Triton's front‑panel redesign has given Korg an opportunity to make a few user‑requested tweaks. There are those knobs, of course — we'll deal with them shortly — and a new row of dedicated Bank buttons. This comes in response to reports that choosing Program and Combi banks, done on Trinity by cycling through the options with a single button, could be more immediate: in the case of Triton, buttons labelled A‑D take care of the four possible Program and Combi banks, while three more (E‑G) cover Program banks made up from sampled sounds, a MOSS bank (only active if the Triton has the optional Z1 board fitted), and the GM bank.
Other operational changes become evident as one uses the new workstation — for example, where Trinity resets itself to Combi 01 when it's powered up, you can elect to have Triton power up how you left it. Trinity owners will also notice less use of the safety‑pin icon which, on Trinity, prevents pop‑up windows from disappearing before you've finished with them. Triton does things a little differently, and safety pins appear only in a few windows, such as when choosing individual samples in a multisample in the sampler section.
Overall, though, the Triton really can't be too highly recommended, as a truly professional, incredibly well‑rounded instrument, which is not revolutionary, admittedly, but surely does what Korg set out to do.
Such changes aside, Triton's interface is quite similar to Trinity's, including the way in which the touch‑screen helps the user navigate large, well‑laid out pages, often without needing the manual, simply by stabbing at the desired parameter on screen with a fingertip — though it seems that the way Trinity on‑screen controls, such as faders in the mixer page, could be altered with a fingertip, is gone. You can select the control with a finger, but have to change its value with the front‑panel data dial or slider, which removes some of the point of a touch‑driven interface.
On the whole, though, the Triton interface feeling is of enhanced graphics and layout. Whereas Trinity often makes do with quite bald lines of text — which is clear enough — Triton adds more boxes and graphic elements. The act of getting to an edit page, for example, is slightly quicker, and more logical now. With Trinity, you'd press the Edit button and select an edit page from a potential eight, using numbered buttons on the front panel. However, until you're familiar with the synth you often don't remember what function lives on what page. Triton's system is easier: the physical page buttons are gone, and if you want to edit something, you simply press the Menu button (novices might have preferred this to be labelled 'Edit') and an onscreen display showing labelled icons for up to nine pages appears.
Sharp‑eyed readers will spot a big hint about one of Triton's most important enhancements right on the front panel: the words 'Music Workstation/Sampler'. Where Trinity had a sample RAM option for loading samples, Triton features full sampling as standard.
To deal with the facts first, the sampler offers 16‑bit mono or stereo sampling, at a fixed 48kHz sample rate. Maximum sample RAM is 64Mb, though initially 16Mb is installed; there are two SIMM slots, so upgrading to 64Mb (two 32Mb SIMMs) will leave you with a spare 16Mb SIMM. The spec says there are 4000 possible sample locations — a huge number — but that appears to be true only with 64Mb of RAM; a base machine provides 1000 sample slots. Those 1000 (or 4000) samples can be organised across the keyboard as one of 1000 multisamples. With 64Mb of RAM you could easily manage a couple of multisamples with a different sample assigned to every key. Those with time and patience (or the right sample CD) could, for instance, assemble a killer grand piano. Note that samples can also be freely used in Triton drum kits. An interesting memory‑saving feature is that copied samples don't necessarily have to be physically copied: 'ghost' copies can be looped independently of the original (shades of Roland's S330/S550!). Any destructive editing, however, will be reflected in all ghosts.
A 16Mb Triton offers a maximum sample time of just under three minutes mono (about a minute and a half stereo); the full 64Mb of RAM would yield 11 minutes 38 seconds mono. The RAM of a fully loaded Triton is addressed in four chunks, which has implications for the length of sample you can record in one go — just under three minutes mono. That fixed sample rate may look like a problem, but it isn'tsample rates can be converted after sampling. This is done by multiplying the current sample rate by two‑thirds, a half, a third, a quarter or a sixth. Starting with a 48kHz sample, the resulting rates would be 32kHz, 24kHz, 16kHz, 12kHz and 8kHz. The way Triton works, though, means that some odd sample rates are produced: you might multiply a 16kHz sample by a sixth, say, which results in a 2.667kHz sample! It looks as though the lowest available sample rate is 2kHz (a 12kHz sample rate multipied by a sixth).
