Review: Korg microKorg S

The microKorg is a classic for a reason
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There aren’t many mainstream keyboards that have remained in production nonstop for 14 years. So the fact that the microKorg is still one of the top-selling mini-synths since its 2002 introduction is a testament to both its sound and its straightforward approach to bringing synthesis and vocoding to the masses. What’s more, being such a handy synth, the microKorg has also found its way into the rigs of music legends ranging from Jean-Michel Jarre to Nick Rhodes.

Over the course of its remarkable run, Korg has occasionally updated the product with additional amenities, while leaving the core synthesis engine—virtual-analog modeling based on the MS2000—unchanged. The latest model, the microKorg S continues the keyboard’s evolution in a manner that will bring its useful sound to yet another generation of budding synthesists, while providing a 4-voice synth with the classic configuration—dual oscillators and noise, a resonant multi-mode filter, two LFOs and envelopes, built-in modulation effects, delay, EQ, and an arpeggiator.

The original microKorg pioneered the “big knob” approach to selecting presets grouped by genre. In fact, it’s such a great idea that other manufacturers have cribbed it. The new S version provides more memory, including 64 user programs, than the previous models, and Korg’s latest batch of 64 factory presets really nails today’s sounds, covering everything from trance and hip-hop to vintage and retro. Standouts include ClaviPhone (trance), Robot Mouth (hip-hop/vintage), and Major Lead (retro), along with many useful vocoder presets. Moreover, you can save eight of the programs you use most to the Favorite Select area.

The microKorg S accepts condenser and dynamic mic input, as well as line-level signals. The microKorg’s integrated four-band vocoder introduced a generation of keyboardists to the retromodern sound of robot voices and it’s still part and parcel of the microKorg S. The new presets definitely keep that trend moving forward, thanks to its genuine ease-of-use and included gooseneck condenser microphone. That said, since the engine remains the same, the results do too. Even now, it’s great for old school Kraftwerk jams and Cars covers, if vintage vocal effects are your thing.

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Other than its Apple-white paint job and sustainable wood endcaps, the biggest change in the microKorg S is its new integrated 2.1 speaker system that does the trick for both bedroom and tour bus jamming. A built-in bass-reflex port helps project the synth’s low end. While some may prefer headphones (if only for the privacy factor), the speakers are a welcome addition that probably should have been added years ago, but hey, better late than never.

While the new features on the microKorg S probably won’t have current users standing in line all night to upgrade as if it was an iPhone, the addition of speakers and a new bank of fashionable dance presets go a long way toward keeping it fresh and relevant. There’s a reason why the microKorg has remained a staple in keyboardist’s rigs: It combines a classic and versatile sound, integrated vocoding, and portability in a way that no other synth has matched to date, and that’s quite an achievement.

Snap Judgment

Pros Classic microKorg sound. Bulit-in vocoder. Integrated stereo speakers. Expanded memory includes 64 new dance-oriented factory presets and 64 additional user memories. Battery powered.


Bottom Line

The microKorg is a classic for a reason.