Photo: Marsha Vdovin for CDM.

Remember when electronic sound gear hid in hulking, rack-sized cases? Korg’s Kaossilator series had already begun shrinking the desktop KAOSS Pad gear, but even the first-generation Kaossilator wouldn’t fit in your pocket, given its square shape and corners. (Well, unless you were wearing overalls.) The Kaossilator 2 and Mini Kaoss Pad 2, on the other hand, are scaled perfectly to your hand and would tuck neatly into a pocket in your pants or bag. And while I know some readers were hoping for a new Pro addition to the KAOSS line, these little bundles of joy have added some functionality that could make them musically useful. Being dedicated hardware, they also won’t suffer from a battery sapped by phone calls or the interruption of a Facebook message – and that input jack is built in.

We saw the new models at the NAMM show this month. The highlights:

The Kaossilator 2 is a PCM-based phrase synth, inspired by the original Kaosillator, for improvising melodic lines. What’s new is some handy recording functionality:

  • Scale Key and Note Range so every note is “right,” effectively, as on the original
  • Drum sounds
  • Gate Arpeggiator with adjustable gate time and swing settings
  • Loop recording to layer phrases and add as many overdubs as you like
  • “Dual Loop Recording banks allow DJ-Style mutes and cross-fades”
  • Record using the built-in mic; or use the mic input for recording of external input
  • microSD/SDHC, so you can cheaply add up to 32G of removable storage

That crossfader, of course, is entirely new, and Korg does mention “dance music” in the sounds and focus. It’s easy, then, to imagine this as a pocket-able instrument for jamming or something you’d use to make musical ideas on the go, and it does look like a lot of fun.

The Mini Kaoss Pad 2 is an effects box to the Kaossilator 2’s synth – and it even has a built-in MP3 player, so you can load up sounds and tracks ahead of time:

  • MP3 player with microSD card slot for data storage/exchange – or record performances and mixes
  • 100 effect programs, with 3 favorite slots
  • Looper, Vinyl Break, and Ducking Comp from the Kaoss Pad Quad (actually, need to find out if all the slicer effects from the Quad are there)
  • Internal mic plus external audio inputs
  • I’ll quote them directly on this: “Support for pitch change and cue point settings allows serious DJ play.”

Now, it’s a little hard to imagine DJing on something the size of a deck of cards, but, of course, I hope somewhere out there tries. I like the idea of putting your tracks on there and improvising a little mix, especially with the ability to record. Again, you could use it as a little sketchpad.

I got some hands-on time on the first morning of the show, and they’re a blast to play with, certainly. See the official Korg videos.

The other advantage of dedicated hardware here is, again, having a dedicated resistive touch interface. On a phone, the highly-sensitive capacitive interface can lead to missed triggers, and you have to fiddle around with menus and the like. There is something to be said for this dedicated gadget, at least for some. And it seems worth comparing, since many of you have a smartphone. What do you think – are you intrigued at all by these latest Korg gadgets?

With a US$160 street, if you are, they may be hard to resist. We’ll watch for when these start shipping.

Previews of each, then the two together:

  • jonesonyou

    was the issue fixed from the first mini KP where it would lower the input of the signal it processed by -10db?  that made the original mini kp worthless for a lot of people.  

    • protman

      I was preparing to comment on this same issue I had with the mini-KP1. When trying to use the mini-KP1 on a switchable effect loop, and switching the audio from bypass to through the mini-KP1, there was no way to adjust the mini-KP1's output level to make the switch transparent. I was considering purchasing an additional small line mixer with the hopes of boosting the output, but sold it instead. The KP3, however, handles this fine, and is probably better suited for a more static configuration of gear, along with its midi-sync, than something that can be tossed in one's pocket.

      Some fun I had with my mini-KP1 was walking around with my stereo handy recorder and some noise cancelling earphones with the kp between them. A somewhat psychedelic walk in the park.

  • Charles

    Airplane mode is not just for airplanes, you know.

    Korg has a lot of fun toys; it’d be nice if they put a little more effort into making them work better as tools, too. They could have been one of the companies showing an affordable knobby monosynth at NAMM last week, and a Monotribe or Electribe Pro would be very welcome as well. I was glad to see the Monotribe 2.0 update, so there’s hope of more in that direction.

  • cooptrol

    NO MIDI YET???????????????????????????

  • kim

    would love to see what Merzbow might do with one of each of these! :)

  • Guest

    The quirks that came with the 16 beat mode were what made it amazing imo. If you get really good with it, you could do some amazing beat cutting / glitch tricks that are practically impossible with anything else.  Unfortunately, I think it was probably a fluke that something that obscure and weirdly useful got approved for the final product. I think they took it out of the KPro, and I'm not holding my breath for them to bring it back.

    see&nbsp ; if you haven't already…

  • paul bailey

    really would like to use this but it still only has two bars (or 4 if you double them). did really liked the small screen and ribbon jog wheels to get around all the sounds and beats. to me it has a long way to go until it matches the functionality of the iPhone/iPad thumbjam app. right now my favorite looper on any platform

  • Polite_Society

    Cute, little and cheap…. but still not sure if want.

  • guest#23

    oooh  just creamed in my jeans… but those x/y pads look awfully small decreasing the range of the original mini? still they look fun

  • Brian

    Be warned! The Korg Mini-KP had the bad flaw of drastically lowering your output volume. If Korg (who ignored complaints) hasn't fixed this issue for the Mini-KP 2, there is NO REASON to buy it.

  • wedding hall


  • KM

    The Electribe EMX1sd is all that you need.
    I am playing the Electribe, Kaossilator and Monotribe.

  • Pierre Savoie

    The Kaossilator 2 has great new improvements to the Kaossilator — but the pad is 80% of the size of the original, and it will NOT respond to any plastic stylus unlike the old model.  So you may suffer if you want note-precision unless you are a professional violinist able to hit the exact spots.

  • Tuomas Heikkilä

    @pierre savole, hardly an issue, since you can pre-select the notes or the scale you play.

  • Polite_Society

    looks like the fader deely works pretty well to quickly flip through patches. probably much easier than a knob.

  • Guest

    that's promising. if secret mode is still there, I'm sold…