Korg have upgraded their well‑established Trinity range of sample‑based workstation synths with a new board offering the sonic capabilities of a Z1 polysynth.
It's now 10 years since Korg kick‑started the workstation synth concept with the M1, and they have remained loyal to the idea over the years, gradually enhancing the basic approach through successive ranges. The Trinity workstation range, introduced around two‑and‑a‑half years ago, represents the company's most sophisticated workstation offerings to date — and also the most expandable, with options like the Solo board, fitted as standard in all but the most basic Trinity, which allowed the sonic capabilities of Korg's physical modelling monosynth, the Prophecy, to be integrated into the Trinity's PCM sample‑based sound world. Further options allowed the use of flash ROM for the addition of further samples, and there was even optional provision for onboard hard disk recording (for a full list of all the Trinity's various incarnations and expansion options, see the box later on).
Since the Trinity's launch, however, Korg have introduced the Z1 physical modelling polysynth, which offers not only 12‑voice polyphony (expandable to 18 voices), but also additional models and multitimbral capability. Now the company are updating their flagship workstation range with a new board which provides Z1‑style polyphonic physical modelling capabilities.
Gathering Moss: Board Overview
In the updated Trinity range, the Solo board of the Trinity Plus, Pro and ProX models has been replaced by the MOSS (Multi Oscillator Synthesis System, the name that Korg gave to the multi‑synthesis technology used in the Prophecy and Z1) board. New Trinity models ready‑fitted with the MOSS board are identified by a new suffix: V3. Korg also plan to make the MOSS board available separately as an upgrade option for existing Trinity owners, in which case it will replace the the Solo board where fitted.
The MOSS board doesn't give you an entire Z1, sad to say. It does provide all of the Z1's sophisticated and versatile multi‑synthesis capabilities, but you get half the Z1's polyphony — ie. six instead of 12 voices — and no multitimbrality. The reduction in polyphony is because one MOSS DSP board provides six voices and there's only provision for one such board in the Trinity's hardware expansion architecture. The Z1, by contrast, is fitted with two MOSS boards and can optionally be upgraded to 18‑voice polyphony with a third board.
In Combi and Sequencer modes on the Trinity you can assign a MOSS Program to a single Part only; obviously this means that the Z1's MultiSets (multitimbral patches) have gone. The reason for the reduced spec in this case is that controlling MOSS Programs is the province of the Trinity's CPU, not the MOSS board itself, and handling multiple MOSS Programs and all their attendant live controller possibilities would have been beyond the CPU's processing capabilities. Of course, if you have the Trinity HDR (internal hard disk recording) option or another stand‑alone digital recorder, you can work around the lack of MOSS multitimbrality by recording additional parts as audio tracks. While not ideal in the execution, perhaps, it will give you the result you want, namely more than one MOSS instrumental part at a time. With Combi mode's multi‑Program keyboard textures, however, there's no way of getting around the limitation; only one Timbre in a Combi can be assigned a MOSS Program.
Also gone are the Z1's multi‑effects and arpeggiator, while the ADAT multitrack digital audio interface available as an option on the Z1 is available on the Trinity via its DI‑TRI option. The 128 MOSS Programs (half the number on the Z1), which are stored in Bank M, utilise the Trinity's own multi‑effects; this commonality of effects processing helps to integrate the MOSS sounds into the Trinity sound world, while the superior quality and greater number and variety of Trinity effects gives the board a sonic edge over the Z1. The Trinity doesn't have the Z1's PCMCIA card slot for instant access to multiple Program banks; however, the Z1 doesn't have the Trinity's built‑in disk drive, which ultimately is more flexible, if not as immediate.
The Trinity's spacious graphical display and touchscreen make for a far more accessible user interface for editing than does the Z1's much smaller, non‑touchscreen LCD. On the other hand, what you don't get with the Trinity/MOSS combination are the Z1's dedicated and assignable front‑panel sound parameter edit knobs.
