Review of the Korg Pandora PX5D effects unit

I don’t have a page in this site that this belongs on, so I’m just throwing this post out there for anyone who might be interested.

This model appears to be discontinued already (2012) but the replacement (the Pandora Mini) looks excellent and sells for only USD100.

Korg Pandora PX5D

My new favorite toy...

Review of the Korg Pandora PX5D

Processor, tuner, phrase trainer and USB interface for electric guitar and bass players.

Executive overview

Pros:

  • great sound
  • great guitar effects including difficult-to-model crunchy/heavy distortion varieties
  • numerous drum/bass patterns for practicing with
  • rugged (metal case)
  • very compact (the fingers in the photo above are average size)
  • runs (up to 7 hours) on 2 AA batteries (YAY)
  • USB computer interface to edit patches, or record from device
  • aux input
  • switchable display backlight
  • good features for bass as well as guitar
  • other useful features like a tuner, transposing of input audio signals, and audio interface mode

Cons:

  • small size (!) buttons and knobs can be a bit tiny to manipulate
  • no included A/C p/s
  • not dirt cheap (list is USD330, but most places sell it for less than USD200)
  • support software is for WinXP. No problem for me but many musicians do use Macs

Introduction

I felt the urge to replace my 10-year-old DigiTech RP100 pedal. As nice a device as it was, it wasn’t the most convenient for me, mainly because I don’t play live. I was tired of having to stick the pedal up on the table to edit things. And I thought I had got all the best sounds out of it I could get.

So my plan was to get a new efx processor for my guitar, but also soup up the axe by replacing the old pickup set with EMG active pickups.

Before I did any of that however, I paid the local guitar experts to set up and intonate the guitar. This was long overdue and made the instrument 100 times more enjoyable to play.

After a fair amount of research on guitar effects, I decided on the Korg. One of the things I particularly liked was the design for electric bass as well as electric guitar. Since I play both this was a plus. The smaller and less expensive PX4 model looked interesting, but for its additional features the PX5D was relatively not that much more in price–so that’s what I ordered. (I read somewhere that the “D” part of the name meant “dual”; i.e., guitar and bass.)

The Korg can be used live which I’ll talk about later but that is not the way I use it, so this review will be mostly aimed at the studionaut.

Effects use and editing

The simplest way to begin, once you tear it out of its box (batteries included!) is to plug in your instrument, connect your amp to its output and just start hitting presets. There are 100 presets and 100 user patch slots. The last 30 presets have names that begin with “B ” and are particularly optimized for bass.

There are 4 dedicated buttons A-D for your absolute favorite patches. The other way to access a group of your favorite patches quickly is to copy them into adjacent user slots. For instance, I liked patches P00, P02, P04, P09, P17, etc., so I copied them to user memory locations U00, U01, U02, U03, etc. You can then tweak those Unn patches, match their output levels, etc.

The tweakability of the effects is great. The effects structure is a chain of 7 blocks (plus a noise reduction block). The blocks are:

  • dynamics/pickup modeling (including octave, ring modulator, compressors, limiters, distortion, etc.)
  • amplifier models (15 guitar amps, 10 bass amps, guitar and bass synths)
  • cabinet models (11 types of guitar cabinets and 12 types of bass cabinets)
  • modulation and filtering effects (chorus, flanger, pager, pitch shifter)
  • delay effects (slap, echo, pingpong, reverse, with adjustable delay times)
  • reverb models (11 types)
  • noise reduction

The coolest thing is to hook up the USB connection and install the Pandora patch editor. This makes it simple to try patches, which you can then also save from and load to the device. If you for some reason find the 100 user patches too few, you can create your own banks and download them when you need them.

As is often the case in these type of devices, in a lot of cases they can only hint at the amp models they are intending to emulate. It’s fun to try to guess which models they are intending to refer to.

For instance “BTQ CLN” (“Boutique Clean”) is described as “clean channel of a high-end 100W hand-made amp.” Some of the other models you can choose from are (just listing the guitar ones):

  • BTQ OD
  • TWD1x12 (“Tweed 1×2”)
  • TWD4x10
  • BLK2x12 (Fender Twin  series?)
  • AC15/AC15B – they actually use the name VOX AC15 in the description
  • AC30/AC30TB
  • UKBLUES (“UK-manufactured vintage stack guitar amp head”) Orange, Marshall, Hiwatt?
  • UK 70s/UK 80s/UK 90s (UK-manufactured guitar heads from 1969, 1983 and the 90s)

Rhythm section

The next feature you need to play with is the Rhythm section. This consists of 120 rhythm patterns, including a number in non-4/4 rhythms, and 8 metronome patterns. The cool thing is that most rhythm patterns have 4 bass options: off, basic pattern, variation 1 (major key) and variation 2 (minor key) for your selected root note.

You can string up to 16 patterns in a Chain. Up to 20 Chains can be stored.

The rhythm set sounds OK but you can tell just one sample is used for the snare which becomes a little mechanical after a while.

Phrase trainer

This is a very powerful and handy feature. You select a phrase buffer length of 20, 40 or 80 seconds, and you can either record your instrument, and audio source or even load a loop into the device via your computer. Then you can play it back in a loop and work out your leads or rhythm parts with it. A cool feature is the speed adjustment where you can set the playback speed to one of 6 values from 50% to 100% of original. It’s not a high fidelity adjustment but useful for practice.

Summary

In a nutshell, this is an extremely feature rich, well designed, compact and useful device. The criticisms I have of it are so minor as to be negligible. I think for around USD200 or even less it represents and excellent value. Korg may not be the first name you think of when it comes to guitar effect but it’s well worth checking this out.

I just ran across a very detailed review of the PX5D on Harmony Central, and I hope they won’t mind if I throw the link here: Review of PX5D by Jon Chappell (April 2010)

Last edited 20110109

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