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Korg Triton EXB

Synth Expansion Boards By Simon Trask
Published March 2001

Korg Triton EXB

Korg have realised some of the sonic expansion potential of their Triton keyboards and module by releasing a number of PCM sample expansion boards. Simon Trask, who reviewed the Triton Rack for SOS a few months ago, listens to what they have to offer...

Over the past year or so, Korg have greatly expanded the sonic potential of their flagship Triton workstation synth by releasing five EXB PCM expansion boards for the keyboard and rack versions: Pianos/Classic Keyboards (EXB PCM01), Studio Essentials (EXB PCM02), Future Loop Construction (EXB PCM03), Dance Extreme (EXB PCM04), and Vintage Archives (EXB PCM05). Each board comes with a DOS‑format floppy disk containing associated Program, Combi, Drum Kit and Arpeggio Pattern data (in a file with the extension PCG), and, in the case of EXB PCM03 and EXB PCM04, Song/Multi and Pattern data (with the extension SNG), together with a fold‑out sheet of paper which provides a complete listing of the disk data and the board's Multisamples and drum samples. The boards are user‑installable, with the usual caveats about careful handling of static‑sensitive products. After disconnecting all cables, you unscrew a plate on the bottom panel of the keyboard models for access to the relevant slots, while on the Rack model you unscrew the top panel.

The first two 16Mb expansion boards, which were released at the same time, follow the traditional expansion approach of providing additional keyboard and so‑called 'studio essential' sounds respectively. Hence the first board gives you 32 Multisamples, consisting of acoustic and electric pianos, clavs, harpsichords and organs, and the second has 38 Multisamples consisting of woodwinds, brass, vocals, strings, guitar and, more unusually, sitar. Compare these numbers to the 425 Multisamples and 413 drum samples of the Triton's 32Mb factory ROM, and one advantage of expansion boards becomes clear. An expansion board is the place to put, say, that memory–hogging quality stereo grand piano, which is what Korg have done with EXB PCM01.

EXB PCM01:Pianos/Classic Keyboards

Korg Triton EXB

In fact, there are two such stereo grands on this card (with left and right Multisamples for each); one with a brighter character, the other softer, darker and more rounded. Both are well‑balanced over the note range, with plenty of body and substance, and smooth, natural note decays. Also provided are an SG Piano Multisample, which has a bright, hard, percussive, almost plucked string quality to it, and two more acoustic pianos, 'Concert Piano' and 'Acoustic Piano‑TR', which are both very solid. 'Concert Piano' has a darker tone and a percussive thump in the attack, while 'Acoustic Piano' is lighter and brighter.

The eight electric piano Multisamples provide a mix of hard and soft Fender and Wurlitzer pianos. To my ears, these have more body and are more satisfying in sound than the factory samples in the same vein. The one clav sample of the factory ROM is nicely augmented by two others with a more satisfying, rounded character, and muted versions of all three, which together let you create biting, vibrant clavs. The one, single harpsichord Multisample of the factory ROM is joined by another, double harpsichord on the keyboards expansion ROM, with a brighter, buzzier and more spindly sound. There's also a 'Harpsi‑Keyoff' which provides an effective key‑release click. The remaining 10 samples are all electric and acoustic organs. The factory ROM isn't short on organ samples, but the additional ones add further variety, including a very percussive BX3 organ, a bright and shimmering jazz organ, a couple of organ clicks, and an attack sound with a great bassy thump in the lower range.

What makes the EXB PCM01 an appealing, indeed even a must‑have, addition to the Triton for keyboard players is the wealth of organ, acoustic and electric piano Programs that Korg have created using the board's samples and some of the internal ROM samples. The clear focus of the Bank of 128 Programs is a strong, diverse and imaginative set of keyboard sounds, which provides a rich resource for keyboard players. The 128 Combis are a more diverse bunch, with seemingly no particular organisation, but nevertheless, they form a strong and imaginative collection of ensemble sounds and textures. So you can go from 045: 'Manual Split', which gives you a perky jazz organ sound over a keyboard–triggered jazzy drums rhythm and funky bass line (created using the Triton's dual Arpeggio feature, a technique that Korg use a lot in this Combi bank), to 046: 'Millennium Pad', a big, rich, smooth yet shimmering pad sound of the kind that Korg's synths do so well, which uses only factory ROM samples. This 'split personality' approach is characteristic of the PCM01 Combi set.

