KORG i3 Review – What You Should Know…
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KORG i3 Review – What You Should Know…

March 10, 2020


in 1993, Korg launched the original Korg i3 Interactive Music Workstation. Fast-forward 27 years and I’ve got right
here the new Korg i3 Workstation. In this video, I will be giving you my
honest personal opinion on the voices, the styles, the features, the strengths and
weaknesses of this Korg i3 Workstation. and asking you to smash the
like button for the YouTube algorithm. If you are looking at an entry-level
workstation like the Korg Kross but would also like to just sit down, turn on
an accompaniment style and start playing, this super lightweight , 4KG, Korg i3 Arranger Workstation with a
street price of $599 USD could be what you are
looking for. Is the Korg i3 good for music production? Is it good for live
performance? Is this a good controller for use with a DAW? How is the build
quality? And the most popular question asked by my subscribers, on my community
tab – is the Korg i3 better than the Korg EK-50 or EK-50 L? I will also
make comparisons with the Yamaha PSR-E463, the Casio CT-X3000, CT-X5000 and the
Yamaha PSR-S670 where appropriate. Make sure you stay tuned to the end of this
video where I tell you which of these keyboards is the most suitable for you. What do you look for in an entry-level
keyboard workstation? Let me know in the comments below. if you are new here, welcome. My name is
Jeremy See and I am a music teacher and musician for the past 25 years. I have
made more than 300 unbiased and un-sponsored reviews and tutorials on my
channel. If valuable content like this interests you, make sure you subscribe
and smash that Bell icon to get notified when I upload a new video. It is no
secret that the Korg i3 is based on the Korg EK-50 that was released in 2018.
Which I reviewed right here. The LCD screen, the button layout, the voices and
the styles are evident that the Korg i3 borrows heavily from the Korg EK-50 and
the Korg EK-50 L. After all research and development cost to produce a new model
isn’t cheap and using the same internal engine to spin off multiple variants is
an effective way for Korg to achieve cost efficiency. However Korg has tweaked
the i3 to target the younger, and more contemporary electronica loving
demographic. The Korg i3 workstation has 61
full-size touch sensitive keys with four velocity curves. These keys feel firm to
the touch, are responsive and add to a player’s confidence. I had no issues
playing from pianissimo to fortissimo passages. The key action is as good as
the more expensive Yamaha PSR-S670 and is better than the PSR-E463
and the Casio CT-X5000. But do not expect the same premium key action as the
Yamaha PSR-SX series keyboards which cost much more than this Korg i3
Workstation. On the left of this keyboard, you get a joystick controlling both
pitch bend and modulation. The control range for this joystick is programmable.
Whether you prefer a pitch bend and mod wheels over a joystick, is a matter of
preference. I personally find an XY axis joystick a lot more expressive. That may
also be the reason why the new Yamaha PSR-SX keyboards now spot a
joystick instead of wheels found on the previous models. The Korg i3 has 790
voices ranging from acoustic instruments such as pianos, guitars, strings, brass and
reed instruments to synthesised sounds such as leads and pads. These 790 voices
are conveniently arranged into 200 different sound sets containing
complementary voices with appropriate effects applied to the voices so you can
start sounding good the minute you bring this keyboard home. The sound sets in
this lower priced keyboard are the strengths of Korg keyboard like this Korg i3. You don’t need to have a lot of technical
knowledge to shape the inbuilt samples to sound good. While the Yamaha PSR-E463 has better
acoustic instrument voices and the Casio CT-X keyboards have very good and varied
selection of electric pianos, the strength of the Korg i3 at the price
point of $599 USD is the ability to layer up to
three upper voices. You can get some really rich and fat sounds in the Korg i3 that will give your playing the added oomph. You can also make use of
the more than 170 effects to shape the voices to sound
exactly the way you imagined it to be. These 170 effects can
also be applied on to the style accompaniment tracks. If you are not an
advanced player and you need assistance playing rich harmonic intervals in your
melody, the Korg i3 has an Ensemble feature that will automatically use
different harmonies to thicken your melody in real time for you. While Korg’s
ensemble is highly intelligent and pretty much 90% of the time chooses an
appropriate harmonic structure for me there is no way for you to choose
specific harmony patterns unlike the Casio CTX and Yamaha PSR keyboards. The dedicated grand piano button is a
