KORG D3200

After producing popular entry-level portable digital studios such as the D4 and D1200mkII, and then making a splash at the deep end with the D32XD, Korg

After producing popular entry-level portable digital studios such as the D4 and D1200mkII, and then making a splash at the deep end with the D32XD, Korg has found fertile middle ground with the D3200. The unit should appeal to those who want a complete studio in a box but don't need every last bell and whistle. The D3200 offers a comprehensive feature set for basic live and studio recording, mixing, and burning. The recorder delivers pro-quality sound along with convenient portability.

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FIG. 1: Korg''s D3200 has a 16-pot Knob Matrix (located directly under the LCD screen) that performs -various functions depending on which mode is selected. The knobs make it easy to work with the onboard drum sounds and effects.

A combination of traditional and unique controller tools on the D3200 (see Fig. 1) makes it easy to use its many features. You get a jog wheel (the Value Dial) for basic data entry and scrubbing. The Edit Controller section has a fingertip joystick (the ClickPoint) and several navigation buttons for quickly positioning the cursor on the tilting 320 × 240 — pixel LCD screen. The most welcome tool is the 16-pot Knob Matrix, a 4 × 4 grid of controls with functions that change according to the assignments that are onscreen. It provides an elegant way of quickly reaching the D3200's many options.

Into the Matrix

The D3200 gives you 16 tracks of simultaneous playback and as many as 12 tracks of simultaneous recording at 24-bit, with 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz resolution. If you drop it down to 16-bit (either 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz), you get as many as 32 tracks of playback and 16 tracks of simultaneous recording. The D3200 also gives you eight virtual tracks for each playable track (even the stereo mixdown tracks), so a total of 272 tracks can be stored at one time.

It's easy to set up a multiple-mic session online with the D3200. All 12 of its input channels have balanced ¼-inch connectors. Eight of the channels have XLR jacks with 48V phantom power, which can be switched on or off independently, allowing you to use condenser and dynamic mics on the same take. Each of the 12 input channels has a -26 dB pad switch and trim pot. A dedicated guitar jack on channel 1 lets you plug your axe in quickly and take advantage of the unit's onboard effects.

The D3200 has 52 effects algorithms and uses Korg's REMS modeling technology. The effects include a range of typical processes such as reverbs, delays, modulation and pitch-shift effects, and special effects in mono and stereo groupings. Stacked multi-effects are available in mono.

The Knob Matrix gives you convenient control of the effects, which can be applied in several ways. Insert effects can be separately applied to as many as eight simultaneous channels. You can also have two Master effects (auxiliary or bus) that are accessed from the individual channels' effects sends. In addition, a Final effect can be applied globally on the master bus. You have access to 128 preset effects programs, 128 user programs, and 32 user locations within each song.

Drum Session

Composing is aided by the D3200's Session Drums feature. You click one button to enter Session Drums mode, and then use buttons and the Knob Matrix to access the collection of loops built into the unit. The Group and Session knobs let you choose the overall musical style (everything from a simple metronome to complex electronica loops with odd time signatures), and the Variation knob lets you zero in on a pattern. You can access fills and ending patterns with one click and fine-tune the feel of patterns with the Shuffle and Humanize knobs.

For each preset pattern you can choose any of the unit's built-in drum kits. Within each kit you can modify the pan, level, and tuning of each instrument. A dedicated fader next to the master fader controls the overall volume of the Session Drums section.

You can string the patterns into sequences that play along with the recorded audio. The audio from these sequences does not have to be recorded onto tracks and can be mixed down internally along with your recorded tracks. Many of the internal drum sounds are processed and sound good enough for a final mix (see Web Clip 1). If, however, you wish to use the D3200's insert effects or any external effects on your drum parts, you can record the drums onto their own audio tracks.

Because the drums feature doesn't depend on recordable tracks for the final mix and includes stereo EQ and sends for the Master (aux) effects, the D3200 is as valuable as a demo-composing tool as it is as a straight recorder.

Mix Master

The D3200 has an extensive set of editing and mixing features. You get standard recording features like auto and manual punch-in and -out; editing functions such as copy, erase, reverse, normalize, and fade; and features like time expansion and compression, “learning” noise reduction, 16 levels of undo and redo, and 4 locate points per song.

The D3200's mixer has 12 submixer channels in addition to the 32 recorder channels. Of those, 24 are equipped with a 4-band parametric EQ with selectable high or low shelving. Channels 25 to 32 provide a 2-band shelving EQ, as does each of the 12 submixer channels. The master track has a 4-band fully parametric EQ. Recording-input channels and track-playback channels use separate EQs.

The unit has a total of 12 buses, including 2 effects sends. Fader, EQ, pan, and effect settings can be stored in a Scene, and as many as 100 Scenes can be saved and automatically recalled for each song. You can automate fader, pan, and other mixer events internally, and you can back up and restore mixer data, switch scenes, and control transport functions through MIDI.

A built-in CD-RW drive lets you back up and restore songs and user data, or import WAV files for integration into songs. The D3200 has an Album CD Project function, which is essentially CD-burning software, that specifies the song order and length of gaps between songs. The internal hard drive can be partitioned so you can work on multiple album- CD projects at once. The CD-RW can also be internally routed to the mixer inputs and used as a CD player.

