Korg Wavestation: 19 Bits? Or 16+3?

Monday, March 8, 2021 at 6:50 am

Someone very kindly gifted me with a Korg Wavestation EX that had been languishing in their closet, and I’ve found myself gradually sinking deeper and deeper into the guts of the beast. Pads, sure, yes, it does great pads — everyone loves the pads; all the presets are pads. But, did you know that the Wavestation can actually do great dubstep wobble bass, if you sit there and carefully program for a few, rather than smashing around with the presets?

Probably not, because it’s a solid 15 minutes of data entry to get there.

The only reason I did get there is because, one day, for some unfathomable reason, I asked myself: How do I get a dubstep bass, anyways? I’d never really wanted to before… but, this day, I wanted a dubstep bass, how do I get it?

The answer, more or less, is sine waves. Two oscillators -2, one +30cent, other -30cent. Two more oscillators -1. Use an envelope so the pitch slowly/subtly descends. Overdrive, compress. Already you should be in the ballpark. Tie an LFO to modulate pitch if you want more

I look around my studio: sine waves, sine waves. HECK! None of these freakin’ things have sine waves; one never notices until one needs sine waves, that one has sine qua non

The wavestation. The wavestation. Surely, this must have a sine wave?

After spending easily ten or fifteen minutes listening to all sorts of waves, I find it: #161, sine wave. Of course, silly me; I should have thought to look for “just a sine wave” in the low 160’s

Fifteen minutes after that, however, I have a dubstep patch that does the most wicked wobbles in response to moving the vector joystick about. Pads… ppf, yeah, pads, right. You guys are missing it

The problem, however, is that there’s a watch battery somewhere within the Korg Wavestation EX, that saves all the non-ROM patches. It is long ded; has been since I was gifted the ‘station. As soon as I turn it off, anything I’ve done is erased; gone. I could go program my dubstep patch again from memory right now, but it would take me 15 or 25 minutes of pressing buttons, and, ok, this synth, I feel its power now, I need to fix that battery because I am going to make some sick patches

I order a pack of CR-2032 off the ‘nets, standard really; seems to be what everyone says it is… but I’m not sure. So, I download the service manual…

…and, then, lord help me, it’s 4AM, because I’ve just been studying the schematics for ages. Then I see this:

D/A (DAC) Section of Korg Wavestation schematic

The brochure promises the end-user pristine 19bit DAC from the internal 24bit engine, but this would seem to be a 16-bit DAC with a 4053 and an op-amp somehow blending in another three bits?

Is this clever or crap? Genuinely want to know. Given where it’s coming from, I’d actually lean towards clever…


Perplexed by the design, I wrote Mr. Smarty Electronics Man, who is actually an electrical engineer, as opposed to a mere obsessive dabbler. His response was thus:

not industry standard but not unheard of

linearity/accuracy can be worse than a real DAC but that doesn’t matter much for LSB

Mr Smarty Electronics Man

And, there you have it: it’s kind of in the middle, and likely still an improvement over 16 pristine, linear, accurate bits.


I have replaced the battery in the Wavestation EX, and now I can actually save patches. I cannot wait for the weekend.

While I had it open, I grabbed a candid of this charming stretch of electron pathway

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