Sonic LAB: Korg Minilogue XD Review

Four voice poly gets an update      03/05/19

I’ve been waiting for the Minilogue XD to arrive for what feels like ages. I loved the original Minilogue, I even bought one and have it in my live setup. It's a synth I would recommend for someone looking for an affordable analogue poly.

The XD now has more to offer in the exact same footprint. Korg have added features from the Prologue -t he pro-sized, and pro-priced bigger sibling.

First up there’s the Multi-Engine which is a digital oscillator that you can load your own (if you program in C and have the Korg SDK) or third party code snippets - just like the Prologue (and compatible with). So three oscillators per voice, two analog (like the original) - and one digital.

Next up is the effects section - this is three discrete stereo FX, delay, reverb and mod. All with their own types. The reverb is monster, as well as the usual stuff you get some complex algorithmic modulation and pitched spaces which are just dreamy.

All this means you get a stereo output, additionally there’s CV inputs 1 + 2 for external control of parameters.

The filter has been taken from the Prologue too, with a little less bass rolloff when resonance is added, plus a three stage drive circuit: none, 50%/100% for some extra bark and quack.

Other differences are: VCF envelope is A/D only, LFO gets bpm and one shot modes on the front panel, plus there’s a joystick for two axis modulation. And the OLED display is about 2x the size.

I’ll be honest, I really liked the Minilogue, so was hoping that this was an improvement rather than a poor remake - and it does not disappoint. The Multi Engine adds a completely new dimension to the sound, even with additional parameters hidden away in the edit menu - depending on the type you’ve chosen, you can shape the extra sound source well - some lovely harmonic content for sending into the extra effects - it's an ambient dream. Oh and you can load externally coded effects into 8 memory slots too - though like the Multi Engine code (which has 16 user slots), you either have to buy from third party vendors, or like I did download some open source stuff - I grabbed the Mutable Instruments Plaits stuff from Peterall on Github (https://github.com/peterall/eurorack-prologue/releases).

You get the same 16 step sequencer (but with 16 dedicated step buttons) with 4 lanes of motion control, great for extra modulation (remember you don’t have to record notes in there - you can just record parameter tweaks). Additionally there’s the Arpeggiator too which can be combined with the sequencer.

Perhaps one thing I would have liked to have seen is a shift  function using the sequencer buttons for quick patch recall, it's fiddly and easy to overshoot when dialing in presets using the rotary encoder - especially when going long distance (there are 500 preset slots)

How does it sound?
Certainly there’s a lot of variation in there, as with the Minilogue, it does mono sounds well, but the pads and darker textures are really lovely, when combined with the Rise (shimmer type) or Submarine (inverse shimmer) reverbs or other FX, there’s some great atmospheric sounds.

To my ears, they’ve created something pretty flexible and likely to get you to a lot of places you might want to go. Though of course, the inclusion of a multi-mode filter would have been the icing on the cake.

I did experiment with CV mapping from external gear and found it to be very effective, adding a full ADSR to the filter section by sending MIDI out and routing an ADSR  CV to the filter worked a treat.

Overall, I am impressed with the Minilogue XD, it's a tad more expensive than the Minilogue (still available) at around £565, which does take it into DeepMind 12 Desktop pricing (only two limited oscillators  in that though), but there’s an immediacy to the XD which really appeals to me, it's intuitive to use and quick to get you synthesizing and capable of a great breadth of sounds.

Well worth checking out. I may be investing...

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