Here at iSmashPhone we love geeky things. Analog synthesizers? Oh yeah! We love those for sure. That’s why we just had to check out the Monotron. It’s Korg’s sub-$100 analog synth. It’s toy-like, but it’s awesome for the synth geek. We got our hands on one (courtesy of the folks at Korg) and gave it a spin.
What can I say? It’s freakin’ cute. It has a slight vintage look to it. It’s slightly larger than the average smartphone, but twice the thickness. It has a volume control, a three-way switch, five knobs and a small keyboard. The top-right corner houses a small speaker. Let’s quickly go over each part of the synth:
This is the power switch. According to Korg, this is a true analog synth, so after powering on, you must wait about 30 seconds for the device to warm up. The true analog circuits of the device mean that the sound is not always consistent and that it partly depends on the outside temperature. The switch has three positions: Standby (which is to power it off), Pitch and Cutoff. Those are so that the user can choose what the LFO will modulate.
This adjust the pitch. It’s a small knob that can be used in real time and is similar to using a pitch wheel or adjusting the octave on your synth.
This includes to knobs: Rate and Intensity. Rate controls how fast the low-frequency oscillator oscillates, and Intensity sets how much it modulates the destination.
This is the voltage-controlled filter. Simply put, it’s the synth’s filter section. It consists of the now famous MS-20 filter. This section has two knobs. The Cutoff, which adjusts the cutoff frequency, and Peak, which is basically your resonance knob.
It’s a $60 synth, so you won’t be creating screaming dance leads. However, it does make some cool toy-type sounds. Playing with the LFO rate modulating the pitch can dialup some cool toy laser gun-like sounds. It’s a lot of fun to turn knobs and see what you can come up with. It may be a bit difficult to play because the keys are very small, but it’s still a very fun synth and can be taken anywhere you go. I enjoy carrying mine around in my laptop bag just for when I feel like messing around with it.
It’s Also a Filter
If you have a 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch jack, you can plug an instrument or synth to the Monotron to run it through the MS-20 filter. It’s a very cool feature. It’s a nice little vintage filter for your instruments.
Basic Sound Design
A user may not learn as much from this as they would from a fully-featured synth. Then again, they won’t find a fully-featured hardware synth for $60. The Monotron also serves as a bit of a learning tool. It doesn’t have all the knobs and options you will find on a professional synth. However, it will teach you the basics of LFOs and filters. That’s pretty cool in itself.
If you are a synth geek, we definitely recommend the Monotron. It’s only $60, that’s the price of a new Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 game. It may not go in your studio, but it’s definitely a very cool toy and you probably won’t mind carrying it around in your pocket or bag when you go out.