Korg Modwave vs Korg Wavestate

In the last couple of years, Korg has introduced two ‘wave’ synthesizers in the same compact format, the Modwave and the Wavestate. Because they have similar form factors and names, there’s been some confusion between the two synths, how they overlap and how they are different.

In this video, Belgian synthesist Thomas Van Beeck (Thevon) offers a head-to-head comparison between the Korg Modwave & Wavestate synths, highlighting the main differences in their interfaces and capabilities.

16 thoughts on “Korg Modwave vs Korg Wavestate

  1. As I understand the technology, these are not two wavetable synthesizers. The ModWave is a wavetable device. The WaveState is a wave sequencing device. Although they are capable of making some similar sounds, they go about it in different ways.

    1. Atomic – I see wave sequencing as an evolution of basic wavetable synthesis.

      Early wavetable synths were only able to handle single-cycle waveforms because of limitations of the technology. With the Wavestation, Korg expanded that so that they could sequenced and cross-fade between longer samples.

      Seems like an evolution of the same technology to me. Are there fundamental differences that I’m missing?

      1. I think mainly a wavetable (in the PPG/serum type of “table of waves” sense) synth you can modulate the position using various sources and a wave cycle is read from that position.
        The wave sequencing concept is a bit more rigid there – you just have a playlist of waves. On the Wavestate you can modulate the sequence start, end, and loop points for each type of data individually – that is sample selection, timing (rhythm), pitch, a modulation lane, etc.

        On some patches on the Wavestate the timing lane has a step set to “gate” which means it just holds a step until the key is released. Then a knob is routed to the sample lane start position to effectively provide a one-knob “menu” of various bass or pad sounds. Another patch uses velocity to modulate the start position to select between several velocity layers of a piano multisample.
        Then many other patches might use the knobs expand the timing lane to include more elaborate steps and make a more complex and interesting rhythm on demand. The sequences can play out per-note or be synced globally.

        Wavestate (and Wavestation) does excel at those “one finger” rhythm and evolving pad sounds that it is known for. I don’t think you could get anywhere near that on a typical wavetable synth. For me wave sequencing is a way of making interested sound design with a ROMpler/sampler. The Wavestate does come with some fantastic sample content – and these are multisamples, mapped across the keyboard, not just a single sample that is stretched.

        1. Systems like Music V supported wavetable oscillators back in the 60s. They could synthesize complex waveforms from samples.

          The classic wavetable synths took a hybrid approach, because a real analog filter sweep sounds
          a lot more interesting than scanning a table of static samples that simulate a filter sweep. If you look at all those old wavetable synths and early samplers, the ones that are still desirable use analog filters.

    2. Rod – thanks for the feedback!

      Like DMW suggested, the Wavestate is an evolution of the Wavestation, which is an evolution of the Prophet VS, which was based on cross-fading between four wavetable oscillators. So I see its capabilities as a superset of wavetable synthesis.

      The Wavestate features single-cycle waveform samples in its factory library and sequences between single-cycle waveforms, which to my mind supports the idea that its oscillator capabilities are a superset of wavetable oscillators. Loopop demonstrates basic single-cycle wavetable synthesis on the Wavestate in his review.

      I think there’s some fuzziness around the term ‘wavetable’. My understanding is that it originally referred to the lookup table of sampled values for reconstructing a single cycle waveform, thus ‘wave table’.

      But the term has also been used to refer to a table of multiple waveforms, arranged in musically useful ways, So many think of a ‘wavetable synth’ as one that lets you modulate across a table of waveforms.

      Others may have different ideas of what defines a ‘wavetable’ synth because of marketing, etc, so I updated the post to eliminate the term.

      I’d be very interested in others’ perspectives on this, though, and people’s thoughts on what defines ‘wavetable synthesis’.

  2. theoretically the wavestate can run a sequence at near-audio rates (100x a tempo of 300bpm, for example), which would approximate a wavetable

    but yeh its not the same thing exactly

  3. All I’ve heard from the Wavestate is sounds that change/evolve when you hold down a key. I don’t like that and would have no use for that.

        1. The whole point of synthesizers is to give the use control over how a sound changes over time.

          If you’re not taking advantage of that power to do something musical, you’re just using synths as a novelty to make funny noises.

          1. 99% of the synth parts/sounds played on songs over the last 50 years do not change over time as they are played (I’m not co counting using the mod wheels/stick). The Wavestate’s ability to change/evolve the sound as you hold down a key, as I’ve seen in countless YouTube demos, does not interest me in any way.

            1. Most synths have envelopes, and many have arpeggiators, and this is an extension of that. But I know what you mean. I also prefer to control a synth directly with a keyboard and/or with real time controllers, than to just hold down a key for a while and see what happens.

              I used a wavestation many years ago, and recently downloaded the free trial of the wavestation VST and enjoyed playing those classic sounds again. It is fun to play, and quickly sounds pretty good. But I feel a bit lazy, like I’m mostly just pressing presets and holding down keys, not using many live skills. Maybe the wavestate can be more interactive?

        2. All real-world sounds change over the course of a note. All interesting synth sounds change over time.

          What would you want a completely static sound? “Static” is usually a negative term when applied to a synth sound!

  4. Simply – a wavetable is a group of slots (eg. 16,32,64,128…), with each slot containing a single-cycle wave eg. sine, saw, square… complex). Depending of the hardware (or software design), each single-cycle in the slots of a table have a pre-defined resolution of bit-depth and lemgth eg. 8-bit (PPPG)… 16bits AND step-length of each cycle eg. 32,64,128… 2048)

    Various modulation sources within the architecture drive the wavetable oscillator scan-rate of each slot (pitch) and table slot position ondex (0~nslots) = tonal variation.

    The wt oacillator output then can be further processed by filtering, effects, amplitude etc.

    The Korg ModWave doesn’t have wavetable oscillators but has a palette of multiple source waveforms to choose from, the applies various shaping and warping of those waves to achieve tonal variation.

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