Sampling is undertaken in the Recording window, which also offers a display of the keygroups of the current multisample, assigned to an on‑screen keyboard, plus input level meters, a running total of available sample RAM, and the key range, original key and top key of the current sample. Keygrouping is handled automatically, with user controls for determining keygroup size (between one and 127 notes). Simply press the on‑screen Create button to add a sample slot to a new keygroup, hit the front‑panel Record button, set input level with the rear‑panel level control (and a further on‑screen gain fader), and press the Start/Stop button to record the sample. Pressing Start/Stop again finishes the process. There's also a threshold mode that begins sampling as soon as a user‑set level threshold is reached, and even a pre‑trigger option so that the attack of sounds that start a fraction early is preserved, though we found that even with careful use a bit tended to get cut off the start of a sample — we tried the pre‑trigger (up to its maximum 500mS), but this parameter didn't seem to work properly on the review model. One point worth mentioning is that audio input can be passed through Triton's Insert effects while being sampled — all five of them if you like, in stereo! We put this facility to use compressing a guitar while sampling a series of chords. Sampling through effects, of course, may also mean that an effect can be saved later.
Comprehensive editing functions include cut and clear highlighted area, truncate either side of highlighted area, paste, insert silence, reverse, normalise and mix (where two samples are merged). Looping is carried out on its own page. Both sample and loop edit pages feature a zoomable, scrolling waveform display, with tools for highlighting sections of a sample or selecting a loop point. It might lack the resolution and size of a computer monitor, but it's perfectly up to the task of providing feedback while editing. And once a collection of samples has been edited and looped, the resulting multisample, if desired, can be automatically converted into a Program. This is a painless end to a relatively painless process. Indeed, if sampling gets any easier than with the Triton sampler, we'd like to know about it.
For those working with rhythm loops, the sample waveform display has a useful grid option: if you know what the tempo of the sampled loop is, the grid will divide it into half, quarter, eighth, 16th or 32nd notes (with triplet options), allowing you to easily edit, cut or copy individual beats, which can then be assigned to their own keygroups to make up a kit of sounds derived from a loop. The grid display also has potential as an interface for time‑stretching loops, if this facility were ever added. Yes, that is a hint!
Triton's sampling facilities are certainly comprehensive, but die‑hard samplists may miss one or two things: as mentioned above, there's no time‑stretching, no crossfade looping, no alternate reverse/forward loops and no multiple loops (not to mention no digital input). We could also find no way of resampling existing audio or onboard sounds through the effects, and there's no 'undo' facility at the moment (though when you're mangling a sample you're always given the option of overwriting the original or saving the result in a new location, which is considerate!). That said, the sampler is quick to use, highly integrated with Triton's synthesis side, and offers one of the fastest, easiest ways around of compiling multisamples. One point to keep in mind, though, is that Triton's RAM is volatile (Trinity's sample RAM was flash), so if the synth is switched off, unsaved samples and sequences are lost. The optional SCSI interface and some external storage would be pretty much essential for serious samplists: even the contents of the basic 16Mb ofRAM would require around a dozen high‑density floppies for a full backup.
On examining the keyboard's underside, one spots two new screw‑on panels. These reveal yet another Triton enhancement: its expansion boards are user‑installable, so adding the MOSS (Z1) board, SCSI board, PCM expansion boards or extra sample RAM no longer entails returning your machine to Korg HQ, as with Trinity. The options will also apparently be cheaper, as they don't have to incorporate an installation cost.
