Professional Mixing in Cubase 8
Vocal Mic Shootout:
Korg M3 Xpanded
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.