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Korg Modwave

Wavetable Synthesizer By Rory Dow
Published September 2021

Korg Modwave

Korg’s Modwave is a wavetable powerhouse that can import Serum wavetables without conversion.

Korg are on a roll. Their midrange synth line‑up — the Wavestate, OpSix, and now Modwave — offers complex synthesis in affordable packages. The Wavestate resurrects Korg’s Wave Sequencing synthesis, first introduced by the Wavestation. The OpSix tackles FM synthesis. The latest member of the team, ModWave, takes on the challenge of wavetable synthesis.

Korg are marketing the Modwave as a ‘revived DW‑8000’. The DW‑8000 was also a two‑oscillator synth with digital waveforms but, in reality, the two don’t share much common ground. The DW‑8000 didn’t have wavetables, just static digital waveforms. And where the DW‑8000 had analogue filters, the ModWave is all‑digital. So, whilst some of the DW‑8000 waveforms are included in Modwave’s oscillators, the Modwave is its own thing (and that’s just fine).

Like the Wavestate and OpSix, the Modwave is built around 37 full‑sized keys which offer velocity but no aftertouch. The mod and pitch wheels are above the keyboard and, above those, the Modwave adds a ‘Kaoss Physics’ pad — a touch‑sensitive X‑Y pad that can be assigned in the modulation matrix and has some neato gravity‑based physics modes to create interesting modulation shapes.

The Anatomy Of A Patch

The synth is capable of 32 stereo voices. As well as two wavetable/sample oscillators, there is a digital multimode filter, four envelopes, five LFOs, two modulation processors, four effects slots with around 30 effects to choose from, motion sequencing and the aforementioned Kaoss Physics.

A Performance is the highest level of preset, saving the entire state of the sound engine. Each Performance contains two Layers (A and B), a master EQ, reverb, Mod Knob assignments and Kaoss Physics. Each Layer contains a Program (a basic sound), an arpeggiator, and key or velocity split settings. Programs are made up of two oscillators, a sub‑oscillator, filter, amp, motion sequences, modulations and three effects.

Thanks to some good MIDI implementation, it is possible to use the Modwave in a two‑part multitimbral configuration. Different MIDI channels can be assigned to the two Programs and sequenced separately.

Oscillators

Each oscillator can operate in one of three modes: simple wavetable, dual‑wavetable (with crossfading), or sample mode, which allows you to play back factory multi‑samples. Over 200 wavetables ship with the Modwave and everything is categorised to make browsing easier. You can also import wavetables using Korg’s Editor Librarian software. Wavetables are in 2048 sample, 32‑bit floating‑point format, so many wavetables created with software like Serum or WaveEdit will work without any conversion needed.

Wavetables can be manipulated in several ways. Position moves through the wavetable as you would expect. Morph applies an algorithmic function like Sync, Stretch, Flip, Mirror, FM, AM and ring mod. Most are available for both oscillators, except the last three — FM, AM, and ring mod — which are only available on Oscillator 2 because they use Oscillator 1 as the modulator. The Morph algorithms offer an impressive palette of mangling opportunities.

In addition to Position and Morph, each wavetable can load a Modifier that applies a fixed harmonic function. These include filtering out odd or even harmonics, clipping specific harmonics, removing high or low harmonics, quantising bit depth, tilting harmonics and simple overall gain changes (for balancing the levels of wavetables in A/B mode). Although the Modifiers are static functions with no adjustable parameters, they are still useful. For example, load the same wavetable into A and B, apply a Modifier on B, and use the A/B Blend to crossfade between modified and unmodified versions.

If all this wavetable manipulation sounds complex, there is a handy waveform preview on screen which shows the effect of position, morph and modifiers on the wavetable, and there’s also the Analyser screen which shows you the waveform from the effects section if you want a more comprehensive overview.

The sub‑oscillator offers triangle and square waveforms up to two octaves below Oscillator 1. It also doubles up as a noise generator, with five types of noise. This means that you can’t use noise and the sub‑oscillator at the same time.

The entire signal flow of the synth is stereo, so oscillator panning will be preserved until the signals hit the effects section. It opens up sound design potential for having two oscillators panned left and right, both with different wavetable settings. One feature I would have liked to see was the ability to copy and paste oscillator settings which would help with creating wide stereo patches with minor sonic differences on both sides, but as it is you have to copy the settings over manually.

My opinion is that wavetable synthesis is the king of pad sounds. And the Modwave doesn’t disappoint.

Filters

A plethora of filter options are available to further mangle the two oscillators. Choose from Polysix modelled low pass,...

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