My first electronic instrument was the Dubreq Stylophone that I had as a kid, it was probably playing around with it that planted the seed that lead to my fascination of the synthesiser the first time I saw one.
I can’t help but feel a little envious of all the kids that will start the journey I had with one of these instead. It certainly has a few similarities to the Stylophone. Its small and portable 120mm x 72mm x 28mm, weighing 95gsm and running on only a couple of AAA batteries and it has a built in speaker and a not to dissimilar way of playing it. This time it’s a more useful ribbon controller that you can also play with a stylus. But what you’re basically getting here is a true monophonic analog synth with VCO, LFO and VCF. Not only that but one with a Korg MS10/20 filter in it and boy does it sound like a synthesiser. This is just what I wanted back in my day but my Stylophone sounded like a bee stuck in a coke can!
The montron only has five control knobs and a three way switch so you won’t get lost in the complexities of synthesisers. The VCO has a pitch control, the fantastic MS10/MS20 filter has cut-off and resonance controls and the LFO has rate and init, which controls the amount of modulation of the filter cut-off or oscillator frequency and the rate control has an LED inside it that flashes to indicate its frequency. Incidentally there’s an audio input so you can use the excellent filter to treat external sounds.
What does it sound like? Well it sounds like an analog synth, the oscillator produces a sawtooth waveform and the filter, filters it, simple, you really have to listen to it though to do it justice. Especially if you connect it through some outboard processing and some decent speakers. Go on YouTube and listen to the demo, it defiantly puts my old Stylophone to shame. Try one and you’ll want it. Especially when I tell you it’s about thirty pounds, seriously I’ve spent more on lunch! You could justify buying one of these for the filter alone.
You can actually get hold of the circuit diagrams from the Korg website and there are people around who have already modified their units for various things, such as gate and CV input! Being an avid experimenter and constructor this really appeals to me. Could you make this device modular?
There are also couple of variations of the Korg Monotron available. First off is the Montron Duo, this contains two VCOs instead of a VCO and LFO, however the second VCO can be used to modulate the first by way of the X Mod control so you kind of get the best of both worlds. The switch determines whether this happens or whether you detune them separately. There’s is also a push switch on the back panel that cycles between how the ribbon controller works so now it can be set to quantise over a chromatic scale, something that certainly make picking out melodies easier.
This then goes through to the same MS10/20 filter of the original.
Next up there is the Monotron Delay, which unsurprising has a delay built into it, what is rather surprising is that it’s an analog one that sounds rather good in a retro way; you know the way that some people prefer vinyl because of the sonic imperfections. To fit in the extra delay controls, the filters resonance control has been lost as has the oscillator pitch.
The Monotron Duo and the Monotron Delay are still the same price as the original Montron at about thirty pounds, personally if I had to pick one in terms of the sound and versatility I would go for the Montron duo but luckily you don’t have to pick just one, at the price you could get all three! There’s not much to compare these units with at this price and they do give you an almost perfect introduction to the world of synthesiser hardware but beware it can be very addictive!