Review of "Korg N1"

published 25/08/2002 | Hmatt
Member since : 25/08/2002
Reviews : 20
Members who trust : 20
About me :
Pro Incredible sound repetoire & sound editing.
Cons Time consuming interface & difficult to transport.
very helpful
Sound Quality
Range of Sounds
Look & Feel
Design/Ease of Use
Instruction Manual

"Korg N1 - not the best buy."

If your prime concern in buying a keyboard is sound quantity and quality - the N1 is an excellent choice (over a thousand voices, with unlimited editing and expandability). The synthesiser allows for amazing control and depth of modification, allowing you to edit the already exhaustive sound bank to suit your tastes. You have full control of every possible parameter you can think of when editing, then are able to layer sounds together to create even weirder effects. When you're done you can even change the names, giving your keyboard a nice personal feel!

The N1 is great for gigging sound wise as it can be easily set up with all the sounds you need, mapped across the keyboard as you want them. You can save all these one per song and have everything lined up neatly to save stress at the venue.

I have heard of some people using it more like an easy to transport (!) piano, rather than a synth, and with the N1's excellent piano sound this would certainly we a viable option. A footpedal is available if you're really serious about the piano aspect. A good example of the N1's wonderful range of sounds is that it has at least 50 piano voices, everything from concert grand to beat-up honkytonk, maybe more. I would give the exact number, but the menu system (discussed below) is so hard to navigate, I really have no idea if I've even found them all yet - after owning my N1 for three years!

The arpeggiator is great, but a little fiddly to hit the exact speeds you want - which makes it less than perfect for gigs. It has a tendency to lose its way and jump past your desired tempo. Although the N1 has no programmed rhythms (it really is a professional instrument, rather than a home keyboard) you can ape these by using the arpeggiator and a drum set.

Last of the good points - it is solid as they come. I would fancy it in a head-to-head with a Chieftan Tank. You simply cannot kill it.

A big drawback with the N1 is the complicated menu system - it takes a long time to get from one place to another and the sound banks follow a strange logic that takes a while to learn. Having used other touch-screen Korgs, I feel that one of these might have been a better buy. To emphasis, searching for the menu you need can be very stressful indeed and the manual is awful. The factory reset, for example, is not detailed in the manual and I had to use the internet to find a person who could tell me what to do! Some users actually recommend hiring someone from a music store to come to your house and help you get to grips with it. This may sound like an expensive waste of time and money, until you yourself are faced with the N1's bizarre set of menus. The $100 for in house help might not seem so stupid then... Korg simply does not do customer support, either.

The size is a problem too - if you have a small car the N1 may simply not fit in. I had this trouble once on the way to a studio - my friend's small second hand Fiesta was simply not big enough to hold it and I had to take a taxi! It is way to heavy to carry about town, think in the 200m range - shifting it about is a real problem unless you have an estate car or van at your disposal.

To mention one thing again - it is a professional instrument. I still keep my (much smaller and cheaper!) Roland E36 at home, and use that for relaxing play. The absence of any styles just to jam to, or to play daft christmas carols with accompaniment makes the N1 feel rather cold - a tool, not a friend. As it does not have a sequencer (or any recording features) of its own, you must use it alongside a computer or four-track to compose any accompanient from scratch - which can be tricker than you might tell yourself. Certainly it is not as easy as just pressing a button for drums, bass and chords. In the N1's favour though - should you hook it up with a computer its power is beyond doubt. I use it with Qbasis on a pretty basic PC and find that this is where its true strength lies. The fantastic number of sounds mean that you can tackle any style from Bossa Nova to 80's Rock and find yourself suitably armed with hundreds of great sounds for every task. The hard to navigate menus can take a while to find your way about, but recording at home this is no problem really. If you are paying for studio time, make sure you have all your bank/tone numbers written out before the clock starts ticking! At home it has on occasion taken me 30 minutes to find the sound I needed, even armed with it's name and a vague idea of where it was located.

If my N1 was destroyed (it would take half the American nuclear arsenal to do it, but imagining it were) and I were faced with replacing it, I would probably opt for one of the slightly more expensive Korg Triton range, as their touch screen menus are beautiful and much better laid out. They have much the same features, and sequencers. When I bought the N1 I choose not to buy a Triton simply because it had a sequencer I wouldn't use (I record onto my computer). To be honest, if I saw a Triton at a price I liked (second hand, perhaps) I would strongly consider trading my N1 in to buy what I now believe to be a stronger keyboard in other ways (chiefly ease of navigation).

Lastly, it is billed as having a "piano" keyboard, but this is not quite true. The size and look is right, but the feel is spongier - more like an organ. If you are thinking about buying one, try and do something practical in the shop to find out if your intuitions are in line with those of the menu layouts! It is easy to fall in love with the incredible sounds and the great numbers of them (and they are legion), see it has the other features you want and buy, without realising how frustrating those other features are to find and use.

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Comments on this review

  • Hmatt published 26/08/2002
    Thanks very much for the encouragement and advice!
  • rishibave published 25/08/2002
    hey nice op-not really a keyboard man myself!
  • Skrzypczak published 25/08/2002
    This is really well written but for a vh you would need a bit more of your experiences with using this. However for your first op this is superbly written and more detailed than other fist opinions so very well done. Chrissy
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Product Information : Korg N1

Manufacturer's product description

Keyboard / Synthesizer

Product Details

Long Name: N1

Type: Keyboard / Synthesizer

Manufacturer: Korg


Listed on Ciao since: 25/08/2002