Korg music equipment has come out with a brand new piece of gear of their “Volca Family” that may spark your interest if you’re into sampling like we are, and better yet if you’re in need of a sequencer as well. Although we’re pretty stingy when it comes to samples and sounds, a huge plus is the 100 on-board factory samples which comes with some decent additions to anybody’s musical canvas. It’s also compatible with iOS (as most new gear is starting to be as the years continue) and has some decent FX included. Let’s get into the main details of the Korg Volca Sample.
Main features of the Korg Volca Sample
- Internal 16-step sequencer
- Weight: .8 lbs
- Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.77″ x 7.6″ x 4.53″
- 8-voice polyphonic PCM sound engine
- Sample memory: 65 seconds
- Sequence memory: 10
- Song memory: 6
- Built-in digital reverb effect and analog isolator
- Reverse, swing and other tweaking of samples
- Adjust attack, speed, level and decay
- Internal speaker attached to the unit
- Operates off of six AA batteries (alkaline) or AC adapter
The sequencer as a whole is pretty nifty. You’re ale to warp sounds to where you can’t even recognize what you first started with. The programmable parameters give us a nice canvas to work with (you’ll see it in action in the video embedded below). You can play up to 11 parameters. You get 16 step keys and can play on-the-fly for some fun action beat making.
Overall build thoughts are key here, and Korg always comes out with high-quality machines. The Volca Sample isn’t flimsy whatsoever, so if you’re into solid builds we’ve got one here. Great for traveling (although we recommend keeping it safe regardless) and it’ll last you quite a few years if you take care of it.
The whole control of the unit is very intuitive and easy to use. They’re top level so you can control everything that’s in front of you. Some of the notable controls I like are the main bass and treble knobs, the various programmable parameters we were high on before like cut, decay, speed and attack, as well as the main sequencer variables like write, jump, record, etc. There are no buttons on the back so you can easily use it when incorporated into your setup. The effects aren’t too impressive, giving us some reverb and bass\treble tweaking, but that’s pretty much it.
The ins and outs are relatively straight forward — you get a headphone in (but also has a speaker built-in if you’re in the mood), MIDI in, sync in and out (1/8″). Not too over-the-top in terms of I/O capabilities (like an XLR, RCA, etc), but really you won’t need those if you’re mainly playing with your samples and sequencing them.
What’a s bit different here is the way you import samples: plug in your phone via the sync IN and use their AudioPocket app audio input tool to do so. It’s pretty nifty because you can record on-the-spot, although I’d like it if we could use a memory card and just load them up from there. You can also use iTunes File Sharing on your computer to drag and drop sounds into your app, but that’s still a bit of a pain because you need your phone regardless (what about those of us with flip phones!?). Here’s a video of the AudioPocket app as well.
Lastly, and if you haven’t noticed, the Volca Sample is quite small in size. This is great for incorporating it into your studio regardless of the size. It’s also great for on-the-go travelers and performers, although if you want use it on stage or somewhere remote you’ll need bring some batteries with you (6 of them). I’m a bit of a wire freak so I’d avoid the AC adapter, but that’s just my preference. A bit disappointed it isn’t USB-powered but who would it expect it to be if it’s a step sequencer not made for digital setups?
The final word of the Volca Sample
As far as adding this to your workflow, it’s not too ideal if you’re digital (although you can use the MIDI IN jack to send note messages from your DAW). Since all of our digital audio workstation programs have their own sequencers built-in, there wouldn’t be much use of this to be honest. We find this relatively comparable to the Arturia BeatStep since they’re both samplers and sequencers in one, not to mention the prices are pretty similar as well. The BeatStep is a bit cheaper and has some bigger pads as well as a CV gate option, so if you want to save money you can try that out instead. Another compared piece of gear is the M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro, but that’s double the price and has a lot more features to it, such as drum pads (you get what you pay for).
Another idea could be pairing this up with a DJ controller so it can play your beats while you scratch. Otherwise, it’s more of a have-fun type of toy that we really like. Unless you’ve got a strictly analog setup, it’s even geared more towards you (believe it or not, yes, there are analog studios out there).
As stated previously, the 100 on-board samples are pretty decent in our opinion, so if you’re looking for some more sounds (who isn’t?), it ups the value of this as a whole. Here’s a Soundcloud demo page of the Volca Sample to hear the sounds in action.
The Korg Volca Sample is geared towards those looking for the old-school external sequencer who also love to play with samples like we do. With a very solid build, nice quality sounds included and easy top-level controls, we recommend it if it suits your needs.