This past Saturday, I played my first live gig of 2021 (the last time 7Souls played was back in November!), and my first live gig with the Kronos, at an outdoor show at Perry’s Restaurant in Odenton, MD.
Playing the Kronos live was, generally speaking, a joy. That’s not to say that it was perfect. It wasn’t. But by-and-large, the experience of having great sounds at my fingertips, and being able to step through the night without having to search for things made it easier to deal with other issues that occurred on the gig.
So, the question is, as a flagship synth/workstation, just where does the Kronos fall down as a live performance keyboard? For me, it was in three areas:
The first issue I’ve encountered is that the wonderful set list feature has it’s share of quirks. It’s hard to edit a set list once created. In my case this past weekend, it was decided at the last minute to swap two songs between sets 1 and 3. We typically play three sets at any given show, and plan a few songs to choose from for encores, we very rarely play more than 16 songs in a set, and I generally only need one setup per song. So, I chose to use the last four pages of a set list for the show, which would leave me access to the rest of my usual setups, just in case.
At any rate, swapping the two songs around was kind of an ordeal. The copy/paste/insert paste functions are, at best, clunky, and there’s no facility that I can see to “slide” a song from one position to another within a set. The process is only slightly better when using the available 3rd party iPad app, as it often fails at transferring in full set lists. The set list function was obviously designed with the touring musician in mind. By this, I mean that it functions extremely well in an environment where the order of songs is decided well in advance, and doesn’t change frequently.
All of this was exacerbated by the second challenge the Kronos presents…
The screen is shite in bright sunlight. Not much more to say about this one. I may have been able to crank the screen brightness up, but I didn’t have time to fiddle with that on Saturday — it’s not a matter of simply twiddling a knob on the back of the keyboard to adjust this. To get through, I repositioned the small Arturia KeyLab to provide a bit of a shadow, and got on with the task at hand.
The only other issue that I encountered with the Kronos relates to combinations (combis, in Korg-speak). Combis hold a number of sounds, along with their relative volumes, pans, effects, etc., as a single, recallable unit, which are easily referenced in a setlist. Swapping from one combi to another is completely seamless. If you’re holding a chord when you switch, there’s no interruption in the held chord. There’s not even a glitch as effects get swapped around. You can even start playing the newly loaded combi, while still holding that chord! Works great!
However, if you want to switch which sound within a combi the local keyboard is controlling, well, that doesn’t seem to be so smooth. For example, in the song Hard to Handle by The Black Crowes, I need to rapidly switch between an acoustic piano and a Hammond organ. Using the “track select” buttons on the keyboard’s front panel to make the switch results in the sound cutting abruptly. It’s likely there’s a more elegant way to do this that gets around the problem. Heck, if Ensoniq could do it on the VFX-series all those years ago, Korg should be able to do it now, right?
The bottom line, though, was that it was generally great to be able to simply step my way through the night, knowing that I wouldn’t accidentally grab the wrong sound, and also knowing that every thing was going to sound great, and despite it’s little idiosyncrasies, the Kronos is going to be a fantastic playing experience. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the thing can do, and can’t wait to be tapping into more of its capabilities as time goes on.