Korg’s new “flagship analogue synthesizer” actually incorporates plenty of digital technology — and to great effect!
Analogue classics such as the Prophet 5, the Memorymoog, the Chroma, the Jupiter 8 and the Matrix 12, while weighty beasts, were all considerably narrower than the 88-note monsters that we take for granted in the digital age. Nevertheless, when Korg sent me the first of their “new generation of flagship analogue synthesizers”, I didn’t expect it to be a cheeky little 49-key, eight-voice synth that I could pick up with one finger. The company later swapped this for the top-of-the-range 61-key, 16-voice model, but this was still not what I would call heavy, imposing or, in some undefined way, flagship-y. So I wondered, is someone playing fast and loose with the English language, or is there something special hiding inside the diminutive cases of the company’s new babies?
Despite their wooden end cheeks, both Prologues look and feel modern, although with a nod in the direction of some early polysynths. Their gently curved control panels could just as easily hide virtual-analogue synth engines, but the Prologues are far from that, with each of their voices boasting two analogue oscillators, an analogue filter and an analogue audio amplifier, together with an analogue compressor at the end of the signal chain on the larger model. Nonetheless, there’s a hefty amount of computation going on inside too, with a third, digital oscillator per voice, digital LFOs, digital contour generators and digital effects. Many of their controls are implemented digitally, too; so if, for example, you press their octave shift buttons, you hear no changes until you play the next note. Consequently, despite being described as flagship analogue synthesizers, the Prologues (which, from now on, I’m going to refer to as simple ‘the Prologue’) are analogue/digital hybrids — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Despite digital tuning and those digital control systems, the Prologue’s analogue oscillators are true VCOs that are kept at arm’s length from the microcontrollers running in the background. They offer three waveforms — sawtooth, triangle and square — and can be switched between four octaves, from 16’ to 2’. Shape knobs then let you distort their waveshapes, and pitch knobs allow you to fine-tune them by ±1 octave in steps of one cent. When modulated by the LFO, waveshaping can generate a basic Supersaw effect, something akin to Arturia’s Metalizer effect (albeit with lower modulation depth), or traditional PWM. Happily, you can waveshape one analogue oscillator and not the other, which allows you to create patches that, for example, combine a sawtooth wave and a PWM wave, which is necessary for some classic analogue sounds....
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