The MicroKorg 2 hands-on: A stylish update to an iconic digital synthesizer

The MicroKorg 2 has some big britches to fill. The original MicroKorg is one of, if not the best selling synthesizer of all time. It’s also probably the longest continuously manufactured synth, having hit the market in 2002. Of course, technology has advanced quite a lot in the last 22 years and it was time to give what is arguably the first classic synth of the 21st century an update.

The new version that Korg announced just ahead of NAMM 2024 stays largely true to the original design. It’s small, but solidly built. The mini keys might bother those with sausage fingers, but my slightly smaller than average hands didn’t have much issue. I did occasionally miss my mark slightly, but that has as much to do with my terrible keyboard skills as it does the compact keybed. The keybed itself is fine. Nothing to write home about, that’s for sure. But it’s also not worth getting up in arms about. I’ve played plenty worse.

The knobs and buttons, even on this prototype felt solid. And the big rotary knob, which is kind of what gives a MicroKorg its visual identity, has very satisfying detents as you change the genre of your patch selection. While there are big signs in the Korg booth proclaiming that the MicroKorg 2 is still a prototype, the hardware already feels quite refined.

Even the interface seems like its at least nearly complete. The screen itself is bright and colorful with decent viewing angles. It did get a little washed out at extreme angles under the glare of the Anaheim Convention Center’s lights, but it’s unlikely to cause an issue in regular use. 

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The UI is already looking pretty nice, with some stylish animations as you change parameters. And changing parameters is a lot easier than it was on the original MicroKorg, which had two edit selection knobs and a table you needed to look up what the five knobs across the top were controlling. On the MicroKorg 2 things are much quicker. For example, pressing the button below the second knob cycles through the settings for oscillator one, two, three and the noise source. And the screen tells you what parameters are assigned to those knobs, depending on the page you’ve selected. 

It’s hardly knob per function but it could be much worse.

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The one area where it was obvious that the MicroKorg 2 was still in prototype stage was in the presets. There were only eight preprogrammed into the unit I tried. And the NAMM show floor wasn’t exactly the ideal environment to do deep sound design. 

I did kick the tires on it a bit though, and was pretty quickly able to throw together a couple of decent sounding patches. And the handful of presets that Korg did have ready to go were bright and loaded with character. They were decidedly digital but didn’t feel clinical. Unfortunately the convention hall was even less conducive to testing out the vocoder and harmonizer features. It was just impossible to get a clean enough signal with all the cacophony going on around me.

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

In general the eight-voice (or four-voice in bi-timbral mode), three-oscillator synth engine seems like a big upgrade from the original. It’s got not just your standard virtual analog waves, but a selection of single cycle waveforms and even samples that can be combined to create relatively complex sounding patches. 

The one thing that the original has over its successor though is price. Where you can still go pick up a MicroKorg from most music retailers for $430, the MicroKorg 2 will set you back $699 when it goes on sale later this year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at 

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