New Korg modWave Wavetable Synthesizer ‘A Synthesis Powerhouse’

Ahead of the 2021 NAMM Show, Korg has introduced the modWave, a new synth they describe as ‘a synthesis powerhouse’, with distinctive wavetable timbres, Kaoss Physics, and Motion Sequencing 2.0.

Here’s what they have to say about it:

“In 1985, Korg’s DW-8000 combined digital wavetables with rich analog filters to give users sounds which were impossible to create with analog oscillators. It’s still a cult favorite today.

modwave builds on the DW legacy and transforms it into a modern monster synth, featuring incredibly deep wavetable oscillators, gorgeous filters, wildly flexible modulation, unmatched polyphony, comprehensive pattern sequencing, and immediately satisfying hands-on control to deliver unique, powerful, and easily customizable sounds and phrases.

modwave also introduces two unique new tools for creating dynamic motion: Kaoss Physics and Motion Sequencing 2.0. Kaoss Physics combines an x/y Kaoss pad with modulatable game physics to create a responsive, interactive controller that is—besides being powerful— a lot of fun to explore. Motion Sequencing 2.0 brings the organic, continuously evolving patterns of the wavestate’s Wave Sequencing 2.0 into the world of motion sequencing, including multiple lanes and real-time recording to help you create complex and evolving phrases that other step sequeners cannot.

Like Wave Sequencing 2.0 (wavestate) and altered FM (opsix), modwave’s evolved wavetable synthesis delivers its own brand of completely unique sounds and a knob-per-function layout that makes customizing those sounds fast and easy. To start, there are hundreds of preset sounds empowered by this new architecture, organized by front-panel category buttons, and all instantly customizable via the four Modulation Knobs. modwave’s distinctive wavetable timbres start with aggressive basses & leads, and lush ambient pads which will add a new dimension to your tracks.

But that is just the start. Those who want to dig deeper will find an endless source of discovery; you’ll be finding new things in this synth for a long, long time because of the unique synth architecture. Once you have started finding new sounds – save as many as you like; there’s room for thousands more.”

The modwave features a deep synthesis engine.

It features over 200 wavetables, each containing up to 64 waveforms—from thousands of individual waves. You can use the 30+ Modifiers to change their basic character, and the 13 Morph Types to process them in real-time. Create new hybrids from any two wavetables using the realtime A/B Blend, giving you over 230 million wavetable variations out of the box. But you can also load your own custom wavetables in Serum or WaveEdit formats.

Each Program has two full-featured wavetable oscillators, plus a sub oscillator/noise generator and any of a dozen stereo filter types, including the aggressive MS-20, sweet Polysix, and the newly enhanced Multi Filter. You can animate almost any parameter, using the flexible modulation system, with four triggerable envelopes, five LFOs, dual mod processors and two key-track generators–plus multi-lane Motion Sequencing and Kaoss Physics.

Even with all that synthesis power, playing up to four simultaneous wavetables per voice in a single Program, the modwave still offers 32-voice polyphony.

Kaoss Physics

Kaoss Physics models a ball rolling on a surface and/or bouncing off walls. You can start the ball by flicking a finger on the x/y pad, or launch the ball automatically using a trigger source such as Gate + Damper. You can also directly control the ball by holding your finger on the pad.

The position of the ball produces four modulation signals, which can be used to control any modulation destination you like: the X and Y locations, the distance from the center, and the angle relative to the X axis.

There is a bump in the virtual surface, going either down or up, like a valley or a hill. You can set the height or depth of the bump, and choose one of several different shapes for its slopes. The surface has adjustable friction, so that the ball slows down as it travels. There are walls on the four sides of the surface, and when the ball hits a wall, it bounces off. Walls can slow down the ball, as if they were padded, or accelerate the ball, like bumpers in a pinball machine. The walls can also be removed entirely, so that the surface wraps around to the opposite edges like a vintage arcade game.

The modeled environment can create specific modulation effects. For instance, use a centered bump with negative height so that the modulation values always eventually return to 0. Or, position a bump with positive height on a side or a corner, to push modulation values away from that zone

Most parameters, including Tilt, Friction, Time, Bump Height and Position, etc. are modulatable. You can even modulate them from the Kaoss Physics outputs—for instance, try modulating Tilt X with Kaoss Y.

The result is an interactive controller that amplifies your physical gestures, transforming them into complex musical results.

Motion Sequencing 2.0

Motion Sequencing 2.0 is evolved from the wavestate’s Wave Sequencing 2.0. Timing, Pitch, Shape, and four sets of Step Sequence values are separated into “Lanes,” each with their own loop start and loop end, adding a deeper, more customizable level of phrase and modulation recording.

