Korg has announced a brand new synthesizer called the Modwave. Based on the DW-8000 but updating the technology behind Korg’s classic wave-based synth for the 2020s, the Modwave is what Korg calls a “synthesis powerhouse with distinctive wavetable timbres, Kaoss Physics, and Motion Sequencing 2.0.”
Another synth in the style of the Wavestate and Opsix, this is starting to become a bit of a thing! Korg usually suffers from leakage right before they launch something but they’ve kept this one very close to their chests. Modwave brings back the wavetable sounds of the classic 1985 DW-8000 synthesizer bundled up with Korg’s futuristic Motion Sequencing and the unexpected Kaoss Physics engine for some lovely hands-on fun.
The DW-8000 had no knobs at all; you had some buttons and a data slider. We believed in the 1980s that we wanted to interface with machines like we were machines, ordered and sequentially. Thankfully times have changed and the Modwave is covered with knobs, lights and exciting bits and bobs that beg you to play, to explore and discover and make music.
You have 2 wavetable oscillators with controls over Position, Morph, Blending and Level. Each oscillator can load up 2 wavetables and find unique spaces between them. There are 200 wavetables to explore each containing 64 waveforms. You can manipulate them with over 30 modifiers and transform them with 13 different morphing types. If you run out of ideas then you can load up your own wavetables and they might have put in a multi-gigabyte PCM library of sample-based sounds as well – gosh!
The filter section needs special attention. There are over a dozen stereo analogue filter types including the filter from the MS-20, Polysix and a new Multi-Filter. Modwave has 4 envelopes and 5 LFOs, dual mod processors and a two key-track generators with a multi-lane Motion Sequencer.
Did you notice the trackpad at the top left? This is essentially a Kaoss Pad for mad bits of modulation and performance which they are calling Kaoss Physics. It uses the concept of a bouncing ball to give modulations gravity and inertia to play with, friction and feedback to navigate. Pretty much everything can be tied into the XY pad.
Korg’s Motion Sequencer is alarmingly good as demonstrated in the Wavestate and Opsix. In this evolution we get “Lanes” for Timing, Pitch, Shape and four other step sequence values each with their own start and end points for some seriously customisable modulation recording. It’s like per-step modulation but with boosters on while setting off fireworks at a party.
So, to summarise, if I can from my first impressions. Modwave stuffs a load of 80s wavetables into a morphable engine with knobs for everything and every kind of filter. It has too many envelopes and LFOs too much motion for every step and far too many sampled sounds to run behind too many layers of too much manipulation. It has physics and arpeggiation, too many effects and more possibilities under the Dice button of randomisation than you’ll ever need. It’s a ridiculous synthesizer and we should all ignore it.