A portion of the D3200's internal hard disk is automatically allocated as a PC (USB) drive. That lets you import or export WAV data between the D3200 and a computer DAW program using the unit's rear-panel USB port (see Fig. 2) and can also be used to store system data. High-speed USB 2.0 is supported, so even large amounts of data can be transferred smoothly. You can also load backup data created by most other Korg D-series models.

On the Job

The D3200 I received for review was easy to work with and a welcome change from a CPU-and-software environment. Setup was effortless, which is an expected advantage of portable digital studios. I connected my 2.1 powered monitor system to the D3200's monitor out jacks, and I was able to deconstruct the funky R&B track that Korg includes as an onboard demo.

The song loaded quickly; the transport controls were solid, and their effect was instantaneous. Mute and solo functions allowed me to strip away the layers of production quickly and check out the sound of the unit. The audio quality of the demo, which was recorded at 16-bit, 48 kHz, was excellent. Automated events sounded smooth. Guitars and keyboards were mixed well, and the D3200 effects used showed a mix of sonic character. They didn't sound as though they came from the same unit, which is good.

Eager to try out the D3200 as a composing tool, I put it into Session Drums mode and began searching for beats. The nice assortment of traditional drums made it easy to find a quick loop for a Latin-jazz instrumental I had in mind. The Knob Matrix helped me to audition a variety of feels and sounds quickly. Because I could also edit the sounds by clicking on the Kit and Kit Change buttons in the LCD, changing textures was a breeze.

I was not completely satisfied with the LCD screen; the grayscale interface looked somewhat washed out, no matter how the screen was tilted or the contrast pot was turned. But the display was always readable, and the knobs, wheel, and ClickPoint joystick let me advance through tasks so fast that I soon forgot about the display aesthetics.

Full Effects

With my drum track programmed, I put down a foundation track with guitar. Plugging the guitar into the unit's high-impedance input was easy, but applying the D3200's effects on input required a trip to the manual, which is excellent. Korg has taken pains to put together an instruction book that makes every function clear, with plenty of numbered illustrations and cross-references to other sections of the book. It was an essential aid in helping me find any function I needed — from the first instruments I plugged in to the final CD I burned.

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FIG. 2: The D3200''s rear panel contains MIDI and USB ports, jacks for a footswitch and expression pedal, and S/PDIF connections.

After applying a compressor from the unit's Dynamics and Filter section to my guitar input as an insert effect, I wanted to see what else I could do to the sound. The Multi section gave me a nice choice of amp models (Tweed 1 × 12, US HiGain, and so on). I wound up soloing over my drum loop (see Web Clip 2) for 20 minutes before thinking about recording again.

When I resumed my project, I was able to smoothly proceed from track to track, using all the unit's features, including virtual tracks, effects, aux sends, and buses, to create a 24-track demo and final CD mix that I could play for anybody. I was consistently impressed with the D3200's wealth of solutions for any session challenge I faced. Although a few minor inconveniences popped up, such as delays when new songs, functions, or sounds were loaded into memory, I never experienced a hang-up that slowed a session down.

Tenacious D

With recording quality becoming standardized in units like the D3200, and the difference in component quality less of an issue, factors such as ease of use, functionality, feature set, and price are what set one unit apart from the next. The D3200 excels in all these categories. It's an excellent composing and recording demo box on the road or at home, and it can serve as the backbone for a small studio creating demos for songwriters. With its disc-burning features and its ability to import audio from CDs or USB, it has the flexibility to prepare a mix for the mastering house or burn multiple copies for the clubs.

Anyone who wants a fully functional recording studio and doesn't want to invest several thousand dollars into a computer, a high-end audio application, CD-burning software, and outboard gear should put the D3200 high on his or her shopping list.

Rusty Cutchin is an associate editor of EM. He can be reached atrcutchin@comcast.net.

D3200 SPECIFICATIONS Analog Inputs (8) balanced XLR; (12) balanced ¼" TRS; (1) unbalanced ¼" TS Digital I/O S/PDIF, USB 2.0 MIDI I/O In/Out Additional Ports expression pedal input, footswitch input Frequency Response 44.1 kHz: 10 Hz-20 kHz (±1 dB)
48 kHz: 10 Hz-22 kHz (+1/-2 dB) Signal-to-Noise Ratio 103 dB Dynamic Range 103 dB Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise 20 Hz-20 kHz (0.02%) A/D Conversion 24-bit, 64× oversampling Input Impedance 4 k (XLR); 10 k (TRS); 10 M (instrument) Output Impedance 150 D/A Conversion 24-bit, 128× oversampling Sampling Frequency internal: 44.1 kHz/48 kHz
external: 44.1 kHz/48 kHz (±6%) Record/Playback Resolution 16-bit/24-bit Dimensions 21.5" (W) × 4.5" (H) × 14.6" (D) Weight 23 lbs.



portable digital studio

PROS: Excellent sound. Convenient layout. Versatile controls. Ample drum and effects library. Index options for CD burning.

CONS: Low-contrast LCD. Minor delays on some Knob Matrix functions.