Jul 28

INTRODUCING THE KORG WAVEDRUM MINI DYNAMIC PERCUSSION SYNTHESIZER

I love new Drum Products, especially when they have such innovative ideas. One such product is the new Korg WaveDrum Mini Dynamic Percussion Synthesizer. I have already reviewed the WaveDrum, but from what I hear about the Mini, it is not a scaled down WaveDrum but something with a little bit more and a little bit less in certain areas. You always have to take the good with the bad, especially when it comes to cost and marketing a new product. I really need to see for myself and test this fun looking instrument out.

MINI WAVES OUT OF THE BOX

The WaveDrum Mini comes suitably boxed with an AC Adapter, a small manual, a Strap and an interesting chunky Clip with a lead (more about that later). It is lightweight, very portable and can run on six AA batteries. Its weight without the batteries loaded is 1 kg which is 2.2 lbs. The Drum is circular and its diameter is 216 mm (8.5 inches) and it is only 67mm (2.63 inches) high.

MY FIRST THOUGHTS ON THE WAVEDRUM MINI AND ITS CONTROLS

The WaveDrum Mini is smaller and lighter than other WaveDrums and this is what I expected. It is also cheaper and housed in a plastic case. Only half of its circular area is a rubber playing pad, whilst the other half houses an in-built 10 x 5 cm speaker (1.3 Watt) and then a row of controls. The first is a small LCD which is a 2 digit, 7-segmentto display to show you the sound voice, the loop number or the bar count number if you go into record mode.

Next is the Edit button which if you hold down for two seconds takes you into Edit Mode. Its main use however is to select between Clip or Pad. The Page/Value Up and Down obviously cycle you through the different sounds or values. FX allows you to select either Effects A or B or turn off. The Looper is just a Start / Stop button. Record allows you to record over the loop if you wish. ‘Select’ allows you to select the loop from the 100 loops and Shift button in conjunction with other buttons give you some alternative controls. Finally you have a Volume Control knob.

LET’S POWER HER UP AND SEE HOW SHE SOUNDS

As I switch it on, my first thoughts were that something is wrong, as some strange characters flash on the LCD. It is quite slow loading before settling down to two zeros and an LED on Pad and under the words “Rhythm On”. I cannot help feeling that Korg could have done much better here, perhaps with the fixed characters LO for loading rather than give you the impression it was not working correctly. There is a sound or rather three sounds on the patch 00. They seem to be all velocity sensitive. The first sounds like a tambourine, if you hit harder you get a very modern low-fi bass synth-drum sound. Hitting very hard introduces a dog-barking snare drum sound which again could be two sounds together. Sorry but this is just what I am hearing and it is difficult to explain. Korg describe patch 00 as a Clubkit.

Holding down the ‘Page/Value Up’ key you can navigate from 00 to 99 and select easily from the 100 patches. Loading of the next patch is fast with just a millisecond gap before the previous sound cuts off and the new one starts. There is no overlap from the previous sound like on the Korg Kronos. This would be a lovely but expensive addition especially from drumming point of view it would serve well for continued and varied performance.

Working my way through voices, you have a good variety of sounds that are categorised into Drum kits, Drum Percussion Instrument, Industrial, Tuned Percussion, Synth Bass, Other tuned instrument or FX. You have things like Dance Drum Kit, Arabic Marimba, Steel Drum Bluesy, Big Riq, Human Drum Kit, 1970 Space Tom, Boomy Rap Kick, Techno Clapper, Water Drum, Yamiuchi, Breath Drum, Exotic Vibraphone, Agogo Set, Belly Dancing Jam Drum, Kicked Bassline, Tribal Ambi Tom, Sitar, Air Bamboo, Balafon and Djembe to name a few. I must say that personally I think Korg have done a great job in selecting the sounds for the Mini as they appear to have come from all around the world, it is just such a shame that you cannot output them in stereo. Perhaps you need to buy two WaveDrum Minis and Pan them left and right.

Some of the sounds will change pitch automatically as you apply different velocities or they may randomly change or they are sequenced. Some sounds are based on an actual note value (many of them seem to be F#), and you can transpose this note in the Edit Mode if you wish. Twelve of the sounds you can change the Scale that has been applied.

THE PAD OR PLAYING SURFACE ON THE WAVEDRUM MINI

It is interesting that Korg have called this a Wavedrum because the playing surface is nothing like a Wavedrum which has an excellent head and response. The Mini’s rubber surface reminds me of a practice pad. It is not like a rubber electronic pad because it is designed to be used with your hands and not sticks.

With the small speaker, it is difficult to know at times, whether or not the pad is responding to your every strike but you realise that it is, when you use headphones or other amplification. The sounds like Hi-Hats or Tambourines do not come through the mix sometimes when you are just using the built-in speaker, especially if you have a Rhythm Pattern playing as well.

You can get some sound variation, depending on your playing technique, but I found that it did not always happen the way that I anticipated. It is the fact that you need to know where on the Pad and how hard to hit it. However, once you have been using it for a while, you do get used to it.

CONNECTING YOUR WAVEDRUM MINI

If you turn it over, you will see a DC9V AC Adapter socket, a power switch, a stereo mini Headphone Socket and a singular mono output. Just like on the WaveDrum, it is a great shame that there is no Midi, no USB and no Stereo Main Output. Underneath is the housing for the six AA Batteries. Korg say that the Battery Life is 4 hours using nickel metal hydride batteries (1900mAh) which they recommend for this unit. The Best bit however, relates to a socket that has been added for an input sensor ……..

