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The Korg Electribe EMX-1

Electribe EMX-1

The Korg Electribe EMX-1 is designed as an all-in-one techno-production station, and contains a drum machine, and a synth/ sequencer enclosed within its solid metal casing. It has lots of knobs and buttons for the gadget fiend (20 knobs and 68 buttons), an info display, a Smartmedia card storage (ideal for saving off songs and using as a workpad) and two lovely valves (Valve Force Vacuum Tubes) set behind a little display glass...like you see in the museum. The valves make up a genuine analog circuit and are linked up to the Tube Gain knob that can be altered at your desire to make your sounds...warmer in a vintage sort of way.

Electribe EMX-1- MMT?

Multiple Modeling Technology is Korg's technology that creates sounds within the Electribe EMX-1. For the brainy buffs out there MMT offers 16 different types of synthesis, these range from powerful analog synthesis to a various number of digital synthesis to which Korgs of the past were built upon (like PCM and waveshaping). So now we have to play around with 207 PCM drum waveforms, 76 PCM waveforms and a whopping 64MB of song memory.


The Electribe EMX-1 has a full MIDI spec, accessed via MIDI In, Out and Thru sockets, and audio is also bi-directional, with two main and two assignable individual audio outs, plus an audio input. Only mono audio (at mic or line level) can be accommodated. The machine can even be sync'ed to audio via this input

Electribe EMX-1- The Machine

The striking metallic-blue front panel is quite logically divided. You can easily pick out the synth section, effects, Part select and keyboard button area, and the row of 16 'keyboard' buttons, which also doubles up for a range of edit options, and mimics the black and white keys of a musical keyboard. The standard sequencer transport controls appear to lack fast forward and rewind options, but in fact they're located above the keyboard buttons, doubling as left/right select keys.

Each drum and synth voice is organised as a Part, an indivisible pairing of a voice generator and one track of sequencing played by the Pattern-based sequencer. Step sequencing is favoured (similar to the How to Make Your Own Beat Section), especially for drums, but don't worry, real-time recording with the Electribe EMX-1 is straightforward. Voice editing is very much a part of the writing process, since sounds and sequencing are so closely linked. Indeed, there are no separate voice memories: sounds are tailored for each Part during the composition process.

The synth/sequencer team is joined by three effects processors, a new and cool real-time arpeggiator, the ability to process external audio through the EMX's synthesis facilities and effects, and 'Motion Sequencing', the real-time recording of front-panel control tweaks, as featured on many other Korg products.

The top panel of the Electribe EMX-1 is divided into five or six principal sections. The first one to become acquainted with should be the main section, which houses the transport controls (record, playback and so forth), the mode keys (which determine whether the EMX-1 is in Pattern, Step Edit or Song mode), the ubiquitous bpm Tap key and the useful Mute and Solo buttons (to remove or single out respective parts within your pattern). By using the Auto BPM Scan key, you can easily detect the tempo of audio that is coming from the audio-in jack. The matrix menu that is sandwiched between the large rotary dial and the mode keys helps guide you through what parameters are available for the selected mode. You select the parameter by first pressing the mode key and then moving up or down the parameter list using the two small arrows to the left of the matrix menu.

The edit area is made of five separate subsections that include Effects, Part Common, Modulation, Synth Oscillator and Synth Filter. The 16 onboard effects are selected via the large knob and edited with the two rotary controls beneath it. The Edit Select button allows you to decide which effects processor is being edited at the moment. The FX Chain button is married to the two small red LED lights above it that indicate how the output of one effect is being input into another. All you have to do is repeatedly punch the button to determine the connection. There's also the Motion Seq button that records and plays back the movements of the two FX Edit controls.

EMX-1 Effects Dial

Electribe EMX-1- Sounds and effects

Drum voices are firmly sample-based. One of 207 PCM waveforms can be selected as an 'oscillator', to which can be applied synth-style Part parameters such as tuning, EG, level, pan, effect send and modulation parameters. There's no filtering, unfortunately, and the modulation destinations are restricted to pitch and pan. The sample set includes a good variety of drum sounds, real, contemporary or classic electronic. If you feel the need for something a bit more creative, the synth Parts can be coaxed into producing quite interesting synth drum sounds.

Three processors, each offering a choice of 16 effects, can be used in parallel, or in one of a variety of chains, including one that links all three. Editability has been kept to a minimum, with just two parameters per effect.

There is a lack of reverbs, the one given is usable. The other effects are comprised of tempo-sync'ed delay, ring mod, mod delay, chorus/flanger, phaser, talking modulation, pitch-shift, distortion, decimator, EQ, a low-pass filter, a high-pass filter and a 'grain-shifter'.

