EXB-Radias vs Radias

It's been a long time since I posted on the Korg M3.  The M3 remains my go-to keyboard and I still marvel at its sound, flexibility, user interface, and keyboard feel every time I play it.  I love it.

One question that every M3 owner has at some point is:  What are the advantages of the Radias module versus the EXB-Radias add-on card?  Both can be added to the M3 to expand its synth capabilities with virtual analog synthesis.  Both are built on the Radias VA (virtual analog) sound engine.  The Radias module is no longer available retail, but it can be picked up used so it's still a relevant question for e-bay/craigslist shoppers.  I looked into this awhile ago and wrote down my notes for a future blog post, which I'm finally getting around to.

The advantage of the Radias module over EXB-R in one phrase can be summed as:  Old school front panel control!
  • Tons of dedicated knobs.  To me, this is by far the biggest advantage of the module.
  • Polyphony.  The Radias module adds additional polyphony to the M3, while the EXB-Radias apparently uses the 120 voice polyphony of the M3.
  • The Radias module has its own built-in effects, so it doesn't use up any of the M3's effects slots.
  • A Radias module program is built on up to 4 timbres, each essentially a full VA synth.
  • A Radias module sitting side-by-side with the M3 module on top of the M3 keyboard looks pretty bad ass:
The advantage of EXB-Radias over the Radias module can be summed up in one word:  Integration
  • EXB-Radias program uses only a single timbre, but four of them can be combined in an M# Combi, which provides the equivalent 4-timbre voice and many other advantages which I describe below.
  • With EXB-Radias card, you can do velocity splits/layers in Combi mode.
  • Those layers and splits can be with other Radias voices or with M3 EDS sounds.
  • EXB-Radias programs use up M3 effects slots, but those M3 effects are light years beyond the Radias module's effects in sound, scope, and flexibility.
  • With the EXB-Radias, all of the M3's keyboard controls are virtual patch sources, including aftertouch, ribbon, joystick, XY pad, sliders, programmable switches, damper pedal, expression pedal, and footswitch.  The Radias module only has a pitch and mod wheels, and no aftertouch.  This somewhat makes up for the lack of front panel knobs and provides a lot of alternative real-time control options as opposed to just knobs.
  • With the EXB-Radias card, you can use an M3 EDS Program as a vocoder modulator or carrier and it's all taken care of neatly in software via virtual routing.  With the Radias module, you have to physically wire it up.
  • You can use Karma to play Radias programs, which is way more powerful than the Radias module's arpeggiator.
  • Driving EXB-Radias voices via the M3 sequencer is much easier than doing the same with Radias module voices, since you don't have to worry about cabling and you can do it from a single, integrated user interface.
  • The EXB-Radias retails for $300.  Adding a powerful, great sounding, virtual analog engine to the M3's already remarkable sample-based synthesis, for three Benjamins is a no-brainer.  A used Radias module will be 2X to 3X that cost.