Hands-On Review:The workstation for the masses

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by Michael Dennison

Unless you've been on a desert island for the last couple of years, you know that the Korg TRITON is one of the most popular keyboards of all time. Rave reviews have been pouring in from users everywhere and it's no wonder—the TRITON line, from massive, powerful, and expensive ProX to the space-saving and flexible Rack, features some of the freshest, most cutting-edge sounds to ever grace a workstation synth. Most companies would choose to rest on their laurels at this point, but that's not Korg's style. And now, with the TRITON Le, the TRITON's bold and inspiring legacy is being offered at a price anyone can afford.



Korg TRITON LeLookin' good

From its sleek, brushed-aluminum body to knobs that beg to be twiddled, the TRITON Le is undeniably part of the TRITON lineage. Although Korg bills the Le as a streamlined TRITON, there's very little missing. It shares the same Hyper Integrated synthesis system and dual-arpeggiators, and features the same intuitive interface as the Karma and TRITON-Rack.



Seriously seductive sounds
Packed with 425 multisamples and 413 drum samples, you'll find everything from pianos and organs to smokin' synths and exciting effects waveforms. Though the engineers at Korg started with the same basic canvas as the traditional TRITON, the new programs and combinations (combis) they've created are seriously gnar! With 448 programs, 384 combis, 128 General MIDI programs, and nine drum kits, there are enough thick, juicy sounds to keep your ears busy for days. An added feature, also available on the TRITON-Rack, is the Audition function that lets you automatically trigger a context-based riff when you select a preset. It's great for flipping through sounds till you find the one that fits your particular desires.


Layin' down the tracks
With all these juicy sounds, you'll be happy to know that there's a 200,000-note, 200-song, 16-track sequencer ready to capture your music as it's created. Every bit as powerful as the TRITON and Karma workstations, the interface is simple to use. Just start with a Template Song that fits your song's style, then make some music.


The Cue List function lets you record separate elements such as verse, chorus, and bridge, then assemble them into a complete song. You can use this to create several incarnations of your piece—the AM radio version, the AOR version, and the extended remix/dance version—all from the same basic elements.


Another cool feature is the RPPR (Realtime Pattern Play/Recording) function. This lets you assign a pattern such as a percussion groove to a single key. You can then play it back in realtime or record it as part of your sequence.


Two arpeggiators: no waiting
The TRITON line is renowned for its polyphonic arpeggiators and the TRITON Le is no exception. There are 205 patterns provided out of the box, and 200 of those are editable with room for 16 more that you create. Once you've chosen a pattern, it's a simple matter to include one arpeggiator in your program or two in your combis and sequences. This gives you unprecedented power and flexibility.


Buttons, joysticks, and knobs
One of the big things that I like about the TRITON Le is its high tweakability factor. Four realtime control knobs can be assigned as modulation sources to presets, LFOs, filters, arpeggiators, and more. The TRITON Le also sports two assignable switches, the venerable joystick, plus Audition and Category switches.


Expansive, not expensive
If sampling is in the cards for you, the EXB-SMPL Sampling Upgrade is what you want. It adds two audio inputs with mic/line switching, an input-level trim control, and support for 48kHz/16-bit linear mono or stereo sampling. With the standard 16MB sample memory, you get almost three minutes of mono recording time. You can add more RAM, up to a total of 64MB, giving you well over eleven minutes of mono recording time! Once inside the TRITON Le, samples can be looped, trimmed, normalized, sliced, stretched, and more, giving you all the functionality you'd expect from a pro sampler.


The EXB-SMPL upgrade also includes a SCSI interface, great for storing samples and patch data on high-speed fixed and removable hard drives. You can also load CD-ROM WAVE, AIFF, AKAI samples and mapped multisamples, plus Korg sound libraries, greatly expanding your sound palette.


Save early, save often
You'll find the TRITON Le so enticing and easy to use that it's likely that you'll end up with a bunch of new presets and songs in fairly short order. I'm thrilled that Korg is using SmartMedia? instead of floppy discs. Floppies are starting to go the way of the dinosaur, and SmartMedia technology lets you store nearly 90 floppies worth of data on a card the size of a cracker, with almost no load time.


Back in the box
My time with the TRITON Le was brief, but left me seriously jones-in' for more. Korg has packed way more functionality into this workstation than I expected given its low price, and I know I'll spend more than a few sleepless nights coaxing some of those fresh new sounds out of my own TRITON.


Features & Specs:



  • Hyper Integrated synthesis system
  • 32MB of 48kHz PCM samples (expandable to 64)
  • 62 voices
  • 512 programs/384 combinations
  • 128 General MIDI programs plus 9 drum kits
  • Stereo/mono sampling (16 MB expandable to 64)
  • One Insert, 2 Master effects plus 3-band EQ
  • 89 quality TRITON effects
  • 16-track sequencer
  • 200 songs, 200,000 notes
  • Cue list for chains of sequences
  • RPPR Realtime Pattern Play/Recording
  • Polyphonic dual arpeggiators
  • Realtime controllers
  • Optional sampling/SCSI upgrade