Korg ToneWorks Ampworks

Electronic Musician’s review of the Korg ToneWorks Ampworks processor, an affordably priced, extremely portable amp modeler that runs on a pair of AA batteries.

Overall EM Rating (1through 5): 4

FromKorg's ToneWorks division, which makes the tiny but powerful Pandoraeffects units, comes the Ampworks ($179), a guitar-effects processorthat delivers a big bang in a small package. A little less than sixinches wide and three inches deep (and weighing just under half apound), the Ampworks is small enough to throw into the pocket of yourguitar case. It's powered by two AA batteries, which, according toKorg, yield about 10 hours of continuous life. An optional AC adapter,the KA 193 ($9.50), is also available.

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Control knobs for Gain, Treble, Middle, Bass, Volume, and EffectDepth reside at the top of the Ampworks' front panel. Below them aredetented model-selector knobs for Amp Type, Cabinet Type, and Effect.The names of the various models are printed on the knobs, which makesit easy to set up a patch. Dial in the desired amp, cabinet, andeffect; set the preamp settings and effect level; and off you go.

The rear panel has a ¼-inch TS input and a ¼-inch TRSstereo output that doubles as a headphone out. A Line/Amp switch letsyou use the unit as a DI box or as an amp front end. The footswitchjack accepts Korg's optional PS-100 ($19.99) footswitch, which can beused to switch between the two user presets and Manual Mode or one userprogram and Bypass.

Program Limits

The Ampworks is fairly stripped down in the features department. Itoffers 11 factory preset sounds and just 2 memory locations foruser-edited patches. ToneWorks' decidedly low-tech solution to thismemory shortage is a piece of paper called the “programmer'schart,” a template that shows all the front-panel knobs, on whichyou jot down the knob positions so you can replicate your settingslater.

The Prog/Manu button allows you to toggle between Manual mode andthe two user presets, Program 1 and Program 2. In Manual mode, the unitis governed by the current knob settings. When it's set to Program 1 or2 or to one of the factory presets — which you access by pressingthe Preset button and turning the Amp Type knob — the settingsjump to their saved state (regardless of knob position) and the knobsmust be moved to become active.

The manual for the Ampworks is more pamphlet than book, but itcontains useful information about the unit's functions, including ahandy list that describes the available amp models and gives cabinetrecommendations for them.

The Works

The Ampworks' models, which use Korg's REMS technology, are thestrength of the unit. You get emulations of a Blackface Fender Twin,several Marshalls, a Mesa/Boogie, a Dumble, a pair of Voxes, and avintage fuzz box. The models do a nice job of capturing the flavor ofthe amps that they're based on, and they produce a variety of usabletones (hear Web Clips 1 through 4).

The distorted sounds are crunchy and fat and run the gamut fromoverdriven Tweed to classic British distortion to aggressivemodern-rock buzz. Impressively, the clean tones sound realistic, whichis often not the case with amp modelers. Also available are 11 cabinetmodels. They range from a 1×8 Tweed to a 2×12 combo to threevarieties of 4×12.

Nine effects are offered; many are stereo. Only one can be used at atime, but two dual effects pair chorus with delay and reverb. Themanual doesn't specify which pedals were modeled for the effects, butthe quality is good. Besides the Effects Depth knob, the only parametercontrol for the effects comes from the Tap button, which can be used tocontrol delay and reverb time and the speed of the modulationeffects.

Although the Ampworks lacks the bells and whistles of many of themore expensive modelers on the market, it sounds good and is anexcellent value for direct recording or practice applications.

Korg USA, Inc.
tel. (516) 333-9100
Web www.korg.com