In 1981 I was eleven years old, and oblivious to synthesizers. It wasn’t until my late teens when I discovered them by introduction through a musician friend with rich parents. I saw and touched a Polysix but never played one.
Korg has given us all an opportunity to revisit one of the more impressive analog synth classics with a perfect replication of iPolysix. So put on your acid-washed jeans, your Sunday best tie-dye, poof your hair, and smoke a….mmm… A um…hmmm. Don’t smoke.
iPolysix comes with a full set of options to recreate early 80s analog synth awesomeness, 2 synth units, 16 to 64 step PolySeq sequencers made just for iPolysix, and a six part drum machine. All of which can be fully automated and mixed with the on-board analog Mixer 8. Additionally, 2 sweet Kaoss pads with chordal expression are packed in.
The main thing that set Polysix apart from the other synths of the day is that polyphony was limited mostly to 5 notes. 5 was a big deal back then! Korg just had to one-up everyone with Polysix, and its 6 note polyphony capability-a big achievement at the time. Not only was it the first 6 note polyphony synth, but it had the amazing rich quality analog sounds Korg was known for that put it on top as a worldwide best seller.
Today we see many classic analog synths being emulated, and for the most part quite well. Having this arrive on iPad sounding as excellent as it does is a significant achievement, once again by Korg. The audio quality is outstanding! No noticeable latency whatsoever, and very stable.
The blend of old (Polysix Synth) with the new (Kaoss pads, sequencer, etc) come together smashingly. All in a user interface designed to flow smooth as a lava lamp. It has a retro design quality that puts you back in time surrounded by pro quality virtual analog tools. Some of the graphic design, however pleasant to look at, takes up valuable screen space. This is most noticeable when the Kaoss pads are up, blocking part of the Key Assignment bank. As an added touch of class there is a PDF of the original manual in the help section. A modern one more relevant to iPolysix is also included.
Creating sequences is a breeze. Tap in your notes or beats, up to 64 steps per pattern, per sequencer, and copy and move the patterns around in song mode to bring your mix to life. There’s 6 selectable sequence modes to choose from each with its unique expression. The preset sounds are what you might expect mimicking the sounds from the original. They are great for building off to make your own patches that can be saved for future use. Just forget about sharing patches, but more on that later.
A simple arpeggiator is installed with key latch, speed, and octave selections. Pretty basic, but it will do.
Just about everything can be automated in fine detail. To automate something you just give a long hold on a dial, and a automation control box pops up. Each step can be tweaked independently. The long tap is really not long at all. In fact many times I was slowly fine tuning something and the automation box popped up unwanted.
Each synth has only one FX bank, but is loaded with many amazing sound FX. If you’re just setting up a pattern then using the master FX (which are global) can be used as a second FX unit. Not a great solution if you’re working on a song, but its good for single pattern parts if you really need the additional FX. The option to mix the master FX level per channel is available so it doesn’t have to be in everything.
Recording is just a button tap away, and it will record according to the sequencer and drum input in a pattern or song. If you want to record a single sequence part you can, just solo the part you want from the Mixer 8. Otherwise everything will record together. Solo or mute whatever you need to.
Now this is where I hit a bit of a wall. iPolysix does not record live performances or improvisations played out on the keyboard or Kaoss pads. So if you solo while recording the pattern or song, it will not be part of the recording. WHY? This may make perfect sense to some but it drives me crazy.
Another slight knock is you cannot share patches. If you have multiple devices with iPolysix on them, forget swapping a patch. You will have no choice but to reprogram from scratch. Good luck with that.
Currently there’s no virtual MIDI or background audio. Yeah, really.
You share patterns or songs via AudioCopy, and through the PolyShare to SoundCloud. PolyShare is interesting as it puts your iPolysix mix up on your SoundCloud where other iPolysix users can swap, and collaborate. I’d rather have Dropbox, but ok.
At half off the intended price tag until end of this year, I suppose these issues can be forgiven. However if they are not addressed by the time Korg ups the price, I can’t say that it would be fair.
For now this is a fair deal for a truly amazing-sounding synth of the highest quality. Not to mention all the extras they throw in to make this not just a synth, but a full blown analog work station. No regrets for me. I love iPolysix. Not too shabby for version 1. I just hope Korg will be quick to improve the few no brainer issues in a update soon.
4 stars – Recommended.
The Korg iPolysix app will be %50 off: $14.99 until December 31st.
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