Korgs I’ve Owned Part 2 — X2
In my part 1 of this series, I recounted my initial exposure to the world of things Korg, and a touch on what was my first “professional” live keyboard rig (Korg DS-8 and Sequential Prophet 600). As time went by, I’d wanted to do more, and traded up from the DS-8 and SQD-8 sequencer to an Ensoniq VFXsd ver. 2, which became the standard to which I hold all keyboards to this day. The VFXsd was one of the most advanced keyboard workstations of its day, and perhaps I’ll write about that instrument at some time in the future.
After a time with the VFXsd, I felt the need to move to something more modern, and with more than 61 keys. I didn’t want 88 keys, as something that big would be too heavy and unwieldy to move around easily, and Ensoniq didn’t have anything with 76 or 73 keys. That meant looking elsewhere. Since I knew that I wanted as many of the capabilities of the VFXsd as possible, my search led me back to Korg, and my budget led me to the Korg X2.
The X2 was the big brother to the X3, and in addition to another 15 keys, it had an expanded sample ROM featuring a nicely multi-sampled grand piano, and it also had two independent audio outputs in addition to the standard left and right main outputs. Many of the sounds were derived from Korg’s T3 and O1/W synths.
The X2 sounded great, and on paper it looked to be an ideal replacement. It featured 16-bit sounds, a sequencer, aftertouch (though not the polyphonic aftertouch I’d grown used to), multi-effects, loads of sounds, filters, programming capability, yada, yada, yada. My experience with the DS-8 had been generally positive, so I figured that the X2 would only be better. I worked a trade with a fellow who worked for a dealer in the midwest somewhere, and within a few days, I had a shiny new Korg X2 in front of me.
I have to say that the included sounds were exactly what I expected — lovely. The keyboard and pitch/modulation joystick were really nice. And, the demo sequences and combis were really great.
Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ended. The programming interface was via a tiny, dim LCD some buttons and ONE slider. I never did figure out the sequencer. Even setting up keyboard splits and layers (one of the primary reasons for getting something with more keys) was a drag. At the time, there wasn’t really anything decent as far as editing software, either. To say that the experience was disappointing would be an understatement.
As I said, software editors for the X2 were about non-existent at the time, and what was available was pretty dismal and expensive. There was not such thing as an iPad at that time, either. If there had been, and MIDIQuest’s editor had been available, it might have been a different story. The editor that MIDIQuest eventually did produce on the iPad opens the X2 up in a very approachable way, at least as far as programming individual sounds and combis are concerned. I’m not sure there ever was any help for the abysmal sequencer, though.
I soldiered on with it for a few months, but eventually, I’d had enough. I needed money, and sold it off. I’d already long since sold off any other keyboards I owned, so at that point, making music was out of my life, and I swore I’d never buy another Korg.
While I think that the sounds from the X2 would still hold up today for stage use, and the addition of the MIDIQuest app might make the keyboard usable, the app hasn’t been updated in at least two years, and the app store ratings are terrible. It’s apparently very unstable, bordering on unusable.
So, that’s about all I have to say about the X2. No fond memories, and no desire to ever see or touch one again — at any price. In Part 3, I’ll look at my return to Korg after years of finding other keyboards that, for the most part, were even worse than the X2!