Korg Volca beats is the smallest analog drum machine in the world. In this article, I will review this drum machine. Tiny yet powerful, Korg Volca beats is a great choice for those who want a compact alternative to the traditional analog drum machines.
Whether you are an indie producer, a live drum player, or just a hobbyist, this tiny analog Drum machine will satisfy all your drumming needs.
Korg Volca Beats was designed in Japan and built-in Vietnam which features a ‘full analog signal path’.
However, as per Korg’s statement, the “control signals are generated digitally” where the “CPU has a 10-bit DAC that gives incredible near-analog resolution”.
So, we can call it a hybrid drum machine with an analog sound engine and digital controls. Most of the controls in Volca beats can be addressed via a MIDI controller.
Well, enough intro…
Now, let’s have a look at the unique features of the Korg Volca beats analog drum machine.
Korg Volca Beats Features
- Powerful analog drum sounds – Korg Volca beats is equipped with powerful analog drum sounds inspired by classic rhythm machines. This drum machine provides 6 types of analog sounds: Kick, Snare, Hi Tom, Lo Tom, Closed Hi-Hat, and Open Hi-Hat.
- Maximum impact from minimal parameters – The Volca beats provides us a minimal set of parameters that let us quickly create the drum sound. For example, simply by using the Click, Pitch, and Decay knobs, we can easily create an incredible variety of kick sounds. The parameters make it very easy to use this tiny analog beat machine.
- PCM sound engine – Vocal beats are featured with a PCM sound engine that is used to cover sounds, such as Clap, Claves, Agogo, and Crash. PCM sound engine is also used to reproduce the rough lo-fi sound of the ’80s.
- Electribe Loop sequencer – The step sequencer is given to make editing easy that lets you add or remove parts in a simple way. You can use its 16 step keys function to intuitively enter the notes and monitor visually the timing of the notes. You can record in real-time by playing the touch panel keyboard. You can store up to eight sequence patterns in internal memory.
- Stutter function – The Stutter function given in Korg Volca beats is used to dramatically expand your live performance by adding drum rolls or delay-like effects. The shutter function can be used to transform the feel of the entire pattern, as well as fill the gap when switching patterns.
- Active Step function and Step Jump function – The Active Step function provides you to skip a step during sequence playback. It can create effects like short loops or unexpectedly irregular rhythms, which allows dynamic performances that were performing the sequence itself.
- SYNC jack and MIDI IN connector – The sync jack function lets you enjoy synchronized playback with multiple volcas or with a monotribe. The “SyncKontrol” of the iPhone app is used to wirelessly control tap tempo, swing settings, etc. Additionally, the MIDI IN connector allows you to synchronize with other devices by playing the volca from your MIDI keyboard. MIDI in connecter can also be used to send note messages from your DAW by using the volca as an analog sound module.
- Compact size – The compact size of Korg Volca beats is my favorite feature. With this compact size, you can carry it anywhere anytime whether it’s a live concert or a studio tour.
- Battery-powered – ALong with the compact size the battery-powered operation makes it a fully mobile device that can be played anywhere.
- built-in speaker – You will also get built-in speakers that eliminate the need for external speakers with Volca beats.
Price – $199-$225
Analog Sounds Digital Interface
Korg Volca beats is an analog beat drum machine inside a digital interface. The digital interface makes it easy to operate while you will get the real analog sounds created regarding classic rhythm machines.
Korg Volca beats provides 6 types of analog sounds ie; Kick, Snare, Hi Tom, Lo Tom, Closed Hi-Hat, and Open Hi-Hat.
Specially built for the dance music genre, these analog sounds are used on numerous synthesizers and sampling CDs. Volca beats drum machine is equipped with the carefully selected minimal set of digital parameters that allow you to quickly create the drum sound that you want.
So Much Feature in a little instrument
Volca beats are equipped with so many features that are very tough to include in this tiny size of the instrument. The front panel of the analog drum machine is like a 7inch tablet. In this tiny size, Korg provided 26 knobs and buttons along with a 16-step keypad.
Most of the parameters are backlit so that you can easily operate this tiny beat machine in a live venue or around the campfire. A speaker and an AA size battery socket are given in this drum machine so you can take it anywhere without worrying about the external power.
All these features make it a very powerful instrument inside a small user interface. Korg has given so many features inside this tiny instrument.
