Korgs I’ve Owned Part 6 — Kronos 2
In the last installment, I discussed the Kross 2, one of which I still own and actually enjoy. Now, we move on to the Kronos. As of this writing, it’s currently my main axe, and it’s a serious beast. I could write on for pages and pages and pages about what all it can do. Better to just direct you over to Korg’s web site for the Kronos 2. Or, of course, there’s a video.
Despite being a five-or-six-year-old synth, it’s still Korg’s flagship, and rightly so. What’s really impressive is that Kronos family has been the top of Korg’s heap since 2011. Again, rightly so. There’s not really much it can’t do. It is quite literally, a complete music workstation and recording studio in a single box.
Now, to be completely honest, it’s still a Korg (remember that love/hate thing). I have found a couple of minor shortcomings. The one that has just reared its head has to to do with the Setlist function, which allows you to save patches for each song — not just within the Kronos, but also other synths in your rig, which is very cool. You can even save transpositions to the songs in the setlist (that’s really helpful for me, since my main band, 7Souls, plays tuned down a half step, and when I fill in with other bands, they’re usually in standard tunings).
The thing that’s made me go “Huh?”, though, is that while you can save the program (patch) that you want for a particular song, you can’t save specific patch-related settings (like organ drawbars) for each song. Instead, you have to save a different version of the program or a combi for each song. Really? There’s a freakin’ computer in there running a database, for cryin’ out loud! Just do the thing!
Another bug-a-boo involves the simultaneous wonderfulness and disaster of the extremely tight integration with Korg’s NanoPad 2 USB controller. The Kronos 2 supports 8 virtual “pads” for firing off loops or percussion sounds or chords or any number of other things. Plug a NanoPad 2 into one of the Kronos’ USB ports, and the first 8 pads are automagically mapped to the 8 virtual pads in the Kronos. Neat. Until you transpose down, and which point all the pad assignments get thrown off. Even programming specific MIDI channel and note data into the NanoPad gets over-ruled when you transpose. Fudge!
That lead to the discovery that globally transposing the keyboard also boogers with split points. While this isn’t necessarily a big deal when you’re just doing a couple of broad slices, it plays havoc with tight setups where a split might contain a single note (such as when triggering one sound out of a sound effects patch using the upper-most or lowest key on the keyboard).
Fortunately, I have some other controllers around the house, and was able to test to see if this behavior affects all MIDI controllers equally. The good news is that it doesn’t. So, I added a 25-key Arturia MiniLab MkII, which has 25 velocity sensitive mini-keys with aftertouch, eight programmable pads, and sixteen programmable knobs. I was able to set the MiniLab so that the pads sent specific notes on specific channels that didn’t transpose, while allowing its keyboard to match the tuning of the Kronos. Like the NanoPAD2, it connects to the Kronos with a single standard USB cable for both MIDI and power.
The iPad on the left is shown running the Kronos Remote app, and there’s two-way communication between the Kronos and the iPad, as well as two-way audio! I can run instrument apps on the iPad, control them with the Kronos, and pipe the audio through the Kronos virtual mixer (including patching them through Kronos effects). The iPad on the right is running Songbook, and doesn’t connect to the Kronos.
Between the two iPads is the Arturia MiniLab. I’ve only set up one preset in it as yet, which allows me to trigger the percussion and effects sounds for Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead Or Alive. The two red pads trigger momentary hits (windchime and shaker) and the blue one toggles the wind sound effect. The MiniLab keyboard is playing a piano sound in the Kronos for the one little piano “twinkle” in the intro. All of the sounds come off the Kronos.
From this point on, posts about gettin’ on with the Kronos 2 will become their own series, branching away from the Korg’s I’ve Owned series. Many of those posts will be videos instead of text-and-picture posts, as I think I’ll be better able to communicate the kinds of things I’m doing with the Kronos that way — you’ll be able to see and hear what I’m going for. I’m also working steadily towards “completing” the Creation Station, and there will be a series of posts and videos coming about the Arturia MicroFreak, the Elektron Model:Samples, the Korg Kross 2, and things related.
As I pick up any additional Korg keyboards or modules (there are at least a couple recently announced models that are quite intriguing), they’ll be added here, but for now I’m going to bring this series to a close.