Korgs I’ve Owned Part 5 — Kross 2
Today, I continue the story of my affair with Korg keyboards with the Kross 2. There have been two of these: the 88-key version I bought first (and wrote about several times between January and June of 2018) and the 61-key version that I quietly acquired a few months later. I traded the 88-key version on my new Kronos 2 back in November, but have retained the 61-key version for use in my “Creation Station,” where it will be used as a master controller, sequencer, and recorder/sampler. I’ll talk about the Kronos 2 in my next installment, so let’s get on with talking about the Kross 2.
With the Kross 2, Korg have made a fairly complete workstation for someone on a really tight budget. It relies on Korg’s EDS-i sound engine to produce over 1,000 sounds, and has an additional 128MB of PCM memory dedicated to pianos. EDS-i is the same sound engine found in Korg’s Krome workstation and is strikingly similar to the the HD-i sound engine found in the Kronos workstations. Korg have also continued with the now-familiar program and combi nomenclature when referring to the various sounds within the keyboard. Combies on the Kross 2 allow up to 16 sounds, where my previous Korgs maxed out at 8 sounds.
It is interesting to note that Korg refers to both the original Kross and the Kross 2 as simply “Kross,” even though the two are strikingly different experiences. The Kross 2 is a much more modern approach to a budget and performance oriented workstation. My only complaint with the Kross, really, is that there is no method of direct access to specific programs or combies. Instead, you must selection the mode with one of the buttons on the right, then use the knob to the left of the display to select the category, and finally, use the knob or 4-way controller on the right to scroll through the available choices. Fortunately, the pads can be used to store favorites, of which there are 128 arranged in 8 banks of 16. Favorites can be either programs or combies, with no need to switch modes.
For keybeds, the 88-key model uses Korg’s mid-level NH hammer-action keyboard, which is quite realistic, if not slightly mushy feeling. The 61-key model uses their most basic velocity-sensitive synth action keybed, and it feels the same to me as the one used on the X50 and PS60. That keybed is great for playing fast leads and other general playing. Some say it’s terrible and poorly made, but having played with them on the road for several years now, I’d say they hold up just fine, unless you really abuse your keyboards. The pitch and modulation wheels feel the same as those on the X50, on both the 88-key and 61-key models, but again, I never had any problems with them.
One thing I should mention about all of the Korgs I’ve owned, with the exception of the DS-8, is that they have featured two assignable buttons just above the pitch bend and modulation controls. These buttons can be programmed to perform a number of different functions, and can be made to work in a way that is very similar to the “patch select” buttons found on many Ensoniq keyboards (including the VFXsd). I used to really enjoy using that feature to bring different voicings of a sound in and out, and they were really useful in adding a great deal of expression to a sound. For instance, I could program one button to change a sax to an overblown sound, and the other to cause hitting a key to sound a grace note a half step down before playing the actual note played. I’m really happy that the Korgs have these buttons, and that I’ve actually learned how to program them appropriately!
Another surprising function in the Kross 2 is a limited, maybe even slightly crippled, sampling function, which allows triggered playback of a sound or sounds using the keyboard or pads. When played from the keyboard, samples are pitched based on the note played, and multi-sampling is supported. However, while setting start and stop points is possible, advanced functions such as setting loop points and ADSR segmenting are not supported. This limits the functionality somewhat, but it’s handy for creating custom sound effect or percussion instruments, especially since multi-sampling and velocity cross-switching is supported. Roland’s similarly-priced Juno DS workstations do a bit better job with the sampling function than the Korg does here. Sampling sources include a stereo line input and a mono mic input.
Workstation features of the Kross 2 include dual polyphonic arpeggiators, a step sequencer, a drum pattern sequencer, and a 16-track, 210,000 event MIDI sequencer. Each program can have it’s own, unique arpeggiation, or can select one of the “standard” arps. There’s also an audio recorder, and MIDI sequences can be “bounced” to it. The resulting audio files can be triggered using the pads.
