Korg Triton Extreme Issue 33
Korg Triton Extreme
Derek Johnson assesses what makes this Triton so extreme.
ake a range of sampling workstation synths from a
major manufacturer and repackage them with more
desirable features and release the result for less
money. You’d go for it, right?
Well, that’s just what Korg has apparently done with
their top-notch Triton range. First of all, it genuinely
is a repackage job, losing – sadly, it must be said – the
classic silver look that the company’s followed from
1995’s Trinity to the Triton Studio range launched in
‘02. But we don’t judge a synth by its colour, do we?
Especially if it features a flexibly assignable vacuum
tube circuit, as initially seen on the company’s latest
Electribes! Extreme loses some of the overt expandability of the Studio range, but in the area that we’d
most like to expand – sounds – you don’t have to
worry. The instrument features most of the raw
waveforms from Korg’s PCM series of slot-in cards as
standard. That would be a huge saving if the instrument came in at the same price as a Studio model, let
tidy as having all the drives fitted inside the synth, but
we’re talking a serious cash saving here!
Extreme also features a CompactFlash/Microdrive
slot, for compact budget data storage and retrieval to
a card of up to 1GB capacity. You’ll need to buy one
of these increasingly cheap cards if you want to beam
samples from your computer, since a card in the slot
is the only destination in this circumstance. Samples
can’t be simply sent to Extreme’s RAM.
In most other ways, Extreme is very much similar to
the Triton Studio. It comes in three flavours for a start:
61-note, 76-note and 88-note keyboards, the latter
featuring a weighted piano action. There may be more
waveform ROM and more patch memories, but the
synthesis system is identical, effects the same, sampler
and sequencer likewise. But that’s no bad thing: Korg
do this stuff right. Even if you’re finally moving from
a Trinity to an Extreme, you’ll be on familiar ground.
The synth engine is very similar, and the sequencer,
though enhanced, has the same
look and feel.
Architecture Degrees
alone hundreds of dollars cheaper. This is one of the
main conundrums offered by Extreme: it’s practically
everything we’d want from a Studio, yet is significantly
cheaper. Yet the Triton Studio range remains a current
Korg product.
Anyhow, the Studio family also featured an internal
hard drive and could be expanded with an optional CD
writer. Neither of these is an option with the Extreme,
but it comes with two USB sockets (SCSI connectivity,
as featured on the Studio, has gone to the great interfacing graveyard in the sky). One USB port connects
to a PC or Mac, making the Triton Extreme talk to
your Midi app’s and allowing samples to be beamed
back and forth, while the other allows the workstation
to host the USB-equipped drives of your choice. Buy a
cheap portable hard drive, or one of the many affordable CD writers, and you can do everything Triton
Studio could. (The USB socket even powers PSU-less
drives.) This ommission might sound like a cop out on
Korg’s part, but the official internal CD drive for the
Triton Studio was quite expensive; you can pick up any
drive for 70 bucks or less and plug it in. Okay, not as
Summarising Triton Extreme’s
architecture is straightforward.
It offers a whopping 160MB
of waveform ROM – it’s all
the data from the previously
optional expansion boards that
makes all the difference. Triton Studio offered just
48MB of waveform ROM. Mind you, Korg had to
do something: their nearest immediate competition
comes from Yamaha’s still-silver Motif ES, which has
176MB of sample ROM as standard. Korg’s waveforms
are arranged as 962 multi-samples and 1,175 drum
samples. Next up in the hierarchy is the Program. A
normal Program uses one or two waveforms as ‘oscillators’, which are then treated to a comprehensive
analogue, subtractive synthesis-like signal path. Single
oscillator Programs are 120-note polyphonic, while
using two oscillators halves that. Drum Programs are
slightly different: each note in the 128-wide Midi range
can have a sample assigned to it, and each sample gets
processed by a simplified analogue-style signal path.
That signal path offers expressive and potentially
aggressive multi-mode filter, envelope, twin Midisync’able LFOs, and a whole load of modulation
options to add movement within a sound or control
from the front panel knobs or an external hardware
control surface.
If the sample-based synthesis on board isn’t enough
for you, Triton Extreme maintains one bit of expandability from previous versions: a MOSS Z1-like physical
modelling synth board can be installed if desired.
