Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #25
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
The first-generation Pandora, which appeared in 1995, was a revolutionary product that packed an amazing amount of functionality into a unit the size of a cassette tape (“what's a cassette tape?” our younger readers may be thinking right now). Subsequently, Korg had added its "REMS" modelling technology as well as enhanced rhythm functionality. Now, this, the latest incarnation of the Pandora series, is offered as a stomp-box type unit.
Although it looks like a compact effects unit in a die-cast box, the Pandora is actually a multi-effects unit that contains 158 types of modelling effects; seven of which you can use simultaneously. Two hundred preset programs include many well-known signature sounds as well as 100 rhythm patterns that cover a diverse range of styles. There's also an auto tuner with an eye-catching LED meter that’s easy to read. You can also enjoy jam sessions by connecting your MP3 player to the AUX input, which provides a +/-1 octave pitch shift function. The freely downloadable PC editor/librarian makes it easy to create and manage sounds.
Clearly things have changed since 1995 and there is now a vast array of multi-effects units that can do many many things, and sound far better than the early types did, back in the day. Korg has moved and evolved with the times and it’s impressive to see the amount of technology that can be squeezed into one small stomp box today. The company has seen an opening in the market for smaller, more portable multi-effect units, much like DigiTech, which has gone down a similar route, but Korg has gone a step further on the footprint scale: in fact you could quite easily fit the Pandora onto an existing pedalboard that had space for just one more pedal, with no issues. And if you did, you'd instantly have hundreds of new sounds under your foot! Alternatively, if you are looking for something portable that you can just throw into your gig bag then this also ticks that box, too. Need something small at home to practice with? This could be the very thing. So many possibilities from one small piece of die cast metal! So how is it in use?
The Pandora is actually very user friendly. I didn’t have to go on a three day course or download an operating manual in PDF onto a separate hard drive to get it working. The layout is very intuitive and does exactly what you would expect. The tuner is bright and clear, and you can either use it in bypass mode or silent by holding down the main button for a couple of seconds. It comes loaded with 200 presets that include numerous stage-ready song pre-set programs, such as “Purple Haze” and “Message in a Bottle”. These were great and varied and presets such as Purple Haze did a good job of replicating the famous tones. Even better, you can edit any of them. For example if you like the Message in a Bottle sound but didn’t want the chorus, then simply go into edit mode and take it off. You can then save it to a patch on a bank and you can have four presets per bank. If you don’t much care for any of the pre-loaded sounds, then you can start completely from scratch and create your own. With 158 different types of amps and effects there should be enough there for even the most hardened tone junky!
Overall, the Pandora’s sounds are good. As I often find with these kind of units, the distortion and crazy sounds tend to be better than the standard clean tones. I feel the same applies to this stomp box. The cleans lack the warmth and depth that you may be used to from valve amps, but are still perfectly usable. A couple of other great features on this pedal include the 100 rhythm patterns including a metronome, ideal for jam sessions and training, and an AUX input for connecting your MP3 player, enabling you to jam along with your favourite tunes - nice touches for an already packed pedal!
The multi-function foot switch can also be used to switch program memories, just like with a single effects unit, and four program memory buttons allow one-touch recall. A DC9V power supply allows easy integration with your pedal board; the unit will also operate on USB bus power for hassle-free integration with your computer, while sound editor software lets you create sounds and manage programs (download from the Korg website). Finally it's available in three colours: cool black, as well as chic ivory and pop orange.
The Pandora certainly offers a lot of things crammed into a single small box! I'm not sure it would be a replacement for one of the larger multi-effects units, as its missing things like an expression pedal, but I don’t think it’s aimed at that market. The Pandora would be a nice add-on to a board and would be ideal for the various solo situations I outlined earlier. It's small, portable, and robust with more sounds and features than you can shake a stick at and it's well priced, too. Korg have proved to me that good things really do come in small packages.