Cheap but cool : Korg MA-1 metronome

I needed a metronome for my practice routines.
Not a highly sophisticated product, for sophisticated beats, I use a drum software on my Macintosh. I needed just a simple small, efficient and easy to use metronome that would allow me to practice without requiring the Macintosh.

This little box from Korg is very cheap, 13 euros. I you look closely to the built quality, it’s not so cheap, because the plastic is very thin, this “built in Vietnam” item is very light, to be honest it looks more as a toy than as a musical instrument.
So the price tag is very low (it’s one of the cheapest metronomes) but it expansive considering the built quality of this little device.
The size is small, I can put it without problem in my guitar case (it was an important point for me). It is powered by two AAA batteries and (thanks Mr Korg) a pair is provided with the device

The beats can be visualized by two systems. A little index that move in a semi circular way to mimic the mechanical metronomes movement, and a set of little triangular icons (one by beat). On each beat, the icon color changes (moving from left to right), indicating the current beat of the measure
So at the first glance it’s possible to really visualize the tempo. The tempo range go from 30 to 252 bpm
The click of the first beat is automatically accentuated, but this cannot be set (some more expansive models allow that).

The “tap tempo” function, while not of every day use, can be really handy. You just press one of the button in rhythm with a song and the tempo is automagically detected and displayed.

Don’t be impressed by the very long technical specification file, even if it is very long, the MA-1 is a very basic metronome, it’s not a drum machine or anything this way.
Its job is to beat the tempo and it does that pretty well.

The tempo speed can be augmented (or lowered) in two ways. A classical +/- 1 step and a +/- 4 steps supposed to mimic the way the mechanical metronomes works.
Its a strange idea as someone willing a mechanical metronome will not get a purely electronic device as the MA-1. On the other hand this can be handy to quickly change the tempo. Going from 80 to 140 for example, step by step can be long. The same operation 4 step at a time is obviously quicker.
The beats can be set from 1 to 9 beats by measure and there are 8 rhythms to choose from : Quarter notes, eighth notes, triplets (straight triplets, triplets with inner beat omitted, triplets with the third beat omitted), sixteenth notes (quadruplets, quadruplets with middle beats omitted, quadruplets with the third and fourth beats omitted).. Far enough for usual practice

Difficult to talk about « sound » when it comes to a metronome.. well yes it’s possible.
The sound is better (let’s say “less worse”) than most of the electronic metronomes, more bassy, less aggressive, but very far from the pleasant wooden tick of the mechanical counterparts.
The sound level can be set, but the volume button is a cheap one with a non really progressive action. In real life there are 3 positions, very low, medium and high, its not really possible to smoothly set the sound output volume.

There is a earphone jack output (3.5mm 1/8″) and it is in stereo (some previous models had a mono output). This can be handy when practicing by night or on the other hand when practicing in a very noisy conditions (for a drummer for example).

The MA-1 is not a tuner but can be used as a tuner when no real tuner is available.
It can produce a reference sound using a 12 steps (C4 – B4) chromatic reference pitch. Each note can be calibrated by 1hz increment (410Hz–480Hz)

No advice on reliability.
On one side Korg is a well respected name
On the other side this device is very lightly built and will likely not support a lot of abuse. Its not targetted at touring musicians, but at home practice

Ease of use is very good
I didn’t even read the manual, no need.
The button are clearly labelled and everything is pretty obvious (and that’s normal it’s just a métronome..)

My overall rating is high because the MA-1 is not a marvel but it’s a very good little metronome, that does very well what it is supposed to do, doesn’t cost a lot, is nice looking and easy to use.

There are obviously better products around but not at that price tag

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