Korg workstation goodness in a package you can carry around town.
Review: Greg Walker
Korg’s little playstation comes in synth-action 61-key and weighted 88-key iterations, and while the Kross may look like a bit of a toy thanks to its lightweight frame, it actually packs a pretty hefty punch while covering a lot of musical bases.
The Kross offers a remarkably large palette of sounds that belies its diminutive frame. In contrast to a ‘stage’ keyboard like the Korg SV-1 (that utilises a small number of piano and organ sounds and then provides extensive tone shaping and modulation controls), the Kross gives you a ton of different ready-made sounds to play with — many of them based on its elder brother Krome’s sound library. The piano sounds are rich and varied and I particularly liked some of the non-standard tonalities such as the undamped and honky tonk settings. Likewise the organ and electric piano offerings provide a stack of different tonal options that should cater to almost every style and situation while the Mellotron emulations are very useable indeed.
Further afield are 49 types of tasty mallet and bell sounds including very handy vibraphone, marimba, steel drum and gamelan emulations, toy pianos and other tinkly things. The string and brass sounds are adequate but somewhat less convincing. The synth options will be a bit hit and miss depending on what you’re after, leaning generally towards the dance and atmospheric side of the spectrum. Drum sounds are very useable and range over a good number of styles, with the hip-hop and electro kits being particularly fun to play with. There’s even a bunch of sound effects hidden away at the back end of the drum section so you can throw a few FX curve balls if required.
All in all it’s a great set of sounds for such a modest-looking keyboard, and while patch tweaking requires a good knowledge of the nested menus inside the program patches, you can spend some time with the Kross and really bend it to your will. Ergonomically the Kross works well, with all buttons and dials having a solid no-nonsense feel to them, though my main criticism is the playability of the synth-action keyboard. It feels just a little clunky on more complex material and adjustments to the MIDI sensitivity settings helped somewhat without totally putting my fingers at ease.
TICKS & KROSSES
Korg has got a lot of things right with this little keyboard. The basic patch sounds are very useful and there’s a great variety to choose from. The onboard sequencing and recording functions will appeal to a subset of users who would use the Kross more as a standalone music machine, whereas others will find it a handy addition to an existing studio or live set-up where it doubles as a powerful sound source and MIDI controller. For live performance there’s an easy out-of-the-box playability to the Kross, though the sparsity of real time controllers may inhibit some. For serious live use I’d recommend the weighted 88-key model for a better playing experience.
In the studio I regularly found myself using the Kross on overdubs that otherwise would have been taken care of by software instruments. Almost invariably the Kross sounds had the edge in terms of punch, character and playability. For the kind of film and TV work that I sometimes do, the range and character of the Kross was also a handy adjunct to the standard sound libraries I use. Overall the Korg Kross is easy to navigate, offers surprisingly flexible sound shaping tools under the bonnet and above all is a fun keyboard to play because it sounds good.