volcasample_angle

The KORG volca sample is a fun-looking sample “sequencer” – it can play back, modify, and mangle pre-recorded samples in a step sequencer. But it requires a dedicated iOS app to do the actual sampling.

That makes for a mixed bag, straight out of the gate. As KORG says:
“The new volca lets you recapture the excitement of the first generation of samplers, in which any sound — vocals, spoken words, ambient sound, or glitches — becomes material for your creations!”

– right, but then it leaves out one of the best things about those hardware samplers, namely – sampling.

With that disappointment out of the way, the volca sample otherwise is full of some cool ideas. Let’s have a look at what it can do.

The heart of the beast is the sound parameters, which you can then map to individual steps:

Sample select, start point, length, hi cut
Pitch: speed, envelope, attack, decay
Amplitude: level, pan, attack, decay

And you can motion-sequence each of these.

There’s also per-sample reverse and reverb, plus overall reverb mix and swing.

The “Analog Isolator” gives you bass and treble controls. (UK-style, that’s “Analogue Isolator” on the front panel.)

volcasample_top

Specs:
31.25kHZ, 16-bit sampling
4MB of sample size (65 seconds) – not bad
100 user sample slots
8-note polyphony
10 parts, 16 patterns, chain able into 16-pattern sequences and 6 songs

The hardware isn’t deficient as far as sync and I/O, at least. You get MIDI input for triggering samples and even parameter changes (that gets interesting), as well as the requisite MIDI sync. There’s also the usual sync in for connecting to other KORG units. And like the other volcas, it’s battery powered.

The big design tradeoff is really this iOS app. Now, of course, there are some advantages to this approach. It means that you can use your mobile device to gather sounds on the go, and manage those samples. And I have no doubt that means better sample management than you’d get just plugging into the device.

It’s just a shame that this can’t sample a live audio input, though, as that takes some of the fun and spontaneity out of using hardware for samples. And the competition from KORG in today’s announcements is tough, too. If you’re going to have to use an app, KORG’s Gadget app is compelling on its own, without the addition of additional hardware.

We’ll just have to get our hands on the volca sample to see what the experience is like using this mobile app, what it can do, and how the two interoperate. I have no details of that yet – not even a screenshot – so it occurs that if they’ve really nailed the app, they might convince us that this is the way to go.

And meanwhile, MIDI control of parameters and all the sequencing stuff looks fun.

In fact, if anything, the big challenge is that volca sample has some big reputations to live up to. The volca beats’ massive bass drum is becoming indispensable in the studio, and the volca keys, perhaps the most unsung of the original trio, is one of my favorite synths of the past couple of years.

But I look forward to trying out the newest entry.

More on the KORG site:
volca sample [KORG USA]

By the way, if you are going to have to use external hardware to sample, I’d have a look at the boutique microGranny 2. This wonderful gadget does its own sample mangling (granular style), but reads from an SD card. And you can be the only person on your block to own one, which probably won’t be true of something from KORG.

  • Mr Paul

    LOL ios. No.

    • just passing

      Concise and to the point… and my feelings, too. You’d think that the music industry of all things wouldn’t be quite so ready to embrace monocultures… rather leaves those of us who won’t buy Apple, whether on principle or because we once hallucinated that everyone coming out of our local Apple store had been turned into zombies (yes, I did; no, I wasn’t on anything), out in the cold. And surely it wouldn’t be that hard to come up with an Android app for the thing? Softsynths I can understand, because of the latency issues; but that doesn’t apply to instrument editors and sample loaders.

      That said, if Korg were to sort that out, I’d be interested.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Actually, take it from the developers –

      No, it isn’t as easy to develop an Android app. Not even to run on one device.

      Then, on multiple devices – it gets worse.

      Then no one uses it or buys it.

      It’s not a monoculture when we have a massive variety of hardware, each built on different platforms, multiple plug-in formats, OS X and Windows software (and some developers even on Linux). It’s just that, for the moment, iOS is often the one mobile platform that pays off of the cost of development when others don’t.

      So, I’m back to my original solution – an audio input jack, which is easier than any of the stuff above and is entirely platform-agnostic. ;)

  • STME

    I imagine that this little unit will be priced along the lines of the other Volca units.
    Fairplay to Korg for cramming so much into a little box of fun.

    • Michael Aldridge

      @STME yeh it’s difficult to imagine them getting any more in there. I think it looks awesome! So long as the iOS app enables the importing of samples via iTunes or other sensible means, as well as being able to record I reckon it’s going to be a nice box of tricks!

    • Octavio

      maybe the ios app is a recorder, so you record your samples on the phone and export them te the volca through the headphones of the phone to the sync input on the volca.

    • Pierre Fontaine

      Wouldn’t a mini-jack input have worked just as well? There’s already a headphone jack that could have doubled as a line in. How difficult could this have been? I understand that there may be a lack of RAM to hold multiple sets of samples and that’s where an app would have been helpful. Being able to manage samples should be available for Android, Windows, as well as iOS/Mac. I just don’t understand this decision at all.