WHAT A BRILLIANT IDEA FROM KORG

Ok, let’s move onto the best bit. The Input Sensor is there to connect the strange looking bulky clip to it. This is really a Contact Microphone which you can attach to any surface to provide a second trigger input and turn that surface into a WaveDrum to play sounds independent of the sounds on the WaveDrum Mini – how cool is that? These work great on Desks. At the office party you could have two or three of you, all drumming on the one desk and someone else play the Wavedrum – amazing fun. It is like you have suddenly opened up this mini instrument into a large percussive object. The design of the clip is also very clever as it allows it to be attached to objects up to about 2 inches in diameter and there is also a slot on the underside of the drum to keep the cable secure from coming out.

You can attach it to a cover of a book or your shoe and play it like a bass drum, attach it to another drum to combine sounds; I have even seen it attached to a large board for a tap dancer. Not that I want you to get any ideas now, but I have seen one man attach it his nose and drum on it (not very comfortable) The possibilities are endless and it is a real shame that they did not include Midi as it would have opened it out to greater possibilities of triggering other drum machines and synths.

I suppose many people tap on their desk or on their lap. With this in mind, Korg have included a strap that threads through the back of the WaveDrum Mini and then around your leg to hold it firmly in place whilst you play. I don’t know whether or not that with batteries you could also dance whilst you play. I am sure someone will give it a try – I think I’ll give that one a miss.

To play two different sounds, (one on the Wavedrum and the other on another surface with the clip), if you press the Edit button it will toggle the LED between Clip and Pad and you can then select the desired sound from the 100 for each trigger by using the Page/Value up and down buttons – very easy.

KORG MINIWAVE EFFECTS

The WaveDrum Mini comes with built-in effects that are also editable with such settings as to the amount of effect applied. If you press the FX button three times you will see it will cycle through three selections – Effect A, Effect B and Effects Off. There are 10 high quality multi-effects:- Reverb, Muti-Tap Delay, Delay and Reverb, Reverb and Phaser, Reverb and Flanger, Pitch Shifter, Random Step Filter, Sweep Modulation Delay and Flanger, Tube Overdrive and Flanger and finally Random Step Filter and Delay. Korg have done an excellent job here to give you the facility to transform your sounds adding such variety with spatial type of effects, distortion, filtering and adding analogue warmth to the sounds. To select an effect or change an existing effect, see the Editing section below.

RHYTHM PATTERNS ON THE KORG WAVEDRUM MINI TO PLAY AND OVERDUB

The WaveDrum Mini has 100 Rhythm patterns to jam along with and they are a very good mix of styles, tempo and interest. Occasionally, for playing over the top, I found that some patterns had a make-up that was a little too complex and did not allow enough space for me to add on my performance. On the whole though, they were excellent.

My earlier comment about changing from one patch to another and the small gap between one sound ending and the next starting did not apply when a Rhythm Pattern is playing because it all sounds continuous as the pattern does not stop. You can change sounds back and forth of both the Pad and the Clip and it will all sound seamless. You need to remember that in Edit Mode, you can also adjust the volume of the Rhythm Pattern.

LOOPING ON THE KORG WAVEDRUM MINI

There is a basic Looper that is easy to use and it will start as soon as you start playing and you can play over the top of it and add in an unlimited amount of overdubs. I tried this built up some really great and complex loops. I was very impressed by just how instinctive the Looper is to use. However, the down side to this unit is that you cannot save anything; once you have switched off the Mini, the loop is lost and there is only space to record one loop and the total length of the loop cannot exceed 25 seconds. It is also worth noting that during playback and recording, the pad sensitivity is automatically lowered to stop the possibility of acoustic feedback.

EDITING ON THE KORG WAVEDRUM MINI

When you hold down the Edit key for two seconds, you are taken into Global Edit Mode and the LCD will show G1 as you press the ‘Up’ button you can cycle through the Global Edits G1 to G8 which are:- G1 Transpose, G2 Scale, G3 Pad Level, G4 Clip Level, G5 Clip Gain, G6 Rhythm level, G7 Speaker Level, G8 Auto Power Off.

If for example you wanted to listen to the G2 Scales (which are 00 Major, 01 Major Pentatonic, 02 Minor Pentatonic, 03 Minor, 04 India (Hanuma Todi), 05 Gamelan, 06 Tonic), you simply hold the shift key down and then use the up and down buttons to select a different scale.

If you keep pressing the ‘Up’ button after G8 you then go into Effects Edit Mode and you will see A1 to A5 followed by B1 to B5. These selections allow you to select from the 10 Multi-effects and also adjust the Wet and Dry Balance. There are also three other parameters to adjust and these depend on the effect selected.

That is about it with the editing, there is not a lot and it is not deep so it will not take you very long to learn.

CONCLUSION

The Korg WaveDrum Mini is absolutely fantastic in many respects but sadly disappointing in others. You cannot deny that it has for sure that “Play anywhere convenience” or Korg’s other phrase that “It can turn anything into a WaveDrum” using their revolutionary sensor clip and the sounds are great. It is a shame that it does not appear to look as professional as the rest of the Wavedrum family and is obviously aimed at different market. I really hope that Korg are testing the market with this product because they must have a really good reason for not including USB, MIDI or a Stereo Output. I personally think that they could have done better but credit where credit is due, they have come up with an incredible idea and I sincerely hope there will be a Wavedrum Mini 2 or something similar with this technology. If the items missing do not put you off then you could own something that takes you to wherever your imagination leads but whatever your thoughts are on this product let’s not forget it is just so much fun.

There is only one place to buy one of these great little Korg drum pads and that is by clicking this Orange Banner:-

Absolute Music

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