Like the Z1, the MOSS board gives you 13 models, or oscillator types. These can be assigned to the two main oscillators of a MOSS Program (also provided are a sub‑oscillator and a white noise generator), while the oscillator outputs are routed through a subtractive synthesis architecture with two multimode resonant filters (with low‑pass, high‑pass, band‑pass, band‑reject and dual band‑pass filter options and a choice of serial or parallel configuration) and an amplifier section. In addition there are four EGs and four LFOs, all freely assignable, and an amplifier EG.
The output from the amplifier is then routed through the Trinity's multi‑effects section, which has two master effects and up to three or four insert effects, for use with multisample and drumkit Programs respectively, or up to eight insert effects in Combi and Sequencer modes. Plentiful modulation routings are also a feature of MOSS synthesis.
The 13 oscillator types are:
- Standard Oscillator
- Comb Filter Oscillator
- Variable Phase Modulation Oscillator (VPM — Korg's version of FM synthesis)
- Resonance Oscillator
- Ring Modulation Oscillator
- Cross Modulation Oscillator
- Sync Modulation Oscillator
- Organ Model
- Electric Piano Model
- Brass Model
- Reed Model
- Plucked String Model
- Bowed String Model
Of these, the Organ, Electric Piano and Bowed String models and the Resonance Oscillator were only introduced with the Z1, while the single Cross/Sync/Ring Mod oscillator type of the Prophecy and the Solo board has been split into three separate oscillator types on the Z1 and the MOSS board. In addition, whereas the Prophecy and Solo board limit you to preset pairings, the newer instruments allow you to freely combine nine of the oscillator types (the Brass, Reed, Plucked String and Bowed String models can only be used on their own). So, these oscillator types can give you anything from a traditional analogue oscillator waveform through to a complete modelled instrument as the sound source for a Program; you can then use the multimode filters in the usual manner on these sources, or bypass the filters if you feel the source sound is all you need.
As you have two oscillators, the number and variety of potential oscillator combinations is very large, and so a good way to create new sounds is simply to take an existing Program and try out different oscillator combinations. For further editing, you can stick to the familiar territory of the MOSS board's subtractive synthesis architecture, or you can delve into editing the oscillator types. All Oscillator Type parameters are contained on a single LCD page (selected by pressing the front‑panel P2 button), and the large graphical layout presents the parameters in an uncluttered and accessible manner; you can also switch quickly between pages for oscillators one and two using the Osc1 and Osc2 'tabs' at the bottom of the screen, so one moment you can be editing, say, a VPM oscillator and the next a Standard oscillator. For full details of what all these oscillator types have to offer, plus the rest of the Z1 synthesis architecture, I suggest you look back over the original Z1 review, as there's not space here to re‑cover all that ground.
The Trinity was also covered at length and in depth in the original two‑part SOS review and subsequent expansion options review (see box for dates). The focus of this present review is of course the new MOSS board, so here I'll provide an overview of the Trinity and its various options.
Korg's flagship workstation range brings together the usual workstation ingredients of sample‑based subtractive synthesis, multi‑effects, an onboard 16‑track sequencer, an LCD‑based user interface, and a built‑in 3.5‑inch floppy disk drive; but like gourmet restauranteurs, the company have used only the very best ingredients, presented in a smart and stylish way. So you get high‑quality 48kHz samples, a generous 24Mb sample ROM, the company's most sophisticated sample‑based synthesis system (see the 'ACCESS All Areas' box for more on this) and multi‑effects processing to date, and a rich visual interface complete with touchscreen access (as, er, touched on earlier). Korg have also added some special features to their menu, in the form of several additional boards which help to give the Trinity a special flavour by significantly expanding its sonic palette and recording capabilities.
The Trinity lags in the polyphony stakes, with just 32 voices where 64 is commonplace nowadays (even on less expensive Korg workstations and modules); Korg's argument here has always been that they chose to concentrate on getting the best sound quality and responsiveness rather than wringing the maximum number of voices out of the processor, and it's hard to argue with the results of that choice.