Every time the sequence moves forward, the individual Lanes are combined to create the output. For instance, a step sequence value may be matched with a different duration, pitch, and shape every time that it plays. You can modulate each Lane’s loop points separately for every note, using velocity, LFOs, envelopes, Mod Knobs, or other controllers. Each note in a chord can be playing something different!

Lanes can also randomize the step order every time they play. Finally, individual steps can be randomly skipped, with a modulatable probability from 0 to 100%. The result is organic, ever-changing sounds that respond to your control. The dual onboard arpeggiators can interact with Motion Sequences for even more possibilities.

An arsenal of effects

Each Layer has three dedicated effects, plus a send to the Performance’s master reverb, followed by a master parametric EQ. Along with standards such as compressors, EQs, choruses, flangers, phasers, and stereo delays, you’ll find distinctive processors such as the Wave Shaper, Talking Modulator, Reverse Delay, Multiband Mod Delay, and Overb (from the OASYS and Kronos), plus modeled effects including VOX guitar amps, VOX wah, multi-head tape echo, and a collection of classic guitar pedals.
Randomization that inspires.

Editor/Librarian software

The modwave Editor/Librarian lets you edit and organize sounds via your macOS or Windows computer (including the latest Apple M1-based systems). Using USB networking for high-speed communication, it works like a second front panel for the instrument, so there’s no need to synchronize or transfer data. Animations show the effects of modulation in real-time – a great help when programming.

Set Lists and Smooth Sound Transitions

Set Lists offer effortless organization of your wavestate Performances, and deliver instant access at the gig or in rehearsal. Smooth Sound Transitions allow previously-played voices and effects to continue to ring out naturally, even once a new sound has been selected.

Connections

Balanced stereo outputs connect to any recording or monitoring system, and a stereo headphone output is provided for private playing or onstage cueing. Din-style MIDI jacks ensure connection to other MIDI-equipped instruments and audio gear, and the modwave supports class-compliant USB MIDI connections to Windows and macOS computers.

Audio Demos:

Pricing and Availability

The modWave is priced at €799; availability is TBA. See the Korg site for details.

46 thoughts on “New Korg modWave Wavetable Synthesizer ‘A Synthesis Powerhouse’

  1. Damn……. that sound. I might have to pony up for this one.

    What does “each layer” mentioned in the effects section mean? if it’s multi-timbral I will definitely be buying this.

    1. not at all, you can have 2 layers(programs), each layer is made up of a dual oscillator, each osc consisting of A.B or A/B waveforms or a single sample. There’s also a sub/noise oscillator for each layer

  2. I’ll go ahead and declare Korg the most top-notch synth company of 2021. Not least because of the range and overall depth of their new product releases. They are bolder than other established companies like Roland, Modal or Waldorf. And way, way ahead of Yamaha’s current synth offerings. YMMV of course. 🙂

    1. Hi I’m also pleased to see these innovations, but surely Modal and Waldorf are way smaller and newer companies than Korg. Also they are both trying unusual and great things. I don’t know about this one yet but the opsix and wavestate were mainly based on Kronos/oasys era technology as far as I can tell. Which is fine, but that’s what it is.

    1. Some of us are still waiting for the pro 61-key version of the fantastic KORG WaveState… Unfortunately KORG’s marketing approach is fire & forget. No support nor enhancements one year on…

  3. They had me excited when they mentioned the DW-8000’s filter but it seems this just offers Korg’s usual selection of filter emulations. Still an interesting synth but expecting the price to be above what I could personally justify for this kind of synth.

    1. Unless you are:

      A) not actually a keyboard or piano player
      B) have limited space or funds for full size instruments
      C) already have a large midi keyboard
      D) are happy to use the octave select switch
      E) don’t really care about size one way or the other

      It’s clear that large companies like Korg do market research. People who want large keybeds are not their target for these synths (minilogue xd, wavestate, opsix and now modwave). They’re targeted at bedroom producer types. Which is the vast majority of producers these days. Korg make plenty of other full size instruments for anyone who wants them

      1. Apple does also market research and has found that ports and connections are of zero worth to computer users….following your line of thought, that is.

        1. And their market share increases each year… with you in charge their computers would still have useless optical drives, floppy disks, or perhaps D-sub VCA connectors…

      2. Nope beeeoooottccccchhhh, I got that reverse uno card FOR YOU! It is not a module so I wont buy it, I hate these dumb cheap keybeds…let me save even more room and use my own.

    2. I used to feel this way, but I’ve come to realise that putting two 3-octave keyboards side-by-side and connecting them via MIDI to make one big keyboard is actually way fun!

