Here’s the full data dump on Korg’s opsix FM synthesizer that attempts to present FM in a groovy and accessible way. Has it succeeded?
This is the end result of that curious synth we saw behind glass at NAMM back in January. Remodelled to fit the form factor of their Wavestate synthesizer the opsix hopes to be the FM synthesizer that we can all understand and enjoy playing with.
First of all, wow, what an interesting design. I mean there are the usual array of knobs and sliders but I really like the way the front panel flows into the keyboard and that strange colour is somehow reminiscent of the Korg MS2000. FM is commonly associated with the colour green because of the usage in the Yamaha DX range that first brought FM upon us, so that’s probably a nod to that.
It’s our experience with FM in synths like the DX7 that makes it feel very complex. It doesn’t have to be and Korg are hoping this synth will open it up to new ideas and new adventurers. The complexity comes in the number of variables you have to play with but ultimately you’re dealing with oscillators and modulators so there’s nothing to be scared of.
The opsix is a six-operator FM synthesizer that lets you mix operators with ease and reimagines the building blocks behind the synthesis. It has a diversity of waveforms and operator modes that goes beyond the traditional form of FM. It has a filter with 11 models, that brings in a familiar feel and vibe and the whole package has a way of calming down the complexity in order to find intuitive avenues of sonic exploration.
The controls are quite innovative. The 6 knobs representing the operators change colour depending on if they are a carrier or a modulator so you can instantly see the relationship between them. This is also reflected in the siders where you can mix the levels of each operator like drawbars on an organ.
That all sounds like too much fun and creative exploration, this is FM dammit, where are the pages of complex value assignment? Korg has wrapped the deeper details into a combination of screen display and 6 data knobs keeping it on the surface as much as possible while giving full access to every parameter.
Multiple operator modes
Korg is pushing the boundaries with 5 different operator modes FM, ring modulation, filter, filter FM and wavefolder. You then have a wide selection of 21 waveforms to choose from and 40 preset algorithms. How does Korg manage to make it simpler while expanding the tonal palette and making the whole thing bigger and more interesting?
For modulation you have 3 envelopes, 3 LFOs with 23 waveforms and 12 virtual patches for complex routing and finding pathways of movement. And then at the end of the chain you a rack of 30 effects to give everything from polish to destruction.
And there’s more like the polyphonic sequencer and motion recorder from the Minilogue XD, the Randomise button for instant patch satisfaction (or disaster), a spectrum analyser and oscilloscope and smooth sound transitions.
Opsix for the win?
Many people will no doubt be disappointed by the fact it’s not a huge, wide DX7 sized synthesizer like the one we saw at NAMM. I imagine this compact machine will fit into many more creative spaces than a chunky full-sized instrument. At €799 it makes it a bit more expensive than the Wavestate but still great value for such a deep and interesting synthesizer. Check out the videos below for some different takes on the opsix.
Demo video with Korg opsix patches for Ambient and Techno