EXB PCM02: Studio Essentials

Korg Triton EXB

The EXB PCM02 sample set adds a mellow, slightly breathy flute with gentle vibrato to the single flute Multisample of the factory ROM, a nicely lugubrious bass clarinet to the the ROM's single clarinet, and a smattering of tenor, alto, soprano and ensemble samples, also intended to complement the factory ROM samples. 'M1 TubaFlugel' is added to the factory 'Flugel Horn' — except that above G4 they seem to be the same sound. A muted trombone is added to the soft and bright trombone samples, and soft and cup‑muted trumpets join the medium and muted trumpets of the factory set. Presumably, the new ones are extra samples from the same recording session that didn't make it into the factory ROM owing to memory restrictions. Also on the EXB PCM02 board are a couple of additional mono ensemble brass Multisamples and a stereo brass ensemble (left and right Multisamples), all with a bright and fizzy character to them. Nine choral and seven string ensemble Multisamples make strong, effective and desirable additions to the factory ones, especially the stirring string Multisamples, which to my mind are the real stars of this board. On the guitar front, making up for the factory ROM's deficiency in this area, EXB PCM02 adds a 12‑string acoustic Multisample with a nice attack and initial decay phase; but it thins out disappointingly quickly. Personally, I would have preferred to be given a better 12‑string sound and do without the rather flat 'ResoGuitar' and the odd (or at least oddly out of place) 'Kokyu Vibrato', 'E.Sitar' and 'Sitar‑taraab'.

Not surprisingly, the four biggest categories of Programs are Strings, Vocal/Airy, Woodwind/Reed, and Brass. And it's the many and varied choral and string ensemble Programs that are the biggest strengths of this collection, though they're nicely rounded out by a good variety of effective solo and ensemble woodwind, reed and brass sounds, as well as some full, smooth atmospheric pad sounds (as if a Korg synth could provide anything less!). As with PCM01, there's a split of layered instrumental Combis on the one hand and rhythm backing plus instrument Combis on the other. Some Combis use only Internal Programs, while many use a combination of Internal and EXB PCM02. If you don't like the keyboard‑triggered backing tracks that are assigned to a number of the Combis, you can easily disable them (the simplest way is to resave the Combi with the 'Arp On/Off' button set to Off). The overall spread of sounds reflects broadly the types of sounds found on the PCM02 sample board and in the PCM02 Programs, and the layering available in Combi mode makes for some great‑sounding ensembles, notably 028: 'TritonEXPStrings' and 124: 'EXP Orchestral'; if you're into scoring strings, the former, even on its own, is the sort of patch that may persuade you to part with your money for this board.

EXB PCM03: Future Loop Construction

Korg Triton EXB

While the first two boards aim to fulfil traditional musical needs, Future Loop Construction and Dance Extreme cater to more modern sonic and production requirements, as their names indicate. For those of a contemporary rhythmic persuasion, Future Loop Construction provides a wealth of material in more ways than one.

To begin with, there are 1324 drum samples — acoustic and electronic drum and percussion samples — which have been created by time‑slicing rhythm loops (including, apparently, 53 groove loops, 28 standard loops, 10 jazz loops and six Latin percussion ensemble loops). These samples can be accessed in two ways. Firstly, as with the factory drum sounds, you can access them in Global Drum Kits, in which drum samples are mapped to individual keys or MIDI note numbers. This is the usual way of using drum samples on the Tritons. The 15 Drum Kits which come on disk with the PCM03 board use a mixture of internal ROM (ie. factory) and PCM03 ROM drum samples.

However, as the PCM03 board contains only drum samples, its 275 Multisamples (ie. sets of multiple samples organised across the keyboard) are also drum kits, again with different drum samples assigned to each key or MIDI note number, rather than the usual pitched instrument Multisamples. And whereas you can only assign a single Global Drum Kit to a Program, the Triton Program architecture lets you assign two Multisamples (in Single mode) or four Multisamples (Double mode) per Program. This means that it's possible to have up to four drum kits per Program when using the PCM03 Multisamples.

Except for five Programs, which use five of the Global Drum Kits, each of PCM03's 128 Programs uses Single Mode and assigns the same Multisample to both the Low and High oscillators, with a velocity switch value of 121 and the High oscillator set to Reverse play. This can be quite effective, and it's a nice idea, but it can also be irritating; if you use a heavy touch on drum and percussion sounds, you'll need to lighten it a bit, or you'll keep playing reversed sounds accidentally. Alternatively, you can switch the reversed oscillator assignments and/or change the velocity switch point.