    • Michael Aldridge

      @pierrefontaine:disqus Yeh that’s a good point actually. I was going to say that perhaps the iOS app will allow a more visual way of editing, but then again, there are sample start/end knobs on the Volca unit itself.

      With regard to what @disqus_EabgljOtRY:disqus said, I would’ve hoped it would use MIDI to transfer the samples, but then again no-one’s gonna want to buy a MIDI interface for iOS, so yeh guess it will be via an audio cable – should be interesting(!) Perhaps there’s something else in the works!?

    • acb47

      iOS limitation is an issue for me. Doh, have been recently thinking about a sampler too. Shame its just iOS!

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      That’s where I’m a bit disappointed – line in is what I would have wanted to see. In fact, then you’d have an easy way to sample the other volca range, which would have made a really cool workflow. Adding an iPhone to me makes that trickier. But we do have to see the recording app – so stay tuned on how that actually works.

    • Octavio

      i think we have to wait to see what are the hacking possibilities!!!

      remember that volcas are in the same line of a monotron or the monotribe!!

  • Aaron

    …hey Korg, I’m never again going to own an iOS device, but I own many of your products. Niche software for a niche product? Meta-niche?

    • Freeks

      Never say never ;)
      It has started to look so that most iOS music apps will never be ported to other IOS’ses. And there is some really good stuff. In years to come it might the major platform for mobile music making.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      It’s really only true of this one device. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Still waiting to even learn how it works, exactly.

    • foljs

      “”"…hey Korg, I’m never again going to own an iOS device”"”

      Well, if you care about music apps on mobile, especially from major vendors, you really should.

  • http://awwapps.com/ Bernd

    Wow, looks really great! Also managing samples makes so much more sense on a touch screen, seriously. I wonder, how does it connect to iOS?

  • Kaare

    Not being able to actually sample flies in the face of the volca ethos, in my view. The big draw of the volca series is immediate, fun live jamming. Loading samples from a mobile phone is neither fun nor immediate.

    Otherwise, it looks like a fine product, but they lost this customer with the iOS nonsense.

  • Mafgar

    god dammit.
    this looks awesome.. but yeah, iOS.

    SD CARDS ANYONE? hellooooooo

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, if you really want SD cards and line in … check out the electribe sampler, which also adds slicing / automatic transient detection and has pads to play, too. Doesn’t necessarily answer the absence of a line in jack on this hardware, but it *might* still satisfy what you’re looking for.

  • André et Michèle

    Wow, looks fun! Love what the Volcas can do, not so much how they feel, though . . . but so much good stuff in such a small form factor is pretty good trade-off. Pity, as others have said, about the iOS side of it . . . indeed let’s wait and see!

  • Will

    I wouldn’t call 10 kabillion or whatever iOS devices sold a niche market exactly.

    This could actually be winning with the iOS thing if:

    a) they made sample transfer wireless (via bluetooth)
    and
    b) the new Volca actually has WIST sync snuck inside of it (also bluetooth)

    because then you could sync it to other Korg apps like iMS-20 or any WIST enabled like Figure or BeatMaker. And since this has the Volca sync, you could sync the lot of them to WIST. I know people have varying opinions on iOS music creation but there’s an awful
    lot of very mobile music making on offer and that fits right into Korg’s
    MO lately.

    Bonus: they make it easy to set up kits/parts in the app and transfer them all.

    Or perpahs you can hit a button in Gadget and have all 16 slots in the new sampler gadget transferred to the Volca.

    I’m at least a little hopeful that they aim to bring some heat with this iOS thing because if it really is something has banal as audio transfer from the headphone jack, that would be easy enough to also code for android/windows phone. And desktop for that matter. So yeah, hopeful.

    Korg is killing it lately.

    • Will

      For what it’s worth, a new 16gb iPod touch is $200 – pretty much in line with the volca range pricing. Ignoring music apps, that’s an awful lot of sample storage, gear manuals and wireless access to Dropbox. Add an audio interface and it can also capture your set. Blue’s Digital Mikey is a decent stereo mic and also has a stereo line in for about $100. If you get an older iPod touch you can get the older 30pin blue for more like $50.

    • Edward On-Robinson

      Yep, or get an old iPad 2 for about the same price. Or….

      I have a *longstanding* bias against Apple gear – going back 25 years to when I used to work in IT – I’ve never really liked their dumbed down operating systems and deliberate vendor lock-in policies on hardware, or their ‘De$igner’ pricing models. Even though many of their products are technically excellent and I was not surprised to see them have huge success, I’ve always felt reluctant to become an Apple consumer. But the simple fact is that they iPad is the best tablet for musicians by a mile – Google focused of general consumers with Android and Microsoft has been focused on business users with Surface, and while I respect them both neither platform delivers for musicians and it will take the others at least 5 years to catch up.