- PCM Expansion boards: these are something like the Roland JV‑series Sound Expanders. Two are currently available, with more planned. Pianos/Classic Keyboards features various flavours of piano, clavinet and organ, while Studio Essentials provides extra brass and woodwind instruments, strings and choirs. A Triton can host two boards at a time, and each board comes with a floppy of new Programs and Combis that load into the C and D memory banks. According to Korg UK, future boards will cover contemporary musical styles. Incidentally, in Tritons without PCM expansions installed, the C and D banks are empty and thus provide extra memory slots for your own sounds.
- MOSS (Multi‑Oscillator Synthesis System) option: this is almost the same Z1 physical modelling synth‑on‑a‑board that came with the Trinity V3 (see the V3 review, SOS September 1998, and the Z1 review, October 1997). There's one big difference, though: inside a Triton, the 6‑voice polyphonic MOSS board becomes 6‑part multitimbral, rather than being monotimbral as in Trinity! This is quite an advantage and makes the Triton MOSS option closer to a fully fledged Z1, which features two MOSS boards for 12‑voice polyphony. As you'd hope, Triton polyphony is increased to 68 notes with the MOSS option.
However, we came across an odd situation in regard to the MOSS board and effects. One of the few things the SOS reviewer criticised about the Z1 was the fact that different voices in a Multi setup (similar to a Combi) couldn't be treated with different effects. Trying to place MOSS voices from the Z1 board into a Triton Combi or multitimbral sequencer setup and effect them individually revealed a similar problem during our testing: though the display showed MOSS voices apparently routed to different Insert effects (or individual outputs), they were in fact all being treated by one Insert effect or Insert effect chain (or going to one individual output). The user can choose which Insert effect, or audio output, MOSS voices will be routed to, but all MOSS voices will be so routed, no matter what the routing diagram reports. It's not even possible to route MOSS sounds via the main stereo output untreated, or set up individual send levels to the Master effects. This is quite a serious flaw which limits the usefulness of MOSS board multitimbrality.
- SCSI option: as mentioned earlier, the SCSI option, which uses a large SCSI connector rather than the miniature SCSI II version on many current peripherals, will be pretty much essential to anyone who uses Triton's sampler a lot. Incidentally, when a CD‑ROM drive is connected, the Triton's sampler can not only access Akai‑format CD‑ROMs, but also load WAV and AIFF files off standard PC‑format CD‑ROMs. We couldn't get the same result with Mac‑format CD‑ROMs, however, and SMDI transfer isn't supported. Neither can Triton samples currently be saved in a format that can be exported to other samples or software editors.
To anyone familiar with the streamlined look of thTrinity, the next obvious difference is Triton's knobs. Korg have provided four, configured for real‑time control of up to eight parameters, in two banks of four — obviously an extra nod towards the increasingly hands‑on direction the market has taken since the Trinity was launched. One bank of knobs are preset to control familiar synth parameters: filter cutoff, filter resonance, EG intensity and EG release. The other bank is user‑definable. Preset Programs (and Combis) assign the second knob bank to various parameters: EG controls, effect sends, or the volume of elements in a Combi, for example. Some interesting organ Programs use the knobs as real‑time drawbar controls. There's a variety of modulation options, and the knobs used in combination with the joystick and ribbon controller provide even more real‑time sound mangling possibilities than on the Trinity.
Three additional knobs on the Triton's far right hint at another new feature: dual polyphonic arpeggiators, with the knobs usefully controlling Tempo, Gate Time and Velocity. When the Trinity V3, featuring the Z1 board, was released, one facility reviewers felt was lacking was the Z1's arpeggiator, and Korg have obviously borne this in mind for the new machine — there's really nothing to beat an arpeggiator for instant gratification.
