The Korg Volca Beats is the drum machine of the Korg Volca series. It’s exactly the same size as the other two and that is small. At only 193 x 115 x 46mm and 377 grams in weight you can’t argue that’s it’s not portable. Talking of portability, the Volca Beat takes six AA batteries that are included with the unit so the weight will go up slightly but I don’t think that will make it too heavy for anyone to carry! Add that to the fact that you have a built in loud speaker and you really do have a truly portable device.
I have mentioned this before but there really is something nice about not having to plug it into anything to make a sound. Take it out of your pocket; turn it on and away you go, prefect for writing with when you suddenly get a good idea. There’s also a headphone jack if you want to be portable and not annoy anyone else. If you going out and you know you’re going to have some time to kill while you’re away, take your Beats with you!
Once you’re back in the studio you’re really going to need the mains adapter and although it’s an optional item you’re not going to get very far without one. Plug it into your studio monitors and you’ll really get a feel for the power of the drums too.
This is one area that I think analog drums really excelled. Sampling drum machines were great for realism and when they came long everyone was impressed with them but you couldn’t get the sharpness and power that you could from a proper analog drum machine. The high hats and snares could cut through anything and the bass drum could kill at twenty paces. This is something that the hip hop, electro and techno world quickly realised, hence the popularity of the Roland 808 and 909 drum machines. The Korg Volca Beats will give you the same power in sounds as it produces six of its sounds from pure analog synthesis, with four others being PCM samples, with those you just get to alter the pitch but with the analog creations you can adjust all sorts of stuff on the different sounds like decay, pitch, click and snappy.
Sequencing is pretty straight forward and you can use it in the standard drum machine programming mode if you want to but for performance there are a few other tricks it has up its sleeve. Step jump and active step provide means to shorten the rhythm while playing and move the start to a different position. In words it doesn’t really translate but what it actually does is give you a great platform for creating fills and breaks live, it’s something you’ll appreciate more when you’ve played around with it. Same with the stutter control. It’s like a delay but it re triggers the sounds to make the effect so there’s no sound degradation you can use it on all sounds o just individual ones and you can automate much of the twisting of the controls producing all manner of swing and shuffle type effects.
Talking about controls, like the other Volca’s they haven’t scrimped on LED’s. They are all over the place, even under the transparent knobs so even they light up. I’m surprised the Volca’s don’t come with a BBC warning that they contain flashing lights and images.
Interfacing and synchronisation is taken care of with the MIDI in and sync in and out sockets, so chaining them all together and indeed connecting to other stuff isn’t a problem like it used to be with the earlier analog drum machines.
There are some things that the Korg Volca Beats haven’t got like individual outputs but at the price you pay (about £110) it seems a bit picky mentioning them to be honest!
If you want to impress someone, program in a kicking rhythm, get the lights flashing, turn up the volume and mess with the step jumps and stutter control.
I like the fact that you can just turn it on and use it. It’s great for when inspiration strikes, you can get it down rather than have to plug things up and wonder why you can’t hear anything through the monitors, by the time you’ve figured out you using the wrong fader or the master is routed to what you were last doing, you’ve forgotten what that fantastic rhythm was you had.
The hands on control of these units is another massive plus, once you’ve played about with them the laptop running VST’s seems pretty flat. I guess that’s what makes a simulation, and something that is physically in front of you with masses of controls an instrument!
The optional power adapter for any of the korg Volca Series