Hardware: Korg TR-Rack

Discussion in 'Software, Hardware & Book Reviews' started by CyberCat, Nov 22, 2004.

  1. CyberCat

    CyberCat Active Member

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    <b>Korg TR-Rack</b>
    by <b>CyberCat</b> for midibuddy.net

    <img border="0" src="http://www.korg.com/gear/images/products/enlarge/lrg_TRR.jpg" width="535" height="83">

    The TR-Rack, officially known as the Korg TR-Rack Expanded Access (Advanced Control Combined Synthesis System) Module, has 1024 unique sounds: 4 combi banks, and 4 program banks. Each bank contains 128 patches. For the sake of clarity, programs are individual sounds while combis are combinations of several different sounds.

    The TR-Rack features full Trinity effects and 23 stunning drum kits. The drum kits include some standard kits but most of the kits are very original and fashionable. The feature of sorting by category also is quite useful. There are some excellent ethnic percussion programs as well. This module covers pretty much the entire range of sounds that a musician needs. The Reggae Guitar Chord and Funk 9ths Guitar chord programs were unexpected, useful and unique. Many of the Motion Synth combis are amazing stereo one-finger active-opuses, ideal for pad use.

    Some of the horn and sax emulations are a little one-dimensional not quite up to par, but par in this case is generally excellent! On the other hand, for the kind of music that I write, I actually find this to be desirable, so, I suppose that it depends on what you will be using the module for. There are breathtaking organ, bass, string, key, and guitar programs. Some combis are fabulously deep, others are useful splits of bass with other instruments, but really, with 1024 different sounds there are many playable sounds in each category!

    I purchased my TR-Rack on <a href="http://search.ebay.com/Korg-TR-Rack_W0QQmaxrecordsreturnedZ300QQsatitleZKorgQ20TRQ2dRackQQsorecordsperpageZ50QQsosortpropertyZ1">eBay</a> for about $450 (USD), randy4406art was the seller, (whom I highly recommended) If you want to buy a TR-Rack, than eBay.com is the best place to look. Unfortunately, most Korg retailers do not sell TR-Racks anymore, furthermore korg.com (and similar sites) has replaced the TR-Rack with the Korg Triton, however they still retain an <a href="http://www.korg.com/gear/info.asp?A_PROD_NO=TRR">informative page on the</a> TR-Rack.

    From the moment my TR-Rack arrived, it took me about 15 hours (over 3 days) of listening and playing to get through about 1/4 of the sounds, because they were so uniformly great, I got involved in playing them. The layout of
    the TR-Rack is very user-friendly and intuitive. I had the system figured out within 5 minutes without even needing to read the manual!

    Included with the unit are 2 manuals and a list. One User's Guide, one Effects Guide and a Voice Name List. The quality of the effects and their routing is quite sophisticated: Korg even ships the TR-Rack with a complex FX List that explains how the whole system works, which no doubt, is indented for those people wishing to get the most out of their system.

    The TR-Rack is 16 part multitimbral and will send/receive Sysx (System Exclusive Data). Insert effects (100 of them, total) are allocated to programs, combis, and multis based on size. There is a max of 3 for programs (or 4, if it is a drum program), and 8 total for combis and multis. There are two master effects - Modulation and Reverberation/Delay. One point of dismay is that only one multitimbral set-up is held in memory. It seems a relatively small drain on memory to allow for 10 (say) multis to be available at a time,
    facilitating the ease of moving between different songs or projects, or being able to contrast alternative approaches without resorting to Sysx transfers.

    There is a specification for the DI-TRI digital I/F board digital-out which uses an ADAT Optical format cable, and a specification for a Word Clock-in connector, both, of course, not present unless the optional I/F board has been installed. There is a serial ("to Host") computer connector socket. MIDI In, Out and Thru. And 4 outputs: stereo left and right (left is mono) plus outs 3 and 4, also stereo.

    The durable LCD screen is a beautiful back-lit which has a yellow-green hue with dual 20-character lines. The characters are large bold-print: about 3/8ths inch high and are very legible, even from a distance and under low lighting. The boldness of the characters on the LCD and its brightness are wonderful, an excellent all-around display. Navigating the 512 combi 512 program sounds is accomplished either sequentially, or by jumping 10s and 100s by holding the +1 or -1 button and pressing either the category/cursor button (10s) or page button (100s). There is no actual scrolling it is all incremental (1s, 10s, and 100s) but it is actually quite easy to use once you get used to it.

    Finding a particular sound is made much easier with the 16 categories (Keyboard, Mallet, Bell, Organ, Strings, Vocal/Airy, Brass, Woodwind/Reeds, Guitar, Bass, Plucked, Synth, Synth Lead, Motion Synth, Sound Effect and Drums/Perc.) Also you have the option to rename the categories if you should feel incline to do so. The only drag is in the edit mode where menus have as many as 47 pages (combi edit) and it's a one-way street of button pushing! And finally when editing a combi or multi, the display shows 4 programs or tracks at a time.

    The TR-Rack ships with a MIDI driver floppy disk for Macintosh and Windows. The label on the floppy reads: "Midi Driver Disk KMD-01 for Windows / Macintosh PC Format". It also includes one floppy each, for Windows and Macintosh, of eMagic's SoundDiver Korg Trinity Version 2.0.

    <b>SOUNDDIVER</b> (included program)
    The editing capabilities of the TR-Rack are extensive and powerful. I can run SoundDiver (shipped with the TR-Rack) on the computer and change the envelope of the oscillator, assign parameters of effects or characteristics of the sounds to controllers; such as the sliders on a keyboard controller, change the delay, chorus, equalizer, and about 100 or so other items. All of this while in real time; while hearing the changes effective on the TR-Rack as I do each one. Also I can change and organize the effects used with a program. The possibilities are endless, and so I will not go too much in detail of this program. The learning curve was not really bad, but it was there, and it took a while for me to be able to use the program quickly. But once you can the power of the TR-Rack increases greatly from the new sounds which can be created.

    As far as reliability goes, I have never had a crash, and never had any problems with the unit itself, at all. Sometimes the MIDI information can get a bit intense, but the TR-Rack has always pulled though with little trouble, it has never locked up as a result of it. Although the TR-Rack is not really a "gigging" tool, the few times I have used it live, the TR-Rack crashing has been the least of my worries!

    It is oblivious that the people at Korg though carefully about construction of the TR-Rack, because it is built pretty solid, almost like a tank. I am sure that this unit can stand up to a lot of beating; however I am not recommending that you test it! The buttons are a drop small, so them breaking off or them getting loose is doubtful, because there is not much leeway. I would give it a 10. I doubt it will leave my house very often except when I need it for a session away from home.

    With great sounds, effects and documentation, about all I can say is that if you do not all ready own a Korg TR-Rack and are still using SoundFonts than you’re missing some good stuff! Visit eBay for the best deals on the Korg TR-Rack.

    <b>Final Score: ****</b>
    Not perfect, but highly recommended

    • Great sounds and great variety (1024 total)
    • On-board Effects Processor
    • Dual stereo outputs (1,2,3 & 4)
    • Built to last

    • Not really any expandability
    • Only one multitimbral set-up is help in memory
    • Cluttered edit mode where menus have as many as 47 pages
  2. ZelRiptha

    ZelRiptha Thnow White but I drifted Staff Member Super Mod

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    Nice review, CC. Thanks! :thumbsup:

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