Combis have been a staple of Korg's workstation synths ever since the M1. These are patches which let you combine up to eight Programs in keyboard note and velocity split/layer textures or up to eight‑part multitimbral configurations, or combine the two approaches — you could, for instance, have a couple of parts split on the keyboard for live performance and at the same time sequence additional parts from an external sequencer. A Combi has eight Timbres, each of which can be assigned a single Program; you can combine ACCESS and MOSS Programs, though of course you can use only one of the latter at a time.
The sequencer gives you 16 tracks (plus four audio tracks if the HDR board is fitted) and provides an accessible and fairly flexible recording and editing environment — though, like most keyboard‑based sequencers, it doesn't match the approach or complexity of a computer‑based one, despite the large graphical display. Overwrite, overdub, auto punch‑in, manual punch‑in and loop real‑time recording modes and step‑time recording are provided, and you can edit at event and bar levels in the usual manner.
Although you can use up to eight Insert effects in Combi and Program modes, the total number depends on the 'Size' of each selected effect; a slightly misleading term, it is actually a measure of the DSP power required to run each effect (the larger the Size, the more complex the effect). The Trinity can run any effects together provided the total Size does not exceed eight. There are three effect Sizes: one, two and four, but in all, 28 of the 100 available Insert effects are size one, so there's a lot of scope and variety. Not only does the Trinity give you one of the most generous and versatile collections of effects available on a workstation, but the quality of the effects is of a high standard.
The optional PBS‑TRI board gives you 8Mb of flash ROM, allowing you to store up to 500 samples, 200 drum samples and 100 editable multisamples (sample keymaps) for use with the ACCESS Programs and Drumkits. You also get an additional 256 Programs and 256 Combis (Banks C and D in each case) and 12 additional Drumkits. Maximum individual sample size is 2Mb (there are 4 x 2Mb chips).
A PBS‑enabled Trinity can read Akai S1000 and S3000 CD‑ROMs directly, and can load individual samples off floppy disk in the widely‑used AIFF and WAV formats. For CD‑ROM reading and hard disk storage convenience you'll need a SCSI interface. Rather than buy the £199 SCSI‑TRI board, it makes more sense to get the £399 HDR‑TRI hard disk recording board, which also provides a SCSI interface. With this board and a suitable hard drive (fixed or Jaz/Syjet removable) you can record two audio tracks from analogue or digital inputs, and play back up to four tracks. You can also record the Trinity's master audio output internally, which is the way to build up multiple MOSS parts. Finally, the optional DI‑TRI board provides an ADAT optical interface and word clock input for synchronised four‑track digital audio transfer to another ADAT‑compatible device such as Korg's 168RC digital mixer.
The MOSS board continues Korg's approach of bringing added value to the Trinity range through hardware‑based expansion, in this case improving on the workstation's existing, Prophecy‑based MOSS functionality by introducing polyphony and extra physical models as found on the company's Z1 polysynth. To my mind these features make the new MOSS board a valuable development for the Trinity environment, and Korg deserve credit for further enhancing the workstation for new and existing owners alike. At the same time, the lack of full Z1 polyphony and the absence of the Z1's MOSS multitimbrality show that there are limits to the Trinity's expansion capabilities; also, the absence of the Z1's sophisticated polyphonic, polyrhythmic arpeggiator may be disappointing to some, while the switch to Trinity effects for the MOSS sounds will require some readjustment in thinking for Trinity owners used to the dedicated multi‑effects functionality of the Solo board (though the superior quality and variety of the Trinity's effects make it a pleasant switch).
Solo board owners will be glad to know that they can get a free disk which contains the Prophecy/Solo factory sounds reprogrammed for use in the Trinity V3 environment.
