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Korg Monotron Delay
4.5 4.5 out of 5, based on 2 Reviews

Instant fun - Devil inside

16th March 2012

Korg Monotron Delay by monophonic

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Korg Monotron Delay

An amazing little beast, the Monotron Delay is instantly usable right out of the box. Just plug and play. Well, that is, play random notes on the ribbon, and turn a few random knobs - the very first time, at least. And produce random, incredible sounds. Although you won't understand exactly what you're doing, you'll be travelling back to a golden era of good old sounds. You'll be Perrey & Kingsley for a while, then Pierre Henry a few minutes afterwards. Then you'll play around again with the knobs and travel even further - in the past or in the future. There's a kind of wild weirdness with the filter and delay stuff, an incredible randomness with the ribbon combined with the rate and intensity. Small controls, big power.
Of course, there's that hiss on the headphone output. But a simple equation ([(price + size) * fun factor] - output noise) gives a result of 100% satisfaction.
I haven't gone for the modding adventure yet, but it's just the next thing on my todo list... and it's also part of the fun side of the Monotron.
This little piece of plastic is all about fun. And time. The delay time parameter for sure, but also the time you'll be spending just playing around with it.

31st March 2012

Korg Monotron Delay by brew

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Korg Monotron Delay

That's a great review above... consider this addition if you're interested in the nitty gritty...

Synopsis and History
The Korg Monotron Delay, announced in the Fall of 2011, is the latest addition to the Monotron family that started with the original Monotron in 2010. That box was an analog ribbon-driven subtractive synth with all the standard-issue controls and modulators (LFO, resonance) in the palm of your hand. While the non-quantised ribbon left something to be desired in it's practical note-playing abilities, a clever audio input allows you to process external sources with its legendary MS-10/20 analog filter. Getting a good feel and response from a digital filter has been the Achilles' Heal of many modern synths, so at the very least the Monotron's analog filter provided a useful addition to any setup.

This new Delay version, counter-intuitively, takes the original Monotron's performability weaknesses and flaws to the extreme and comes out with something perhaps more useful and fun in the process!

The 'DL' as it's known by model number, takes the same form factor as the original for an all-black spin, gussied up by luminescent paint that can be seen in this official video.

At the helm are five nice feeling pots for LFO (rate and intensity), filter cutoff, and delay time and feedback. Seriously, these pots are better than most gear, not a wobble in sight! I love that. The power switch doubles as saw and square wave LFO toggle. A screw-turn pot in the back allows you to alter these LFO waveshapes. Audio in, headphone, and speaker finish off the featureset.

In practice
I found the Delay to be an entertaining companion on my subway commute, and a solid idea generator. Having multiple WYSIWYG controls is a refreshing change in our microprocessor driven world. Sound effects, drones, squeals, pulsing beat effects and wild feedback are all possible with near endless tweakability. Angelic space drones and screaming monsters can easily find a useful atmospheric place in your tracks. With careful adjustment of the LFO squarewave and intensity I also managed simple musical themes that have promising sampling possibilities. I've owned the box for 3-4 weeks and have never replaced the batteries.

On the effects
While the synth is all analog, the delay is provided by a digital delay-on-a-chip IC, the PT2399. For the technically curious, a good overview can be found here. What's very cool about this delay is the pitch is altered as you sweep the time. Increasing the delay time slows down the pitch, and shorter delay times speed it up--this is very cool for making deep bass dive bombs. It's very easy to dial in consistently for repetitive themes, again with some really useful sampling possibilities.

Idea Generator
If you record the output during a Delay jam session, one could very easily get themes for a whole new song! This is exactly what I found happening on my Delay commute journey--it actually sparked ideas for tunes.

On Sound
I give the Delay a 7 for sound quality only for one minor flaw--it has a fairly high level of white noise. The noise is before the filter, as you can hear it change when you sweep. I don't remember the original Monotron being this noisy, so it's likely to do with the PT2399 delay chip's lo-fi ADA conversion. As far as the analogness of it's sound and filter however, it's definitely better than a 7! Take a trip to YouTube for some clever tracks if you aren't convinced! A simple trick to remove the noise if it bothers you is to capture it and use it as a fingerprint for something like TC DeNoise.

Future possibilities
Lastly, Korg encourages circuit-bending by making the schematics public. Google finds a number of "upgrades" already, like adding the classic Monotron's resonance knob. What else could make the Delay better? A quantised key option like the Duo and less noisy output (theoretically a possibility, since the schematics are available one could design a better analog stage around the PT2399). Use a tablet pen for more note accuracy!

At $50, it's one night's worth of drinking, or as I like to call it--a no-brainer.


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