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Review: Korg iWavestation

February 8, 2017

I first encountered Korg’s Wavestation during a trip to the company’s offices to upgrade my M1’s 4MB sample ROM to 8 MB. While I waited, Senior Product Manager and programming genius Jack Hotop led me into another room to hear a bread-boarded keyboard that issued unearthly, animated tones— nothing you’d hear from a stock sample player. Jack treated me to pads that evolved in unexpected ways, syncopated rhythmic loops, and the music from a particularly hokey Star Trek episode, played on a patch named “Vulcan Harp.”

That instrument was soon to be released as the Wavestation, which featured vector synthesis that let you mix and morph four oscillators using a joystick, as well as offering waveform sequencing. I eventually sprang for the Wavestation A/D, a hefty two-rackspace synth that added analog I/O, among other features. Korg later introduced the Wavestation SR, a single-rack instrument with improved multitimbral capabilities. Though out of production for some time, that instrument remains popular, evidenced by its release as a virtual instrument for Mac and Windows computers. I traded in my hardware Wavestation when the software version became available.

The Komplex Sequencer has an aluminum frame and feels solid, yet it remains lightweight and easy to carry.

Now Korg has released iWavestation, a version for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch (requiring iOS 9.3 or later). Priced below $20, the iWavestation delivers the original synth’s sound and features, but with a few welcome additions.

iWavestation opens in Edit mode, with all patches and wave sequences accessible. Swiping up or down on any sample in a wave sequence changes the sample, and you can change levels in a similar fashion. The app’s color coding provides helpful visual cues in an instrument that is considerably complex.

There are no solo buttons, but a quick tap on the Mixer section lets you selectively mute parts for focus. The Effects section is elegantly laid out with a signal-flow diagram that reflects your choice of serial or parallel processing, along with wet/dry settings, effects parameters, and MIDI control immediately accessible in one screen.

The iWavestation carries over the resonant lowpass filter, which was markedly absent from the hardware instruments. And the iOS app can randomize wave sequences—the heart of the instrument’s animation capabilities—either individually or as a whole. Randomization proved remarkably useful most of the time, and you can return to the original, should you lose your way.

Another button brings up the joystick and a Kaoss Pad, a new feature to Wavestation. The joystick allows crossfading between four Mix Envelopes that correspond to the four patches; the Kaoss Pad lets you play different modes and chord inversions, depending on your finger position. It is fun and useful for those dance-music chord-on-a-key patches.

You can download Korg’s collection of PCM and program cards as a $4.99 in-app purchase,. It’s worth recalling that these cards were close to $100 a pop back in the day.

As I write this on my iPad Pro, I am playing a wireless MIDI guitar that is communicating with the iOS device and controlling an iWavestation patch called “Debussy on wheels.” It sounds great and weighs a lot less than the original hardware version. iWavestation may be the coolest synth to hit the App Store.

STRENGTHS

All of the sonic power of a Korg Wavestation available for iOS devices.

LIMITATIONS

Documentation is a little shy on how-to info.

$19.99
korg.com

Marty Cutler is busy putting the finishing touches on his new book for Hal Leonard.

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