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Vocal Mic Shootout: Sweetwater’s Lynn Fuston explains what went into Sweetwater’s unprecedented vocal mic shootout. The best way to compare mics is by hearing them! That’s why we collected 50 mics in Sweetwater’s Studio A and recorded female and male vocals through each under carefully controlled conditions. In addition to MP3 preview files, we’re offering full-resolution 24-bit/96kHz files of the vocal recordings for critical listening in your own studio. Check out the complete Vocal Mic Shootout here:

Korg M3 Xpanded The M3 workstation, already a powerful beast, has gained impressive new features and an 'Xpanded' name tag. Is it now top of its class?

The Korg M3 workstation is still less than two years old, but it has already benefited from a significant upgrade. Somewhat immodestly, Korg's blurb suggests that version 2.0, known as M3 Xpanded, has "entered a new dimension” which, in my view, would make it rather difficult to play. Casting aside the hyperbole, we can categorise its advances into four primary areas: lots of new PCM samples, plus scores of new Programs and Combis built from them; major enhancements to the sequencer; a new Mac and PC editor; and, finally, big improvements in the KARMA (Kay Algorithmic Real‑time Music Architecture).

The expansion to the M3's PCM library comprises a revision to the internal 256MB ROM, plus the inclusion of three OASYS‑derived sample libraries originally projected to be chargeable extras. Korg call these 128MB libraries, but they are data‑compressed to less than 64MB (which, as we'll see, is a necessity) and describing them in the tiny print as "128MB when calculated as 16‑bit linear” is naughty, although not unique to Korg.

Let's start with the modified ROM, which includes a new, stereo acoustic piano, plus a monophonic piano and a re‑sampled version of the 12‑bit stage piano introduced in the Korg SG1D way back in 1987. I'm fussy about piano sounds, so it's a testament to how far we've progressed when I find that a sampled grand piano can be sandwiched between a thousand other PCMs and sound half‑decent. Inevitably, the velocity zones of the M3 Grand Piano are apparent, but I found that careful programming of the sample crossfade feature in the EDS (Enhanced Definition Synthesis) oscillator pages could minimise this. On the other hand, I'd describe the SG1D's piano as a 'mildly unpleasant and clunky piano‑like sound', although I accept that other players may find good uses for it.

Korg have also updated a number of the M3's electric piano samples and its Hohner Clavinets. The electric pianos are excellent, and the Clavis are also good, but the latter instrument is difficult to emulate well and the looping on a handful of the samples is evident. Nonetheless, Programs built from these samples are bright and dynamic, and I wouldn't hesitate to use them.