Korg Prologue ► 200 custom sounds
Presets compatible with 8 and 16 voice models.
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What’s in the bundle?:
You will receive all the sounds from all my demos plus extra. This is 200 patches / presets (which means there are over 240 individual sounds!). The patches are designed in a way to best utilize the power of the Prologue-16 yet not block the polyphony of the Prologue-8: you will have the choice to switch the layers on or off.
What format / import method?:
My presets will come under the name „WCOG” in a collection available as two files: sysex format and Korg Librarian format. If you are using Sysex, your entire memory (000-500) will be taken. If you are using Librarian, you will have the choice to import all 200 patches or individual / single patches and rearrange their locations (by drag & drop). The Librarian gives a greater freedom of organization so I recommend this option.
What genre / style?:
There is no one style, because YOU decide what style these patches will be played in. It’s a wide variety of sounds that are meant to inspire, make you look at the synth in a different light and give you a great choice of directions. Some patches are bread & butter, some offbeat; they’re the result of me trying to find the limits of the instrument. The sounds are ready-to-use in music or can serve as starting points; just pick the textures or dynamics that you like and easily fine-tune them to suit your exact taste or purpose.
Any external stuff?:
I did not use any external FX in the demo; all the delays, phasers, noises and other effects are part of the Prologue engine & my intentional patch design. I did not use the onboard LF Comp but I used some slight EQing on some patches. I recorded my demo straight through an audio card. This is a standard factory Prologue unit – you don’t need any custom oscillators, FX or other addons (just the factory “Waves” oscillator).
Notes on grades lower than 3/3:
[modern]: VPM does some job, but this synth is far from Hydra / Opsix
[engine]: 1 filter, 1 lfo, 1 destination at a time, only 3 shapes, no matrix, no seq
[flex]: VPM and FX very useful, but filter and modulations limited
[ui]: front panel good / the menu buttons and value knob not so good
[soft / mgmt]: poor installation procedure of librarian, editor only third-party
PROLOGUE vs MINILOGUE
Back in 2019 I became interested in the new Korg line-up. I focused my attention on the Minilogue XD and the Prologue. I thought the XD was just a Prologue minus 4 voices, plus the sequencer. I chose to get the XD and never looked back at the Prologue. I thought: “why should I need those additional voices if Korg removed the great sequencer?”. But now that I’ve had the chance to grab the 16-voice Prologue and spend some time with it, I must come to the conclusion things are not what they seem. The 16 voices and the layer / stack architecture inspire new areas of sound design and performance. What’s more, the Prologue sounds a bit different (“older”) than the Minilogue, even though they seem to have exactly the same filter and multi-engine… or maybe not? The filters are in fact slightly different. And I think Korg’s engineers mentioned something about the need for a different VCA design to accommodate the 16 voices, but I’m not sure where and when I heard that. Anyways, that’s nerd stuff, so let’s move on.
Day one: I powered the synth up, started to tweak the knobs, switch the switches, and… I was dismayed. I didn’t quite understand what was happening. Two years had passed since I played the XD. Had I forgotten what the Korg sound was about?
I meticulously tweaked the entire scope of each and every knob in search for the sweet spots. I checked the filter, the effects, the distortion, but I couldn’t get the Prologue to a place anywhere near the XD’s sound appeal. I thought it sounded like crap, and to add insult to injury, this crappy sound was much more limited in timbre plasticity / malleability than the XD.
Whenever I changed the waveshape on the saw and the pulse waves, they sounded as if someone was tearing the wood panels apart. The filter was falling into useless, howling self-oscillation each time I turned the resonance more than halfway. Even when I lowered the resonance and the gain, big chords would cause crackles in my audio speakers. I thought: “damn, you have to be a saint with angelic patience not to overdrive this thing”.
But there was just something about the interface and the 16-voice layering potential that kept me intrigued and inspired and 12 hours later I started to appreciate this synth. I just needed to get off my high, “hi-fi” horse – I had been playing the Novation Peak / Summit before. That’s why hearing the Prologue’s sound was like a rude awakening, a 5:00 AM wake-up call in a roach-infested motel. I had to re-wire my ears and remind myself how cool this kind of grungy, unruly & wayward sound actually was. In this respect the Prologue transported me back to my Ensoniq ESQ days – a quick teleportation from a soy-latte-in-starbucks kind of vibe to a wild-west-gun-fight feeling. The gritty sand! The scorching heat! The feeling of being alive.
Now after several weeks spent with the Prologue I am in awe and I think I need to change my grading scale – or give the Prologue 4 out of the 3 points in the vintage domain. The word “analogue sound” gains a new meaning. I try to avoid ranking synths as “the best”, because things in the synthland are much more nuanced than this black-and-white view. But if you ask me to pick top synths with vintage, dirty, organic sound, this list will include the Prologue, the Polybrute / Matrixbrute and maybe the Take-5.
However, for many people the Polybrute sounds obtuse & nasaly (the infamous “organ sound”), while the prophet-esque Take-5 needs some additional mod-matrix modulations to make it sound pleasantly organic. This, by the way, applies to pretty much every other cheaper DSI / Sequential synth – Pro-3 and Rev-2 also need a more-or-less clever modulation to “soften” their output. The Prologue, on the other hand, has the much needed softness and dirtyness of the oscillators from the get-go. It sounds like a true vintage synth and the gnarly frequencies that it spits out seem tailored for my ear. Polybrute can also get there, and even beyond, but in Polybrute you need to understand how the filtering works and you have to click one or two things hidden away in the menus. So if you’re a beginner, better go with the Prologue first.
