Aug 24

INTRODUCTION

When I receive a new product, the first thing I like to do is play with it without reading the manual. This is partly because I cannot wait but more importantly I want to test how user-friendly the item is. I am pleased to say that the Kaossilator was ready to go the minute I put in the four batteries and plugged in my favourite headphones. You switch her on and start to run your fingers across her touch-sensitive surface or tap away rhythmically and an assortment of cutting – edge sounds phases, flanges or auto-pans across your disbelieving ears. Why do you disbelieve? Well for a start its coming from something that is only approximately 5 x 4 inches in size.

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Korg Kaoss Pad Kp3

PRESETS

As I played away previewing the brilliant presets I quickly became aware that I would not be able to play notes in the same way as I do on a keyboard. I was amazed by the way you could bend, slide, have portamento and additional sounds and effects come into play by a simple move of one finger across the surface. Movement along the horizontal axis changes the note or pitch, while the vertical axis brings in the fun elements such as cutoff, modulation and feedback.

The 100 presets had a great variety of sounds, some of them with very delicate subtleties and nuances that added just that right amount of interest to have you wanting more. Squelchy acid sounds, trance plucks, vocal loops, reverbed piano and drums that on the fly you could build from a single bass drum to a bass drum and hi-hat through to a complete kit, again with simple moves of a finger. There are 20 lead sounds, 20 bass sounds, 20 sound effects, 10 drum sounds, 10 drum patterns, 10 chords and 10 acoustic sounds.

CONTROLS

There are not too many controls on this mini Kaossilator for you to learn. The layout is a small 3 character LCD, a large PROGRAM/VALUE knob, a TAP/BPM button, a LOOP REC/PLAY, a SCALE  button and the TOUCH-PAD. There are also two indicators for LOOP STATUS and GATE ARP. Around the sides you have the volume control which solely controls headphone volume, a HEADPHONES jack socket, a GATE/ARP button, the ON/STANDBY switch, a DC jack and the LINE OUT jacks.

I really like the GATE ARP button. It lets you produce specific patterns of notes in sync with the user specified tempo. When you press this the GATE ARP indicator lights and as you play, the Kaossilator will “gate” the sound using the currently selected gate arpeggiator pattern. However, if you press and hold the GATE ARP button it will show you the pattern number. You can then select from any of the 50 patterns G.00 to G.49. I found that some Arps suited some sounds better than others but generally they were all good.

Changing the tempo (BPM) is relatively easy although I did find that the user-friendliness of this operation was not as I expected. I found that reading the manual in this case did the trick which says “Press the Tap button and the current BPM will be displayed. Turn the  PROGRAM / VALUE knob value while the BPM button is displayed to change the BPM setting. As I am reading this back to myself,  I am thinking that this all seems very logical however, when you first try to change the tempo, you feel that you should be holding the TAP button whilst turning the PROGRAM / VALUE knob.

Another little handy extra is the scale button. I think this is useful to the musician and non-musician. It strange again to think that a small movement of one finger can produce for example the “Gypsy” scale. Musicians spend ages practicing scales and here you can go up and down at lightening speed with a whole range of scales. There are 31 in all covering chromatic, diminished, major and minor blues and the pentatonic scale and also some unusual scales like Spanish, Ryukyu, and Raga. When you turn the power off it reverts to the default – Ionian. Also if you hold down the Scale button and press the TAP button it will display the current key which you can change by using the PROGRAM/VALUE knob.

RECORDING PHRASES

OK so that’s the basics, now for the interesting stuff – Recording Phrases. The Kaossilator is designed to record and playback loop style phrases and patterns that you play using the touch-pad. For this operation (being right-handed) I found it best to turn the Kaossilator upside down because you need to press and hold the LOOP REC/PLAY button and play the touch pad. I really want to play the touch pad with my right hand but the LOOP REC/PLAY button is located on the right. It is a shame this button was not located on the left side of the unit, next to the POWER ON / STANDBY Switch. Anyway recording upside down worked OK for me. When you release the LOOP REC/PLAY button, playback continues but the recording will stop. You can also delete elements of recorded phrases. I found this a little bit tricky and thought that it would be something I would get better at in time. I found this operation to be good and bad – I found by deleting, I would not end up with what I had planned but I could end up with something better.

Once you have recorded your awesome phrase, you can either play along with it or record another layer over the top and build up your loop with a variety of sounds, delete elements and also set the length of each phrase. This is where the real fun is and it is surprising what people achieve. I saw a You Tube clip of a girl who with no musical knowledge, recorded complex loops with her toes. I think this was trying to advertise how easy the Kaossilator is to use. As well as Overdubbing (layering) your recorded sounds and deleting elements you can also set the length of each phrase.

CONCLUSION

The Kaossilator is a cute small item and as such has been packaged this way. I was a little disappointed to start with to find that the AC Adaptor 4.5v was an optional extra; however the unit worked well and was more portable with batteries which last up to 5 hours. I enjoyed the fact that I  could make music anywhere. From a marketing point of view, Korg can tap into a larger than normal audience because although in my opinion the optional colours PINK or YELLOW do not give it a professional look, the sound it produces have professional uses to both the musician and the DJ. On top of this it opens up to a whole new audience of non-musicians. I think this product is a great alternative for children from the usual games machines that they buy because it does a great job of bringing the world of musical creativity to anyone.

2 Responses

  1. Simon Says:

    Impressed! A very comprehensive review.

  2. tonylongmusic Says:

    Simon,

    Thanks for reading my review and the feedback, I am glad it has been of use to you.

    Tony

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