Full multi-effects engines are also included, and there are up to five insert effects, and two master effects. There are 134 different effect types, including the usual collection of delays, reverbs, choruses, modulators, etc. Oh, and a vocoder. Side chaining is supported as well where appropriate.
Here’s a quick look at the Kross 2 specs:
- Maximum polyphony: 120 voices.
- Oscillators per voice: Two.
- Oscillator structure: Four velocity zones offering switching, crossfading and layering.
- Filters per voice: Two multi-mode filters (LP, HP, BP, BR).
- Filter routing: Single, in series, in parallel, or combined into one 24dB/oct filter.
- Modulation per voice: Two contour generators, two LFOs, two AMS mixers, two tracking generators.
- Modulation per sound: Pitch contour generator, common LFO, two tracking generators.
- Combination mode: 16 Timbres with individual Tone Adjust.
- Drum kits: Samples with four-way velocity switches.
- Memories: 1280 Programs, 896 Combinations, 58 Drum Kits.
- GM2 memories: 256 preset Programs, nine Drum Programs.
- Favorites: 128 (eight banks of 16).
- Effects structure: Five Insert effects plus two Master effects.
- Effects types: 134.
- Polyphonic arpeggiator: 1280 patterns, 12-note polyphonic, of up to 64 steps.
- No. of arpeggiators: One in Program mode; two in each of Combination and Sequencer modes.
- Drum Tracks: 772 patterns.
- Step sequencer: 12 notes plus accent, up to 64 steps; one for every Program, Combi and Song.
- Sequencer: 16 tracks of up to 999 measures; up to 128 songs; max 210,000 MIDI events.
- Pad sampler: 16 pads × eight banks — up to 14s of audio per pad.
- Audio Recorder: Up to three hours continuous 48kHz/16-bit recording per song; up to 200 songs.
- Display: 240 × 64 backlit LCD.
- Power: 9V DC or six AA batteries.
- Dimensions: 1448 × 383 × 136 mm.
- Weight: 12.3kg.
In an earlier post about the Kross 2, I mentioned the editor, and what I consider to be it’s one flaw — that it’s not resizable. I still consider that an issue, though I’m considering that as a possible workaround, I might add a mid-sized touch screen monitor to my PC to use it. I could use, say, a 10.1″ or 15.6″ display and simply set a resolution appropriate to fill the screen with the editor. That really wouldn’t be bad, and probably wouldn’t cost a whole lot, either. Anyway, let’s have a look at the editor main screen.
Okay, I got a fancy here with the editor screen presentation. Sliding the bar back and forth reveals just how similar the two editors are. This underscores the point I made previously about Korg figuring out the advantages of creating a common, expandable architecture among their products. While the two are not identical, they’re similar enough that moving from one to another is not going to get someone lost. I think I also figured out the rationale behind the small editor screen sizes. When you look at models like the Triton, Oasys, Krome, and Kronus, the displays are an 8″ touch screen with a resolution of 800×600. The size of the editor on the PC or Mac is the same. So, Korg can use the same graphics for the actual workstation and for the program.Of course, the Kross, PS60, and X50 don’t have the 8″ displays of their bigger siblings, but they do share the architecture, so the same edit screens apply. This size also works well for the VST plugin, which allows direct control of the keyboard from within most DAWs. SHAAA-ZAM!
About the only thing Korg needs to do now to be completely cool is to release Linux versions of the editors. To be honest, this should be a no-brainer, considering that their upper-level models are running customized versions of Linux… Just sayin’…
My only regret in buying the Kross 2 61 is that I didn’t get one sooner. Early on, Korg released a limited edition model in a really cool mottled red and black finish. Mine is the basic matte black color. The new limited edition white and candy colors are not terribly appealing as far as I’m concerned.
An installment of Korgs I’ve Owned wouldn’t be complete without some videos, so here are a couple. First, a short demo, followed by a more in-depth “first look” video:
Of course, you can find see many more videos about the Korgs I’ve owned by visiting this YouTube playlist, which I’ll be updating as I find more interesting videos about my old keyboard “friends”:
Coming up in part 6 of this series, I’ll talk about Korg’s flagship Kronos 2 workstation keyboard.