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Korg Electribes Specifications for the ER-1, EA-1, EM-1, EMX, ES-1, ESX,

Updated on May 14, 2017

The Electribe Series

This write up is all about the "Electribe" series.

The original Electribes first introduced in 1999 included the ES-1 (sampler), ER-1 (drum synth), EM-1 (groovebox), EA-1 (2part synth), all of which were produced and manufactured in Japan.

The MKII Series was a revamp of the originals in 2003 which included the ES-1 MKII, ER-1 MKII, and EA-1 MKII. There was not an equivalent "EM-1 Groovebox" made in the 2003 MKII series. Instead the EMX was introduced.
Besides for the obvious look in appearance, with the introduction to the beautifully anodized aluminum tops. The MKII version was produced and made in china as opposed to its elder and originator made in Japan.

My personal opinion (and from side to side test) is that the original series from Japan is much more inviting and warmer than the MKII series. For Hiphop, Down Tempo, Jungle, etc. I would recommend the original series, for EDM, House, Breakbeat, I would recommend the MKII.
Between Japan and China the originals and MKII versions did not seem to vary in quality, only sound. Whereas the quality in the EMX and ESX dropped significantly.

**All pictures are of the units I either own or have owned**


The ER-1 is one of the best virtual analogue drum machine synths there is (in my personal opinion). First introduced in 1999 the "Electribe Rhythm" is a four part virtual analogue drum synth with three pcm (sampled) sound parts.

The original ER-1 has two "Cross Mod" effects where as the MKII version replaced the second cross mod button with a "Ring Mod" effect.

Beside for the appearance and the change in effect both units operate the same. Each has a headphone out, L & R output, L & R audio in, Midi in, Thru and Out connections.

The original ER-1 was produced and manufactured in Japan, whereas its successor was manufactured in China. I have not compared the sound between the original and the MKII but I would be willing to bet it follows suite with the other unit comparisons of the MKII sounding more digital and crisp with its predecessor sounding more warm and inviting.

EA-1 & EA-1 MKII

The original EA-1 was introduced in 1999, with the MKII version following four years later in 2003.
Both units are two part synths and do no more and no less than what is shown on the front plate and matrix.
Between the EA1 and EA1 MKII there are no differences, To my ears the EA1 (original) sounds more warm and muddy, whereas the MKII is more clear.
Both units have headphone out "mix" out of left or left and right out along with Midi out, thru and in.
Personally I think two of these (maybe one original and a MKII) and a ER-1 combination with an effects unit is better than the EMX. But to each there own.


The EM-1 was the response to the Roland 303. Whereas the 303 is definitely more of a beast and all around "groovebox", the EM-1 is so simple to use.
The EM1 features 6 drum parts (8 really because parts five and six consist of two parts but only one can be played at a time) and two synth parts. Unlike the Er-1 the drums are all PCM samples, but the synth parts can be fully manipulated.
The unit has headphone out, left & right out, Midi In, Thru and Out. Besides for that it is pretty basic. Again comparable to the Roland 303 the unit definitely is lacking in features, but at the same time is an easy to learn and fun machine.


The EMX.
Probably the most popular of the Korg series. The EMX is basically two EA1's and an EM1 in one box. You have five synth parts all of which can be fully manipulated and seven drum parts. All of the drum parts are PCM sample based which is why I think the ER-1 and a couple of
EA-1's is better than the EMX.
The features and effects are the same as the EXS, the only difference is, is that you cannot sample. There have been the same reports of faulty pots and knob jitter on the EMX. I have had over four ESX's with issues, and three EMX's with no issues, so I cannot comment on the units sharing the same faulty pots.

ES-1 & ES-1 MKII

The original ES-1 sampler was introduced in 1999, with the MKII version following four years later in 2003.

Both units are the same in regards to operation procedure but have a slight variance in the effects. The ES-1 came with a "wah" effect, whereas the ES-1 MKII came with a "mod delay". The delay option on the MKII allows you to add a delay to individual parts as opposed to the "global delay" that effects the master out (all parts), which is standard on both units.

Being able to use the delay on assigned parts is an obvious win for the MKII. But a little known fact is that the original ES-1 can be updated with the MKII operating system which turns the "wah" effect in to the "mod delay".

A side by side comparison of both units loaded with the MKII operating system and factory sounds and settings tells me a few things. For one the MKII looks great, and the sound is crisp, sharp and glittery. The original ES-1 is ugly and sounds warm and inviting in comparison.
For my style of music (hiphop/downtempo) the original made in Japan ES-1 with the MKII operating system wins hands down.
For any kind of dance/electronic music I think the beautifully looking and revised MKII would fit the bill.


The ESX-1 was originally introduced in 2003 as a successor and upgrade to the original ES-1 and ES-1 MKII.
As opposed to having only one effect the ESX offers three effects that can be used individually by parts or chained together. And unlike the ES series where you have to use the jog wheel for the start and end points it offers a startpoint pot which allows you to edit the start of the sample on the fly, or even change the start point during playback.
Along with the standard left and right outputs it also offers (3 & 4) individual outputs. The sounds routed to 3 & 4 bypass the effects.
(These are just the main features that make the unit stand out to me. Comparable to the
ES-1 (original and MKII) there are plenty of upgrades.)

This unit is great, it's f*cking awesome if you can get one that is working properly. As mentioned above the vast majority of these units (more than half, mistakenly admitted by a Korg employee) have issues.

The issue is knob/data jitter. Where the unit keep changing parameters and settings on its own. The issue seems to be caused from either cheap potentiometers (pots) or soldering error. Many have fixed the issue with wax sheets between the boards, or by dissembling and cleaning the contacts on the main jog wheel (encoder). Dependent on how bad the issue is the faulty pots need to be replaced.


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