Today we are taking a look at KORG Gadget for Mac, and more specifically the sizable Gadget Plug-in Collection that comes with it. The folks at KORG were nice enough to give us a complete license in order to give the full suite of instruments a run for their money inside of Logic Pro X.
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One thing to keep in mind if you’re not familiar here, is that KORG Gadget is in fact its own app/recording suite. The standalone app essentially works as its own DAW and seemed to be quite capable during my time with it. But for the purposes of this review, we will be focusing on the 30+ instruments (AU plug-ins) included with the app that you can run inside Logic Pro (your favorite DAW).
I have to admit, when the pack initially debuted for Mac I was a little skeptical. Something about the price tag and getting that many instruments/effects made it seem like they were going to be very limited and specialized products. While that is indeed the case to some degree, many of them are actually quite useful, playable and dynamic.
The 30+ instruments range from interesting, old-school samplers to live and sample-based drum machines, a host of mono and polyphonic synths (some of which modeled after vintage classics) and even lo-fi video game-inspired instruments designed in collaboration with Bandai Namco Studios. Needless to say, the selection is about as complete as it seems, almost to the point where you could likely get through entire projects/productions using nothing but Gadgets. You’ll find synth and live bass instruments (Miami, Madrid) as well crazy polyphonic ambience and noise makers (Kiev, Helsinki).
KORG has added in some great MacBook Pro Touch Bar support here for laptop users and the installation process along with Logic Pro X compatibility was flawless and simple.
While there is clearly far too many products to go through every detail of all of them (let me know if there are some you want to take a closer look at though), I will highlight some of my favorites. Personally, the synth-based instruments were much less useful, but only because I’m so invested in other products. So it was mostly the sample and drum instruments that caught my attention. Having said that, many of the synth instruments, including the Lexicon, sound great and come with loads of album-ready presets, in my opinion.
I’m a sucker for a good loop slicer/ glitch-maker, and this is one of them. Abu Dhabi is packed with all sorts of weird clips and samples for you to slice, rearrange and program into your tracks. Each clip or slice in your sample can be altered with effects including reverses, repeats, slicers, delays and much more. It is one of the most interesting instruments in the pack for me. You can also import your own sounds to expand the library infinitely (like many of the sample-based instruments in the collection).
Instantly and automatically slice loop samples. This is a futuristic-looking sampler gadget that lets you freely manipulate grooves. Carefully selected electro drum and chord sequences are provided, and you can instantly transform them into other-dimensional sounds with a single-stroke gesture. You can also freely import your own favorite samples for unlimited possibilities.
If Abu Dhabi was one of our favorites in the collection, the Vancouver “Layering Melody Sampler” would have to be a close second. Its crunchy, dual layer sampler instruments are some of the most inspiring and unique KORG Gadget has to offer. Once again you can freely load up your own sounds here, but the included library is pretty fantastic if you’re into that kind of thing. While it is quite basic in terms of modulation, you will find more than enough to create some great sounds including individual mix control over the usual oscillators, as well as an interesting reverb unit, vibrato, portamento, a pair of discreet envelopes and a sub-oscillator to thicken the sound.
You can create an infinite number of sounds with this simple sampler gadget, which allows you to play preloaded sounds with ease using the keyboard. With a retro look and more than 90 unique sounds including acoustic instruments, synthesizers, voice and sound effects. In addition to the preset timbres you can also import your own sounds to two sample oscillators.
There are several great drum instruments in the collection, but London was certainly a standout for me. The acoustic kits on the Gladstone gadget were especially intersting as well, but the simplicity and high quality samples on London had me hooked right away. It includes more than 400 different samples ranging through just about all kinds of dance music, but I found many of the samples to be great for hip-hop, chill electro vibes and well, anything that might use electronic drums. Each sample can easily be tuned and we get three effects for each. Simple, straight to the point and sounds great.
Other drum gadgets like the aforementioned Gladstone and the wacky, modular-like Tokyo percussion unit were also highlights for us. The simple 4-part electro percussion sounds of Tokyo placed interesting creative limits on us that yielded in some very unique sounds and grooves. Instruments like Amsterdam take care of highly specialized tasks like one shot hits, SFX and more.
While, to me, it feels as though KORG could have easily combined some of these individual instruments into one larger, more robust product. This would have made flipping through such a large list of instruments a little less cumbersome and allowed the entire sound library to be a more cohesive musical palette. An example might be incorporating all of the sampler units into one larger instrument with the Abu Dhabi tech allowing for additional creative setups not otherwise possible with separate plug-ins. This way all of the vintage, MPC-style sounds would be available to us in a single instrument allowing us to create our own kits with the sample libraries. Having said that, these are fairly minor gripes and the more focused lineup of products works nice with KORG’s Gadget philosophy of making music. It also keeps things simple for less experienced users.
Should You Buy It?
While it might not contain that powerhouse, flagship instrument you may have been looking for, there are plenty of those out there and KORG Gadget covers two main elements of music making. Those interesting boutique instruments that offer up loads of character and the workhorse patches you’ll use in every production to some degree, like drum machines and solid bass units.
The $299 price is certainly not cheap, especially if, like me, you’re really only interested in the Plug-In Collection side of things because you’re addicted to Logic Pro and have DAW separation anxiety. I will be spending more time with the native app itself over the next couple of weeks and will report back if there is anything worth putting pen to paper over.
Considering some instruments will run you close to $200 or more on their own, the $299 doesn’t seem crazy to me. I would prefer it closer to $200, but there is a lot of gear inside this thing. Anyone looking to grab a load of Software Instruments to get going without dropping Native Instruments money on it all is a good candidate. Pros with a soft-synth addiction will likely have tons of fun with this thing as well. Just don’t expect it to replace any of your modulation laden, go-to flagship software, if that wasn’t entirely obvious already.