Hands-On Review:Korg D-Series XD Desktop Studios

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Korg D-Series XD Desktop Studios

Extend your recording power to a new level

By Louis Hanson


Korg D-Series XD Desktop Studios

This is the voice of the revolution-the desktop recording revolution-and we the people have won! It has been an amazing few years, during which desktop digital recording has not only become commercially viable, it has also grown in power to the point where you can now rival professional- level quality on a machine that costs less than it would to hire a studio for one normally complex band project. If you don't believe it, check out Korg's newest D-Series studios, the D16XD and especially the D32XD. These units are nothing short of incredible.


I was hot to get my hands on these machines. I was already familiar with Korg desktops (a D1600 was my first setup). I've found that Korg gets a lot of things right. Their studios have been easier to use than most other desktops, and Korg has kept up with technological advances. I was eager to check out the new Extended Definition units because Korg itself seemed excited about them. I expected to be impressed.

Love at first mix

When I finally had the D32XD sitting before me I found it sleek, clean, uncluttered, and BIG! While others have been trying to squeeze more controls and more tracks onto smaller and smaller surfaces in the name of portability, Korg has gone the other way. The size of the D32XD -almost 27" wide-makes it feel like a real studio console when you're sitting in front of it. The control surface, as a result, has finger room between the controls. It lets you tweak without using tweezers.


Next I was impressed by its great specs and general capabilities. It is a complete solution-as you would expect-able to handle everything from laying raw tracks, mixing and editing, mastering, and burning a final CD. Along the way, however, it's a little more complete than other similar units: 4-band parametric EQs on each channel with hi and low shelving, and eight analog compressors on the inputs. It's packed with effects and has 27 processors you can use simultaneously on the D32XD, and 11 on the D16XD.



Another big feature of the D32XD is 16-track simultaneous recording capability (with optional AIB-8 board added) which makes it especially usable for a band that wants to get its stuff down. So many bands buy a desktop studio only to find that they can't really record as a band on it. They have to do it piecemeal which for a lot of groups tends to kill the very band thing they have going. With 16 tracks to work with, most bands can lay down a basically complete first pass and capture their live energy.


Then one can build a recording up to a full 32 tracks. Each of the 32 playback tracks has 8 virtual tracks giving you a lot of room to experiment. Both XDs are the first D-Series studios to have mastering-to-stereo capability, and this function on the XDs has nice touches such as 8 virtuals for the Master Track (everyone in the band can do their own mix) and 8-band parametric EQing for intensive sound shaping.


Fast and easy

Korg hasn't abandoned its emphasis on making its gear easy to use. Rather, Korg seems to have emphasized ease of use even more in the XD studios. For instance, the D32XD has a vastly improved screen. First it flips up so you can read it easily. Secondly, it's big-way larger than the screens on other units of its kind. This facilitates anything you do on it. Also, it is a TouchView screen so you don't have to work with a mouse or scroll buttons, and it has improved resolution. All these features add up to that wonderful thing: effortless editing. You can see what you're doing and you just touch the screen to select menus and parameters.


Other things enhance the XDs' ease of use as well. For example, they have buttons and knobs below and to the right of the screen. These are used for adjusting or applying effects, EQ changes, and such-the things you really use a lot, especially when editing and mixing. They facilitate common operations. Hit the button and you're there; turn a knob to make a realtime change. Easy.


Flying faders on the D32XD (not on the D16XD) are another cool addition. These along with dynamic automation get you back into a project quickly and allow you to work the board on a mix as if you had a whole bunch of hands and the ability to remember the fine detail of a mix you worked on a month ago. The machine does it for you, and it's a trip to watch the faders move themselves.


Extended editing

The XDs' editing capabilities are practically limitless. You can swap, delete, move, bounce, normalize, copy, reverse, or fade tracks in and out. They even have expansion and compression tools for making tracks longer or shorter, in pitch or with altered pitch. You can do it all on the XDs and, once again, that big TouchView display facilitates the process enormously.


Space doesn't permit a comprehensive list of the XDs' features, but here are some highlights: S/PDIF optical I/O, USB, an 80GB hard drive (40GB on the D16XD), full MIDI functionality that includes transport, fader movement (on the 32), and effects changes sending and receiving. A/D conversion at 24-bit/64 times oversampling, and D/A conversion at 24-bit/128 times oversampling, plus high-level internal processing for supreme audio quality, enhanced by analog compression and superior mic preamps.


In short, the D32XD is a true dream machine, and the D16XD is a little brother (smaller, with 11 effects processors and without motorized faders and automation), but still a very nice device. If Korg's XDs don't convince you that the desktop recording revolution has triumphed and the people are now in power, nothing will.


Features & Specs:


Korg D32XD 32-Track Xtended Definition Recording Studio

  • 80GB internal hard drive
  • Built-in CDRW burner
  • 96kHz/24-bit resolution
  • 8 analog compressors
  • Big, high resolution TouchView screen
  • Automated faders
  • Up to 16 tracks simultaneous recording (with optional AIB8 input board)
  • 24 channels of submixing
  • 32-track playback
  • Mix automation
  • 52-input, 14-bus digital mixer
  • Full 4-band parametric EQ with selectable hi and low shelving on all channels
  • 8-band EQ is available for recording to Master Track
  • 52 effects in 128 presets
  • 27 insert effects processors
  • Up to 11 simultaneous effects
  • 8 insert effects
  • 2 master and one final
  • Expansive editing capabilities
  • Full MIDI capability with MTC and MMC send and receive
  • USB port
  • S/PDIF optical I/O

D16XD features same as the D32XD except for:

  • 40GB internal hard drive
  • 40-input, 12-bus digital mixer
  • 24 channels of submixing with hi and low shelving EQ
  • 11 effects processors that can be used simultaneously