Generally speaking Korg’s oscillators are very drifty, and the Prologue’s timbre is like a mix of a 1970’s preset synth, some digital hybrid from the 80’s (like the aforementioned Ensoniq) and some fx pedal boxes – and all of it running through an old radio speaker if you activate the drive. Korgs have always had something in their design – I don’t know what it is – but the 1982 Poly-61 still holds strong on my list as one of the most inimitable, original-sounding models in the synth world. Now the Prologue may just have become my choice for my favorite contemporary “vintage-sounding” synth. Moreover, there’s a lot of additional potential in the generous FX section, plus the option to make the Prologue kind of “binaural” if you make use of the x-fade / layer architecture, and all of that makes the synth truly unique.
Just like the Poly-61, the Prologue is peculiar. It looks “hi-fi” on the outside, but when you judge its sound against its looks, the sound may strike you as being cheesy. But it’s a very special kind of cheesy-ness – the good one. It leads to a paradox – it makes other synths sound cheesy in a strange, subversive way. Let me explain: Prologue’s VPM noisy waves, plus the unstable oscillators, plus the overdriven filter turn the synth into a master of a genre. Other subtractive-analogue synths often sound “so-so” doing this kind of stuff because they sound too synthetic. On the other hand, the “pro” synths like Yamaha EX-7 or Korg Kronos with their “professional” acoustic emulations could actually be the most cheesy form – because even though they try so hard, we still know they will never exactly sound like a physical, acoustic instrument. The Prologue, by contrast, sounds acoustic / “cheesy” in the way a vinyl record or an old mouldy flute sounds “cheesy” – it’s a slightly degraded, slightly warbly sound. It’s something natural, sensual, and I think this is the quality that I missed in my OB-6 – the Sequential synth was too “perfect” sounding.
I promised myself that I would lambast this synth in the UI section of the review, but now that I’ve made 200 patches on it, I’m not so cocksure.
Judging by the looks of it, the Prologue makes an impression of a high-end instrument. It reminds me of a vintage Denon / Akai amplifier. Those LED displays, the chrome switches, the sleek black metal panel plus the elegant knobs… it’s a beauty. Although I have to say the knobs were falling out of my grab at the beginning – it felt like trying to grab an ice cube. But one gets used to it.
When I went past the looks and tried to make some sounds, there was confusion. I thought something must have gone wrong during the production stage of this synth. I thought “wait a minute – so Korg makes this high-end, 5-octave synth but they give us 3-position switches, tiny displays and the main knob moves in irritating increments? And there is no aftertouch?”. I thought that was super-weird.
Next: the display does not show a lot of values. It shows the pitch value of the oscillators – but not the shapes. It shows the voice mode value – but it doesn’t show the portamento value. The voice spread knob is on top of the panel – yet other, more important things are hidden in a menu. Also there’s no “1-shot mode” for the LFO like in the XD.
All of these shortcomings gave me the impression the synth was half-baked. When I stumbled upon stories of the first firmware and its tuning issues, and learned that some people had been returning their units, I thought it wasn’t just my impression – it seemed the synth really was half-baked.
But I have to be honest (or nonchalant) with you – I simply don’t care. Tuning issues are a thing of the past. The user interface, even if irritating, is only irritating for the hand and not the brain – if you know what I mean. Using the Prologue is like a quick scuffle instead of a protracted, psychological abuse. I’d rather have a tooth knocked out by a school bully than be tortured all my childhood by psycho parents and their neverending preparations for the last coming of Christ. And that’s how I feel with the Prologue – I just need to turn the value knob or press the buttons like crazy for a short while and that’s it. That’s the end of it. If I need to change the envelope for the multi-engine oscillator, I press “button 7” five times. If I want to change the velocity of the filter envelope, I press “button 5” four times. End of story, end of pain, I’m free to go. There isn’t anything else I have to learn or maneouver around, no sneaky tricks. It’s just muscle work of an acceptable intensity.
If you’ve read my Juno-60 write-up, you will know that the physical design of things has a tremendous appeal, and that sometimes it may even overshadow people’s objectivity and skew their opinions about the actual performance of the things in question. Maybe this phenomenon is also taking place here & now: with my Prologue. It’s the only modern synth that smells like an old garage when it heats up. The front panel is so warm after 1 hour that I’m actually wondering if everything’s ok with it – it has the temperature of your morning coffee or your bathtub water.
Not only do I like the sound of it, but I also like the way it looks and the way it interacts with me. The fact that the engine is limited inspires me to put in extra creativity & effort. Besides, the limited modulation becomes a non-issue when simple patches sound great. If I approach this situation in a logical manner, it seems the Prologue is too limited or too “half-baked”. But if I think with my heart, I just want to keep it, keep coming back to it and make music. And this has always been the most important outcome that we should aim at whenever we’re dealing with instruments.
But I’m not going to lie to you. I do reazlie & I do expect that many people will be disappointed with the Prologue. The sometimes “mushy” / “muddy” / “mid-rangey” sound and the limited architecture will confuse and irritate many users. Even if we assume guys at Korg wanted to keep the synth simple and inspiring, a second LFO would not do much damage, would it? I mean, it wouldn’t turn the synth into a piece of NASA machinery… A second LFO would attract many musicians who make “evolving” pads & soundscapes.
Alas, there is only one LFO, which somewhat reduces the synth’s plasticity / versatility. In one way the Prologue is more flexible / plastic than the OB-6 because it has VPM and great FX, on the other it’s less plastic / a lesser chameleon because it has only one filter and no sample & hold LFO. But let’s not forget that the OB-6 is very much loved despite its limited architecture. You have to look at the Prologue the same way. It’s like a Juno-106 – no fancy modulations but hey – THAT SOUND! Korg should get a medal for it. If it’s true that Korg discontinued the production of the Prologue after several short years, then we have a modern tragedy.
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