In 1994 Korg launched the first generation of Wavedrums: a groundbreaking percussion synth with features never before seen on any similar product. However, due to its rather unattainable price-tag, it wasn’t long until the Wavedrum disappeared into percussive obscurity. That was until it’s triumphant return some 15 years later when Korg introduced the second generation, with a much more realistic price and much better construction. Since its reintroduction, the Wavedrum has gone from strength to strength, with two further variations, the Wavedrum Mini and Oriental, launched in the last three years.
Here we have a further variation, the Wavedrum Global Edition that was recently launched at the 2013 NAMM show. With so much technology packed into one compact unit, we were very keen to take a close look at this unique product…
Physically the new Wavedrum consists of a 10-inch playing surface similar to a suede-style snare head, encased by an aluminium rim with a cutaway section at the top to accommodate the control panel for the unit. The head is tuneable thanks to five tension rods, while the metal rim features raised grooves, both large and small, to enable güiro-style scrapes. The unit is fairly compact – slightly thicker than a practice pad, weighs in at just 2kg and features three rubber feet on the underside to hold it steady if used on a table, although mounting on a snare stand gives the best playing options.
Inside the unit is a mic that’s coupled with pressure-sensitive sensors. Together they are capable of detecting the slightest touch, meaning that pitch bends and sweeps using your hand, brush or stick produce the same result as they would on a traditional acoustic drum. The unit uses a complex system combining digitally processed algorithms and PCM sound samples to create 400 sounds: 200 for the head and 200 for the rim, which are stored in 200 preset programmes, with a further 200 user banks for you to develop your own sounds. Each sound can be extensively edited, with a multitude of parameters to adjust, with the unit having a further 12 user banks that are accessible at the touch of a button for frequently used sounds – perfect when using the Wavedrum on-stage.
The Wavedrum has stereo outputs and a separate headphone socket, as well as line-in for external audio devices such as MP3 players. However, it doesn’t have any form of USB connectivity to connect directly to a computer, meaning you can’t back up your settings. It also lacks a MIDI function, so should you encounter any technical problems and lose your saved programmes, it’s straight back to square one.
Reading through the accompanying literature, I must admit I thought that the Wavedrum was going to be such a serious piece of equipment that I’d need a PhD to use it. Switch it on, though, and immediately you are rewarded with a product that is possibly the most fun and inspiring I’ve used in a very long time. The sensitivity of the playing surface means that any patterns coaxed out are only limited by your imagination, with each and every note, sweep and scrape clearly heard, with no hint of ‘machine-gun’ mis-triggering, no matter how fast or quietly you play. A couple of the snare samples sound a little too synthetic, but when you consider how many great sounds this unit holds that’s a very minor point, with most sounding authentic and immediately usable.
With so many editing capabilities and playing options, there is no end to what you can create given time, and as such we persuaded Korg to allow us more time with this fantastic machine to experiment for ourselves. Keep an eye out in future issues to see how we get on.
Korg Wavedrum Global Edition
Words: Nick Carter Images: Thru-A-Lupe Photographic