March 1, 2004


I’m one of those audio iconoclasts who will happily record on just about any media—from cassette to 2" reel-to-reel to ADAT to the craziest, plug-in bloated hard-disk workstation. In my world, it’s all good, and taking a nonchalant, Dean Martin-esque approach to sound quality keeps my mind focused on capturing transcendent performances. But what will transform me from Dino into Frank Sinatra at a full-on huff is a machine that cramps my creative endeavors with operational idiocies.

The Korg D32XD ($3,750 retail/$2,999 street), however, is one of those marvelous wonder stations that will keep me humming “That’s Amore” as I’m blissfully cutting tracks. Everything needed to move a recording project from inception to CD-R release is housed in a relatively portable hardware mixing/control console. In addition to the basic goodies detailed in the “Specs” list, guitarists will be particularly delighted with the amp, cabinet, preamp, and mic models;

a palette of 128 effects; an onboard drum machine (with 265 patterns); and a dedicated guitar input.

General operations are so clear that, for recording basic tracks, you’ll only need to crack the manual if you want to do some effects routing. Getting cozy with the D32XD’s editing, insert effect, submix, automation, tempo map, MIDI, and mastering features will be a bit of a chore—as is the case with just about any hard-disk powerhouse—but nothing is much harder to grok than the battle options of your average PlayStation shooter. My fave operational goodies are the responsive TouchView screen and the soft knobs that automatically change the display to the appropriate parameter section (touch an EQ knob and the EQ screen appears, and so on).

My only gripe is that the main speakers aren’t disabled when you plug in headphones, and turning down the master volume also diminishes the headphone volume. You can simply turn off your powered monitors, of course, but constantly switching the suckers on and off while you’re tracking acoustic instruments can trigger a Sinatra moment.

For solo recordists, the stock D32XD with eight analog inputs is probably all you’ll ever desire. If you’re into tracking band projects with live drums, however, you should pop for the additional eight inputs offered by the optional AIB-8 board ($350 retail). Former ADAT users should seriously consider acquiring the DIB-8 ADAT card ($175 retail) to ensure their old ADAT sessions can be revisited and updated.

The most delightful aspect of the D32XD is that it’s truly self-contained. Armed with just your favorite guitar and a microphone, you can produce master-quality tracks that’ll totally explode from any playback source. The onboard mic preamps are very transparent, and though they won’t deliver signals as detailed and airy as you’d get from an expensive outboard unit, you can add some spunk with the D32XD’s tube saturation and tube bias effects. I was able to quite reasonably fake vintage Neve and Trident preamp colors in this manner, and the onboard mic simulations helped me “classic up” some drab mic tones. The onboard guitar/cabinet models are very good—especially when blended with miked amp and/or acoustic tones. As the centerpiece of a guitarist’s home/portable studio, I couldn’t recommend the D32XD more highly. It’s packed with stunning features, its user interface nurtures creativity, and, just like the Rat Pack, it’ll always be there for you, pallie!

Korg, (516) 333-8737;    

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