Sonic LAB: Review New Korg Monotrons

More mini synths for Christmas..      09/12/11
    MP4 10:6 mins    

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The success of the original Korg Monotron -  the single voice analog synth in a kind of mini Stylophone format clearly spurred Korg on to expand the range. As we know Korg has been doing well with its continuing miniaturization program. I can visualize some kind of secret room where they keep  the shrinking ray gun to aim at various Korg products that are not yet small enough to be called mini, or micro or mono, or perhaps not...
The fact is that we now have the Monotron Duo - a two VCO mini synth, and the Monotron DELAY - a single VCO with built-in analog delay.

They still have the same form factor with the unplayable ribbon keyboard, but the DUO now has added keyboard quantize modes, via a red button on the back - cycling though chromatic, major scale, minor scale and free modes - a great improvement for playing anything meaningful.

This now features two VCO’s - these can be used in two modes, single VCO, where the second performs as an LFO for some high-speed XMOD (they say that this is akin to the MonoPoly XMOD, but I cant really hear it), and VCO 1+2 mode - this allows you to tune the second VCO to an interval,either above or below the VCO 1 pitch.
The DUO still has the same resonant MS20-styled filter (just the Low Pass part) which really does scream when the resonance is dialled in.

This is a bit different to the original Monotron, in that it features a single VCO, low pass filter with no resonance, an LFO with TRIANGLE and SQUARE waves and an analog style delay.
First up, the keyboard bears no relation to actual pitch, making actually playing it nigh on impossible. But when you bring the delay and modulation into play you start to see what its for - mad, sci-fi like effects, which it does extremely well.
The delay is really crusty, with a delay time of around 40ms to 750ms (I’m guessing) the feedback goes off into uncontrollable distorted regeneration without too much encouragement and really sounds cheap - I mean that in a good way.
The filter is applied post delay so everything gets treated. LFO wave shapes can also be tweaked with a small micro screw on the back of the unit to dial through SAW down, TRIANGLE and SAW up. Applying the saem to the SQUARE wave moves through full PW shapes.

Both Monotrons feature an AUX in which in the case of the DUO means you can filter external sources, and in the DELAY, apply the delay effect and the filter.

Patch And Stockings
I took the liberty of opening both of these up and Korg has helpfully provided labelled patch points on the circuit board, and no doubt will release the schematics to encourage some mods.
I imagine some bright spark will hook these up in a most ingenious way so that we can all benefit from if we care to break out the soldering iron. Would be nice to get CV and gate in and out for hooking up to a modular system though.

Bottom line, these are fun and will probably sell by the bucketload. They are affordable analog synths, I still find it astonishing that a manufacturer as big as Korg are actually making something like this.
True, they are built cheaply and not designed for life on the road or serious album work, but they are a lot of fun.

Monotron DUO and DELAY available now
£41.99 / $70 each


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