BACK TO LIVE: Korg's Wavestate & Opsix digital synths put a modern spin on vintage sound engines - great for retro synthwave vibes with modern, performance-friendly conveniences.
What are they?
Released in early 2020, the Wavestate inaugurated a new Korg synth line - mid-sized instruments with 37-note keyboards, each presenting a modern update to a retro digital synth format.
For Wavestate, that’s Wavesequencing 2.0; a deeper take on the sample sequencing and Vector synthesis of the company’s beloved Wavestation. Wavestate was followed by Opsix, a modernised version of DX-7-style FM synthesis. The pair are set to be joined by the forthcoming Modwave, which takes its cues from the wavetable-powered DW-8000.
Why use them on stage?
For their price and relatively light form factor, each of Korg’s new range offers impressive sonic power. Wavestate in particular is 64 voice and multitimbral, so it can provide plenty of richness to fill out a live sound. Both have several performance friendly tools onboard too, including a Smooth Sound Transition feature.
The biggest downside is the lack of aftertouch; a shame, particularly for the Wavestate as it lends itself so well to expressive chords and pads. What’s more, while both have capable sound engines, they’re not what you’d call workhorses like a workstation or stage synth/pianos are. These are distinctive digital sound engines, so don’t expect them to cover every on-stage keyboard need.
For electronic performances, both Opsix and Wavestate can be synced to an incoming MIDI clock, so users can trigger them in a slightly more ‘hands-off’ manner.
With Wavestate, the complex Wavesequencing setup can effectively create long, evolving soundscapes that can be triggered by holding down a single note or chord - allowing you to get hands-on with the Mod Knob controllers. Opsix, meanwhile, features a handy sequencer which can easily be set up to play back pre-programmed riffs, basslines or chord progressions.
Live tips and tricks
Use the Setlist feature
Wavestate’s Setlist features lets users store and sequence up to 64 performances, which are full multitimbral patches complete with Wavesequences, arp patterns, Vector synthesis configurations and master effects - incredibly handy for planning and recalling sounds for a live set!
Don't judge the sequencer by its cover
Don’t be fooled by the simplistic look of Opsix’s sequencer, it has six note lanes, for polyphonic sequencing with individual velocity gate length for each note, plus six Motion Sequencing lanes for parameter automation.
There are multiple playback directions available to users, including sequence randomisation, and the Key Trigger mode allows for sequences to be transposed across the whole keyboard spread.
Make the most of Mod Knobs
Despite being labelled with things like ‘time’ and ‘shape’, Wavestate’s Mod Knobs actually offer incredible flexibility over how they can be set up. There are eight assignable knobs per-program, plus a bank of global Performance assignments (although as all of these share a single bank of eight knobs, it can get a little confusing in the heat of a performance).
For live use, spend some time considering the best way to set these up in order to get quick access to parameters that will help add movement or build tension in your performance. Perhaps use the Performance Mod Knobs to add multitimbral filter sweeps or bursts of effects?