Looking back, I’m not really sure what led me to buy a synthesizer. You know. What made me want to pay more for a keyboard than I’d ever paid for a guitar? Maybe it was just my desire to make music that was a little different than all the hair bands my musician friends and relatives were playing in. I just couldn’t see how I could do what I wanted to do without keyboards.
Not that the M1 was perfect. Far from it. For all of the advances that it represented, it was clearly a synthesizer and a product of its time. What that meant was that it did a lot of things very well, but it still had its limitations. You wouldn’t be faking an orchestra convincingly any time soon.
Still, there’s a reason the M1 wound up in the hallowed halls of the classic instrument pantheon. I remember the first time I encountered an Cirque du Soleil performance on HBO. Many of the musical passages were clearly being played on a Korg M1. Any M1 owner would instantly recognize some of those sounds.
For my own part, I loved my M1. The world has clearly moved on. There are much better synthesizers and samplers available today (GigaStudio largely replaces what I wanted an M1 for in the first place). But I never lost my affection for some of the M1 sounds.
I’d always intended through the years to buy another M1, if for no other reason than to nail down a couple of my old songs. I could never re-record Proteus or Grandview without an M1, because the sounds those songs are based on come directly from the Korg M1.
What I decided was that I’d buy an old M1 off of eBay and use it as a controller to play software-based synthesizers and samplers (such as GigaStudio). But honestly, because the M1 is such a legendary synthesizer, everyone who sells one on eBay seems to think they’ve un-earthed part of an Egyptian Pharoah’s riches and the world will pay accordingly. Maybe people pay those prices. I don’t know. I just knew that I wasn’t willing to.
Then along came the next best thing.
I’d sort of heard of the Korg Legacy Digital Collection, but it had apparently never filtered through into my consciousness. I don’t know what made it seep through, but when it did I was excited. I could buy a software version of the Korg M1? Cool! Well, cool enough, anyway. The next best thing and all that (a recurring theme for me).
When I really started looking at the software M1, I discovered that not only had they replicated the M1 as a software-based synthesizer, but that it came a full library of sounds. Korg didn’t just add a few sounds to pad the package. They included every expansion sound card that was produced for the M1. Twenty-two cards altogether, plus another six cards of Korg T1 sounds, each with a couple of hundred sounds on it. You do the math.
To sweeten the deal, they included in this package a software version of the Korg Wavestation, with its own collection of eleven ROM banks and seven expansion cards. Hell, I was impressed enough with just the M1. And they offered all this for just $150. Can you imagine what it would have cost to buy even a used Korg M1, a Wavestation, and all the expansion cards for each synthesizer?
Needless to say, I bought the Legacy Digital Collection.
I’ve been really impressed by these software versions. I’ve read where people have talked about how the hardware limitations of the M1’s ancient digital to analog converters have been bypassed since this is computer-based now, resulting in a better sound. I agree with it. I can’t put my finger on it, but the sounds are much richer than I remembered them being. Effects are more open and spacious. And the software version kicks ass just like the hardware synth did.
I’m excited about having a Korg M1 in the arsenal again. And if anyone has qualms about the idea of using a software-based synthesizer, I’d say get your head out of the sand. After all, a hardware based synthesizer is still just a computer attached to a keyboard, right?
“The Korg M1 was the world’s first
widely known music workstation.”