The Korg Volca Beats is a neat little drum machine which is small and portable and provides instant beat-making capabilities at a low, low price. Let’s take a look at the Volca Beats in more detail.
Analogue and Digital Combined
The nice thing about the Korg Volca Beats is that it is easy to become familiar with, even if you’re new to the world of beat-making. For such a small and compact unit, it has a lot of easily accessible control buttons and knobs.
There are buttons for kick, snare, high and low toms, open and closed hihats, and all 6 of these generate pure analogue sound from actual circuits. The following sounds, such as clap, clave, agogo and crash cymbal are all PCM, meaning they are digitally generated samples.
Programming beats on the Korg Volca Beats is super-easy. The first step is to select an instrument, such as a kick or snare drum. Once selected, a small light will indicate which instrument is active allowing you to choose ‘step’ mode. Step mode allows you to plot the instrument across a grid of 16 notes.
The default sequencer setting here is your typical 4 beats per bar played as sixteenth notes. You can alter the size of your grid by using the function and active step buttons. Inputting beats is as easy as selecting which beats of the bar you would like to trigger the sound on. Adding other instruments uses this same basic approach. It’s very easy to get a groove going.
Adjusting the tempo is done using the small tempo dial which allows you to control the speed down to 1/10th of a second. You can observe the current bpm on the Volca Beats display down to one tenth of a beat per minute.
Right next to the tempo knob we have a ‘part level’ control which is for setting the individual levels of the instruments. You can adjust aspects of selected instrument sounds too.
With the kick drum you can alter the pitch, the click and the decay. Increasing the decay will make for a longer and more audible tone. Lowering the pitch and increasing the decay together creates a very sub-bass sounding kick.
The click setting is basically the attack level. This can be used to give your drum sound more definition.
With the snare, there are also 3 ways to customize your sound. There is control for pitch, decay and snap. Snap is the equivalent of determining the amount of snare strainer you want in your sound. Removing it entirely leaves a tamer sounding pitched drum. Increasing snap to the max gives your snare a high-end white noise-type of cut.
The toms also have their own combined control section with 3 knobs. You can control the pitch of the high and low tom individually as well as setting the decay for each drum.
Finally, with the hi-hats we can control the decay of the open and closed hi-hats. This is very useful, especially when it comes to setting the length of your open hi-hat note.
Also there is a control for ‘grain’ which affects both closed and open hi-hat sounds. Grain works kind of like an EQ sweep and changes the basic sound characteristics of both hi-hat sounds. This is especially useful when tweaking your hi-hats to cut through certain mixes.
When it comes to the rest of the sounds on the Korg Volca Beats, these instruments can be customized with one knob entitled ‘PCM Speed’. This control can be used with the digital sounds on board the Volca Beats. So that means control for clap, claves, agogo and crash cymbal. The control basically adjusts the pitch and speed of the samples.
Stuttering is a cool feature which Korg have introduced to the Volca Beats. Stutter works just like a delay and can be controlled in two main ways. You can set the time which determines how long the stutter delay will last. Also there is a control for depth which deals with the amount of repeats.
Between the two settings you can get everything from dotted 8th note delays to snare flams. Setting the depth and time down to near the minimum will have a flamming effect which is good for beefing up kick and snare sounds. There’s also a global stutter which you can use to apply to the entire drum pattern.
The Korg Volca Beats is a great tool for anybody who needs a simple, quick and great sounding drum machine that can be used on the go. It’s extremely compact, runs on batteries and is so conveniently portable that it could even be used in an economy seat on an airplane. It can be powered with either a 9-volt power adapter or 6 AA batteries.
It’s also suited to studio use and fans of analog drum sounds will love the Korg Volca Beats. There isn’t a huge variety in the range of sounds on board but being largely analog, they are high-quality.
It’s so easy to get a beat going which makes it an ideal accessory for musicians and composers looking to build tracks with minimal effort and maximum ease. Beginners will find it easy to use and fun to play with.
It comes with a headphone input so is ideal for creating ideas on public transport or pretty much anywhere that suits you. This really is a great little drum machine for the money.