Video: 20 Reasons Why the MicroKorg Is Still Great

Korg’s MicroKorg, one of the most well-known synthesizers, was originally released in 2002 and has stayed in production for 20 years—possibly making it the longest run of manufactured synths ever.

Its defining features have set the standard for other compact synths that followed it. There are many reasons why this little synth is so popular, but we have narrowed it down to our top 20 reasons why this synth is still great.

1. It's battery-powered

Back when we made a video about portable synths and beatmaking gear, we crowned Teenage Engineering as the king of portability, but it was short-sighted of us because the MicroKorg was the absolute ruler all along. The tiny keys and how long it can run on 6xAA batteries merit more than an honorable mention as far as the best portable gear still available today.

2. It has great presets
Close-up of the presets on the MicroKorg

Maybe sound design isn’t your thing, maybe you just want a synth with great sounds out of the box. MicroKorg hits all the right notes in this category, its presets aren’t just good but have since become iconic and used by many musical acts since the release. Also, the presets are grouped by genre style—not instrument type—and you're not beholden to the factory presets: over the years lots of sound designers have released full preset libraries and someone was rad enough to keep a well-updated Tumblr page called the MicroKorg Patch Cookbook that you can reference or download patches from.

3. It's a fuzz pedal

In this video, YouTuber Daniel Kastner—a faithful MicroKorg user and enthusiast—breaks down how to run your guitar through the MicroKorg to create fuzz and overdrive.

4. It's customizable

With 20 years of the MicroKorg, there are bound to be user-made modifications. As it turns out, the MicroKorg is relatively simple to modify and rebuild if you’re up for the challenge. It must be noted that modifying your gear is at your own risk, but if you do it, you might as well do it right. Check out this video on how to chop off the keyboard and use the MicroKorg as a desktop synth.

5. It has easy DIY repairs

After seeing how you can customize your MicroKorg, you can see how easy it is to handle basic repairs, especially for something as common as a broken key. Maybe you’ve grown to appreciate the chipped tooth vibe, but if not, here is an easy-to-follow video on making such repair.

6. It's great for Blade Runner sounds

The classic Blade Runner soundtrack was composed by Vangelis using a Yamaha CS-80, a synth that still sells for triple its original value. There have been quite a few tutorials on how to recreate that sound using other synths and VSTs, but did you know you can also use the MicroKorg to emulate that classic sound? Check it out in the video above.

7. It makes for a great talkbox

The MicroKorg's vocoder is very popular and for a good reason. The synth comes with a lo-fi microphone to make it easy to use—with a little tweaking, you can get the perfect talkbox patch that sounds just like the late Roger Troutman. Thankfully Youtuber The Talkstar has shared a comprehensive way of making your voice scream across those microKeys.

8. It makes classic '70s and '80s synth sounds

MicroKorg is an analog modeling synth, meaning it can recreate just about any patch made with an analog synth. This video showcases MicroKorg’s versatility with 64 patches from classic 70s and 80s pop and rock hits.

9. It makes funky bass patches

MicroKorg has two oscillators, a couple of envelopes, and a multimode 24dB resonant filter—this is essentially all you need to make killer basslines. Korg shows us just how it is to do in this video.

10. It makes great ambient pads

Any synth that can make bass can also do pads and dreamy ambient sounds very well, and the MicroKorg is no different. Watch as this video simplifies how to create essential pads that you can expand using modulation and effects.

11. It's great for West Coast G-funk leads

MicroKorg is also great for making G-funk leads, which was popularized by classic West Coast hip-hop made by the likes of Dr. Dre and DJ Quik. Both producers used plenty of sampling and did their best to mimic the playing style of Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell. Korg walks us through the best way to make this patch.

12. It's a drum synth

The MicroKorg can synthesize drum sounds and can be used to process drum sounds from external sound sources. Youtuber Nick Capron explains an easy way to design some drums from scratch in the above video.

13. It has a great arpeggiator

MicroKorg’s arpeggiator is pretty fun and intuitive: not only are there the usual up and down arpeggiations, but there are a couple of alternate playback modes, and even a random mode. This video by Ranzee shows how to use it in some ways that you may not have thought was possible on this little beast.

14. It's great for 8-bit arcade game sounds

The design of the MicroKorg is very reminiscent of early video game systems, so naturally, the synth excels at making old-school video game sounds. This video by Korg explains just how.

15. It has classic piano patches too

Sometimes, you just need a classic piano sound to finish a song or help in the writing process, and MicroKorg excels at synthesizing piano sounds. YouTuber Dan Mitchell walks us through his process.

16. It has easy-to-use Sync, Ring Mod, and LFOs

Understanding oscillator sync, ring modulation and LFO’s are essential to sound design. This video demystifies Korg use of these synthesis building blocks for its presets and how you can use them in practice on your MicroKorg.

17. It's great for hybrid synth sounds

Using the external sound input and MIDI in, you can create a hybrid synth using the MicroKorg in combination with other sound modules or synths with MIDI out of the MicroKorg and into the other sound module.

18. It has a sound editor software

If scrolling through the basic screen, switching knobs and menu diving isn’t your preferred way to make patches, then you’re in luck. There's a sound editor software available for the MircoKorg that you can use on your computer for designing patches and managing the patch library.

19. There are newer editions to choose from

Still not sold on the original MicroKorg, there have been a few editions to the line that serve as updated versions like the MircoKorg S, XL, and XL+. The XL+ is an entirely different synth that will be well worth its own list pretty soon.

20. You can use it to just fool around

You can use the MicroKorg to fool around like the producer Dorian Concept. In one of the first viral videos for the MicroKorg, he unveiled an entirely new way to use the MicroKorg. By using one hand to play and the other hand to tweak knobs, change octaves and do all the other hand movements that looks so cool.

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