Hands-On Review:Korg D3200 Digital Recording Studio
Korg D3200 Digital Recording Studio
Tracks galore and all the tools to use them well
By E. A. Tennaway
When Korg unveiled the D3200 at the 2005 Musikmesse, a collective, perceptible shudder could be sensed from the competition. With the introduction of this recording powerhouse, Korg blew the doors off the cost-benefit equation, delivering far more function for fewer dollars than has been seen up to now. Having heard the buzz from Germany, I was anxious to lay hands on this unit and check it out for myself.
Everything in its place
A quick survey of the control surface revealed that Korg has thought through the layout carefully. Everything is right where it should be and immediately graspable both physically and operationally. All controls are clearly identified, the faders glide smoothly, and the knobs and buttons all deliver reliable, tactile feedback. A three-axis ClickPoint control gives you fast, fingertip control over parameters and works as a jog/shuttle when scrubbing through audio. Korg’s Knob Matrix offers 16 realtime controls in a 4x4 layout that lets you edit multiple parameters easily.
Similarly, the LCD display’s menus and parameter information are easy to comprehend and menus are logically organized so that after a cursory review of the manual I was able to get right to work laying tracks. After about two hours of experimentation with the D3200, I found myself instinctively reaching for the right controls in the right sequences—a testament to its intuitive and ergonomic design.
By the numbers
With playback of 32 tracks and 16 tracks of simultaneous recording (including two digital and two Session Drummer tracks) you’ve got enough recording capability to do some serious live-in-the-studio tracking that includes elaborately miked drum kits. And that doesn’t take into account virtual tracks that bring your potential track count to a whopping 272!
You can write your tracks to the onboard 40GB hard drive in either 16- or 24-bit uncompressed 44.1 or 48kHz formats. When the D3200 captures audio in 24-bit mode it processes data at 32-bit resolution for enhanced sound. The D3200’s internal 64-bit processor further assures pro-level sound.
Getting your signal into the recorder is facilitated by 12 - 1/4" balanced inputs plus eight XLR jacks with switchable 48V phantom power and some very decent mic preamps that delivered surprisingly round, warm signals to the mixer. If you want to go direct with guitar or bass, there’s a dedicated jack and S/PDIF optical I/O permits hookup of your external digital gear.
I was mightily impressed once I started delving into the D3200’s editing section. Unlike the bare-bones editing tools common to other recorders, this baby is loaded with the functions you need to build and organize song structures without having to export everything to a separate DAW. Aside from the usual copy, erase, reverse, fade, and normalize controls, you also get auto and manual punch in/out, time expansion/compression, and an impressively smart noise reduction system that has a learning feature to identify and remove ambient noise without affecting your original signal.
The D3200 lets you experiment with impunity thanks to non-destructive track editing that leaves your sounds intact. The Undo/Redo functions permit up to 16 recording and editing undos to help you get your song into shape. With four locate points you can hone in fast on the regions you want to edit.
Mixin’ it up
The D3200’s mixer offers 32 recorder and 12 sub-mixer channels. The first 24 recorder channels have very versatile and musical four-band EQs while channels 25-32 plus the sub-mixer channels are equipped with two-band shelving EQ. A four-band parametric EQ on the master track shapes your combined output. The recording input channels and playback channels all have independent EQ. With 12 buses that include two effect sends, there’s enough routing flexibility here to rule your audio world. You can save and automatically recall fader, EQ, pan, and effect settings in up to 100 “scene” locations for each song—this is the kind of automation you would expect to find in a high-end standalone digital mixer. Korg’s Dynamic Automation technology lets you record and play back all your fader and pan movements in real time. You can even control your mixer parameters via MIDI.
A drummer in the box
Korg’s Session Drums is a far cry from the flakey beat box rhythm tools other makers throw in as an afterthought. Group and Session knobs let you choose from a huge array of styles and grooves. The Variation knob locks the beat into your composition while Shuffle and Humanize controls give your beats the variable timing and feel of a real-live drummer. There’s no tedious step recording or programming involved; you can get a groove going in the time it takes to say “paradiddle.”
The D3200’s multiple 56-bit effects processors deliver a total of 128 programs including many of Korg’s acclaimed REMS models. Up to 11 effects can be applied simultaneously, with eight insert effects, two master effects on the master sends of each channel, and a final effect applied to the master L/R.
The onboard CD burner serves as a backup and its CD Project mode lets you master your disc so it’s ready for production. The hard drive can be partitioned to house multiple CD projects. A part of the disc is also allocated as a PC drive to import WAV files plus save and load backup data via its fast USB 2.0 port.
Perhaps the strongest feature of all is the D3200’s price which puts this does-everything unit well within the reach of just about any serious recordist. Korg has clearly hit a home run.
- 272 tracks including virtual tracks
- 32 tracks of simultaneous playback
- 16 tracks of simultaneous recording*
- 24-/16-bit, 44.1/48kHz uncompressed recording format
- Internal 40GB hard drive
- Internal CDRW drive
- USB 2.0 connectivity
- Track and song editing
- 320x240-pixel backlit LCD display
- Session Drums let you create a realistic and natural drum track for your entire song
- REMS modeling effects
- MIDI functionality: Mixer control, effect control, MMC transmission/reception, MTC transmission/reception, MIDI clock transmission
- AC cable included
*12 analog inputs + 2 digital inputs (S/PDIF) + 2 Session Drums tracks = 16