The 128 Programs include 'Groove', standard, jazz and percussion ensembles, while the Global Drum Kits offer three variations each on standard, jazz, drum and bass, hip hop and house kits.

As I mentioned earlier, Future Loop Construction also comes with Song/Multi (ie. Multitrack setup) and Pattern data, designed for use with the Triton's excellent RPPR (Real‑time Pattern Play/Recording) facility, which lets you assign preset or user Patterns to be triggered from individual keys. This is where the time‑sliced samples are reassembled into rhythm loops which can be triggered and combined live from the keyboard, and/or sequenced as MIDI notes. In effect, it's akin to creating a track by dropping pre‑recorded rhythm loops in and out on a mixer, or having a sample CD of rhythm loops ready‑loaded. However, you do have to load the setup and pattern data on each power‑up, which is a shame given that this is a significant aspect of the PCM03 card. Korg have provided 18 Songs, in hip‑hop, house, rock, funk, big beat, drum & bass, jazz and latin styles.

The PCM03 Songs combine loop‑triggering notes with playable samples, and with some modest editing work you could combine the loops with other instrumental Programs on the keyboard to play, for instance, bass lines at the same time. Incidentally, if you find, like I did, that RPPR‑triggered PCM03 loops are being played in reverse, go straight to Global mode and set the velocity‑curve parameter to a value lower than five; higher values have the effect of triggering the High (reverse play) oscillator in PCM03 Programs, no matter how hard you play the trigger keys.

The mix of dance‑focused sounds and Programs available from this board has allowed Korg to have a field day with the Combis; the dual Arpeggio feature is used to create a large and nicely varied collection of dance backing tracks combined with various bass, lead and various other synthy sounds, as well as vocals and hits. There are also a few gorgeous layered pad Combis, such as the restful ambient 081: 'Deep<Dark>Space' and the haunting 080: 'Cyclic Motion'.

EXB PCM04: Dance Extreme

Korg Triton EXB

Dance Extreme provides 202 Multisamples and 454 drum samples. Here the Multisample emphasis is on a variety of synth‑type sounds, including synth basses, leads, drums, waveforms, strings and special effects, and an array of what Korg call "sampler‑type sounds", including industrial effects, rap and gospel vocals, a variety of jazzy electric piano chords and arpeggios, and various funk guitar chord stabs. The drum samples, meanwhile, give you a grand total of 105 bass drums, 70 snare drums and 85 hi‑hats, plus a variety of percussion sounds. However, that's not all; you can also use the aforementioned sampler–type sounds from the Multisamples in Global Drum Kits, so they may be used on individual keys. (Korg fit in so many Multisamples and drum samples because most of them are short.) And you get 13 Global Drum Kits which use almost exclusively the drum samples from the PCM04 board. The result is a rich resource of drum and other sounds for use in dance music.

The 128 Programs that come with the board provide a mixture of basses, lead synths, strings, pads, hits/arpeggios and special effects, with the emphasis of the many synth‑type Programs being on analogue‑sounding patches. To mention just a few of the many excellent Programs in this set, 002: 'Stinky Dog Kit' uses an Arpeggiator pattern to create a bouncy P‑Funk rhythm complete with rhythm guitar and vocal wail, 020: 'DeepJungleBass' is a deep, warm, rich yet well‑defined sub‑bass, 065: 'Cool Keys' is a warm, mellow, chorused electric piano, while 015: 'Zap Station' and 111: 'KAOSS Lives' are located at the harder, wilder edge of electronic dance music.

As with PCM03, PCM04 provides not only a varied but also an imaginative collection of Programs and Combis. Considering all that's on offer with this card, it's a shame that there's only one Song/Multi, 'Groove Samples', though at least it's an effective demonstration of the RPPR feature.

The dance‑centric sounds and rhythms available on boards 03 and 04 are credible, authentic and very useable, with the drum and bass sounds in particular benefiting from the Triton's rich, well‑contoured bass end. Overall, it can be percussive when needed, yet also capable of producing a full, rich, smooth and well‑rounded sound, notably on those famous Korg pads. If dance music in its various guises is your thing, you should definitely check out the Triton and boards 03 and 04 in particular.