The two independently configurable arpeggiators are really well‑specified. They'll happily simply chop the notes of a chord into an up/down pattern over a number of octaves, with a choice of note resolution, but then they take the whole thing several steps further: some patterns are auto‑accompaniment in arpeggiator clothing! Nevertheless, many of them, programmed in styles such as jungle, drum & bass and hip‑hop, are quite groovy, and there are also guitar strum arpeggio patterns. If you're in your local music store auditioning a Triton, Prog A005 'Acoustic Guitar' illustrates the strumming technique, which is pretty convincing — for a while, anyway!
Custom arpeggio patterns can be created, so if, instead of being straitjacketed into a preset style, you'd like to design your own straitjacket, you can! The arpeggiator edit grid is identical to that on the Z1, and functions as a basic step sequencer. Up to 48 steps are available; each step can play up to 12 notes, and there's full control over velocity, note length and rests, plus a flam option used in some guitar strumming patterns. There appear to be 200 user arpeggio pattern memories oan unexpanded Triton, though many of these are filled with factory settings. The number increases if PCM boards are installed.
Programs, Combis and sequencer Songs can all take advantage of the arpeggiators. One, any or all eight parts in a Combi, or all 16 in a sequence, can be assigned to one or other of the arpeggiators; the choice is yours. Arpeggiations played while a sequence is recording are nearly always recorded as played — the arpeggiator isn't needed during playback to get the desired result, when using single Programs. The exceptions mainly centre around Sequence setups derived from Combis which use arpeggiations; though a Combi that's been turned into a Sequence will play properly, you may have to tweak MIDI channels, or record the final performance across several tracks, to accurately reproduce the original Combi as a Song.
As Korg's updating of their workstation concept for the millennium, Triton must be judged a success. It retains the proven Trinity design, sound, display and effects; attends to the areas where Trinity fell short, notably polyphony and audio outputs; improves day‑to‑day operation in numerous ways (better effect routing, user‑installable option boards, computer interface, sequencer enhancements... the list goes on); and adds desirable new features — including full sampling, arpeggiators and real‑time control knobs — at a price some £600 less than Trinity on its launch! Some might question one or two of Korg's decisions (see 'Missing In Action' box): abandoning digital connectivity options at a time when the world is becoming increasingly digital seems almost perverse, and if Korg had managed to retain Trinity's HD recording option they really could have kept the title 'self‑contained MIDI + Audio workstation' for Triton. Though it's probably due to a hardware limitation, the situation with the MOSS board and effects is also unfortunate.
Overall, though, the Triton really can't be too highly recommended, as a truly professional, incredibly well‑rounded instrument, which is not revolutionary, admittedly, but surely does what Korg set out to do. Like Trinity before it, Triton is the workstation to beat.
Though the sonic character of Triton is very similar to Trinity, the new machine's arpeggiator adds a new dimension, introducing textural arpeggiations in some of the preset sounds and achieving an almost 'wave sequencing' effect, such as you get from Korg's own Wavestation. Triton, like Trinity, is very strong on most imitative sounds, both traditional instrumental and electronica, and its synth pads are largely wonderful (check out Combi A055, 'Sofia's Place'). We thought some of the bass drums lacked 'oomph', but the Master EQ goes a long way towards remedying this.
Favourite sounds are always rather subjective, but talking about them does at least allow reviewers to be more descriptive about the most important reason most people buy a synthesizer — how it sounds!
- Combi A008 'Knob as Drawbar1': an effective organ with drawbar settings altered by the control knobs.
- Combi A009 'Indian Ocean': a wonderful layer of tablas, finger cymbals, sitars and so on, with the arpeggiators providing a tabla and cymbal pattern. It's very atmospheric, and the control knobs bring in sequenced delays from Insert effects to vary the basic rhythm.
- Combi A028 'Random Blocks': sets up a convincing Steve Reich vibe.
- Combi A051 'Crusin' Compton': pretty self‑explanatory — crackly, laid back, lo‑fi hip‑hop.
