Attending synth convention Knobcon, I was excited to get my hands on Korg's new Vox Continental for the first time. It's much more than a retro organ clone, though it certainly is organ-centric in its interface. It has multiple sound engines, many derived from the Kronos workstation, and you can split and layer them in memory locations called Scenes. Sounds include:
- CX-3 (tonewheel) organ engine from Kronos.
- Vox engine exclusive to the Continental.
- Compact (Farfisa) engine exclusive to the Continental.
- Acoustic and electric piano engines from the Kronos.
- All-purpose PCM synth engine dervied from Kronos.
I also learned that the "drawbars" are not, in fact increment buttons like on early Nord Electros. They're touch-sensitive strips that are highly responsive. They behave like harmonic drawbars in CX-3 mode and Vox mode (with correct functions and footages) and like stop tabs in Compact mode. The "shimmering" effect that some organists achieve by playing the drawbars in real time is easy to nail here. The touch strips also act as faders for Scene layers and even as a graphic EQ.
Effects include reverb, a real vacuum tube output stage, and a full two-speed rotary simulator. That cool-looking stand you see? It's included for the price ($2,199 for 73 keys; $1,999 for 61 keys). I don't think you can make it two-tier, which is too bad because my inclination would be to go for the 73 and perch an analog synth above that bad boy. The keyboard is semi-weighted, pseudo-waterfall, and while it won't please someone who insists on a traditional piano action, I found palm swipes on organs and ghost notes on EP and Clav sounds were effortless and sounded right. It is, however "chunky" enough that pianists won't feel cramped. Touch sensitivity is adjustable via a real-time knob, so you can indeed lay into it for rock piano passages.
In the video below, Nick from Korg talks through it, then I take a spin. I'm definitely looking forward to getting one longer-term for a full review. No word yet on a reverse-color key edition (which would be authentic to the vintage Vox organ), but if Korg's past retro efforts are any indication, it's reasonable to expect one.