If you want to see what the Electribe sounds like, have a listen to some tunes (click to play in a new window):

Trancey Demo

Chill/ Funk Demo

Dance Demo

EMX-1 Synth Dial

When you get to the Synth Oscillator and its two Osc Edit controls, the major fun begins. For instance, selecting the chord type and tweaking Osc Edit 2 changes the number of voicings (�3) whereas Osc Edit 1 controls the chord type (a total of 16 types). What's even cooler about these and all of the other tweaks you might make to a patch is that the display flashes "Orig Value" before you roll past the initial setting. This is handy if you rethink a parameter change. Another interesting oscillator type is the PCM + Comb, which allows you to use one of the sampled PCM waveforms as the oscillator and then output the sound through a comb filter. But the most fun may possibly be had from the PCM + WS, which applies a waveshaping effect to a PCM waveform. Using the Edit controls brings in waveshape adjustments, as well as tonal-character shifts. There's also the facility for taking your external audio in through the �-inch mono jack and running it through a comb filter of your own tweaking. The Synth Filter itself not only contains the control knobs for Cutoff, Resonance and Drive but also offers hands-on manipulation of the envelope-generator intensity through the EG Int rotary knob.

The Arpeggiator, which features the smooth look and feel of a ribbon controller. On synth parts, the ribbon controls note duration; on drum parts, the ribbon controls how fast the Electribe EMX-1 cycles through the arpeggio. The slider on the side is used for changing the pitch of the arpeggiated notes. You can also reverse the cycle of the arpeggio by changing that parameter under the Global setting in the matrix menu or changing the type of scale used (everything from Hawaiian to gypsy to three types of raga scales are available to choose from) through the Arpeggio Scale parameter under the Pattern setting.

Electribe EMX-1- In Song mode

You can connect as many as 256 patterns to create a full-fledged composition. A maximum of 64 songs can be stored on the Electribe EMX-1. You put together songs by deciding which pattern is to appear in what song position. By using the matrix menu to turn on Song mode, you can select the first position with the up/down cursor key. Once position 001 is visible in the display, use the down-arrow cursor key to start the pattern-selection process. Using the dial, you can decide which pattern will occupy this position and then use the right-arrow key above the step keys to move to the next position (making sure that the keyboard button is not lit during this procedure). Repeat the process and then select End once all of the positions for your song have been selected. After your song is saved, it's ready to be trotted out for future performances, parameter tweaks or edits.

Electribe EMX-1- Recording your drum and synth

Recording your drum pattern is quite easy, select a drum Part and input your desired sequence into the 16 step wise keys at the bottom.

It's just as easy to record real- or step-time synth parts. For real-time recording, you go into record and play the notes via the button keyboard (it's transposable over a range of eight octaves). For step-time work, the keyboard buttons function in a similar way as for the Drum Parts.

Parts can be recorded from an attached MIDI keyboard, too, and although the Electribe EMX-1 will respond to velocity and pitch-bend, this data is not recorded as part of a Pattern. Dynamics are, rather sadly, limited to a user-defineable 'Accent' track for the drum Parts and one for the Synth Parts. Potentially, this is useful, but as with drum machines from the dawn of '80s synth pop, an accent on a step affects all events playing on that step, so all drum hits/synth Part notes playing on an accent will be affected. A Part can be set to not respond to the Accent track, though, which helps.

Once a Pattern is recorded, editing can be done while a Pattern is playing. The Shift key comes into focus now, as it and one of several clearly labelled keyboard buttons are pressed to access the Pattern Edit functions (use the manual, since it's not always obvious how routines such as Copy Sound and Copy Part work). Note events can be edited, and chunks of sequence data can be moved forward or backward, repeated and transposed. A couple of randomise options let the EMX1 rearrange your performance to create interesting new material.

Electribe EMX-1- Motion Sequencing

Beyond recording notes, it's also possible to record 'Motion Sequences' as a sort of overdub to the main pattern. Up to 24 knob or button-tweak performances, to add dynamic parameter changes throughout the sequence, can be thus recorded per Pattern. Usefully, Motion Sequences can themselves be edited, on a step-by-step basis. This is not as counter-intuitive as it may seem, since there are two Motion Sequence playback options. The Trigger Hold option plays back just the 16 discrete values recorded on the 16 steps, whilst choosing the Smooth option causes the values between the discrete steps to change, more accurately replicating your performance. The first is ideal for changing button states or, for example, to automate Chord Name changes for the Chord Synth Oscillator type. Smooth would be the choice for automated filter resonance tweaks and the like. The Effects section has its own Motion Sequence facility, restricted to the two 'FX Edit' knobs for each of the three effects, though this runs only in 'Smooth' mode.

Electribe EMX-1- In Conclusion

A great piece of hardware and that is no mistake. The Electribe EMX-1 certainly is flying the flag against the new torrent of software based synths. It is perfect for the keen sampler as there are so many cool sounds and patterns that can be created from this blue stormer.

Want to see the Electribe EMX-1 in action? Check out free demos and videos here.

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