feature all keyboard should have. All it takes is one button press and the Korg i3 is set up for the best ready to play piano sound. It is a mis-step that Korg
while marketing the i3 to the Gen Zed or Gen Z, depending which side of
the Atlantic Ocean you are located, didn’t include an Arpeggiator in the
keyboard. Arpeggiatted synth sounds are the staple of EDM music. Casio has
this feature in the similarly priced CT-X3000 and CT-X5000. Yamaha’s $99 PSS-A50 mini keyboard has this feature. An
arpeggiator is also found on the $299 Yamaha PSR-E463. Before I reveal the
other features of the Korg i3, do take a minute to check out my
recommended keyboard and pianos in the video description below. If you want to
learn how to play keyboards on your own, I have also listed the books I use to
teach my piano and keyboard students. What a long way the original i3 has
come. I remembered my Korg i3 more than 20 years ago only had 48 styles and
I paid more than $2500 US dollars for it. The new Korg i3 here has 270 Styles.
This is fewer Styles than the Korg EK-50L. But you do get a handful of additional
EDM styles specifically programmed for the i3 that is not found in the
Korg EK series. There are also many non EDM styles ranging from pop, rock, country
Ballroom, Latin and world music. While there isn’t a style editor in the Korg i3, you can effortlessly personalize the Styles by muting individual
accompaniment parts as well as adjusting the individual track volume using the
convenient dedicated buttons. With just a button press you can change the drum kit
and instruments of the accompaniment styles to get a unique backing track.
Each style comes with 4 variations and different fill-ins, as well as two
intros and two endings for you to craft your perfect song arrangement. I
personally find Yamaha Styles to be better programmed than those found in the
Korg arrangers. However Korg i3 Styles do sound better than those found on the
Casio CTX. If you are not well versed in chord
progression, don’t worry the Korg i3 has a chord mode which is similar to
the smart chord feature found in the Yamaha PSS-E30 Remie, as well as the
upcoming Yamaha PSR-E273. This smart chord feature is also quickly
finding its way on numerous MIDI controllers like the Native
Instruments M series keyboards, which I own as well. 7 Chords suitable for
the genre of music has been programmed into this smart chord feature by just
pressing one of the 8 buttons while a style is playing. You can get some
interesting and unique chord progression. You can also learn from the suggested
chord progression and expand your chord vocabulary. EQ knobs are conveniently located on the
keyboard should you need to tweak the overall sound in real time quickly,
depending on your life playing scenario. While these EQ knobs can be useful
I really do question why Korg did not make these two knobs control effects
send levels instead. This is more so when the Korg i3 is marketed as a
contemporary EDM music making keyboard. These two knobs are way more useful if
it can be used to apply filters and oscillators variations to both voices
and rhythms. These live performance control is iconic of contemporary
electronic music. I use these live knobs often and Yamaha has included live
control knobs in their consumer keyboards from the $299 Yamaha PSR-E463 onwards. The Korg i3 provides 50 memory slots arranged in 10 banks for
you to store your voice and style settings. This can be recalled quickly in your
performances. Because i3 is marketed as an
entry-level workstation, priced below the Korg Kross 2, that is because the Korg i3 has a 16 track real time sequencer with a 999 song capacity. You get
nonlinear sequencing which gives you the ability to punch in and punch out as
well as to overwrite and overdub your recordings. But I am puzzled that the
sequencer doesn’t have a quantization feature to tighten up sloppy live
playing. The sequencer mode does allow you to play along with your sequence
data as well as many MP3 and WAV audio files. I am happy to report that you can
record audio directly to a USB stick. I also like that any other sounds you
input via the auxiliary in port will also be recorded into the audio mix going to
your USB stick. I am disappointed, however, that there is no USB audio interface
built-in. You can send and receive MIDI with your DAW but you will need an
audio interface if you need to send the Korg i3 audio directly to your
computer because Kross 2 has a built-in audio interface and the $199 Yamaha PSR-E463 also has a USB audio interface and in my opinion this is a
glaring omission especially when Korg markets this i3
as a workstation. While many multitrack music production has moved to the
desktop and even mobile DAW, there is still much value in a hardware sequencer
like this. There are many markets where keyboard owners may not have the
