Korg Krome EX Review

Korg Krome EX

The original Korg Krome was introduced in the early 2010’s as a slightly scaled down version of their industry standard Korg Kronos. Through years of technological and digital development, Korg’s latest model, the Krome EX, offers you a workhorse workstation that gives you everything you need to make this board your first choice to bring to the stage or the studio. With an all new colored touch-screen and new cutting edge sounds catered to all genres, new easily programmed drum tracks, the Korg Krome EX will surely find a home as the centerpiece in your workflow.

I was so stoked to get this board in, and immediately brought it right down to my studio. I’ve used the popular Kronos throughout the years and was delighted to find the Krome has the same brain and a lot of the same sounds that the Kronos offers. This keyboard is relatively light for an 88 weighted-key workstation, and I was able to bring it down my steep flight of stairs without having to bother my assistant engineer for help. The keys themselves respond very dynamically and naturally, and the action has a very familiar and comfortable feel, allowing me to play for an extended amount of time. My geekdom was even more enthused to see the fully responsive colored touch screen.

I had a writing session within the hour and had no reservations about diving right in with the Krome EX as the centerpiece of the session. Yes, I’m a risk taker, but I also have been around Korg products for years, so I knew that I would be able to pull up quality Korg tones quickly. The new Krome EX features brand new piano sounds sampled by world-renowned pianist Seigen Ono, so I immediately started browsing through them to have something on the table for my co-writer. With 8 different velocity levels each (containing more PCM power in one piano patch than an entire typical PCM synth, must I add), each piano sound felt very natural and responsive, and I swore I was playing on the “real deal” at points, let alone making this feel like a super expensive workstation. My co-writer and I fell in love with one of the brand new modern upright sounds, which is a huge staple in modern pop music today, so we started there and ran!

That upright sound as well as the new grand piano models replaced a lot of existing sounds I had been using prior to using the Krome, and I actually brought some of my other clients back into my studio to re-track their piano parts with the new board. Each of the players was blown away at the feel and sounds, as well as the unit’s price point. I personally also fell in love with the feel and the dense catalog of the electric piano sounds as well as the clavinets, as did the funk band I was recording. Their “Wurly” and “Rhodes” samples also offer really high quality wahs, cabinets, and amps. Unrealistic effects are usually my biggest gripe with electric piano modelers, but the folks at Korg eased my worried mind here. 

The Krome EX also brings brand new, cutting edge EDM sounds to the table. From polyphonic EDM leads that cut right through the mix, to rich warm pads that create a polished “depth” and “width” to your track, I leaned more towards the sounds in the Krome rather than pulling up some of my soft synths during my sessions. There are a ton of tropical sounds as well as really detailed drum kits and sound effects, giving you the ability to create a whole track using the Krome that will compete commercially without relying on your computer. This was great for me, even in the studio, as I was running about 90 tracks at one point (all Krome) and my CPU was still running strong. Plus, with the 16-track sequencer built on board, you don’t even need to fire up your whole computer setup to be able to lay down a song idea. 

Further, the drum kits are to write home to mom, especially the “Jazz Ambience Drums”. You’re able to even control such parameters as blending the room sound in, which I have only seen in software. How about if you don’t want to physically play the drum parts? No problem! I tended to actually use the beats in the “drum tracks” way more than actually playing the parts, especially while I was trying to make quick demos. The grooves are natural and realistic, and could also be used in solo live looping scenarios, giving you one less thing to worry about creating.  

You can control a ton of your normal synth parameters from the touch-screen as well, which was a huge workflow changer for me. I barely use the data dial at all! The four rotary knobs on the left of the board as well as the “select” button let me manipulate and create sounds very musically. The pitch bend/mod wheel joystick was also really user friendly, and the four points of control give you two different modulation effects depending on the patch. The new dual arpeggiator also inspired several cool synth bass lines in the session.

Browsing is super easy on this workstation; the categories are all laid out in folders right on the screen and you can literally touch them to get where you want to go. It doesn’t get easier than that! This is legitimately the only workstation at this price point that offers you a fully responsive colored touch-screen. Any sound you have in your head will probably be only a click away, or you will be able to easily manipulate an existing patch’s controls to fit your needs. You can easily stack and combine sounds as well, and with using the touch-screen you can dive in and mix the levels of each exactly to your liking. 

Bringing it to the stage made my keyboard player drool, and as I stated earlier it is super light. Usually I get grunts and groans when I bring a large formatted keyboard to a gig, as my band knows I’m going to beg them to help me load it in. I was even able to even put it in my existing hardshell case and load it in by myself. The piano sounds and synth leads especially made our soundman look up from his iPad a couple of times and give a thumbs up, more interaction than we’ve ever had with him! It added a new polished dimension to the live show than we’ve had, and with more preparation in the future I can’t wait to see how the Krome will work for adding more SFX sounds and trigger electric drum grooves.

I didn’t mind that the Krome wasn’t as extensive as the Kronos. I was able to accomplish everything I had in mind and more with the Krome EX, and it became a sure centerpiece in my studio. At $1,649, this is a solid investment for music creators who want to stay current with modern sounds and production techniques.

The Top 20 Beatles Songs, #4: “Hey Jude”