The Minilogue, a synth that since its inception seems to have created the type of hysteria that the Microkorg once did almost 20 years ago; both appealing to such a wide range of people, many just getting into the synth world, finding that the affordability and power of the Microkorg, like with the Minilogue, is simply too much to pass up on.
The Minilogue has taken things much further however, especially in that for the first time, Korg gave the world the gift of a truly affordable, fully analog polyphonic synthesizer. That, together with the innovative circuitry and features such as the oscilloscope and the on-panel multivoice architecture, not to mention the high-quality build of the machine and its design, delivered what can only be cosidered an instant classic. Even long time veterans and enthusiasts have found the Minilogue to be a very impressive, highly desirable addition to their arsenal, with its unique sound that balances well between edgy and adventurist, and classic retro.
Today we are gonna talk about 4 reasons why the Minilogue, at least for me personally, is such an amazing little guy, and why I believe every synth lover should own one.
Aesthetics to spare! :) © Korg Inc.
First off, let's talk about the build. Perhaps the first thing that stood out to me as being a huge factor in the build is the chasis-mounted knobs. This gives the Minilogue a very sturdy feel, that as opposed to many other synths out there, should not make anyone worried about traveling with it; a travel bag is highly recommended however! Also while designing each sound, you really feel like you have a much more accurate feel over each parameter. Great for those squinty-eyed, hair-raising moments when you truly need something solid to hold on to for dear life. There is no wobble whatsoever, which unfortunately is quite typical in many synths out there.
Then there is the look itself. The aluminum front panel that Korg had no easy time in designing with quite a few failures; given its unique curvature, coupled along with its wood paneled backing (a first!), created a synthesizer that brings together the classic elements of synth design, with a futuristic approach that gave us a truly modern, space age classic! Somewhere in between the aesthetics of modern Macintosh computers, and Dave Smith Instruments. What more could you ask for?
Under the hood lies the real magic! © Korg Inc.
The sound of the Minilogue is quite interesting. It's rather edgy in many ways, but it's also a fairly classic analog synth at the same time. While the synth is mostly a true analog synth, its circuits are: "all new ground up designs, delivering a synthesizer experience like no other" as Korg puts it. Its saw, square and triangle waves have a classic sound to them. Using the shape knob, the square offers typical Pulse-Width, while it enriches the upper end of the triangle. For the saw, it morphs it into a more "saw-square" type of blend as some would claim, that still to my ears sounds more like what I would consider an "Ultrasaw" or "Supersaw" as found on the Minibrute or D16 Lush-01 plug-in for example. Harsh, a bit thinned-out but more aggressive, especially when using a saw on both oscillators.
In my personal experience, the sawtooth is the one that really challenged me from the get go. In fact, I seriously began to consider in the beginning, that perhaps the Minilogue would not fit my particular style. I find this wave on the Minilogue to be great for stabs and solos, and definitely for basslines as the Mini can even go ultra-low and so very smoothly. But originally I found it difficult to create the more classic strings and pads of Sci-Fi 80's scores the way I was used to. Seems that perhaps because of the fact that the LFO affects both oscillators at the same time, modulating the shape brought about relatively harsh results. Cutoff and pitch were affected in the way I expected however. So I began using the Crossmod instead, not really using the LFO on this specific wave, and this seems to give me more classic results as far as those retro Sci-Fi strings are concerned.
What was interesting to me though, is that initially in my frustration, and in some experimentation to find a workaround, and thanks to the very handy oscilloscope, what I found was that by using the Cross Mod and LFO; balancing between both to create a relatively smooth amount of modulation (something I had to "see" and not so much hear), I could use the square wave to create these edgier type of string sounds as well, seeing through the oscilloscope that the square wave begins to round off, getting bits of what to me visually appear as rounded sawtooth spikes along the flat points of the squares, and beginning to sound a bit more like the typical saws I am used to; losing that "tube" sound of the classic square. I achieved this even more specifically when detuning the 2nd oscillator somewhere around 25 cents - or +. There seems to be a bit more range in musicality on the detuning on the Minilogue, where I typically find that most synths - or + 6 is about as far as I can go without getting unmusical.
Another thing worth mentioning that really helps the Minilogue a lot; especially when creating weird atmospherics and abstract sounds, is its fast-paced LFO. Many synths, particularly some of the newer ones like the JX-03 boutique, do not have a very rapid LFO, which is essential for going into some deep modulation affairs in my opinion.
Lastly of course, the filter is as pristine as you could possibly want. The ability to go between a 2 or 4 pole is a nice option too, which I feel compliment the edgy yet classic qualities of the Mini.
The Minilogue's handy oscilloscope © Korg Inc.
Never before on a synthesizer has there been an on-board oscilloscope. An oscilloscope, if you are not familiar, is essentially an electronic device that allows you to "see" what is happening to the sound wave as you craft it via the different parameters. Up until the Minilogue, you could occasionally spot one of these rather old-school looking tools wedged somewhere in between the machines of studios by artists who were known to be rather hardcore about their approach with hardware, and specifically analog synthesizers. While many of us at times may have asked "What the heck is that for?", the reality is that there are things about sound design that you do not learn or "see" until you use one. As I mentioned earlier, for me, it was very handy in clearing my frustration with the Mini, and learning that in fact I could create the type of sawtooth synth sounds I typically enjoyed making, by the way in which I balanced the LFO and Cross Modulator and by using the square wave instead. I am not sure I would have been able to do this simply by ear.
That's a lot of bang for your buck! © Korg Inc.
Lastly of course, is the price. If there is one thing the Minilogue will be known for throughout history, is the fact that it was the first truly affordable polyphonic synthesizer. Up until its release, the only available analog synths with polyphony where from companies like Dave Smith, and Oberheim; both incredibly expensive even if great machines. Now we have the Minilogue, thanks to a company that from its inception has always made it its focus, to help the average person afford the instruments they love with continuing innovation at the same time. Personally, I don't feel like you could ask for more.
Overall, and after owning many great machines, from the beloved Arp Odyssey, to the wildly popular Boutiques and even the Minibrute, I find the Minilogue personally to be an absolute marvel! Yes the price was great, but everything that comes with it is just a lot of bang for your buck. I don't feel cheated in any way, in fact I no longer have any of the other synths I mentioned, and yet at the same time the Mini is all of them in one! The build is well designed, more than most in fact. It is sturdy, and feels like great quality from keys to knobs. Even for those who joked the wood panel would of course be fake, may have been surprised to find it is actually real wood, and it adds a great aesthetic. Somehow, even though it may seem awkward to place it on the rear, it is a new angle to appreciate synth aesthetics from. Wouldn't be the first time we appreciate something from the rear, would it? ;)
But the sound and playablity is what most people find to be the true charm of this machine...as you would hope right? I mean, we don't buy synths to just look at them. Everything from the filter to the envelopes performs incredibly well. You feel that every parameter brings instant satisfaction in sound creation, and with clean and smooth results. The new analog circuitry together with the digitally controlled modules can deliver edgy tones that add something interesting to old techniques, and yet old techniques, even if challenged at times, bear the results we hope...and then some! And it has to be said: the oscilloscope is far from just some gimmick! It truly teaches the designer to look for things we otherwise would usually not hear. At least not all of us.
The Korg Minilogue is a highly recommended synth, whether you are just getting into this fascinating world, or looking to expand. These 4 reasons have been, at least for me, why I truly believe that the Minilogue is an absolute must have! You won't be disappointed.
Thanks for reading, and please...let the one and only Tats explain to you a little more about his sonic marvel: