Korg iM1: the legendary workstation synth on your iPad

September 4, 2015
The introduction of the Korg M1 in 1988 was a watershed in synthesizer history. While there were a few digital synths-with-onboard-sequencers that preceded the M1, Korg took the entire concept up a notch with their knockout combo of sampled instruments, eight-way multi-timbral architecture, and integrated effects. The M1 ushered in the era of the workstation.

Over the next eight years, Korg’s core technology behind the M1 spawned numerous descendants: in chronological order, the T, O1/W, X series. The essential sound common to all became ubiquitous in pop and dance music, with a special place in the history of ’90s house music, thanks to its bright tack pianos and jazzy organ presets.

Because of the resurgence of house music, Korg’s Legacy Edition software version of the M1 has become a mainstay in the EDM world, bringing its inimitable sound to a new generation of synth fans. So the time was clearly right for Korg to port the M1 to the iOS ecosystem.

The new iM1 for iPad is a note-perfect reproduction of the original M1’s synth architecture, which is blissfully straightforward to understand, even if you’re a synth novice. Every patch is comprised of up to two sampled instruments, each with its own independent non-resonant lowpass filter and amp sections, which are a tad different than the usual fare. Each section has its own dedicated five-stage envelope, sporting two decay stages with individually adjustable breakpoints, for sounds that bounce and/or swell. Both sections also include independent LFOs that offer the standard compliment of sine, triangle, saw, square and random waves. In addition, there are two insert effects per preset, with all of the familiar delays, reverbs, and time-based modulations. It’s edifying to realize that this sort of roster, which is essential by today’s standards, was pioneered by Korg over 25 years ago.

Even more impressive than the spot-on recreation of the synthesis engine is the fact that the iM1’s sample ROM includes not only the original M1 collection, but also the option of the T-series banks and every sound card expansion Korg released for it—an additional $10 in-app purchase. Fully loaded, that’s around 3,300 sounds. Fortunately (and unlike the original hardware) the iM1 includes a really elegant patch browser that can quickly drill down to specific instrument categories and sonic characteristics.

While the original M1 multi-timbral Combi patches are present for massive layering and split keyboard duties, the original’s sequencer is absent. That’s not a huge deal, since Korg includes full support for Audiobus and Inter-app audio, so you can use it with other sequencers, including GarageBand. Better still, fans of Korg’s Gadget sequencer also enjoy full integration with iM1.

Fans of the M1 Legacy Edition can use iM1 on the road, as Korg has included two-way compatibility with the preset file format. So you can design a sound while you’re waiting for a flight, and then transfer the results to your desktop when you get back to the studio.

I’ve been a fan of the M1 since its introduction and regularly use the M1 Legacy Edition in my current house tracks. Having iM1 on my iPad means I can now whip up track sketches in Gadget and export the results to Ableton Live without missing a beat. For keyboardists with iPad based rigs, the iM1 is a no-brainer when it comes to adding another essential synth to your gigging collection. This app is truly worthy of a Key Buy. Don’t miss it.


Flawless recreation of the original M1. Seamless integration with Korg Gadget. Audiobus and Inter-app audio. Presets are compatible with Korg’s Legacy Edition soft synth.


As with the original hardware, filters are non-resonant.

Bottom Line

An M1 in your backpack for thirty bucks.


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