Korg M3 (p)review
- Basics, Sound
Author: Vedran Dakic
Date: 19 Jan 2007
The first "ground" or "base" we should cover is the OASYS-M3 dispute that I found running around at various forums. Let's just compare these two beasts "out of the box" and see what they have in common, and what the differencies are. Let's just begin with numbers and objective data and move on to more subjective stuff like sound, synthesis, aliasing and other things.
- Polyphony - 172 voices (OASYS) versus 120 voices (M3)
- linear PCM data (OASYS) versus compressed (M3)
- per-voice Vector Envelope (OASYS)
- 12 Insert, 2 Master and 2 total effects (OASYS) compared to 5/2/1
- 32-bit signal path (OASYS) compared to 24-bit (M3)
- "better" control surface - for example, knobs (OASYS)
- Kaoss PAD functionality (M3)
- 4 analog INs and 10 OUTs (OASYS), compared to 2/6 (M3)
- EXB-DI has 8-voice ADAT output (OASYS), compared to 6 FireWire outputs via EXB-FW (M3)
- 172-voice CX3 and PolySix EX, 96-voice AL-1, 48-voice STR-1 and MS-20EX and upgradeability via EXi/EXf/EXs (OASYS), compared to EXB-RADIAS (M3)
- phantom power for MICs (OASYS), no phantom power (M3)
- additional drum track control (M3)
- four USB 2.0 ports (OASYS), two (three with computer port) USB 2.0 ports (M3)
- audio tracks and In Track Sampling (OASYS), only In Track Sampling (M3)
- faster envelopes and LFO's (OASYS)
- somewhat better anti-aliasing
- possibility to load additional PCM/sound libraries via USB (M3, via EX-USB-PCM)
I feel that this should really be enough to see why OASYS is a more expensive keyboard here. Acutally, I'm gonna talk more about that a bit later.
In the original article I called the M3 the first OASYS spinoff. This is actually partly true, due to some basic facts. OASYS is software-based, while M3 is actually build upon proprietary hardware and Korg's proprietary OS, as opposed to OASYS's Open Architecture based on Linux OS. It's pretty hard to get into details about the differences in development and stuff like that, but I think we can draw some simple conclusions. The upgradeability is a different term when we talk about the OASYS. The only way you could upgrade a M3 in a way you could do that with the OASYS's engines is by extracting the EXB-RADIAS board and sticking something else there that you just don't have (at least not at this point). To tell you the truth, I don't think that's even gonna be possible. M3 is just not a keyboard that's supposed to compete directly with the OASYS, but replace the Tritons by having an OASYS as a base in terms of experience, development and sound while still keeping it under the Korg roof and with more affordable price range while still offering some versatile possibilities like playing around with M3-M and RADIAS modules within the 73 and 88-key modules. But what's going on here is something else - this should be a Triton replacement for time to come, and one that's completely able to erase the only small minus that Triton as a whole generation have - and that's the fact that it just wasn't entirely "blended" into studio environment. By that I mean some additional control that you just needed via various 3rd party tools, sequencers and stuff like that - just weren't there, and that did make studio-work with Tritons a bit harder. Now that you have a new Motif and Steinberg under the Yamaha roof, of course Korg had to seriously consider this link and make M3 as studio-friendly as it can be. Actually, I feel that, in terms of development, this is one major step forward for Korg. You can hook up your M3 directly to your computer via USB and it just acts as a sound sorce. Not only that, but you have editor/librarian that works in standalone mode and as a PLUGIN with VST, AU or RTAS compatibility. So, although the Sequencer got a nice upgrade to 480PPQ, I'd go with an external sequencer and completely blend the M3 in the studio environment. In that way you just don't need to have internal audio tracks in M3's sequencer and it's kind of standard that you do audio on your computer. If you were to think about it, the whole EXB-FW thing is there exactly because of that - so you can stream MIDI and audio via one cable directly to your computer. That's a KICKASS feature.
Taking a look at the sound, I'd to with amazing, especially strings. They are absolutely out of this world. I made the demonstrator play intro to "Superman" like 10 times - I was just blown away, although I can't really tell what's different about them - something just IS. The piano that I heard is a bit more middle-ish then the OASYS piano, so, I'd say that it's different from OASYS's piano. I also got some info saying that this piano is actually based on Korg C720 piano, not on the OASYS piano. Some half an hour after I came to that conclusion I had a 20-seconds two-way-street-Q&A-session with Stephen Kay about the piano sound where we both agreed on the fact that piano samples are just never good enough for anyone or everyone. So, some of you will like it, some of you won't. I do like it, and even more if I took down a couple od dB's in the EQ MID range. Other sounds are really like the "OASYS Best Of", with new sounds, of course. But you can fool around with "Wave Of The Future", "Funk In The Year 2525" and stuff like that without problems. Yes, they sound like you're using the OASYS. And with the new X/Y pad thingy (Kaoss pad or Z1, anyone?), you can fool around with sound until you fall from your feet. It's actually quite fun...