financial ability to invest in a very powerful and expensive computer that can
run massive multi-gigabyte VSTs. An arranger workstation like the i3 is
invaluable in this case. The Yamaha PSR E-Series
includes just a basic song recorder and doesn’t have a 16-track sequencer like
the Korg i3. In my opinion, however, the lack of a step editor and an event
level editing prevents the Korg i3 from being a full-fledged
workstation for many users. These deep editing will not be missed but it would,
nonetheless, be nice if Korg had not used the Cripple Hammer on this. In my opinion,
the workstation label on this i3 has to be taken with a huge pinch of
salt. The sequencer has many limitations and doesn’t really allow the user to
independently edit each of the 16 tracks freely like the sequencer in the Korg Kross 2 or Yamaha PSR-S670. But of course these two keyboards cost
quite a bit more. Fortunately you can use the USB MIDI port of the Korg i3 to
use the 12 different bundled software including various VSTs, the
industry-leading and very powerful DAW Ableton Live Lite. Which is what I use.
As well as a 3 month subscription to the SKOOVE learning app for beginners.
Yamaha includes nothing with the PSR-E, PSR-SX as well as their flagship
$6,000 Yamaha GENOS keyboards. A surprise considering Yamaha owns Steinberg and
Steinberg produces the Cubase 8 DAW software and Cubase is pretty much
bundled with really cheap audio interfaces even less than $100. A 5-DIN MIDI port is also available
for you to control an external desktop synth. While a MIDI input would be nice. I
am not complaining. 5 Din MIDI ports have slowly disappeared from keyboards under
$1,000 and it is nice that the i3 has a 5-DIN MIDI out port. In addition
to the USB MIDI and 5-DIN MIDI port, you can also find a usual headphones port,
pedal input port, auxiliary in port, quarter inch stereo output ports and a
USB-to-device port for plugging in a USB stick to save your user files. Just like
the lightweight Korg KROSSs and the Korg EK-50, the Korg i3 can run on
either DC power or with 6 AA batteries. Run time with batteries is
very good at 6 hours to 7 hours because the i3 does not have
built-in speakers. While the lack of built-in speakers can be a deal breaker
for some I find connecting to a portable speaker or cheap computer
speakers is easy if I don’t want to use my headphones. For performing you
would be better off with more powerful external amplification anyway. So here are my final thoughts. One of my
gripes of the Korg EK series and now the Korg i3 is the lack of an
ecosystem for third parties to produce additional downloadable styles. i3
and EK owners are pretty much limited to loading korg PA-50 or Micro Arranger
styles and nothing else more. Korg has much to learn from apple where the iOS
devices have a diverse and vibrant third-party ecosystem the ensures that
their customers and their users stay within the system. 27 years ago, the
I3 interactive music workstation was unequalled. However in 2020, the arranger
consumer keyboard landscape is very different. The Yamaha PSR-E463 is $300 cheaper than the Korg i3 and has built-in speakers, an arpeggiator, 2 live control knobs, an audio interface, a rather gimmicky quick sampling feature
and really sweet acoustic voices. But the E463 has only a 48 note polyphony and
doesn’t have a modulation wheel. The Casio CT-X5000 is a $150 cheaper than this Korg i3 and has powerful speakers, a 17 track
sequencer, a style creator and editor as well as an arpeggiator, with a ton of lush
EPs. But the user interface on the Casio is notoriously unfriendly. And the user
manual are also not the best written around. In my opinion, Korg produces the
best user manuals in comparison to Yamaha, Casio and Roland consumer
keyboards. The Yamaha PSR-S670 costs $250 more than the Korg i3 but does significantly more than the additional
$250 that you pay. However the Yamaha PSR-S670 is half a decade old and is due for a refresh any time. For more serious music
production, the Korg Kross 2 for just $200 more than the i3 is a better
contender. It has a full fledged sequencer, a capable sampler, expandable
sample memory, a USB audio interface, an arpeggiator, a dedicated drum track
recording, a microphone input as well as the ability to layer up to 16 layers for
impossibly THICC sounds. Notwithstanding the aforementioned, the
Korg i3 is a multi-hyphenate. A jack-of-all-trades although a master at
none. It is a competent arranger, albeit without built-in speakers. It has an easy
to operate 16-track sequencer although missing some features I often
use. With a 5-DIN MIDI out, the i3 makes for an excellent controller as
well. If you are looking for a lightweight, battery-operated arranger
workstation controller hybrid keyboard for under $600 you won’t
go wrong with the Korg i3. I hope you find my buying advice on the Korg i3
useful. My name is Jeremy See and I’ll see you soon.