- Combi A083 'DoItToYaFeet': strange rhythmic goings‑on — speaker‑rattling bass, cheesy beatbox and garbled phonemes all in one.
- Combi A086 'SciFi Chase Scene': an instant track, but still very satisfying. Use as a basis for your own ideas.
- Combi D113: 'RichHarmonic Piano': a lovely, subtle piano/harp layer, with effective harp arpeggios; if you think Duran Duran's 'Save A Prayer' intro, you'll be in the right ballpark. This is in a PCM board bank, but only uses basic Programs.
The review Triton had a MOSS board, and several Combis melded HI and MOSS sounds rather intriguingly. Combi B033 'Tell Me Thelma' (on our machine) is weirdly effective, with a theremin‑like sound just breaking out over a heavy rhythmic pad. Many MOSS/HI combinations are 100mph jungle, with other contemporary feels in abundance.
The Triton's GM set is also worthy of mention — there are few low spots, and the majority of sounds are above average.
- Trinity's digital interfacing options: an S/PDIF facility came with Trinity's HDR option, and an ADAT connection could also be added. So far, Triton isn't offering any digital connections at all; this could be because, according to Korg UK, the Trinity digital options weren't that widely taken up.
- The hard disk recording option: this is not offered for Triton, say Korg because since Trinity's launch there's been an explosion in affordable digital recorders, including their own D8, rendering Korg's 4‑track Trinity HD option less relevant. It's a fair point, but still, the idea of having four audio tracks alongside MIDI in one keyboard was very appealing — and Triton's lack of digital outs means you can't access stand‑alone hard disk recorders in the digital domain either.
It's always hard for owners when a prized instrument is superseded, especially when it adds lots of new stuff for lots less money. Reactions typically include 'How much is mine worth now?' and 'Is the new one much better than mine and how annoyed will I be when I see the features it's got?'
The answer to the latter question is quite complicated. Trinity was a lovely instrument on its release, and it's a lovely instrument now, regardless of the launch of Triton. Triton has enhancements Trinity owners may well hanker after, but they (and we, as Trinity owners!) can console themselves with the knowledge that Trinity has a few things Triton doesn't have. Depending on how you work, the Trinity features Triton misses out (see 'Missing In Action' box) may be the ones you use most.
The Triton enhancements Korg have made are great and take their flagship workstation even further, but probably the single biggest inducement for a Trinity owner to trade up to Triton is the very accomplished sampler — for anyone who doesn't already have one or gigs a lot — though a sampler built into a workstation synth won't add extra polyphony or multitimbral parts, which you'd get with a dedicated unit.
Trinity owners who have made the instrument their musical centrepiece may also see Triton's 62‑voice polyphony as a big advantage. The fact that the MOSS board becomes multitimbral in a Triton could have a bearing too. Sound‑wise there's not that much difference between the two machines (though sounds can't currently be ported from Trinity to Triton, which is a real shame) and though Triton boasts more waveforms, Trinity owners need not fear that their instrument is sonically more limited. However, the Triton's arpeggiators do extend the sonic possibilities for that machine.
We'd really like the sampling of the Triton, and the extra polyphony, and the arpeggiators, but Trinity is a classic instrument and we don't think anyone who bought it should ever regret their decision. It would be nice, though, to see Korg's purely software tweaks making their way into Trinity, even as a chargeable upgrade. There seems no reason why Trinity owners can't have the improved effects routing, for example, and the sequencer track looping.
