DAW-Groovebox hybrid more fun than ever
7 mins read

DAW-Groovebox hybrid more fun than ever

MacOS Desktop & Plugins $299
Mac/Windows Plugins Only $199
iOS $39.99/£39.99

It's been five years since Korg released the second version of the gadget, which sits somewhere between a Groovebox and a DAW, but with a unique take on music-making. While version 3 has seen some significant upgrades, there's still no Windows version of the full desktop app, with Korg focusing heavily on macOS and iOS users.

If you're a Windows user, it's possible to purchase a Gadget Collection – individual tools that come with the software – at a discounted price as a plugin bundle to use in your DAW of choice.

macOS users also get gadgets in the form of plugins.

Meanwhile, a big new change in the iOS version, which is a standalone purchase, is that most of the gadgets are now available as AUv3 plugins on the iPad or iPhone, allowing them to be added to any compatible audio app running on it, such as Cubasis. Makes available for use. Or Logic Pro. The exceptions to this are versions of Korg's larger apps like the PolySix and MS-20, but it looks like these will be added in an update.

The gadget is a standalone MIDI sequencer that comes with 45 Korg virtual instruments; All specially designed and beautiful looking synths, drum machines and stuff like that. Some are based on existing instruments and others are original, but it is geared toward creating electronic music of all genres.

The single main window is divided into four sections that can be independently resized and each can be shown or hidden to customize your workspace. From left to right they are the song sequencer, pattern sequencer, mixer and instrument. Selecting different gadgets will update other parts of the screen to show the relevant patterns and controls.

Style browsing in the Korg Gadget 3.

It's a very friendly and intuitive way of working and is what makes the gadget so accessible to less experienced growers. This is really only possible with an app that has a relatively simple feature set and doesn't need to accommodate the hundreds of tools found in a full-fledged DAW.

While the gadget does not have traditional audio tracking, the Zurich gadget is available for sample recording and it is also possible to import samples into it for use in projects. There is basic editing of start and end points but no time-dilation. Thankfully, the new Sydney Sampler is a highly user-requested looper with more advanced sample editing and automatic time extension for your project. This really increases the usefulness of the gadget by making it easy to bring your own loops and fit them into the motion.

However it is MIDI that the gadget is all about, and the idea is less about deep sound editing and more about immediacy and creating quickly. A new feature is a genre-based browser, as well as improvements to the existing browser to improve search so you can find what you need faster. The Genre Select browser has the option of template projects that you can use as a jumping-off point, or of course, you can add gadgets to a blank project, with unlimited tracks available.

Pattern sequencing is at the forefront of the gadget and, in addition to mouse input, you can connect your MIDI controller with deep integration, if you're using one of Korg's own controllers like the NanoKey or NanoControl Studio.

Korg Gadget 3
Sydney Sampler on Korg Gadget 3.

Quantizing and editing note velocity and length in a pattern is simple and, when you move control to the gadget during playback, it records automation data in the clip's lanes that you can then edit. The same applies to the automation of the main mixer.

In the song area, you can see the clips that make up your song and copy, delete, or mute entire clips or lanes to diversify and create an arrangement. Pressing the function toggle button will also bring up a bunch of shortcuts for these functions which can be a faster way to get things done. The other brand new gadget is the Santa Ana, which is a “rhythm guitar machine” loaded with 25 sampled electric guitar riffs and loops that you can tweak. They sound good and add another dimension to the gadget's sound palette, although are more suitable for electronic music than other genres.

Each gadget has a solid number of presets and some controls, including built-in effects depending on its type, plus five insert slots per instrument so you can do lots of processing in addition to the master channel's limiter and reverb. Five new effects have been added, including Stereo Imager, eight-band EQ, and Transient Shaper. One of the last new additions is the Play page, available for most gadgets, which lets you set up and play chords and arpeggios using a single key. It is easy to use and will be very helpful for less experienced players.

Korg Gadget 3
Gadget browsing on the Korg Gadget 3.

Although the app is self-contained, it lets you export to a few formats: GadgetCloud, Korg's project sharing service; Export the entire mix or individual/all tracks as a stem and MIDI file or export an Ableton Live project in audio, MIDI or plugin format depending on how you want to continue working on it. There's also an iCloud Drive option where you can upload and download projects and then work on them on your Mac or iOS device.

The gadget is a lot of fun and is an easy recommendation for both budding musicians and more experienced makers who want something that sounds impressive, is inspiring, and can be built in a pinch.

The workflow encourages you to experiment and go with the flow and the tools and patches (over 6,000 sounds) are ready for a range of electronic genres from techno and house through hip-hop and trip-hop.

The new browsing features and Looper module are very welcome as is AU compatibility on iOS, although unfortunately your desktop purchase does not include the iOS version. LE versions of both are available for free, although with restricted feature sets if you want to try them out. Gadget 2 users can – for now – get the free upgrade with a coupon received through their Korg account.

Key Features of Korg Gadget 3

  • MacOS and iOS, and Windows (plugins only)
  • 45 gadgets, also available as DAW plugins
  • Unlimited songs and tracks
  • Multiple insert and master effects
  • genre based browsing
  • MIDI sequencing and basic audio recording
  • Ableton Project Export
  • MIDI over Bluetooth
  • Automation of equipment and mixers
  • Interoperable project between mobile and desktop

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