      1. They did annouce a 61-key version of the wavestate a couple of hours or so ago, so there *is* a chance, we will see something more full-size indeed.

        I’m with ed_anger though – I’d love to see module versions of the modWave!

    1. This is a wavetable synth. Uses samples of single cycle waveforms. The samples used are tiny looping waveforms. You could have literally 1000’s of them in a very small disk space. You’ll be able to scan and morph through waveforms much like you can on Ableton wavetable or Xfer Serum or similar

      Wavestate uses a large library of fully multi-sampled sounds which can then be sequenced and arranged in interesting ways. A single key can playback a long chained sequence of large sample like pianos, strings, Drums, sound effects. You can crossfade between the sounds and add interesting modulations to many of the sample parameters. At the same time wavestate also has a pretty awesome full virtual analogue synth built in which can be layered with the sample engine.

      1. Thanks. I was under the impression that the wavestate was a wavetable synth as well, but I suppose wave-sequencing is somewhat different.

        I’ve just read that the modwave also has PCM samples built in!

  4. I already have a Modal Argon 8x that has a 61 note Fatar keybed with aftertouch, with a nice metal body I bought for about $800. I’m not interested in a Korg toy with a cheap 37 keybed with a cheap plastic body for $800. Maybe at half that price I’d consider it, but even then, I doubt it.

    1. But your Argon is only 8 voice machine vs 32. And engine of ModWave very powerful, support WTs from Serim and WaveEdit.. and many more features..
      In this way, Argon8 is a budget variant of ModWave possibilities.. 61 key not help to Argon8 to do what you can with Korg..

      1. Yes, but a Waldorf Quantum is only 8 voices too, and I’d rather have 8 voices of that than 32 voices of a ModWave. Supporting Serum and WaveEdit wavetables is nice, but good luck importing and manipulating those wavetables with the tiny multi-page screen on the ModWave.

        1. What makes you think Korg would make you import your waves using the screen and not an external app?

          You do realise that the Argon 8 screen is about the same size as the Modwave screen right?

          And that the Argon cannot even load custom user wavetables?

          Even if it could, such an operation would also clearly be done using an external app and not the tiny screen

          What the Modwave lacks in terms of build quality it more than makes up for with features

          What the Argon8 lacks in features it makes up for with nice build and keybed

  5. Wow this is one synth that is very interesting. Lots of love for the DW from people. It looks really good as well. Well done Korg!

  6. As it’s the same form factor, I wanted to add that I just received my Opsix and while it does have a plastic bottom case, the overall feel of the synth is great. Sliders and knobs are very solid, the display is adequate and easy to read. The sequencer is also really fun.

    I have read lost of complaints about the size of the keyboard and lack of aftertouch. For me this isn’t an issue. I have a weighted 88 key piano if I want more than 37 keys and an Xkey if I want to use aftertouch.
    For me it’s the ideal size and weight to take out of the house for jamming once we’re out of COVID and get back to normal activities.

    1. Same. Got a Wavestate a few months back.

      What it lacks in build quality – which isn’t at all terrible – it makes up for in features.

      It’s a ridiculously deep bit of gear

      Also at the time of pre-release Thomann had the Wavestate for €799

      But by the time I picked it up a few months later this had already dropped to €669

  7. When Korg created the Polysix, Katoh-san came in on the final decision. He went up to the list of features on the board, slashed through a few and said “These you get. These you don’t.” He axed the sustain jack, which led to a brief cottage industry in retrofit kits for one.

    Point: no one synth will ever satisfy everyone. I’d like to see this and the Wavestate mashed into a 61-note package, but I’d rather plug my master controller into it and *have* the thing than not. Small is what’s selling best now. I’ll take the compact form & say Thanks for giving me 5x the powers. Besides, no one hates having a built-in Kaoss pad. Shades of the Z1.

  8. I’m not a fan of the Modwave for the reasons I mentioned, but Korg just released the Wavestate SE that is what I was waiting for:

    * 61 note with aftertouch
    * aluminum finish
    * even more sounds added compared to the original Wavestate

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG-lZ2O5DaQ

    I assume there will be a similar expanded version of Modwave and Opsix soon.

  9. Korg doesn’t think that modules or desktops sell nearly as well as keyboards. While that may indeed be statistically true, it’s also the reason that there are no new Korgs in my synth collection. Except for the NTS1. That thing is cool!

    ModWave appears to have a real good sound engine. Guess I could just hacksaw the keys off….

  10. Bottom line is that this looks like a really interesting synth regardless of its limitations.

    It feels to me like its got a combination of new and old ideas that might work very well together and I like the sound of it. I’m hoping the sound editor works as advertised “as a panel”.

Leave a Reply