By the way, anyone considering changing to Triton and thinking they could swap the SCSI and MOSS boards from their Trinity into the new machine will have to think again: the boards for Triton are not exactly the same and so won't be swappable.
||Triton: 61‑note, velocity‑ and aftertouch‑sensitive; Triton Pro: as Triton, with 76 notes; Triton ProX: 88‑note, weighted.|
||62 notes (68 with MOSS board).|
||32Mb (425 multisamples, 413 drum samples).|
||Hyper Integrated (HI).|
||256 Programs + nine drum kits.|
||Stereo digital multi‑effects (2 Master and 5 Insert effects plus 1 Master EQ simultaneously). 102 Insert effects and 89 Master effects to choose from.|
||16 tracks; 192ppqn resolution; 200 Songs; 100 preset/100 user patterns per Song; reads/writes Standard MIDI Files.|
||100 user patterns/Song, approx 100 preset patterns.|
||232 patterns, approx 180 preset.|
||Mono/stereo 16‑bit, 48kHz sampling; 16Mb standard RAM (upgradeable to 64Mb); approx. three minutes mono sampling with standard RAM; imports AIFF, WAV, S1000/3000 and Trinity‑format samples; resamples at lower rates; no sample export.|
||Joystick, ribbon controller, 2 assignable switches, 4 assignable knobs, 3 arpeggiator control knobs.|
||3.5‑inch 2DD/2HD floppy.|
||L (mono)/R; four individual outs; headphones.|
||2 jack audio inputs.|
||Mac/PC (MIDI driver software available).|
||320x240‑dot backlit graphical TouchView screen with brightness control.|
||PCM Expansion boards; EXB‑MOSS DSP Synthesizer board; EXB SCSI SCSI Interface board.|
Triton's effects are high‑quality, fully editable, and are divided into type categories (rather than sizes, as in Trinity). Categories are Filter/Dynamic (15 effects); Pitch/Phase Modulation (16 effects); Modulation/Pitch Shift (nine effects); Early Reflections/Delay (11 effects); Reverb (six types); Mono‑Mono Chain (lots of chains of two Trinity‑style 'size 1' effects); and Double Size (13 effects). There isn't room to list them all here, but SOS's two‑part Trinity Plus review has a full effects list which gives a good idea of the kind of thing on offer. Almost the same effects are available as both Inserts and Masters, but double‑size effects can't be used as Masters.
Like Triton, Trinity has a vocoder, yet the thing that vocoders are best at — using human speech or singing to modulate a musical sound — isn't possible due to its lack of audio ins. Here Triton scores: not only is its vocoder effect a little more sophisticated (though it lacks the precise control over frequency bands which would be offered by a dedicated device), but external audio can be used as a modulator. The process is a bit long‑winded, but follow the instructions in the manual and you won't go far wrong.
|Sampling||Full sampler||Loads samples into optional sample RAM|
|Option board/RAM installation||User||Factory|
|Sequencer capacity||100,000 notes||60,000 notes|
|Individual track looping in sequencer||Yes||No|
|RPPR (Real‑time Pattern Play/Record)||Yes||No|
|External audio treated with effects||Yes||Only with HDR option|
|PCM Expansion option||Yes||No|
|MOSS board (if installed)||6‑part multitimbral||Monotimbral|
|General MIDI||GM Program Bank,
GM seq. mode
|GM sound bank on disk|
|Hard Disk Recording option||No||4‑track|
|Digital Interfacing||No||S/PDIF with HDR option, ADAT option|
- Very good sampler with 16Mb RAM supplied.
- Almost doubles Trinity polyphony.
- Dual polyphonic arpeggiators.
- Mac/PC interface.
- Real‑time control knobs.
- Sequencer even more powerful than Trinity's.
- Six audio outputs.
- User‑installable options.
- Still sounds gorgeous.
- Still has that great display.
- User interface tweaks well thought out.
- Trinity's HDR and digital connection options not offered.
- No longer possible to use eight 'Size 1' effects in a Song.
- Sample RAM volatile rather than Flash.
- Samples can't be exported.
- MOSS board voices can't be treated individually with insert effects in Combis and Songs.
- Trinity sounds and optional boards not compatible.
A beautiful and impressively specified self‑contained instrument. If we didn't already have a Trinity, Triton would be our workstation of choice.
61‑note basic Triton £1799 including VAT.