In this post and video, I am going to be looking back at my Korg Karma workstation, which is a unique member of the Korg Triton series of workstations. The Korg Karma launched in 2001 as a member of the Triton series of workstations at a price of £1599.

What is KARMA

What made the Korg Karma unique is KARMA, which stands for Kay’s Algorithmic Real-time Music Architecture (The name comes from Steven Kay, the developer). KARMA is kind of like a super advanced arpeggiator along with auto pattern generation. It uses pre-created patterns that dynamically generate sequences based on various inputs including velocity, key, note order and timing. It produces interesting rhythms and sequences that you can change by the way you play and via real time controls.

The patterns are called GE (Generated Effects) and there are over 1000. In program mode, a single GE is applied to a sound and in Combi mode there are 4 GEs per patch. Some GEs replicate real instrument styles like guitar strumming, there are drum patterns and complete backings. Plus, there are also traditional style arpeggios. You can create your own GEs using a separate application, but it can get pretty complicated very quickly.

Synth Engine

The synth engine is straight from the Triton. Korg called it HI (Hyper Integrated) which is PCM samples through a 24db low pass and 12db lowpass/high pass filter. There are 32mb of samples made up of 425 mutlisamples and 413 drum samples. The engine has 62 voices (31 in double mode) plus six more if the EXB-MOSS board is installed. There are 5 insert and 2 master effects plus EQ, along with 55 drum kits.

The Karma can operate in Program Mode which is a single sound. There is Combi Mode which is multiple sounds split or layered, and there is sequencer mode which has 16 channel, 200,000 events and 200 songs.


As well as 32mb of samples there are two expansion slots. I have the EXB-PCM01 Piano/Classic keyboard expansion, and the EXB-PCM05 Vintage Archives. Also available are:

  • PCM02 Studio Essentials
  • PCM03 Future Loop Construction
  • PCM04 Dance Extreme
  • PCM07 Orchestral
  • PCM08 Concert Grand Piano
  • PCM09 Trance Attack

There is also the ESB-MOSS board which I have covered in a separate video. This is a DSP synth with physical modelling and FM type synth engines and six additional notes of polyphony.

The Karma loses the Triton’s sample features, and the large touchscreen is replaced by a smaller screen with function keys. There is no ribbon controller or serial interface on the Karma.

As soon as you start using the Karma enabled sounds you realize the power of the GEs and the wide range of styles they offer. In Combi mode I find them a little bit too much like auto-accompaniment on an arranger keyboard but in Program mode the effects are much more useful and easier to incorporate in your own music.

Karma was also available in other workstations from Korg, including the Kronos, OASYS and M3. Plus, there are software versions, but the Karma was the first instrument to ship with it included.

Over the last few years, I haven’t really used my Karma but having rediscovered it for this article I found some of the Karma patterns very inspiring. While some of the sounds have dated, some aspects of the Karma have aged very well.

In this video I demonstrate some of the Karma patterns and pre-sets to give you an idea of what it can do.

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