I mentioned in a precious post about a Korg Monotron being added to the GTK Studio, well it's here. And it's great, because for something so small, it's got a very big sound.
So what's it all about then? Well, it's an analogue synth in the traditional vein with a single voltage controlled oscillator, a voltage controlled filter (VCF) and a low frequency oscillator (LFO), with the pitch controlled by a ribbon keyboard. Not what you would consider to be highly impressive specs, but when you take into account that the Monotron is only 12cm x 7cm and contains the legendary MS-20 filter, it starts to come across as something that's possibly a bit more than a toy. Now I am sure that there are some hardware snobs out there who will pour bucketfuls of scorn onto the Monotron because of it's size, the fact that it has a built in speaker and runs on batteries. And when you turn it on, yes the sound out of the built-in speaker is a bit of the thin side, but when you put it through an amp, hold onto something that's nailed down because this little baby can rattle floorboards.
The individual controls consist of a three-way switch to put the Montron onto standby (basically turn it off) and move the LFO from the filter cutoff to pitch. Next in line is a pitch control for the VCO - goes from very low to very high and is surprisingly useful. The next two pots are for the LFO - the first is a clear one with a red LED that controls the rate of the LFO with the LED signalling the speed, and the second one controls the intensity, that is to say how much the LFO is controlling either the pitch or the VCF cutoff. The last two pots are for the VCF and they control the cutoff (which is how much of the filter's frequency or the tone is changed) and peak (adds emphasis to the tone).
Connections wise, it's all very simple again with an auxillary input so that you can run external stuff (mp3 player, CD, synths, drum machines etc) through the filter and a headphone jack which you can also use to plumb the Monotron into a mixing desk.
So how does it sound? Quite simply, awesome. The sound through the built-in speaker might be a little thin, but you can really hear the aggression of the filter and the power of the LFO. Put though a mixing desk, it'll make the speaker cones rattle with little effort. And put through a rack of effects such as flanger, delay and reverb and you then know for certain that this little baby ain't no toy. I've had hours of fun just noodling around with the VCF and LFO, creating all sorts of sci-fi warbles and chirps as well as some seriously nerve-jangling screaming noises courtesy of the VCF's peak being pushed to full on so that the Monotron self-oscillates - with the two LFO pots turned all the way to maximum and some careful turning of the VCF cutoff pot, you can create some very cool industrial scraping metal sounds. I put this through a ring modulator and a dense ambient reverb and the effect was mind-blowing.
I like the Monotron, it looks cool, sounds great and is easy on the pocket. There are two other flavours of Monotron and I rather think I might be investing in them in the not so distant future.