And the Winner Is...

It came down to several candidates within my price range. I've shared my philosophy about buying music technology. Another aspect of that philosophy is that I prefer to have multiple choices at buying time. That way I can get a better deal than if I have my heart set on one model in particular. Sometimes that's not possible, but when it is I prefer it.

The candidates in this case were:

All the various versions of the Motif are great, but I wanted the XS because of the increased ROM size and the 8-element voice architecture. I liked Yamaha's "master" mode, which is ideal for live playing. The only downside I could think of is that, in general, I find Yamaha user interfaces to be a little arcane. They make extensive use of abbreviations. Once you learn them its no big deal, but it steepens an already-tough learning curve.

The Roland Fantom G was a long shot because the going rates for used Gs were more than the money I had on hand. But the Fantom X, which was more in my price range, had a relatively small ROM and no sort of provision for audio recording, not even in-track sampling. So the only way to Fantomville for me was if I got lucky on a screamin' deal for a Fantom G. I was also a little leery of the Fantom because my previous experience with Roland gear is that the factory ROM isn't so great and you really have to buy Roland's sound expansion ROMs to get the good stuff.

I loved the feel of the keybed, the real-time control, and the sounds on the Korg M3. The Xpanded edition made huge improvements to the piano sound. The optional EXB-Radias virtual analog expansion would be really nice for a lot of the sounds I use in Full Moon Fever. The user interface was the best of all the choices IMO; that color touch screen is a real game changer for workstations. Its makes it much more like working with a computer; in some ways its even better actually. The downsides were the rather low maximum sample RAM size, and the white iPod-like styling. Usually I prefer a more understated look.

The last option was a Kurzweil PC361. All around, a great board. The VAST sound architecture is still exceptional after all these years. It also had a built-in virtual analog engine (no added cost option like with the M3). I also love that it had a built-in clonewheel. The clonewheel sound wasn't good enough to allow me to sell my VR-760, but it would be great to have redundancy for when things go wrong or to use at smaller gigs when I only want to bring one board. The turn-off with the Kurz was the user interface. It really wasn't up to snuff versus the competition.

So, what did I finally get then?

The Korg M3. Managed to score a really great deal on e-bay. It even came with a decent road case. I've been exploring it for a couple weeks. It is intensely deep. And yet, the user interface makes it surprisingly accessible. Even the user manuals are readable, which after years of using Roland manuals is very refreshing. Of course I've discovered a few things that I would change and I'll undoubtedly write about them in future posts, but its really an amazing instrument.