EXB PCM05: Vintage Archives

Finally, and neatly straddling the traditional and the modern, Vintage Archives delves into the archive of vintage analogue synthesizers and string machines — even a certain tape‑based machine — to capture sounds of yesteryear that are still popular today. The board's 16Mb sample ROM contains 158 Multisamples and 56 drum samples. Korg have recorded samples from vintage models of their own such as the 700S, 800DV, MS20, Polysix, Mono/Poly and Delta, as well as from other old instruments by the likes of ARP, Oberheim and Sequential. So what you get is a wealth of waveform‑based sounds created using these old synths and turned into samples for the Triton's sample‑based synthesis to work on. The process has been managed very effectively, with an ear for sonic versatility and breadth. Out of this raw material Korg have created a wonderful collection of rich — and diverse — synth bass, lead, organ, pad and effect Programs, full of warmth, depth, body and that genuine analogue charm; Program 003, for instance, captures the wonderful rich, raspy Oberheim brass pad sound of old. Naturally the Triton's arpeggiator also comes into play to good effect in some of the Programs — for example, the spacey burblings of 015: 'VCF S&Arpg', which is reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream. Korg haven't tried to create slavish imitations of particular synths, though, but have rather gone for recreating the sound and spirit of the analogue era. For instance, one of the most powerful Programs, the earth‑rumbling, concussive 008: 'Serious Bass' (rarely can a patch have been more appropriately named) is built from a combination of an ARP 2600 waveform underpinned by a Prophet 5 sine wave. This one will do serious damage on dancefloors (and probably to the sound systems as well). There are 22 synth bass Programs in all, and if deep analogue bass is your thing, you'll love this collection. But you'll also discover plenty of other old and well‑loved synth sounds recreated here. And you could well find yourself reaching for the Triton's modest four real‑time controls to do live sound edits and programming of your own. The Combis, finally, with their many dance rhythm backing tracks, make it clear what kind of audience this board is aimed at.

Summing Up

Buying all five PCM boards will set you back £775, which could buy you another instrument. Then again, if you've already invested in a Triton keyboard or rack, these expansion boards will help you to get the most out of that investment. I can recommend them all, though depending on your musical predilections you may want to go for PCM01 and PCM02 as a pair, or PCM03 and PCM04 as a pair (convenient if you have the keyboard, with its two slots), and think about adding PCM05 later. Alternatively, if you're more sold on synth sounds than drum kits, you could go for PCM04 and PCM05. If you haven't already bought a Triton, these boards and the lure of more to come are a solid argument for investing in the Rack model.

Memory Management

Triton Rack users need to be aware that the disk data and accompanying load instructions for all five EXB expansion boards reflect the two EXB PCM slots and the memory bank organisation of the keyboard models. And while the Rack has Internal and External memory banks, the keyboards only have Internal Banks. To load the data into the Rack's External banks and have the Program Bank pointers in the Combis and Multis remapped from Internal to External banks, Rack owners have to load the top‑level PCG folder (either C or D) from the floppy disk and set the PCG Contents parameter to 'Bank I‑C [or I‑D] to E‑x', where x is your chosen External bank eg. I‑C to E‑C. For the EXB PCM03 and EXB PCM04 disks, you should also check the 'load SNG too' box to load the Multi and Pattern data.

Also, while it might seem logical to reload only the SNG data on each subsequent power‑up (PCG data is retained on power‑down, but SNG data isn't), the Program bank references in the Multis won't be remapped if you do so. You have to either reload and remap both the PCG and SNG data as described above, or use an option in the Triton Rack's System Utilities to manually remap the references after loading just the SNG data. The best solution, however, is to save the remapped SNG data to a new floppy (or to hard disk if you have the SCSI option) and use that as your working disk. This approach also has the advantage that you can store the original floppy away safely somewhere.

Previously In SOS... Past Triton Reviews

Korg Triton keyboard: June 1999 (or surf to:" target="_self).

Korg Triton Rack: November 2000 (or point your browser at:" target="_self).


  • Strong, well‑rounded collection of keyboard sounds on PCM01.
  • Delightful choral and string sounds on PCM02.
  • Earth‑shuddering drums and imaginative dance‑oriented Programs on PCM03 and PCM04.
  • Wonderful selection of vintage sounds on PCM05.


  • Takes a while to get your head around the Program Bank remapping necessary on the Triton Rack.
  • Lack of decent 12‑string Program on PCM02.
  • Triton keyboard owners may be frustrated that their instrument only has two EXB PCM slots.


Collectively these boards provide a wonderfully diverse selection of sounds, and individually all of them are strong offerings. The bottom line is that if you're a Triton owner you'll probably want at least two boards and quite possibly more, depending on your musical tastes.