Korg’s Nautilus puts much of the functionality of the Kronos into a far more affordable instrument.
Have you noticed how little the keyboard workstation has evolved in the past decade? After the Korg M1 introduced the underlying architecture in 1988 there was an arms race between the major manufacturers, with Korg again taking the lead in 1995 when the Trinity introduced multitimbral effects, and yet again in 2005 when the OASYS stuck its expensive fingers up at the competition by introducing multiple synthesizer models and making everything, well... beautiful. After that, there was the not‑so‑simple matter of making things lighter and more affordable but, since the launch of the Kronos in 2011, progress has slowed to a crawl. I’m not saying that there have been no great synths released in the past few years — in my view, the Waldorf Quantum and the Yamaha Montage have both advanced the cause of the keyboard synthesizer — but as yet there’s no sign of a new workstation that takes us to the next level in the ways that the M1, Trinity and OASYS did.
You might think that I’m giving the manufacturers a bit of a kicking here but, on the contrary, I have great sympathy for them. The keyboard workstation as currently constructed just... works. The sound quality keeps getting better, it’s easy to understand, and it provides the features that composers and players need. While manufacturers continue to tweak a bit of this and add a bit of that, I can’t help feeling that adding a fifth leg and covering it with a nicer tablecloth doesn’t redefine the concept of a table, so where do Korg go from here?
After the Kronos, the Kronos X, the Kronos 2 and the Kronos LS, the latest variant of the Kronos is the first that doesn’t bear its name. It’s called the Nautilus, and I’m not sure whether that’s in honour of the crustacean or Captain Nemo’s submarine, the latter of which was a century ahead of its time but ultimately doomed. Hopefully neither. Like the Kronos, it comes in three configurations: 61, 73 and 88 note. Two of these are similar in size and weight to the equivalent Kronos and they share the same high‑quality keyboards, with the Natural Touch semi‑weighted keyboard in the 61, and the RH3 hammer action keyboard in the 88. The one that’s different is the 73. The Nautilus uses the Natural Touch keyboard, whereas the Kronos has a shorter RH3. I think that this is a point in the Nautilus’ favour; I much prefer semi‑weighted keyboards on 73‑ and 76‑note synths and workstations, and the adoption of this on the Nautilus 73 makes it considerably lighter and more manageable than its Kronos counterpart.
Other significant differences are to be found on their control panels. Firstly, the Nautilus’ touch‑sensitive display is smaller than that of the Kronos, although I didn’t find this to be a problem because the page layouts have been intelligently redrawn. (If you’re...