Korg's PA3X Arranger stuffs everything in one board
(ShackMan | Posted 2011-02-03)
It's the keyboard for the Renaissance Man of music. The PA3X does everything you could ever possibly want it to and then some. Arranger keyboards combine a performance keyboard's live sounds and samples with the compositional and sequential possibilities of a workstation, and Korg's latest has some other prizes to boot. It's the new flagship of Korg's PA line of boards, and it owns the title with a dual playback sequencer for non-stop performances, extra articulation for recreating convincing instrumental performances, and a number of ready-to-use Styles, allowing any song to be played with a full arrangement on the fly, with no pre-programming required. Overall, the PA3X is largely geared toward the live performer, and it comes in a lightweight 61-key or an enhanced 76-key version, offering a semi-weighted action and a motorized tilting display. Both of these keyboards feature aftertouch.
There are already over 1,100 sounds loaded onto the PA3X out of the box, all powered by Korg's Extended Definition Synthesis (EDS) engine, including a new stereo grand piano with string resonance and damper realism, as well as plenty of vintage and modern electric pianos borrowed from Korg's wildly popular SV-1 Stage Vintage Piano. Korg also redid its own library of wind instruments, basses, and guitars for the new soundset. Digital drawbars bring in a touch of organ realism with leakage and key on/off noises. Korg is also touting over 100 Real Ambience drumkits which can be easily edited through the new interface. Last but not least, Korg fixed some prior compatibility issues with a new and updated General MIDI library and software system.
To add to these sounds, Korg again borrows many effects from the SV-1 Stage Vintage Piano library on top of the over 100 effects already on the PA3X. Korg doesn't stop there, either. Each PA3X comes standard with the Waves Audio MaxxAudio suite of effects. Also included onboard is TC Helicon Vocal Processing power in the form of their VoiceLive technology. Singers can plug in their microphones to the piano and find improved pitch correction, four realistic vocal harmonies and doublers that can be controlled not only with the keyboard, but also through MIDI and Mp3 playback. This is accomplished through new Auto Chord Detection functionality, which can automatically extract chord info from an audio file and send it to the vocal processor. Brand new Vocal Remover technology just keeps getting better and better at cutting out vocals for using Mp3's as backing tracks or for karaoke.
Speaking of karaoke (although that isn't the only use for this), the onboard Dual XDS Sequence Player now supports the "+G" format for both MIDI and Mp3 files. These are enhanced files that allow you to display lyrics and graphics that can be sent to the on-board display or to an external monitor. In the same way, MIDI files can be displayed on-screen as scores, which also allows for markers to be placed and for the user to make direct jumps in the music. These songs can all be sped up or slowed down as well as transposed at will. You can even crossfade between one song and another with motorized DJ-Style controls. Load one song while another one plays.
You don't always need your own backing tracks though, because the PA3X comes with over 400 of its own styles pre-loaded. Each one has four different variations and a fill in and break pattern for each variation to boot.Several new sophisticated parameters have been added with the addition of Guitar Mode 2, making the guitar tracks of every Style a richer and more authentic sound.
Last but not least, Korg made some steps toward more complete control of articulation with its latest version of DNC (Defined Nuance Control). You may already be familiar with the joystick, but now Korg has added assignable switches as well as a ribbon to the flavors of tone-twisting that are available, all to get closer and closer to the real thing.
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College. He will be spending the Fall and Winter months working on playwright Frank Gagliano's Voodoo Trilogy and Bodoni County Songbook.
Got questions? Comments? James can be reached as ShackMan in the Music Gear Review forums, or you may e-mail him at James.Rushin@MusicGearReview.com.