      So I really can’t blame Korg for integrating with the mobile computing platform that almost everyone uses for music. I have owned a few Android tablets but I gave up on trying to use that platform for music a few years ago.

    • foljs

      “”"I have a *longstanding* bias against Apple gear – going back 25 years to when I used to work in IT – I’ve never really liked their dumbed down operating systems”"”

      Dumbed down? It’s a certified UNIX, with some of the most advanced APIs available in any platform. For desktop related APIs Linux doesn’t even come close, and Windows is usually sub-par.

      Let’s put it this way: in any programmer conference, you’re gonna see 80% MBAs/MBPs running OS X. Those are not “dumb” users that opted for some “dumbed down” OS. From the creator of Ruby of Rails or Tomcat, to the guys that created early UNIX / Plan9 userland, etc, most celebrated devs use OS X as a desktop OS.

      Heck, even Linus Torvalds used OS X to write his autobiography (on an iBook at the time), and uses a MacBook Air running Linux as his laptop (saying that it was the best laptop he could find in the market).

      “”"or their ‘De$igner’ pricing models.”"”

      Not designer, just high-end of the market. The might use common Intel CPUs and GPUs, but all extras in areas that matter to a portable machine (like weight, battery life, thinness and sturdyness) add cost. And having all of: hi-dpi display, longer battery life, small weight, studyness unibody aluminum construction, illuminated keyboard, mag safe adaptor, 2 thunderbolt ports, best of breed touch trackpad, etc, add to more money that the comparable Intel processor and GPU thrown in some plastic PC laptop case. In fact compared to high end PC models (e.g Sony VAIO or Dells with comparable specs), they always match in pricing.

  • newmiracle

    Do we know anything about the app? Haven’t seen anything specific yet.

    Certainly looks like a way to differentiate from the pricier electribe model… but the iOS requirement to sample seems like such a contortion. It looks like they really went out of their way to *avoid* a line-in.

    Though, knowing this line, people will hack up a line-in and post how-tos within 6 months time.

    I’m not even clear how the iOS device is physically interacting with the unit. Lightning port on the back? Bluetooth? Wifi? Again, I’m not sure how any of these components are cheaper than a 1/8″ jack, but whatever. I wonder if there will be some interesting hacking and reverse engineering of the volca/iOS connection…

  • fooplooop

    how to transfer samples? the video looks fun…

  • Will

    Hmm, forget the ‘sampler’ part of this for a sec (if it doesn’t sample, it aint a sampler!) and instead consider it a battery powered drum machine with which you can load your own samples. If they pull that off in the $150 range… wow. Want.

    • Will

      Transatlantic price conversions are brittle but it looks like it’s up for presale at a few UK shows for £119 which puts it at about US$199. That said, Dolphin has the other volcas for £119 as well so perhaps we’re actually in for US$149 after all.

  • Bot
  • Jako

    I was about to get a Volca Beats but might just wait for this instead. No direct sampling does kinda suck but with just 65 seconds they’d have to have really good slicing features built in for that to work anyway, using an iphone isn’t a huge issue.

  • Robin Parmar

    Sampler no sample. iOS required. Double fail.

  • Glenn Thomas

    Yeah, the iOS thing ruins it. I’ve had an iPad 2 since 2011 and still don’t have the patience to figure out how to transfer files via itunes. I tried a couple of times, but failed. So even as someone who owns an iOS device, there’s no way I’d even consider using it to transfer samples.
    Korg should have just put an SD card slot in there.

  • itchy

    love the volca stuff would be awesome if they can combine all these units into a micro korg form factor with mini keys!!!!!! korg please analog poly at the least

  • Robert Dorschel

    Neat little idea in this box, but it still requires foresight, since it won’t add to any kind of spontaneous improv much beyond unique sounds that you’ve created in advance.

    I’m still waiting for the small sampler box unit device thingee aimed primary at keyboard/synth players, instead of the button-pushers. My requirements:
    MIDI, cross-fade looping and velocity layers, stereo, *polyphony per sample*, modern storage (e.g. SD Card), *polyphony per sample*, full ADSR envelopes, *polyphony per sample*, full Filter+envelope, *polyphony per sample*, at least 16/44.1k sample rate, *polyphony per sample*. Like a modern Akai S1000, but in a smaller & lighter modern form. I can handle if it doesn’t sample on its own. Still, patiently patiently waiting.

    Did I mention I really wanted *polyphony per sample*?

  • http://blog.pakotec-samples.com/how-to-use-reverb/ How to use Reverb

    It’s really true of this one device.Softsynths I can understand because of the latency issues .

  • fish23

    sorry korg, your iOS limitation make place to another sampler like akai mpx8 or 16, i need mobility and flexibility (sd card for ex, not dependency on another device, which i using for making calls etc.)