Korg Dreamlog: What is it?
First announced in January 2021, Drumlogue is – now eagerly awaited – a percussion-focused addition to Korg’s popular Minilogue, Minilogue XD and Monologue.
On paper, there is definitely a lot that sounds exciting about Drumlogue. This is a hybrid drum machine that combines an analog percussion synth, a multitrack sample engine and a “Multi-Engine”, an open source digital oscillator that can be retrofitted with custom effects and synthesizers. Now that we finally have our hands on it, does it live up to the hype?
We were a little surprised at how small it was in the body. While none of the other tools in the range are huge, per se, they are all substantial, with a good selection of controls spread across wide interfaces. Previous images have hinted at a relationship with the volume of the monologue, but it’s actually teasing out “minor synth” territory.
While some will undoubtedly appreciate how small it is, we’re not sure being the smallest in the range serves Drumlogue any preferences. In fact – and let’s get this out of the way early – we’re not huge fans of hardware in general. This small size means that a lot of the features are hidden behind multi-page menus and shift presses – and some of them are implemented a little clumsily. Added to this is the choice of a mostly black design, written in small white and gray font — the latter used for shift functions that become almost unreadable in anything other than bright, direct light. The buttons work better, being backlit, and the bright screen is a huge help.
It works much better in terms of connectivity. Along the back panel, we get six individual addressable outputs as well as a headphone output. It is accompanied by an audio input, analog synchronous input and output, MIDI in and out, and two USB ports – one for connecting to a DAW, and a second for connecting a USB MIDI device.
Korg Dreamlog: Performance and Judgment
Control-wise, the basic sound shaping parameters use the same rotors as in the Mini/Monologues, which are solid and big, but volume levels and tempo control are relegated to Volca-style controls. A row of buttons along the unit’s bottom edge serve as audio triggers and progressive sequencer controls, but they’re shallow and slick, and lack the satisfying heft of sequencers on competing machines like the Roland, Arturia, or Behringer.
It’s worth getting those criticisms out early because beyond these concerns, there’s a lot to love about Drumlogue. First, the versatility of the sound—scanning through the stock software (presets that combine a drum kit with a preset pattern) quickly becomes apparent just how many patterns Drumlogue can turn its hand on. These programs solidly approximate everything from Drexciya-style electrical design to moody big-room tech, skippy UK garage, chilled-out lo-fi, 90s IDM and more.
It is also considered…
• Electron Syntect
(Opens in a new tab)The Syntakt’s digital and analog synthesis capabilities are more diverse, though it does land at a higher price point.
• Roland TR-8S
Roland’s drum machine similarly mixes samples and synthesis, albeit with a virtual analog instead of the real thing. The larger size is better for hands-on performance tasks.
• Regeneration circuit tracks
More comprehensive when it comes to digital tuning, but a bit lighter on the drum side, Circuit Tracks is nonetheless an all-around great box.
The key to this versatility is the balance between analog and digital audio sources. The analog section consists of bass, snare, low and high thumps. Each has a very small set of controls on the front panel (the editions share one set), consisting of detune and tuning, plus a third parameter that differs between each – drive for bass drum, ‘snap’ fade for snare, and detune for Toms.
The full range of sound shaping available is much deeper than that, with a range of settings available via controls at the bottom of the Drumlogue screen. Using these can, for example, shape the pitch sweep of a bass drum, apply bi-directional resonance filters and increase the attack punch of each sound. These analog generators actually use a hybrid approach to sound creation, allowing users to embed a sampled attack sound over the top of the main analog body, which can do a lot to change the character of each drum sound and add extra punch.
Meanwhile, the digital section consists of the open and closed caps, frame rim, claps, and two generic sample holes. Again, front-panel control is minimal—just the decay length of hats and claps, and the sharing of attack, decay, and tuning controls for sample paths—but as with the analog stuff, there’s a lot to tweak under the hood. This includes defining the source model, tuning tuning, controlling attack or launch times (depending on the selected path) and filtering. Users can also apply drive effects and bit cracking to sampled sounds.
The ultimate sound creation component is Multi-Engine, which has three modes. The first is VPM – Variable Phase Modulation – Motor. VPM falls into an audio playing field similar to FM synthesis or phase distortion. Here, it’s deployed by a set of seven presets, each of which can be tweaked using controls to adjust the amount and ratio of phase modulation, as well as by changing the amp’s shell and filter pieces.
