I own both a Korg Karma (EXB 06/07 (Orchestral), MOSS installed) and Karma MW software; and I own an OASYS.
Of course the Karma is a Triton under the hood - so if you like that sound then that's a good basis to consider whether to get it.
However, a fully kitted out Karma is a formidable instrument:
- Karma is an incredible technology. It provides well over 1200 Generated Effects. Generated Effect include hundreds of drum pattern, arpeggio patterns and other 'small segments’ of music. In a nutshell, you can control up to 400 MIDI parameters in realtime for each Generated Effect; which allows for fundamental and profound changes to the pattern as real time performance via the Karms Realtime Controls (8 knobs and other various controllers). So an example of a single Generated Effect might be a Hip Hop drum pattern, but where virtually every aspect of the pattern, such as velocity of each sound, shifting of beats, complexity of the pattern and so on can be modified by you in realtime to create a genuine and convincing performance. On board GE’s cover every conceivable genre. I read somewhere that it took 44 programmers over two years to program all the supplied GE’s. So thats the musical ‘expertise’ programmed under the hood, but which you can radically manipulate during realtime performance.
For example, one controller can sweep through 128 minor variations of a pattern while another control shifts the velocity emphasis of just the snare or the hi hats; while yet another control affects the velocity of the bass drum... and so on and so on. What it means is that by turning the eight Karma knobs and other controllers you can massively affect - indeed - play - drum patterns in realtime - and record these performances as MIDI data to any standard DAW MIDI sequencer (or the Karma's internal 200,000 note sequencer).
In Combi mode you can have 4 GE;s running simultaneously on different MIDI channels, allowing for realtime manipulation/performance of say a bass line, drum pattern, arpeggio pattern and a piano riff. Karma is STUNNING.
Now, considering that the Korg Karma can load sound libraries from virtually all Tritons, you have a vast sound library freely available for download (at www.korgforums.com
Furthermore, with the MOSS board installed, you have a 6 voice Virtual Acoustic synthesizer with thirteen models. Also freely available at korg-forums for download is the entire preset sets from the Z1 and Pophecy; as well as a set that emulates the Nord Lead 2.
Indeed, overall there are tens of thousands of programs and combis freely available to the Korg Karma across Korg’s Trition, Triton LE, Z1, Prophecy and Trinity MOSS board libraries, among many others.
Finally, with Stephen Kay's Karma MW software (www.karma-lab.com
) installed on your PC or Mac, you can actually invent your own new Karma Generated Effects and load them on the Korg Karma. For example, you could load in drum preset patterns as MIDI data from your favourite drum machine into Karma MW, convert them to Generated Effectss and then load them onto the Korg Karma where you could then play and modify them in realtime performances, affecing accents, veloicites, rhythm complexity, note bending, and a myriad of other parameters - totally transforming the static patterns into a playable musical component.
I’m not sure if this is available for the Korg Karma, but one GE available on the OASYS is called ‘Manual Advance’ where on the lower half of the keyboard you simply hold the notes of a desired chord, while repeatedly pressing any key in the upper half of the keyboard plucks or strums that chord. By pressing the upper keyboard keys faster and slower, the plucking or strumming happens at the speed you hit the keys. So with absolutely no keyboard skills, Karma produces utterly convincing guitar strums and/or plucking styles. This is just one of many, many incredible ‘musical realtime gestures’ captured in Generated Effects that you can interact with in realtime.
I used the Korg Karma on a documentary about an exchange program for students from Ireland to Kenya, and I used Karma Generated Effects of African rhythms; where I literally modified in realtime the Karma provided African patterns to the extent that they sounded totally live and utterly convincing. Korg Karma is use extensively in many TV and Film music jobs.
Overall, a fully kitted Korg Karma workstation is a hugely impressive beast. With so many stunning Triton sounds, MOSS sounds coupled to Karma, you will be occupied for years. In fact it is arguably even more formidable than an M3 because of the availability of MOSS and the Triton Library.
I heartedly recommend it, especially these days where they seem to be going for quite cheap prices.
Despite the awesome nature of the OASYS, in no way does it feel - to me at any rate - that it has superseded the Korg Karma. The Karma is a true music technology heavy weight. I use it in a different room to the OASYS and to be honest they are both so overwhelmingly sophisticated that each commands genuinely serious respect. I intend to use the Korg Karma for many years to come.