While the MOSS board provides the full synthesis functionality of the Z1, then, it's best to think of the Trinity V3 and the Z1 as two different instruments for different applications. Basically, the MOSS board smoothly integrates Z1 sounds and editing functionality into an existing self‑contained production environment centred on sample‑based sounds, while the Z1's orientation is as a performance synth (though of course it can be used in a production setting, particularly with its MIDI multitimbrality). If you want up to 18 voices of polyphony, the ability to combine up to six MOSS sounds either in keyboard split/layer textures or multitimbrally via MIDI, and the immediacy of front‑panel knobs, plus a rather neat arpeggiator, then the Z1 is the instrument for you. However, if the sophisticated and sonically well rounded sample‑based production environment offered by the Trinity is more to your liking, and you're happy with using single MOSS Programs or laying additional MOSS parts to tape or disk in production, then the Trinity V3 is the instrument to look at.
The Trinity is one of the best workstations on the market, and certainly the most expandable with its hard disk recording option, while the new reduced price of £1899 for the Trinity V3 (compared to £1999 for the Trinity Plus with its less sophisticated Solo board) makes it all the more appealing. The Trinity itself has also been reduced in price, to an impressive £1499 down from £1799, putting a top‑quality professional instrument (which cost £2395 when it was first launched) firmly into the mid‑range price bracket.
The first Trinity V3s are expected to ship during September, though in limited quantities, with production ramping up for bigger October shipments. Meanwhile, for existing Trinity Plus, Pro and ProX owners, the polyphony, extra models and freer configurations of the MOSS board make an upgrade from the Solo board worth considering — while owners of the base model Trinity should scrap any plans to add the Solo board and go for the MOSS board instead. Unfortunately, neither availability nor pricing of the new board could be confirmed by Korg UK at the time of going to press, though clearly it will cost at least the difference in price between a Trinity and a Trinity V3.
Brief Trinity V3 Specification
|Synthesis Methods:||ACCESS (sample‑based subtractive) + MOSS (modelling‑based subtractive)|
|Polyphony:||ACCESS: 32 voices; MOSS: 6 voices|
|Programs:||ACCESS: 256 (Banks A and B); MOSS: 128 (Bank M)|
|Combinations:||256 (Banks A and B)|
|Effects:||100 Inserts, 14 Masters, 2 master effects in all modes, 3 (single/dual)
and 4 (drum) insert effects in Program mode, 8 insert effects
in Combi and Sequencer modes
|Multitimbrality:||8 parts in Combi mode, 16 parts in sequencer mode|
|Sequencer:||16 tracks, 192ppqn resolution, 20 songs, 100 patterns per song,
80,000‑note maximum capacity, Standard MIDI File compatible
|Display:||TouchView 320‑ x 240‑dot graphical backlit touchscreen LCD|
|Disk Drive:||3.5‑inch DSDD/HD|
|Audio Outs:||L/Mono (1) and R (2), 3, 4; headphones|
|Foot Controller Sockets:||Sustain, programmable footswitch, programmable footpedal|
|MIDI:||In, Out, Thru|
Original SOS Reviews
- Trinity and Trinity Plus — December 1995 and January 1996.
- Trinity expansion options — January 1997.
- Z1 — October 1997.
The M Bank Programs which come with the Trinity V3 show that MOSS sounds integrate well into the Trinity sound environment while also enhancing the workstation's sonic versatility and providing a special kind of sonic responsiveness in performance, notably with the physical instrument models. While the 128 MOSS Programs provide a fair introduction to the quality, character, scope and versatility of MOSS synthesis, it doesn't take much editing to realise that MOSS has plenty more sounds to offer.
To my mind the polyphony, extra models, and flexibility in combining oscillator types provided by the MOSS board really open up the sonic capabilities and broaden the performance possibilities of MOSS synthesis — even if the six‑voice polyphony tends to be something you have to 'play within' with the likes of pads, organs and electric pianos.