The second mode here is a noise generator, with seven types of filtered noises available, as well as controls to adjust filter reverb and echo, as well as attack and fire.
The third Multi-Engine mode is User mode, which can host audio generators built using the open source SDK. By default, the Drumlogue ships with Synvibes Nano Synth in this slot, a dual oscillator digital synthesizer that’s especially great for making rhythmic beats and fiery percussion.
Drumlogue also has three digital effect slots, which include a delay and reverb send, each with presets and control over timing and character, along with a main effect section. The tool comes with four main effects – compressor, filter, boost/saturation and 3-band EQ.
However, as with Multi-Engine, the selection of master effects can be augmented with effects created with the open SDK. This opens up some tantalizing possibilities for bypassing the somewhat traditional remit of the four stock effects. Drumlogue allows users to route individual tracks to override the main effect, as well as apply any of them as side inputs, providing plenty of potential for wild and percussive effect treatments.
Drumlogue’s sequencing workflow is also fluid, although again a lot of it is hidden inside the menus. Sequences can be up to 64 steps long, with a variety of timing settings including the ability to set the sequencer to run in treble rhythm. For swing and groove, Drumlogue uses generic groove templates rather than individual swing modulus.
These templates include a typical eight- and 16-note swing, as well as others based on typical conga, tambourine and gogo grooves, bailey funk, syncopated rhythms and more. Each template applies both speed and timing, and the focus can be scaled in positive or negative directions. You can also apply different grooves to each sequencer track, as well as set individual step lengths for each sequencer track—though doing so requires multiple button presses offsets and isn’t very well named.
Each step of the sequencer can be set to trigger a probability and—in Elektron-like fashion—each can be set to trigger only on certain alternate iterations of the sequence. Drumlogue also provides an extensive instrumental sequence, called a motion sequence here as it is in other Korg instruments, although unlike its counterparts, Drumlogue is not limited to a set number of automation tracks, providing full automation of each sound parameter. This is especially useful for sequencing multi-engine synths or down-tempo samples, allowing Drumlogue to sequence melodic patterns and bass parts.
It’s a shame, however, that the synthesizer engine can’t be played chromatically, either from the front panel or an external controller—which is unusual, given the inclusion of a secondary USB port that seems designed specifically for a MIDI keyboard.
After the loop stage, Drumlogue has an extensive chain function that allows users to chain up to 16 programs end-to-end, allowing for automatic switching of both styles and drum kits. There is also a fun loop function, which allows users to repeat the steps of a chosen sequencer, allowing blurring and morphing to be created.
There’s plenty of variety then, though the workflow stuff, as mentioned, remains heavy. The high tom is a prime example – it shares front panel controls with the low tom, which means users need to keep changing to make adjustments. However, since the steps of the sequencer are functionally multiplied by tapping themselves, if you don’t remember to let go of the shift before the audio test, you’ll accidentally trigger the secondary function of Tom’s low step – which clears the current track. This makes it very easy to accidentally delete an element from your current sequence while trying to tune in to Tom’s voice.
The mute function is a bit annoying as well, as it requires users to hold down “mute” while selecting tracks, making it difficult to mute/unmute multiple tracks at once. There is no single function either, which limits functionality when it comes to jamming on stage or in the studio.
We think it’s unlikely that any of these flaws will stand in the way of the Drumlogue becoming a popular drum machine. There’s a lot to like here in terms of versatility and functionality, especially given the price point, but the hardware prevents it from being an unequivocal success.
MusicRadar Verdict: A flexible, powerful drum machine that has a lot to offer for the price, only to be held back a bit by some tricky design choices.
Korg Dreamlog: The Web Says
“The Korg drumlogue is truly a well-thought-out drum machine and synthesizer that’s versatile and can quite stand up to some of its pricier competitors.”
Jernews (Opens in a new tab)
Korg Drumlogue: Practical Demos
Korg Dreamlog: specifications
- Key Features: An 11-track drum machine with four analog channels, six digital sampler channels and a customizable “multi-engine”. It also features an audio input, three effects slots (delay, reverb, and master effects), a 64-step sequencer with full parameter automation.
- call: Korg (Opens in a new tab)