Back in the day, rhythm machines were push-button affairs, not elaborate step sequencers. Press a button, get a backing rhythm, play along.

Just one problem: these old-school machines were huge and expensive. But they helped launch the electronic fortunes of companies like Korg and Roland, and were the predecessors of today’s far more programmable drum machines. And their peculiar canned sounds shaped some of the electronic rhythms of today.

Well, no one saw this coming: Korg has brought the old-school machine back, with the hopes that “guitarists, bassists, pianists or any musician looking for easy rhythm accompaniment” will pick them up.

It seems as though they almost literally shrunk the original. The retro style remains, but it’s in a tiny, pocket form, running on batteries and optionally playing via a built-in speaker.

It also has more rhythms than the early models; Korg promises 60 “diverse” options across genres and even – gasp – multiple bars in a row. You can actually chain patterns together into songs. It seems ripe for musical abuse. (Circuit bending, perhaps, less so – it’s likely this stuff is all on integrated circuits that’d be too tough to bend.)

Genres? 8 Beat, 16 Beat, Rock, Metal, Pop, R&B, Jazz, Latin, Dance, and USSR.

Um, sorry, user. (I’d like to hear the USSR drum machine, though.)


In the missed opportunity file: No, there’s no sync of any kind. Okay, to be fair, that’s a feature well outside the obvious target audience for the device. On the other hand, it’s interesting to see how many people do want that here.

There’s even a pedal switch for start/stop and fills, making it sound fairly feasible as a performance tool.

US$79.99, ships in November – you know, for Hanukkah presents and stuffing in Christmas socks. Yep.

Someone at Korg is huffing something that makes them suddenly see ways of making money. Please, um … keep doing that.

  • griotspeak

    I want this with an irrational heat.

    • lokey

      be nice if it had midi in, and let you record patterns in. I assume those buttons arent pads, right?

    • Tess

      It has user slots that you can record patterns to by hitting the buttons in real time.

      What it doesn’t have: midi in so it can be used as a sound module (not that surprising), any form of sync in or out (problematic), any kind of tempo display (ouch), any way of setting the tempo other than turning a knob and listening until it sounds right (yikes!). In practice, this would be pretty hard to integrate into any kind of workflow that depended on keeping instruments in sync with each other.

      It’s dirt cheap, but unless you think you can mod it, a used drum machine from ebay is probably a more sensible choice.

  • marsh

    It looks good but there doesn’t appear to have a sync in/out that would make it a great companion to the monotribe and volcas.

  • Will

    I hope it’s that large because the speaker in it is actually reasonable (capable of keeping up with a piano or loud acoustic guitar). If so, I might be in for fun family music times in the living room. Seems a shame to not have the volca sync ports.

    Either way, keep it up korg.

  • DPrty

    No sync :(

  • ocp

    Is it analogue?

    • Yanakyl

      I really don’t think so.
      The sounds are similar to a real drum so I guess it is sample based.
      It’s not made to be tweeked but to easily play along it. You might be able to bend the circuit as griotspeak said and get some more variation out of it though.

  • griotspeak

    I think that the odds of Korg ‘leaving room’ to hack in sync are not so bad.

  • Bjorn

    Seems more like a Boss DR3 than anything else. Less features, same target crowd.

  • aaron

    just a generic rhythm accompaniment box.. don’t read more into it than there is. the buttons are pads, you can lay down your own rhythms ala-early 90s real time step record.

  • D00d

    KR mini? Ought we expect a “KR Pro” in the next couple years? I’ll wait for the obvious plastic TR-909 at Musikmesse 2014, thanks.

  • Vladimir Sedykh

    BTW, USSR drum maschine