If there is one thing you learn quickly about the synthesizer world; aside from the fact it is exciting in ways indescribable of course, is that for most us freaks the truth is that one is never enough. Men rejoice at the latest news of releases, ladies lament and argue why more? But the reality is that evolution is a fun thing to be a part of. Now watching Korg evolve, for me, as a die-hard believer in this company is definitely an interesting thing to keep my eyes on. It's a company that works tirelessly two fold: always trying to innovate and stay ahead of the curve, but also to always manage to be an affordable choice for musicians.
Enter the Prologue ladies and gentlemen, a succession to what may become the most successful synthesizer release to date; even topping the ridiculously successful MicroKorg: the Korg Minilogue. The world's first truly affordable Polyphonic synthesizer, and a machine that even has me feeling like a kid again...after I gifted it to myself for my own birthday! :) Memories are being made all around, and for me I feel inspired and with a renewed sense of creativity and musical purpose.
But with the release of any "Mini" of course, comes the obvious room for growth...there has to be the bigger version to anything miniature, and the Prologue is now that to the almighty Minilogue. Now for me personally, I wouldn't give up my Mini for the Prologue, and for quite a few reasons, being that Korg did not incorporate every component of the Mini into the Pro, and perhaps with the intent of not taking away from the little big guy who is one hell of a machine.
So let's talk about why the Prologue is still however, an unbelievable announcement, and why, even for an owner of a Mini, it would be a smart choice as your next machine. There are quite a few new features not found on the Minilogue, and I am here to tell you all about it. Let's get on with it!
The Prologue is a bi-timbral, 3 oscillator machine. It uses two of the same oscillators found on the Minilogue, fully Analog but digitally controlled for stability. The third introduces what Korg calls "Multi Engine"; a digital oscillator that offers something a bit like Cross Modulation, called VPM, or Variable Phase Modulation, which uses a simple carrier/modulator structure to help you create a wider range of metallic type of sounds. The Multi Engine also features a Noise generator, but unlike the Minilogue, this time it offers 4 types. It also gets far more interesting in that it will soon allow users to create up to 16 of their oscillator creations as part of a User section found on the 3rd oscillator as well...but more on that later!
As mentioned before, perhaps for obvious reasons, Korg decided to leave certain features to only the Minilogue, in this case dropping the 4-Pole Filter, only incorporating a 2-Pole design, that also features a Drive feature (distortion), and a Low Cut switch that essentially turns the filter into a High Pass.
The Prologue still boasts two ADSR envelopes of course, one for the Amp and one for Filter, but has also dropped the Step Sequencer and 3 of the previous voice modes. This time you only get Poly, Mono, Chord and Unison. You also get an Arpeggiator, which to some degree is a bit vague on the Minilogue, as it is in its design, technically one of the Voice modes. Here on the Prologue however, you get a dedicated Arp section, with Latch, Range, Tempo, and Type on the panel for easier access.
The modulation section on the Prologue remains somewhat like on the Mini, but instead of the switchable modes between allowing the envelope generator to affect the Rate or Intensity, Korg has now implemented switchable ranges between fast and slow, and BPM sync. A very nice addition has been allowing the LFO to now target each oscillator independently, or at the same time; which on the Mini unfortunately is only both simultaneously. This is true only for Shape and Pitch of course, as Cutoff modulates the signal at the Filter stage.
Now let's talk about the effects section for a moment, the other part of this machine that makes it a heavier contender to the Minilogue or other fully analog synths out there. Unlike the Minilogue which only offered 1 effect, a Tape-styled delay, the Prologue offers 2 separate effect modules; one for various modulation effects such as Chorus and Ensemble, the other for typical Delay and Reverb styled effects with multiple reverbs available. The effects are all digital, and use a 32-bit Floating Point processor, but the unit also allows for users to create up to another 16 modulation effects or load those created by other users around the world. I'll get to that soon!
An important thing to note, is the keybed on the Prologue. While no one would argue that indeed this hardware revolution has been as exciting as we could have ever hoped for, one common complaint I see time and time again; and perhaps with good reason, is the lack of many of these machines having a good full-sized keybed. This time around, Korg introduces a Japanese-made, "natural touch" keyboard, with the same high quality as found on their High-end workstations like King Korg or Triton; though unfortunately velocity is all you'll get from it, as there is no aftertouch.
Korg Prologue 8 (49-key/8 Voice version) © Korg
One thing that stuck out to me about the Prologue, is that not only is the keybed made in Japan, but the whole machine is actually an import. Korg explains on their website that: "The Prologue’s body emanates beauty and the presence of a boutique synth, and newly redefines the look of a classic synthesizer. The black aluminum front panel features the same curvature as the Minilogue, and sports a beautiful hairline finish. Metal knobs with a sense of weight, diamond-cut silver indices, and oak wood side panels are some of the details that emphasize the high quality of this Made In Japan instrument." Ending an era perhaps where naysayers often regarded Korg's instruments as somehow inferior to others due to its "mass produced" inventory. While indeed not hand-made, nor here at home in the good ol' U S of A, the attention to detail and inclination to making a high-end synthesizer is undeniable.
Perhaps the most interesting addition coming to the Prologue, related to the oscillator and effects sections having 16 user slots, is what Korg dubs "Prologue SDK", which as stated on the company website is: "an open development API (Application Programming Interface) that allows users to extend the possibilities of the hardware via an SDK (Software Development Kit) and dedicated development tools. Via this SDK, custom digital oscillators can be created for the MULTI ENGINE, and custom modulation effects can be added to the existing modulation effects. Users can then load these new custom oscillators and modulation effects into their prologue via the prologue Librarian application (Mac and Win), also to be available Spring 2018."
The Prologue will be available in two versions, a 16-voice/61-key, or 8-voice/49-key. The 16 voice also features a really neat little VU meter for the Low Frequency Compressor; a newly developed low end booster found in the effects section. Connectivity wise, the usual stuff is found from this day in age, though don't expect a "Thru" for MIDI, which is a bummer! You can however, still connect to your Volca collection via the sync I/O. Also no CV connectivity which would have been a nice feature.
Overall the Korg Prologue takes us down the path of a very interesting evolution for the company, started several years back with a series of Analog synthesizers that the company has been unveiling little by little, testing the waters of interest for analog gear, that with success, over time have been getting quite exciting and refined, offering hardware that compared to others out there, is still very affordable. It should be interesting to see where Korg goes next, as this leaves only room for one next chapter that the company has not focused on too much: Modular. Let's wait and see! For now, I would highly recommend the Prologue, and if it's a bit out of your park range, for sure take a look at the Minilogue and Monologue; two absolute beauties with a rich and slightly rebellious sound. No doubt a great addition to any studio.