A Program can also be fitted out with effects and an
Classic Combination
Next up, the classic Korg Combination. Here, up to
eight Programs are layered, with options to velocity
and/or key split individual elements. Each part could
also be addressed on its own Midi channel, for a sort
of mini multitimbral setup complete with basic mixing
options. Effects are even more interesting in this mode,
and Extreme’s array of insert and master effects start
to come into their own in this mode. The arpeggiator
also magically grows a twin: arps A and B can have
their own pattern and note resolution settings, making
one-finger performances a definite option, quite well
exploited in the factory presets. Yamaha’s Motif ES has
just one arpeggiator, and you really do notice the difference once you’ve had two at one time!
Top of the heap is the Sequencer: a truly multitimbral mode allowing Extreme to be played in 16-part
glory from its internal or an external sequencer. Insert
and master effects are also flexibly-assignable here,
and the dual arpeggiators are also in evidence. The
output of the arps can be recorded to sequence tracks
or played live, and one particularly nice facility lets
you copy all the settings of any Program or Combi
to a Sequence. If you find yourself having a nice
noodle with one or the other, you don’t have to go in
and recreate it in a Sequence before recording said
noodle. Two convenient button pushes, and you’re
in a Sequence with the metronome clicking, ready to
register your performance.
Incidentally, the effects system offers five insert
effects, that can be assigned flexibility within Combis
and Sequencer setups, that can choose from a central
pool of 102 effect types, plus two master effects, a
global three-band EQ and that ValveForce vacuum
tube circuit, which can be used as an insert or master
effect. Effects can even be applied to audio routed
through the Extreme’s inputs.
Sampling Sophisticate
Of course, so far, we haven’t mentioned the sampling
capabilities of the Extreme. This is a tricky one to
address. Not only does it feature facilities that would
be the envy of a stand-alone rack sampler, if such a
thing was being made any more, but it integrates with
the sequencer in such a way as to almost convince you
that you had a digital recorder on board as well as the
Midi sequencer. Almost. Certainly, with planning it’s
possible to even add vocals to a sequence. Be warned
that keeping track of the resulting samples will be a
little tricky, but the routines are there to help you make
the most of it. And if you invest in a large hard drive (or
one of the larger capacity cards), you’ll have no trouble
keeping your work safe and backed up.
The sampler is great at capturing any audio from
outside the Triton, so you can create your own multisamples of real instruments (or import them from Akai
format sample CDs!), or add loops and beats to your
session. The synth’s own outputs can be resampled,
of course, and beats and loops can be time sliced
and time stretched. Triton Extreme samples at 48k
only, though samples can be converted to lower rates
during editing.
There will be those of you who have nothing to
do with computers, and will appreciate some of the
additional Extreme facilities on offer. For example, a
mix of a sequence playback can be bounced down for
burning to an attached CD writer. The sequencer is
sophisticated enough for quite serious work, too. Just
be warned that Sequences – and samples – are not
backed up when you power down. You’ll need a card
or a USB hard drive in order to keep your work safe for
later recall.
The live performer, too, will find much of value in
the Triton Extreme. The 88-key version, for example,
features a real keyboard player’s action. There are also
a handful of phrase/pattern-style composition options.
Assign preset or custom phrases to keys for instant
song creation, a feature even dance-meisters might
find handy in some situations. It’s also possible to
create, and play back, a list of Standard Midi Files automatically – ideal for gigs. This is perfect for General
Midi style SMFs, but isn’t restricted to it.
And that’s nearly it... but I can’t let you go without
pointing out the three pairs of stereo outputs, the
stereo input, the optical S/PDIF digital I/O, and a
trio of foot pedal sockets. Those in favour of real-time
performance controls will once again welcome a Korg
ribbon controller, and the combination pitchbend/mod
wheel, plus a quartet of assignable knobs – 12 parameters are easily accessible with these knobs.
In Touch
Finally, though the livery might change, a Korg workstation wouldn’t be the real thing without the fabulous
touch screen. Parameter access and value changes
take on a whole new meaning in this environment.
Other synths will appear stuffy and claustrophobic
after you’ve had this experience.
And other synths may well pale into sonic insignificance once you’ve had the audition.
Distributed by
• Music Link
Phone: (03) 9765 6565
Email: atdept@musiclink.com.au
Web: www.korg.com or www.musiclink.com.au
• Triton Extreme 61-note: $4,999; 76-note: $5,999;
88-note: $6,999
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