Touch Me, Feel Me, Manipulate My Parameters

I've mentioned it before, but I really love the user interface on the M3.  First, there's the touch screen which is far more intuitive and facile than cursors buttons.  Second, I like the comprehensive options  for inputting data values -- increment/decrement buttons, a value slider, a data wheel, and a numeric keypad, and in some cases, touch screen gestures.  Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages depending on the data you're manipulating and what you're trying to accomplish. The M3 provides them all so you can use the optimal method for a given task.

Another great aspect of the UI is consistency of navigation.  The highest level of navigation is mode selection, accessed by dedicated buttons.  Within each mode you have a number of pages, accessed by pressing the Page Select button and then selecting the desired page on the touchscreen (or a numeric key can be used as a shortcut).  Then within each page, there can be a number of tabs accessed via the touch screen.  This navigation model is consistent across all the modes so once you learn it, finding stuff is usually pretty easy.  That's quite an accomplishment for a keyboard that present so much information to the user!

The organization of pages, tabs, parameters, and information is consistent, mostly logical, and usually promotes speed of operation.  There are a couple places where it would have been more facile to put certain parameter combinations on the same tab, or at least the same page.  For instance, in setting up Combis for Full Moon Fever, I find myself switching a lot between the main Play - Program tab and the Timbre Param - MIDI tab in order to get MIDI program changes working properly.  Since they're on different pages, its more button presses than I'd like for something that I'm doing so much.  But overall, that situation is an exception and the organization is pretty well thought out.

The M3 user interface definitely has a form-follows-function aesthetic.  There's not a lot of ornamentation to it.  In other words, none of the fancy hardware emulating skins that the latest Motif and Fantom keyboards have. I think it's a legacy of the fact that the UI was developed and refined on the Trinity and Triton keyboards back when the graphics capabilities of keyboard displays were more modest.  In any case, the M3 is more stripped down, utilitarian, and frankly, less sexy than the Motif and Fantom screens.  Instead of photo-realistic depictions of a stompbox with knobs, you get a text-based parameter page.  The advantage is that it's clean looking and Korg can fit more parameters on the page presenting the user with deeper editing parameters and less navigation to contend with.  The disadvantage is that it's perhaps less intuitive. On the other hand, skeuomorphism is pretty much dead in design right now; the M3 actually has a flat UI which is ironically pretty contemporary. Everything old is new again.

I should also point out that the pared down graphics are quite effective, mostly.  For instance, things like effects routing and zone mapping are made a lot easier to understand and use by the M3's graphical representation.  And the M3 makes impressive use of graphics where it really matters, such as on the sequencing and sampling pages, with very nice displays for things like track, piano roll, and sample editing.  Overall, I like Korg's approach of making things facile rather than ornamental. Although I do think Korg could take better advantage of color than the current interface does.  The Kronos seems to have addressed that.