Korgs I’ve Owned Part 7 — Wavestate: A Most Versatile Sound Creation Tool
A couple of weeks back, I added another new keyboard to the arsenal. It wasn’t exactly a planned purchase, but I was able to pick up a brand new Korg Wavestate at a price I couldn’t refuse.
Korg refer to the Wavestate as a “wave sequencing synthesizer,” but it’s really so much more than that. It’s a complete re-imagining of the original Wavestation concept. In addition to wave sequencing, it’s also a capable wavetable synth, vector synth, and virtual analog synth — all in one box with almost every hands-on performance control you could want, as well as built-in arpeggiators and phrase sequencers.
Another really neat thing about the Modstate (and also the Opsix) is that they’re available as software, too, that runs standalone or as a VST plugin to your favorite DAW. Any sound you design in the software can be directly loaded into the hardware and vice-versa using the librarian function. And, if you buy the hardware version, you get a pretty decent discount on the software.
To get a feel for what the Wavestate is actually capable of, I’ve prepared a few (okay, a bunch) of samples using factory presets. All use the same very simple 16-bar sequence in Ableton Live, and I simply switched patches in the VST and rendered an output file. The first clip, Basic Piano, demonstrates the basic loop sequence used for all of the samples. Arpeggios and rhythmic patterns beyond the most basic changes are from within the Wavestate Performances. The samples are a bit longer than the sequence to allow any effects to tail out, so in some of them, there’s a few seconds of dead air at the end of the file.
I did say it was a bunch of samples ….
Anyway, in addition to all of the crazy stuff in the samples, the Wavestate can be a plain synth as well, with some pretty interesting capabilities. If you pop open the screen grab here, you can see that Wavestate sounds (called performances) are made using up to four layers, each of which contains a waveform or sequence of waveforms. In effect, each layer is a self-contained polyphonic synth, with a full set of sound shaping controls (LFOs, filters, envelopes, VCAs, effects, and modulation matrix). Each layer can be a wave sequence or a simple synth or even a “drum machine” or “groovebox” of sorts, though not in the traditional sense. Each layer does have its own step sequencer, though, so basic runs and rhythms can be locked in, and there are master sequencers/arpeggiators for each performance as well.
A wave sequence can contain single or multiple waveforms played back or effected in over time based on various parameters in six lanes for time, loops, pitch, etc. This allows for changes in a layer’s sound over time in a variety of ways including pitch, timbre, panning, volume, sample playback direction. Further a wave sequence layer can even contain a step sequencer and an arpeggiator.
The modulation matrix allows for modulations across layers, allowing one layer to affect another. Parameters or groups of parameters can be assigned to any of eight control knobs, as well as the mod and pitch wheels, the joystick, footswitches, foot pedals, and outboard MIDI controllers. External controllers can be routed to more than one destination, as well. About the only controller missing from the Wavestate keyboard itself is aftertouch. This is one synth could really benefit from having aftertouch on board, preferably polyphonic. While that obviously would add to the price, it should be noted that even the scaled down ASM Hydrasynth Explorer has poly-aftertouch on its mini keyboard, not just the full-sized models and in a lot of other ways, the Wavestate and the Hydrasynth could be considered to be similar instruments.
Continuing on, layers can be either controlled by the master MIDI channel/keyboard or by an individual channel. This capability means that the Wavestate can also function as a multitimbral synthesizer with each layer or combination of layers being driving by a separate MIDI sequencer track or controller. This functionality could play really well with the internal 4-track sequencer in the Launchpad Pro I picked up at the same time I got Ableton Live. Live sets could conceivably be built around just the Launchpad and the Wavestate.
All of this shaping and sequencing capability makes the Wavestate an ideal performance instrument for a number of genres, including ambient, techno, EDM and pretty much anything else, really.
As I mentioned, in addition to all the crazy wave sequencing stuff, the Wavestate can back down and just be a synthesizer, too. The modeled waveforms and filters are really good, and I’ve even been able to get it to sound an awful lot like a good old-fashioned Mini Moog. That means that, with a little cunning and conniving, I should be able to use it to replace the Arturia MiniLab I’ve been using in my live rig — I can’t see why, at this point, that it couldn’t do as well for the ancillary that are either difficult to control on the Kronos, or that it doesn’t do well — the Kronos does a lot, but certain things, particularly in the virtual analog engines, can be difficult or impossible. Like the Kronos, performances or programs can be arranged in set lists for quick recall during live shows.
As with the other Korgs in this series, I am compiling a YouTube playlist of reviews, demos, and tutorials about the Wavestate, which you can view here:
So, there you go. Geren’s got another Korg, and it could quite possibly end up being my perfect synthesizer!