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  2. What's the point of i3? Here in EU you can get i3 for 577 EUR while far better Korg Kross2 cost 644 EUR. For 67 EUR more you get 120 polyphony against 64 polyphony of i3. Kross 2 has more voices, complete step sequencer and so on. It seems to me Korg is pulling CASIO pricing like CTX700 and CTX800 with 20 EUR price difference. I also disagree with old PSR-S670 comparison. S670 at least have decent speakers. I personally would not recommend i3 to anyone. Total waste of money IMHO.

  3. Thanks so much for this review ; it is the first complete one on Youtube and it's great and very informative ; the lack of audio interface is a shame so I still prefer Kross 2 but with a far more complex user interface ; as for styles I find Yamaha's to be more usefull with better fill-ins and a huge choice of addtional styles via web sites
    Michel

  4. Many thanks for this superb review! It's great news for me that you find the keybed so good it's comparable to PSR-S670. If I look for a synth action board in the next few years, chances are this will be in my short list — actually, very recently I grabbed a preowned P121 so cheap and really found it good, as I already learned from your previous review. (As you know, this piano's footprint is almost as small as the i3's.) Glad I could make a good informed decision thanks to your vids, and hopefully next time too!

  5. You reviewed a Korg Krome EX one year ago, so you could integrate that model in your comparison too, otherwise nice review, except subtitles which have lots of spelling errors. F.i. every time you say Korg it shows „cork“, lol. As a Youtuber you can edit your subtitles, helping viewers understand better.

  6. Very comprehensive review Jeremy, however I would have liked to have heard more of the sounds and styles. 👍🏻🎹

  7. I know it's a little old, and maybe in a slightly different category, but how does a Korg PA300 rate against the i3?

  8. I don’t know why Korg market this keyboard as a workstation. This keyboard is according to me a half job done. Like you said many important futures are missing and it’s really a confusing model and plus they have comes out with the EK50L model and Kross is decent selling model and value for money. I don’t where this keyboard can stand. Sounds are 100% based on PA50 which is only plus point but there no in-depth editing 😢

  9. Hey Jeremy….wow…with this Video you Blei and Rest my mind…behause as a Composer WHO is Loopings for Inspiration in the Go I was struggeling with exakt the Boards you are comparing the i3 with!! Thanks a lot and greetings from Frankfurt, Germany!

  10. We are not expecting this type of cheap gimmicky keyboard from Korg falsely claimed as a workstation. At least an arpeggiator makes the sense of the word.