That Range In Full — Trinity Types & Expansion Cards
- Trinity — 61‑key synth‑action keyboard
- Trinity V3 — 61‑key synth‑action keyboard + MOSS board
- Trinity Pro V3 — 76‑key semi‑weighted keyboard + MOSS board
- Trinity ProX V3 — 88‑key fully‑weighted keyboard + MOSS board
(The Trinity Plus model of the pre‑V3 range has been renamed Trinity V3)
- PBS‑TRI (PlayBack Sampler) — sample playback/flash ROM (8Mb)
- HDR‑TRI (Hard Disk Recorder) — two‑track digital audio recording and four‑track playback, SCSI port, S/PDIF stereo digital interface
- SCSI‑TRI — SCSI port for connecting hard, optical and CD‑ROM drives to the Trinity if you don't have the HDR option
- DI‑TRI (Digital Interface) — ADAT digital interface for multitrack digital audio transfer (four tracks)
The following Korg sample sets are available for the PBS‑TRI board: Orchestral, Mega Piano (SG ProX piano samples), Dance Waves and Drums, and M1 (the M1 sample ROM). These cost £35 each; the first three sets are 8Mb in size, the fourth 4Mb.
In addition, there are three newly available sets originating from Italian Korg distributor Korg.net: Bass and Drums (18 acoustic drum kits, 8 acoustic and electric basses), Groovebox (sampled drum loops, sub basses and so on), and Brass (mainly solo saxes).
These cost £65 each, and include an interactive 'Click 'n' Play' CD‑ROM‑based manual. All three sets are 8Mb in size.
All seven sample sets come on multiple floppy disks, which makes for slow loading, but once the samples are in the PBS‑TRI flash ROM you can save them to a hard drive if you have the SCSI or the HDR option fitted.
ACCESS All Areas
The heart of the Trinity is its ACCESS (Advanced Control Combined Synthesis System) sample‑based subtractive synthesis architecture. Oscillator mode can be set to single, double or drums. With single and double, you can assign High and Low sounds to the oscillator(s) and define a velocity split point for each pairing, while for drum mode you simply assign one of the 12 available drumkits (up to 24 kits are available if the PBS board is fitted) to a single oscillator.
Drumkit programming is done in Global mode, and allows you to assign High and Low samples to each key, with start offset, tune, level and decay settings for each sample. In addition you can set a velocity split point, assign the key to one of 16 Exclusive groups (allowing sounds to cut one another off), opt to bypass the filter, set pan position along with send levels for the two master effects and route the key's assigned samples to one of four insert effects (the actual master and insert effects are set as part of an individual Program).
The sample ROM gives you 375 sampled waveforms and instrumental multisamples to choose from in single and double oscillator modes, and 258 drum and percussion samples for drumkit programming, but you can add to these already generous collections if you have the PBS board installed.
Each ACCESS oscillator is routed through its own filter section, which actually consists of two filters (A and B) that can be set to parallel, series, single (A only) or thru configuration. The filters are multi‑mode resonant, with a choice of low‑pass, high‑pass, band‑pass and band‑reject filter types. Each oscillator and each oscillator's filter pair has its own EG and LFO, and of course there's an EG and an LFO for the amplifier section. Plentiful modulation routings are also the order of the day.
All in all, ACCESS is a very versatile synthesis architecture, while the sound quality is impressively rich and smooth.
- Rich, full professional sound.
- Combines sample‑based and modelling‑based synthesis methods.
- Polyphonic modelled sounds.
- More physical models than on the earlier Solo board.
- Very accessible editing via the large touchscreen LCD.
- High quality and large number of insert and master effects.
- Flash ROM and hard disk recording expandability.
- MOSS polyphony is half that of the Z1.
- No MOSS multimbrality.
- 32‑voice ACCESS polyphony may be limiting in multitimbral use.
A thoroughly professional workstation synth with an impressive degree of expandability, now significantly enhanced sonically by the new MOSS board.