This article is an answer to a question someone had on the Reason Forum about emulating the warmth of the new KingKORG and especially the Tube that sits glowing on the left.
This instrument interests me already as does making Thor and other Reason instruments sound more lively and “organic”. So I took the opportunity to go have a play of the KingKORG.
My 2 cents. It is a cool synth and definitely deserves a place in many a rig – maybe even mine after I get MIDI Out in Reason 7. So to answer the initial question I set out to find out why the Korg sounds more exciting than a Reason’t Thor (which is a super capable synth). I came up with a few things:
Chorus & Unison
A lot of the KingKORG sounds were using Chorus and even a Unison mode to really fill them out. Thor can definitely do these things too (in several ways) but unless you set them up yourself you probably don’t make a fair comparison. These effects on the Korg definitely add a lot of depth and width to the sound.
In Reason I can turn on the Chorus which is generally nice. Maybe not as nice as the Korg but definitely good enough. Upside is that in Thor the Chorus is fairly editable. To get Unison I simply Copied & Pasted the synth and detuned the two instances. Panning also gets a wider Roland-workstation sort of sound.
Korg also use Reverb and Delay so I added an Echo modulated Delay and some Reverb from a Send. I used my Synth Space effect. These add to the bigness.
Korg don’t really seem to say if and now much modelling they do of analog drift. I assume they have programmed some in. Not enough to sound woozy but from the liveliness I assume it is in there.
So in Reason I have used the per-voice LFO 1 with a S&H shape running as slow as possible, set to trigger with each note and send a smidgen to each OSC. This makes each OSC trigger at a slightly different pitch for each and every note, even within a chord. This adds a subtle variety that is a joy.
I also used the global LFO 2 with the same settings sending to the Filter Cutoff. Not enough to hear but enough to feel different every strike. I have also found that programming Filter ENV Amount to be quite Velocity driven to be a great help. Makes the player play the sound.
Because I used all the on-board LFOs I added a Pulsar for the Vibrato.
Again, who knows what sort of EQ trickery Korg have got under the hood of the synth. I wouldn’t assume they have everything set rigidly to Flat. Most little stereos are jigged, as is Fruity Studio so why wouldn’t an instrument maker gild his lily?
So I set an EQ on the main sound (after the mixer handling the Unison). EQ is of-course always to taste but a I boosted 2db under 100Hz, a peak at 220Hz, a broad rise at 2kHz and actually cut 2db above 8kHz using a very smooth slope. EQ subtle enough no to be noticed on its own but adds some zing overall.
Saturation, Overdrive and just plain Distortion can add a wonderful bite to a sound or just make it sound nasty. The theory behind Valves (Tube) is that they don’t handle sound very accurately at all so they make a very pleasing mess. Valves are hip so I suspect even a picture of a valve will make people feel more warm and fuzzy about the associated device.
The Valve on the KingKORG can be switched in and out and then set into a Boost mode where it operates as a Distortion unit. I left this alone as it isn’t really my thing and I was making Brass sounds (my best test for the musicality of a synth). In On mode there is not always a massive difference but it doesn’t do any harm and I think perhaps just does the expected mess-making of the sound so overall the synth is almost indefinably more fun to listen to.
Ok so in Reason I can’t add a Valve but I have played with EQ which a Valve does and then used a Saturation effect to add just ever such a slight amount of bite, we don’t want this distorting when playing chords (go for it on single notes) or that will be nasty but just something that when switched out the sound get noticeably flatter, less lively.
Now none of the things I have done here add up to a MiniMoog vs a Portasound but overall the Thor patch is no longer immediately recognizable as a Reason sound and we really don’t have to run out and buy another instrument with a Valve glowing on the front.
That said the KingKORG has several filter types and they are rather nice. But downside is that the Korg synth is a bit of a pain to program from the front panel and not multi-timbral; limits that Thor doesn’t suffer. Also the whole Reason package is less than half the price of a single KingKORG, but it does require a lot more set-up to sound as juicy.
Here is the KingHORN Combinator patch: you will need Reason 6.5 + Pulsar (you could swap for a another Thor) & Softube Saturation Knob (free)