Until now I had been using an old Korg N5 which was starting to struggle after 12 years of gigging around Kent and London. The pitch bend wheel had been knocked a few times which meant I had to carefully tune it up before each booking like a guitarist tunes a guitar! The aftertouch had also stopped working and the buttons all needed a hard press each time they were used which was problematic when I needed to change a sound quickly half way through a song. So this was a much needed upgrade!
Korg Krome Build Quality
Unfortunately, the power button is not very solid. It feels slightly loose and moves about up and down, left and right by a millimetre or so in each direction. It has no "click" to indicate you have pushed it on or off which feels a bit disconcerting. I checked with Korg that this was normal and they said yes. My old N5 had a larger button that stayed in when the power was on, and stayed out when it was off - you know, like most power buttons!
The Krome uses an external power supply with a small DC power socket. It would be much nicer to have a standard IEC lead input but I guess they have to cut costs somewhere. The power brick is small and light, but the power socket where the adaptor plugs into the keyboard feels a little fragile and wobbles about in the socket. I imagine I will have to be very careful with it longer term as it feels much less sturdy than the one on my N5.
It always confuses me when manufacturers design and build a new product so well using nice quality materials and then they use a very flimsy power connector. I had the same problem with a Soundcraft Spirit FX8 mixing desk. The whole unit was made out of 1.5mm steel, it was built like a tank, but the power socket was very flimsy plastic! I'd love to meet the people in charge of making these decisions and ask them what they were thinking. I'd wager that they're not gigging musicians using the equipment day in and day out!
Feel, Responsiveness & Playability
They do have some slightly sharp edges on the near side (although this is nowhere near as bad as on the horrible TR keybed). My N5 has much nicer keys, which are smooth and rounded. Plus they're quiet and feel more natural and responsive to play. The omission of aftertouch is missed too, since it is useful for adding modulation on organ and strings sounds without taking your left hand off the keyboard.
The keybed is not a deal breaker for me, as the other features make this a great keyboard for the price, but I wish Korg would offer a keyboard with all the features of the Krome and retain its light weight whilst adding a high quality keybed with aftertouch. You might say, at this price point (£799) it is to be expected, but I still think its something that is surely very important to the majority of musicians especially as this is marketed as a professional keyboard.
Midi Files & Sequencing on the Krome
Back when I first started learning to play the keyboard the Krome's sequencer would have been amazing. However, in 2013 it does seem to be a painfully slow experience. For example, changing a sound for a track on a midi file on a normal computer would involve a couple of mouse clicks. With the Krome you need to go to that track, go to Edit Track, then the Event Edit page, select the events you want to view and untick everything except "Program Changes" and then just as you find the event that you need to change you have to remember which patch you want to change it to as its done using the program number not the name! Nine times out of ten I would forget the number of the patch and have to come out and start all over again. You need to do this for each track of course so it gets old fast. Perhaps its just me, but I found it to be quite tedious and slow when you are used to working with modern computer based sequencer programs. That said, I didn't buy the keyboard for the sequencing, I bought it to play live, so its not really an issue for me.
I would like to thank Tom Osborne at Absolute Music for his help. Absolute Music are based in Bournemouth in the UK which is some way from me in Kent, but I have always had great service from them and nothing ever seems too much trouble. I'm hoping they open a shop nearby in Kent one day!