Review: Korg Kronos 2 Workstation Synth

A keyboard synth workstation that will evolve? Does the Korg Kronos 2 represent a large paradigm shift in the evolution of keyboard instrument development? Matt Vanacoro finds out in our review.  

The new Korg Kronos keyboard workstation is an important keyboard. Not because it’s the latest offering from a company that has helped define the direction of modern keyboard instrument design, but because it represents a large paradigm shift in the evolution of keyboard instrument development. I picked up the latest offering from Korg, and here’s what I found:

Evolution Is In

Perhaps the most interesting part of the latest Kronos is what it represents, and that is a continual evolution in Korg’s flagship line of workstations. There are a few hardware upgrades, and they are quite welcome. Many features, however, are software based and they are ported over to the previous 2 incarnations of the Kronos. This is fairly ground breaking, and it makes owning a Kronos a bit more akin to owning a newer consumer electronics device like an iPhone or a tablet.

This is a good thing for us, the end users. In the past, you really didn’t have much of a sense of what kind of updates you would get on your keyboard, and adding new features was somewhat reserved for folks who would purchase expensive ROM boards or expanded sound libraries. Korg’s new approach to the modern keyboard is refreshing. You know that if you invest in the Kronos line, you will continue to get updates and new sounds for years to come. 

Ok, So What’s New About the Hardware?

Korg Krono 2.

Korg Krono 2.

The top of the keyboard casing is now made out of a sturdy steel material, and the printing on the knobs, IO jacks, and buttons is considerably easier to read. There is a steel mesh installed at the rear of the keyboard which I have to assume is for ventilation. The reason I came to that assumption is because the fan noise has been reduced considerably. The keyboard is now near-silent, and that’s a welcome upgrade for me as it’s something that truly annoyed me about my 1st generation Kronos. There are also new wooden end caps which give it a bit of a classy retro feel.

If you are upgrading from an original Kronos, you’ll enjoy some of the features that were added to the Kronos X as well, (the previous generation). Doubled ram capacity to about 2gb as well as an upgraded SSD hard drive for sample data that clocks in at 62gb in size. These were not available on my first generation Kronos, and I never owned the Kronos X so it was a welcome update for me!

When purchasing a new Kronos, you also get the fantastic Berlin Grand piano library. The old Kronos keyboards will run this library, but it must be separately purchased. It’s hands down my favorite piano. 

Korg Kronos 2 close up.

OS 3

The newest Korg Kronos operating system, now in version 3, brought in a huge amount of functionality and sounds. Some of my favorites include the following:

  • The SGX piano engine was upgraded to version 2 (now with string resonance for all piano sounds!) and it sounds fantastic. 
  • Swiping and dragging is now supported across the user interface making sound tweaking much more convenient. 
  • A ‘quick search’ function was added to the sound browser, allowing you to find sounds in your library within seconds. 
  • You can now edit a program within a combination without abandoning your combination edits (this was huge for me!). 
  • Setlist mode (my favorite feature) was overhauled and you now can color code your patches. In addition, you can also control the size of the text notes for each patch and have easy-to-read notes span the top of the screen in setlist mode.
  • A huge library of new sounds have been added specifically drawn from popular keyboard based tunes. No more kidding around finding a ‘who-like’ synth sound - there’s one specifically designed for Baba O’ Riley and more.

Conclusion

Now is a great time to get into the Kronos keyboard environment. It’s an incredibly good feeling to know that your keyboard investment will continue to evolve and gain new features - you won’t be ‘pushed’ into having to buy a new one quite so fast. For me, the hardware upgrades between the 1st generation Kronos and this one were enough to warrant an upgrade; but whether you’re considering an upgrade or thinking about getting a Kronos for the first time, there’s no time like the present. Hats off to Korg for trying to steer the industry in this direction. It gives keyboard players more return on a significant investment.

Price: $2999 / $3399 / $3699 for the 61, 73, and 88 key models respectively

Pros: Significantly reduced fan noise, increased build quality, easy to read text, OS updates which add new features to previous generation keyboards make you feel secure in your investment, upgraded piano engine, updated setlist mode.

Cons: Some people may be turned off by this new paradigm of incremental yearly updates rather than an entirely new system every few years. Personally, I find it incredibly refreshing and I hope it works out for them.

Website: http://www.korg.com/us/products/synthesizers/kronos2

Matt Vanacoro is one of New York’s premier musicans. Matt has collaborated as a keyboardist in studio and on stage with artists such as Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Mark Wood (Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Mark Rivera (Billy Joel Band), Aaron Carter, Amy Regan, Jay Azzolina, Marcus Ratzenboeck (Tantric), KeKe Palmer, C-Note, Jordan Knig... Read More

Discussion

Strumzilla
Great timing on your review! (at least for me). I ordered the Kronos in April and it's just now shipping. I should get it today. This is my first big synth workstation and I'm stoked to dive in. I'm sure I have years of exploration ahead of me. Seeing the different pros put this unit through its paces is what ultimately sold me. I wanted one sort of central workstation that could handle all my keyboard playing and composing needs and this looks like it will easily fill that role.
ahutnick
This keyboard is a deep instrument. MacPro video or someone should do an in-depth tutorial on the Kronos. One other con is the Kronos editor is in need of an update as it does not work properly with Kronos 2 or any Kronos that has OS 3.0 onboard. Also the distortion effect could use some improvement.
Nyebodnye
I bought one of these recently and I am totally overwhelmed. I am used to turn on and play..
This takes a minute to boot. I touched a slider and had to reboot to get it back to normal.
This is a beast for anyone not used to these kinds of keyboards.
There is a quick start reference guide - useless.
You have to read the full guide or you will be out of your depth very quickly unless you had a previous version, This is not something the rich idiot wants to play with.

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