Analog drum sounds
Korg Volca beats features 8 built-in drum sounds. Each of these is tweakable in several ways to allow you to create great drum sounds.
However, Korg Volca beats have just 8 drum sounds, still, you have the room to create a lot to stamp your mark on the production.
This tiny beat machine has controls for Click, Pitch, and Decay that lets you take your creations from sub-bass “Booooooom!” to a much tighter “Pop sound”. Along with the kick, the snare pinches given in this drum machine have the Snappy control from the 808.
When combined with the Pitch and Decay parameters, the snare turns from a discreet knock to a trashy splash.
The analog high-hats are again replicated from the TR-808, which sounds realistic vintage rhythm machine character.
Korg Volca beats features a step sequencer that is specially designed to make editing easy. This loop sequencer lets you add or remove the parts in a great way. The given 16 step keys can be used to intuitively enter notes as well as visually monitoring the timing of the notes within the loop.
You can play the 16 step touch keys to record in real-time. You can store in the internal memory up to 8 sequence patterns that you create through the step sequencer.
The Stutter function given in its loop sequencer can be used to dramatically expand your live performance possibilities by adding drum rolls or delay effects.
By using the stutter function you can completely transform the feel of the entire pattern or fill the gaps when switching over the patterns. The stutter knob movement can be recorded in a sequence.
Moreover, the active step function lets you skip a step during sequence playback. The step Jump function given is instantly played only the step you’re pressing on the touch keys.
It can create a short loop or unexpectedly irregular rhythms.
Just like Monotron and Monotribe etc, Korg Volca beats can be modded and expanded. However, modding will void the warranty of this tiny analog drum machine.
Many people are already modding Korg volca for MIDI out and CV control. You can go one step ahead by adding individual audio-outs for drum sounds. However, Korg Volcas are a bit trickier to modding on than the Monotron or Tribe so be careful with that soldering iron.
Korg has labeled up the key PCB solder points (MIDI out, kick out, etc) under the warranty so if you expand or do modding then the warranty will be void.
MIDI and Sync Features
With the MID and Sync feature given in Korg Volca beats drum machine, you can synchronize this with other gear or you may play the Beats purely as a standalone machine. The choice is yours.
The MIDI in port assure that you can play or sequence from any other MIDI controller or a computer running music software. However, there is no MIDI Out nor MIDI Thru is given.
Though, the Sync In and Sync Out connections given can be used with a 3.5mm audio cable to send or receive timing pulses.
You can use Sync In and Sync Out connections to connect its siblings Volca Bass and Volca Keys. All these 3 can be used as daisy-chained and locked to the same tempo. You can also use Korg’s free SyncKontrol iPhone app to set the tempo and add some swings on the beats.
What’s Missing in Volca Beats
However, there are lots of features for a $190 analog drum machine Korg given in Volca beats, still, something is missing.
Korg made some compromises to offer this drum machine under $190.
Such as, there’s only one mono output is given that carries the mono signal. The absence of dedicated outputs for each sound and no dedicated volume control for each sound. That makes it a bit complicated to balance all the things.
Another feature that I miss in this tiny analog drum machine is the mains power supply. There is no mains power supply is given in Korg Volca beats. You’ll have to buy a power adapter separately.
What’s in the Box
There are no more things given inside the box.
You will get the unit and AAA batteries in the box. However, you can buy other accessories separately. In this next section, you’ll learn about all the accessories for Korg Volca beats.
Accessories for Korg Volca Beats
Here are the accessories for Korg Volca beats.
- SEQUENZ CB-4VOLCA – Hard-shell case for up to 4 volcas.
- SEQUENZ CC-VOLCA – Dedicated carrying case for the KORG Volca series.
- AC adapter “KA-350”
Korg Volca beats is known as the smallest analog drum machine so from a size point of view it’s the best instrument. Especially, for those who travel a lot, stager performers, and outside activities.
BUT, it can’t compete with a genuine TR-808. Again, if we see the price of Korg volca beats, it’s best for newbies who don’t want to spend more on drum machines like this.
If you ask me about my verdict, I’ll gonna buy it with Volca Bass and Keys, that makes the setup complete. This setup helps you to make better music. However, I don’t want it individually.
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Gautam Roy is a recording engineer and a blogger from India. He loves music, writing and travelling. He is also an active investor and a successful entrepreneur.