to drive percussion samples.
Now that is one of the synths/ samplers that I have always wanted..drool.. the Emax2.. lucky you.. Have you had it long? Does it still work ok? I love those old 80s samplers. They are much more interesting than the the latest software ones with all the bells & whistles, clunky though they admittedly are.
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Chevytraveller » Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:41 am

Yeah.. still working.. had it with a rack version for about 15 years or so now.. Just love it's unique, warm sound.. something about the way it transposes samples that's unlike anything else.. Had an Emax I, Emulator I, EIII and an EIV over the years but have always kept the Emaxes.
To me it is a great sounding synth that just happens to sample. The SE synthesis gives it such a individual sound and the filters are probably the best sounding digital jobbies ever.. sound even better than the Emax Is true VCFs.. you could always hear stepping with the Emax I filters.. but not so with the Emax II.
I do get worried about parts though, which is why I kept the rack as well.. heres hoping for another 15 years.. I bet none of the softsynths will still be around then :bouncy:
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Zukan » Tue Feb 10, 2009 10:11 am

I've had countless Z1s before.

The Z1's strength is in emulating bell type sounds and breathy (the sax is one of the best) sounds. The electric DX type of pianos and the like are some of the best I have heard from a synth of this age.

The X/Y pad is great for modulating evolving pads etc and the oscs and filters are decent enough. It is a great 'real time' synth and works great in a live situation simply because it is so expressive.

I have created thumping basses from it (that sub osc ain't too bad y'know), searing leads and fantastic evolving and esoteric sounds.

It's not a Moog, Arp etc but it doesn't try to be.

Would I buy one again?
Yep, simply because it does thing other synths of that era don't.
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Captain Waves » Thu Feb 12, 2009 2:39 am

After a few hours going through some of the better patches, last night, ( on the Z1). I have to agree , it is a great synth. Some of the patches/ models sound amazing yet some of the models just dont . If I just concentrate on what I dont like about this synth, I want to sell it, & yet there is so much else to concentrate on. It is a very deep synth & I agree with Tom about it being down to the amount of time you spend programming it,( as in a lot) bringing the greatest rewards.. Yeah the sax models are amazing. I think they are better than any sax sample ,any that I have heard anyway..as a living moving sound. The way the sound is expressed as you play it; & yes Zukan that sub bass patch is very nice & useful. ( One always feels like having a puff when one sees your signiture!)
I think the B3 & Wurly/ Rhodes sounds are great as well though the e- pianos are a bit thin somehow. My favourite sounds on the Z1 are the subtle, evolving ambient types though, that & the 'bells'/gongs etc, & plucked strings.
As I said a paradox of a synth..
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Ris of Serig » Sat Feb 14, 2009 11:54 pm

Hi Captain Waves,

When I first got my Z1 I did a side by side comparison to a friend's Nord Lead 2.

I thought the Nord Lead sounded much smoother and 'nicer' than the Z1 but the range of sounds it could produce was much more restricted than the Z1.

I find running any digital synth through my TLA C1 valve compressor really improves the sound and it works well on the Z1 to take the harsh edges off.

It's a really deep synth and I've never really had time to program it properly, but I love both it and the Wavestation.

Cheers

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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby bobsyour uncle » Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:26 am

i find the z1 has much better convertors and sound than any new korgs - try the z1 alongs a karma or triton witha z1 board installed and see but it for me remains a bit of a one trick pont sometimes , the resonance osc and the lfo's are what does it , i cant do sounds on this no other machine does or ever will.Thats a good enough reason to keep it.For atmospherics and waves and spaces the z1 is as good as the wavestation , just different .I dont like the z1 for some sounds - it can sound hard when you dont want it to be but its always ' big ' ?to my ears.
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Dave B » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:19 am

Hmmmmnnnnn ... I guess that what I'm getting from this is that I should stop using it as a doorstop and plug it in once in a while .....

:bouncy:
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Zukan » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:51 am

Dave B wrote:Hmmmmnnnnn ... I guess that what I'm getting from this is that I should stop using it as a doorstop and plug it in once in a while .....

:bouncy:

Heathen!

I thought you liked the Z.....?
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Dave B » Tue Feb 17, 2009 2:22 pm

I do quite like it. I just need a few months peace and quiet to get into programming it! For live though, it's annoyingly different to the standard Korg series - Combi mode is missing and that's part of the charm of the Korg synths. The sound certainly isn't charming on the rest ...

Anyway, live it has been superceded by the new Kurzweil PC3 (might have to wander round with that some time for you to have a perusal of) so it's just sitting there in case I need to grab something occasionally.
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby Zukan » Tue Feb 17, 2009 7:34 pm

Can't go wrong with the Kurz Daveness.

The PC3 is, of course, moist inducing.
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby gward » Fri Feb 20, 2009 4:36 pm

I found in my experience that I liked a lot of the patches better when I took the internal effects off. Running it through external effects will most certainly sound better than the included reverb.

Also, sometimes the thinness of sound is an advantage in a mix. I certainly have had experiences where I played patches on a other synths with the fattest sound imaginable and then spent a lot of time trying to shoehorn it into a mix.

I found that I got a lot more done when I stopped worrying about whether it sounded "analog" enough and just tried to get something that was interesting or unique out of the z1(something it excels at). The sound of it is what it is. If the sound didn't do it for me in certain situations but I liked the patch I would either spend some time re-programming the patch or route it through a Vintech X73 and add girth and colour that way with the eq and sound of the pre. I have also had a lot of success running it through a Sansamp PSA-1 for amped sounds. For live I have used guitar pedals and the Sansamp for some cool sounds(to my ears). It also needs to be said that it is a fantastic midi controller as well and has a lot more capability in this area than other things you could buy today that are solely meant for this.
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Re: Korg Z1 :does anyone else think it is lacking in sonic charm?

Postby minime123 » Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:32 pm

now that you mention it, i think it is somewhat lacking. ive found this to be true of some other modern digital synths like the kawai k5000. both of these models are nice and can make some really interesting, complex sounds, but the tone just doesnt compare to other things ive got in my studio, particularly the vintage stuff. regardless, i still like the z1 a lot and dont have any plans of parting with mine.
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