Korg’s Wavestate and OpSix are back, and they’re bigger than ever...
I got quite excited when I first heard about the Korg Wavestate because it promised to improve on the original and, in my view, wonderful Wavestation that I still use to this day. But when it appeared, it was a much smaller synth than I had expected, echoing the look and feel of Korg’s Minilogue. With its pitch‑bend and modulation wheels situated behind its parsimonious 37‑note keyboard, no aftertouch and no control inputs other than for a sustain pedal, it was clearly aimed at the home studio rather than live performance, even though its sound generator was superior to that of its predecessor. I must admit that I was baffled by Korg’s choice of hardware.
A few weeks later, I was equally excited by another Korg announcement. Tucked away behind a protective glass panel at NAMM 2020, it was called the OpSix and there was no doubting its lineage. Its name was obviously derived from 6‑op FM synthesis and, with its metal case, five‑octave keyboard and FM algorithms painted on its control panel, it was clearly a DX7 for the 21st Century. Offering subtractive, additive, virtual analogue and FM synthesis, the OpSix promised to be a mighty fine instrument. Then it arrived. It sounded great but, far from the original concept, it looked and felt much like the Wavestate.
When I reviewed them, I treated both the Wavestate and OpSix as desktop modules, playing them from much wider synths that generated aftertouch and had lots of control inputs. This made it possible to get the best from both of them. To be fair, Korg sell a lot of their smaller products (which suggests that I know somewhat less than I sometimes think) but I nonetheless concluded that synth engines of this depth and power deserved more professional, performance‑oriented hardware. After all, a small synth satisfies only those who need a small synth whereas, unless space is very limited, a larger one satisfies everyone.