A synthesizer workstation released by Korg in 1993. It was available in X3, X3R (rackmounted) and X2 (extended keyboard) versions.

At one time, the X3 was an essential piece of kit for any home recording studio. Cheaper than the M1, yet still very powerful, it could be used as a stand-alone unit, or as the backbone of a much larger studio, so there was always room to expand. The preprogrammed sounds were also very good, covering a wide range of styles, and featuring some of the best preprogrammed ‘dance’ drums on an all-purpose machine I had ever heard.

The X3 inspired the cheaper and more popular X5 series, which featured many of the same sounds, and most of the X3’s other features. The major differences were an extra bank of sounds for the X3, a built-in sequencer and 3 1/2 “ disk drive.

The keyboard

Synthesis-type: AI2 (Advanced Integrated Synthesis). mawa's X5 w/u gives a clear explanation of how this works.
Program architecture: Programs (patches) can consist of 1 or 2 PCM elements.
Sample-resolution: 44.1 kHz
Keyboard: 61 keys, velocity sensitive, aftertouch, light action.
Programs:336 (200 internal RAM, 136 internal ROM)
Combinations:200, internal RAM
Polyphony: 32 PCM generators. In program mode: 32 notes for single oscillator program; 16 notes for dual oscillator program.
Multitimbral: 16 parts
LFO: One pitch LFO, one amplitude LFO and one filter LFO for each oscillator.
Envelopes: Attack time, attack level, decay time, break point, slope time, sustain level, release time for amplitude and filter on both PCM oscillators. Start level, attack time, attack level, decay time, release level for pitch (shared by the 2 oscillators with adjustable bias)
Effects: 2 stereo programmable effects processors, 47 types of effects, real-time controllable. 1 type of serial and 3 types of parallel routings.
Audio-outputs: a stereo pair (X2 had 2 stereo pairs), Left channel doubles as Mono-out, headphones.
External storage: RAM or ROM voice cards, PCM cards, 3.5" DD MS-DOS-compatible disk
Card-slots: 1 Korg Prog/Seq data card slot, 1 Korg PCM card
MIDI connections: In, Out, Thru
Display: Backlit LCD, 2x16 text area, numeric 3-digit display, status indicators.
Inputs: keyboard, modulation wheel, pitch wheel, assignable pedal, MIDI In/Thru, data slider (this slider, although fiddly and flimsy, can be used to enter all kinds of live or programmed data - modulation, resonance, effects level, etc.)
Weight: 10 kg
Dimensions: 1055 x 338.3 x 96 mm (W x D x H)

The sequencer

Tracks: 16
Songs: 10 (which can be set-up to play in sequence)
Polyphony: 32
Capacity: 32 000 events.
Modes: real-time (overwrite or overdub), step, punch-in (manual or automatic), loop. All of these recording modes can be used on several tracks simultaneously.
Resolution: 1/48th or 1/96th of a quarter note. Not all time signatures are available at 1/96th resolution.
Patterns: 99. (These can either be inserted into songs, to save memory, or just played by themselves, e.g. for chord progressions)

The sequencer built-in to the X3 was actually pretty powerful, and could do most of the things you would want to do with it. Unfortunately, it suffered from the same problems as many built-in sequencers did before the Trinity – it was just too fiddly to try and organise stuff on a small screen. Also, given the steep price tag when the X3 was first released, most of the musicians using it would have had access to a more fully featured, computer-based sequencer.

However, the real advantage of having that sequencer came in a live situation, during which you could play back pre-recorded patterns, backing tracks, or entire songs, without having to carry your computer around with you. Since the keyboard had a disk drive, most people I know composed and arranged on their computer, then just converted the file to MIDI format and loaded it into the X3.

All in all, the X3 was a very good workstation, although it is now a little out of date. Korg discontinued the line around the time of the Trinity (Please /msg me if you can find the date), but you can now pick up second-hand X3's for a reasonable price. They're ideal if you're just getting started with creating electronic music, and can still be a lot of fun for more experienced programmers.

Complete X3 manual on-line: http://korgx3.free.fr/manuel/KORG_X3_Operating_Manual.pdf
http://korgx3.free.fr also contains lots more interesting info.

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