The heart of any synth is, of course, the oscillators, and the Minilogue XD doesn't disappoint -- whether you're looking for P-Funk-esque synth leads or Aphex Twin-like glitchy bass. But its real strength is in thick, atmospheric pads. It can produce pretty solid key sounds too, but if you're used to playing piano you'll quickly bump up against the limits of its four-note polyphony.
There are two lush analog oscillators here with three wave shapes: sawtooth, triangle and square, with a shape knob for each and tons of options for combining and voicing them. There's pitch for detuning the two oscillators, a cross-mod knob, sync and ring mod switches, plus your standard mixer options.
Once you've got a basic sound you like, you can put the keyboard in poly mode for big pads or unison if you want some thick bass. Chord mode plays a full chord for every key press, which you can change by turning a knob. And the arpeggiator has 13 different modes, including random and manual, but no true programmability.
Of course, if you want to punch in specific notes yourself there's a 16-step sequencer built in. With that, you can dial in a riff and then tweak the sound to your heart's content. You can either play into the sequencer live or do it step by step before hitting play. Unfortunately, unlike the Monologue, you can't punch in a sequence and then use the keyboard to transpose it using the key trg / hold function.
This is more or less the same as you find on the OG Minilogue. But there's also a third, digital oscillator stolen straight from the far more expensive Prologue. The MULTIdigital oscillator has three different modes. It can be a noise generator that lends a subtle crackly vintage feel to pads or be used on its own to make surprisingly snappy snare sounds among other things. Then there's VPM or Variable Phase Modulation, which is Korg's take on FM synthesis — perfect for getting those cold metallic tones that just scream '80s.
And lastly there's a bank of user waves ... and this is where things can get really interesting. If you've got a little bit of coding knowledge you can create your own waveforms for the Minilogue XD using an SDK. Plenty have already done this for the Prologue, but Korg wouldn't confirm if the user-created waves would be compatible across synths. I can say that I tried to load a custom waveform created for the Prologue on to the XD and it refused to take, but I'm still using the beta version of Sound Librarian and a preproduction version of the firmware. So things may change.
What the user waves really represent, though, is a way to customize the sound of your Minilogue beyond presets. There's already a small ecosystem of third-party developers and sound designers building and selling custom oscillators for the Prologue so it's safe to assume they'll make their way over to the more affordable XD, which will likely have a larger user base.
Things return to more traditional synth territory as you go along the signal chain. The filter on the XD is completely new but voiced to sound similar to the two-pole version on the Prologue. One of the complaints about the original Minilogue was that the filter really caused the low end to drop out as the resonance was turned up. So it's nice to see Korg listening to its customers. It's not quite as aggressive as the one on the Monologue, but you can still get some decent growls and squelches out of it.
There are also switches for drive and key tracking. The former adds distortion, while the other opens up the filter cutoff more the higher the note you're playing. But these switches only have three positions: off, 50 percent and 100 percent. That limits the amount of subtlety you can dial in here.
Then you've got your standard attack, decay, sustain and release controls for dialing in everything from slowly evolving pads to plucky bass hits. And an LFO for adding some movement to your sounds. One thing I'm supergrateful for here is the option to sync the LFO to the BPM, which means no more fussing over fractions of a millimeter to get that pulsing rhythm just right.
If you're willing to do a little menu diving you can squeeze a little more versatility out of that LFO. You can set it to apply to all the oscillators, only the analog ones, just analog two, or just the digital oscillator. That allows you to create complex evolving sounds, for instance you could have slightly warbly analog pad backed up by a smooth and clear digital sine wave.
Lastly there's a bank of effects. There's four modulation options -- chorus, flanger, phaser and ensemble -- 10 different reverbs and seven different delays, plus BPM synced versions of each delay.
With so many moving parts, it's a good thing that Korg has included plenty of room for storing patches -- 500 of them, to be exact. About 150 are prepopulated with sounds from Korg. There's even some pretty impressive patterns that coax drums and melodies simultaneously out of the sequencer.
It's ... a lot. Especially for $650.