Korg M50 short review / first impressions

Posted: September 17, 2008 in Audio
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We could discover (and try) during the Salon de la musique (Paris) the new Korg workstation, the M50 (derived from the M3), that is just at the time it was officially announced by Korg. It is indeed a true revolution in price/quality ratio (the huge buzz generated on internet can confirm that fact) : at only 1400$ (61 keys models) it brings an incredible keyboard (semi-weighted synth keys for 61 or 73 keys models) that allows easily to trigger all the velocities (also the lowest), a very good design and elegant materials (panel texture, buttons, joystick), a large and really convincing touch screen (very readable, elegant and not too flashy nor colorful), an arpeggiator and even a sequencer !

We learn that it is bundled with a sound editor for Mac (universal binary) and Windows (USB connection), and that the M50 can even read patchs from the M3 through converting (it uses the same EDS sound engine). Finally the M50 can be used as an external instrument plugin from most sequencers !

The main limitation is about polyphony : it is restricted (less powerful processor) to 40 notes with programs using two oscillators (and even less if stereo samples are used) or 80 notes with one oscillator per patch (respectively 60 and 120 notes of polyphony on the M3). It offers however 16 parts (multitimbral), as with the M3. In fact Korg removed all M3 features but the essential from the M50 : no sampling, no extension slots (EXB-RADIAS extension for the M3, that brings Multi Modeling Technology, and also three EX-USB-PCM samples libraries, that add 256Mb of samples in the sampler memory extension), only one audio output (many and optical on the M3 – that also adds a Firewire connector) – however the M50 sound can be retrieved digitally by using it as an external instrument plugin. The EDS audio engine is said to be the same as with the M3 : 256Mb rom samples (1,077 Multisamples and 1,609 Drum Samples) and 170 effects types (same routing settings as with the M3).

While playing, the M50 sounded very full, crisp in the high end and powerful in the low end (so the converters seem great for that price), it was comparable with the M3 (the later however seemed to provide more subtile variations for some sounds, like church organ patchs). The dynamic is great, revealed by the stunning synth keyboard precision (really nice feeling). The included piano sound is very similar to the one in the older Fantom X, the evolving pads are great (somewhat inspired from Roland ones), the acoustic and electric bass are outstanding, the drums are very good (but a bit restricted in sampling frequency), and the new analog strings are great. Finally the arpeggio programs are stunning. Audio demos are available at Korg site.

The 88 keys model (RH3: Real Weighted Hammer Action 3 keyboard with 4-zone graded action response) is announced at a price around 2000$, that is 1000$ less than the average 88 notes workstations (it has to be confirmed, as it could be the 73 keys model price).

So the M50 is in some way the new pragmatic and affordable workstation (as was the Roland D20 in late 80s), without any true limitation.

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Comments
  1. clarkness says:

    Nice review.

    I too have written a review of the Korg M50.

    Please check my review out too.

    Regards

    Clarkness

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