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- 731 days ago
***KORG NS5R SOUND MODULE***
COMPLETE WITH BOX, CABLES AND MANUAL, EXCELLENT CONDITION, MIDI CAPABLE, CAN PLUG INTO SYNTHESIZERS OR A USB MIDI KEYBOARD TO PROVIDE A 'MINI SYTHESIZER'.
HAS SAT IN MY ROOM FOR A YEAR, HAS NOT BEEN GIGGED.
BELOW IS A REVIEW OF THE PRODUCT:-
"pros & cons
KORG NS5R RRP£599
• Brilliant user interface.
• Loads of sounds.
• Acts as a PC/Mac interface.
• GM sound banks and drum kits.
• Only two outputs.
• No card slot.
Korg have given us hundreds of top-quality sounds,
and loads of polyphony and multitimbrality, in an
inexpensive package that is a joy to operate. Can't be bad"
"First impressions of the Korg NS5R? I'm ashamed to admit that I thought that Korg had accidentally packed a car radio when I opened its box. The size, display, soft keys and 'tuning' dial all suggested that the NS5R might be the latest in in-car entertainment. Of course 'car hi-finess' is in the eye of the beholder, but what is undeniable is that with the NS5R, Korg have made a dramatic departure from their normal styling conventions. A two-tone grey replaces the standard black livery, and a large, backlit orange liquid crystal matrix display supersedes the fiddly green effort seen on earlier modules. Inside the NS5R throbs the heart of the latest in Korg's AI2 synthesis, packing 12Mb of PCM samples, 64-note polyphony and 32-part multitimbrality. Serious specs indeed.
By way of a precursor to this review, I admit that in the grand scheme of things I'm a comparative sapling in the high-tech recording scene. I only mention this because, fittingly, my first introduction to synthesis came via the Korg M1. I was as uninformed as any one man could be, and the M1 was a revelation, with its great sounds, great effects and on-board sequencer, all in one unit. I soon discovered its limitations -- I ran out of sequencer space halfway through my third tune, and had my first encounter with note cancellation due to limited polyphony around the same time -- but it still was an awesome beast. I can tell you that the spirit of the M1 (and subsequent AI synthesizers) lives on in the NS5R, but it's been refined, revised, expanded and taken to what is almost its ultimate expression in this half-rack module.
What principally makes the NS5R more than just a sequencer-less repackaging of the latest Korg workstation (the N364) is its user interface. Nifty little icons point you in the right direction, while the 'home-page' displays a valuable amount of user-tweakable parameters, giving the unit a very straightforward and approachable feel. A refined user interface has at last become a priority for manufacturers, which is a most welcome development. As far as sound modules go, Yamaha impressed with their VL70m user interface, and Korg are working along much the same sort of lines, keeping the most oft-changed parameters never far from the surface, in an environment awash with friendly icons.
On powering up, you're greeted by four slider icons, a pan pot icon, a patch name, bank number, channel and part number, and the name of the effect program in use. Also running along the bottom of the screen is space for bargraph information on the 32 parts, nominally displaying MIDI note velocity messages. Parameter buttons allow you to move about the screen, sometimes triggering an info 'balloon' giving you the numerical status of the information provided by the slider or pot icon. The parameters shown are Volume, Expression, Pan and two effects sends. Expression is a bit of a mystery here (expanding and contracting the dynamic range of the part, I'm reliably informed) and I'd like to see it replaced with something a little more useful, perhaps a mono/poly switch. The pan pot gives the usual hard left through to hard right control, as well as providing a great 'random' option, which, as you might expect, gives you something you won't expect. The Effects sends are somewhat misleadingly called RevSend and ChoSend --misleading because they can be customised to control your own effects combination (a flanger and a delay, for instance).
In all, the screen has a reassuring newsiness, and it allows you to set up the Part and voice structure of your tune with the absolute minimum of fuss.
YOU CAN CALL ME AI
Korg have been pursuing the AI PCM-based method of synthesis for nigh-on nine years now, and we've seen it packaged in a good number of synths, from the seminal M1 to the Top of the Pops-friendly Trinity. Practice makes perfect, and the sounds on the NS5R are brighter, snappier and better than ever.
The NS5R is a General MIDI module, so naturally Korg have ensured that it will be compatible with basic GM and its variants (notably GS and XG), as well as with the earlier 05R/W module. Aside from a particularly grim violin patch, the GM sounds are beyond reproach. Korg's traditional strength lies in the 'keyboard' sounds, and I can't detect any decline in this department. Where there's scope for some flair (the pads, for instance), sounds have been programmed with great width and movement.
A quick spin of the data wheel takes us into Programs and Combinations territory. There are 1177 Programs on offer, 128 of which are user- definable. I refuse to put on the 'I've seen it all' poker-face of the reviewer in this department, because this is a staggering number of sounds, and practically every one is worthy of its place.
One criticism often levelled at digital synthesizers is that they lean too heavily on built-in effects to create the impact for their presets. You know the usual routine -- an overcooked patch bristling with full wraparound multi-tap delays and fierce flanging blows you away in the shop, while at home in multitimbral mode it turns out to be a cowering and pathetic bit of shortwave interference. Not so with the NS5R: all the Programs are sweetened with a sprinkling of reverb, and that's it. The presets are almost uniformly spotless, with only the odd looping surprise in some of the pads. Otherwise it's a classic Korg showcase, packed with the fascinating and useless, the classic and potentially over-used, and the unglamorous but useful. If there is any craftiness on the part of the Korg programmers, it's in the use of the double oscillator. If you use two identical or very similar samples, pan them hard left and right, and add a slight phase and tuning difference, you immediately have a sound that's intrinsically more interesting than the more mundane Single sample building block. This is more a credit to the programmers than any deception, but it has to be remembered that the 64-note polyphony is halved if you're exclusively using double-voiced Programs.
THE RIGHT IDEA
What with computer memory becoming cheaper and computers bursting at the seams with previously-unthinkable amounts of RAM and ROM, it should come as no surprise that synths and sound modules are loaded with thousands of sounds, heaps of raw waveforms, and enough polyphony and multitimbrality to sink an orchestra. Nevertheless, it's a credit to Korg that the quality of programming is consistently as good as it is, with as little dead wood as possible. Having said that, there a good number of manufacturers in this market who can boast high-quality sounds, and it would be fruitless to compete on quantity alone. Here Korg have the right idea with their superlative user interface: its a joy to work with and, for me, probably the NS5R's biggest