  11. Top notch work, Jeremy. You are the best by far, hope you don't get discouraged. Can the i3 foot controller trigger drum fills, while simultaneously maintain sustain??

  12. Could you sir please tell me if there is any note cutoff while changing voices assigned to the banks during live playing.In other words there are many expensive keyboards suffer from glitches while changing from electric guitar to piano

  13. A lot of good info, but would have benefited from more actual playing. I see a note that more vids are coming but verbally describing things in one video then having to wait for another video to hear what you were discussing is a bit frustrating. As an entry level workstation you make an excellent point that other people should take on board and that is the Korg manuals, they are usually an example to other manufacturers in the scope of information covered.

  14. Hi Jeremy and thanks for this interesting review.

    To be honest, I find this Korg i3 rather disappointing for,p the following reasons:

    1. No quantitize function in the sequencer so it is pretty useless.
    2. No arpeggiator in an EDM-oriented keyboard… what the heck???
    3. No speakers in an entry-level arranger… this is not serious.
    4. The chord buttons should be programmable.
    5. Two rotating knobs and they are there only to tweak the EQ… too bad.

    I am wondering whether Korg will not in the future use the same case for a more capable workstation or arranger. After all, with a more capable internal software, the rotating Knobs and the chord buttons could be fully programmable. Add a step sequencer and a style editor and you’ll have a capable arranger/workstation.

    Looking forward to a video demonstration of the chord buttons, sounds and styles of the Korg i3, esp. the EDM-oriented stuff. Maybe you could produce your own EDM hit on this keyboard? Cheers. 😎

  15. Great video Jeremy! For me, this Korg i3 should have been better for the price. First, it should have a better and newer Sound chip, at least based on the Kross 2 or the Pa300 ones. Second, the screen should have been a little bigger. Third, better sequence. And many other things. For the price, better choices are Korg Kross 2, Pa300, Yamaha PSR-S670, and even the cheap Casio CT-X3000/X5000.

  16. Hi J. Deal breaker for me is the transpose function…..why have korg changed it to a 'shift' operated function??? With the default control now being reversed from octave …. Transpose on the fly for me is essential… useless now as a two handed function … easy to solve with a firmware adjustment .. or make it a toggle control …
    Would be nice to also be able to manage user styles on board, as with EK I imagine you can only load blocks of 16 and can't cherry pick any single ones to load from a block …..
    Great value board but needs a few design tweaks IMHO
    Keith

  17. This is a great review, Mr. See. Thank you for your input.

    As a professional who plays at least 50 gigs a month, this keyboard would make a good bottom keyboard for a live rig setup in a band.

    I play at senior care facilities for a living (hence, my 50 gigs a month), as well as play in two bands. I am looking for portability and this keyboard fits the bill.

    To be honest, I am also looking at the D1 as a bottom keyboard and know its features as well, not to mention its weighted action. Since I was classically trained, the D1 would be preferable but I love the portability of the lighter boards for all the gigs I do.

    An ideal setup that is low priced would be the I3 and a Kross 2-61. You could get the best of both worlds with that setup.

    I have a number of boards I take on a gig, but the main ones are the Korg PA700 (for nursing homes and band gigs) and a Korg M50 (ancillary sounds). I also have about 8-10 other synths that I can bring and my big live band rig setup are the two boards above, as well as a Kross 1-61 and an Ensoniq VFX. It makes for a potent sound on stage with the bands. Adding the I3 may allow me to leave the PA700 at home for most gigs…

    Thank you again, sir, for your video…

  18. Always good in – depth detailed info. One thing though, we Canadians may be on the same side of the Atlantic as Americans, but we say 'zed', never 'zee'…..

  19. The one and only reason I hate Korg is the way treat their piano sounds.
    I found ALL the Korgs come up with unappealing and unnaturally sounding pianos with wrong attack velocity curves, sound like bashing with a huge hammer onto a small metal rod

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