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In-depth Feature:  Korg microKORG
Rob G writes: .

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The vocoder is again surprisingly flexible. Vocoders work by analysing the frequency characteristics of one signal (the modulator) and applying them to another (the carrier). Typically, the modulator is voice, resulting in vocal-sounding sounds at the carrier's pitch.
Hear the vocoder

The microKORG allows the carrier signal to be the internal waveform generated by Osc 1 and noise and/or the signal from audio input 2 - the modulator is always driven by audio input 1. The modulator is analysed by 8 analysis band-pass filters and an envelope follower detects the volume envelope of each band. The carrier signal is then input to the other set of 8 band-pass filters, the synthesis filters, and processed by the envelopes detected by the envelope follower to modulate the carrier with the features of the modulator. For voice modulators, this produces the effect that the instrument is talking. The current frequency response can be 'frozen' at any time by pressing the Formant Hold button.

The microKORG also sports impressive editing capabilities for vocoder programs. A high-pass filter allows mixing in high-frequency portions of the modulator - particularly useful for emphasising consonants. The filter section for vocoder programs allows the frequencies from the modulator to be raised or lowered before applying to the synthesis filter - changing the frequency of the vocoded signal while retaining the characteristics of the modulator - this may be achieved by fixed settings (formant shift and filter cutoff), or modulated by velocity, keyboard-tracking, pitch bend or mod wheel. The sensitivity of the envelope follower may be adjusted to vary the smoothness of the attack and length of release for the vocoder output. Finally, the level and pan position of each of the 8 synthesis filters may be set individually for enhanced spatial effects.

The effects engine is shared by the synth and vocoder. Two basic effects are offered - modulation, for flange/chorus, ensemble and phaser effects, and delay, with stereo delay, cross delay (where the feedback is fed into the other stereo channel) and L/R delay, where delays are alternately output left or right. The delay may be synchronised to the arpeggiator or an external MIDI tempo, at intervals from a 32nd note to whole bar. Finally, a 2-band equaliser is applied - each band featuring both frequency and gain controls.

The arpeggiator can be applied to both the synth and vocoder, 6 basic patterns are available including up, down, up/down (2 types - with the highest lowest notes sounding once or twice), random and trigger. The last, trigger, is not strictly speaking an arpeggiator pattern - simply triggering all the notes played at the arpeggiator tempo allowing a sort of triggered gate effect. Again, generous editing options are available - note length, gate time, note range (1-4 octaves), swing and key sync can all be adjusted. For layered programs, either timbre may be selected as the input for the arpeggiator, allowing the arpeggiator pattern to be layered with the chord being played. Finally, individual notes can be turned on or off using the 'program number' buttons (when in apreggiator edit mode), varying the rhythmic content of the arpeggio and is nicely implemented using the eight illuminated program keys.

More Resources              Articles - full listing
  • microKorg@synthsite
  • short vocoder example
  • On board demo 1 (MP3)
  • On board demo 2 (MP3)
  • microKorg video of front panel

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