Sunday, 18 March 2012

Monotron Delay review

The Monotron Delay
Desperate for something to satisfy my gadget fix, I’ve been ranting and raving about the Korg Monotron to my nearest and dearest as something that she could buy me for my birthday. After dropping enough hints to sink the Titanic, she went and bought me a Monotron Delay, which I have had a chance to play with and thought I would review.

The original Monotron came out a couple of years ago and was famous for being an analogue synthesizer in a pocket-sized format, with a slide keyboard taken from the Kaosillator. Sporting a monophonic oscillator, solid filter and adjustable LFO, the Monotron is very flexible and fun to use but after a year or so was begging for an upgrade. The Delay is one of two recently released updates to the Monotron, along with the Duo (a dual wave version of the monotron with better keyboard support).

The Delay comes with a one wave oscillator, an LFO with rate and intensity control, two LFO shapes (triangle and square), an adjustable cutoff filter and a delay effect with adjustable time and feedback. The LFO rate knob is see-through and has an LED light that pulses in time to the rate of the LFO, which helps give an idea of the speed. All knobs turn fairly easily and have plenty of space between them to allow lots of hassle-free tweaking. The unit comes with a built in speaker, but for best results it’s better to plug in some external speakers or headphones into the 3.5mm jack, which also has an input jack next to it for chaining effects through the unit. It’s powered by two AAA batteries, making the unit very portable and light and can fit in a pocket as it’s only slightly larger than an iPhone.

The finger keyboard covers about six octaves and is a slide keyboard, meaning that it’s going to be hard to actually play notes on but is perfect for sweeps and effects while tweaking the five knobs in unison. The oscillator has an instant release, meaning that it only plays when you are touching the keyboard and instantly turns off when you take your finger off, making this kind of like a modern Stylophone.

The delay effect can function to give reverb and delay effects to the sound you’re making, complete with authentic pitch/speed changes when changing the delay time. The feedback on the delay is fairly strong, making ear-shattering feedback effects at only 50% intensity. It excels in making videogame-like zaps and blips, as well as combining the LFO to turn it into a great dub siren effect. You can even coax a very basic PWM effect out of the delay envelope at low settings.

If you plug an external audio source into the line in, you can use the delay effect and the filter on the source and I have had great fun plugging my iPod into the Delay and having a play – it seems to work great with classical music, allowing you to do weird effects in live music, kind of like The Orb or The KLF.

In summary; it may be a little basic for pro users, but for sheer portability, price and features the Monotron Delay is a great little pocket synth that brings a ton of tweaking fun and a decent introduction to the world of analogue synthesis.
You can pick up one for about £35 from most retailers
Photo credits and thanks go to Chris Mathews