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Kaoss Reigns

DJmag is swallowed into the audible vortex that is the new Kaoss pad 3 and pulled out the whole with some frontline reports from Product.01

When the original KP (Kaoss Pad) landed it split the music tech world in two, some saw it as a mere toy, while others embraced its cute touch-screen and intuitive approach to hands on effects processing.

Fast forward a few years down the line, and it seems like the KP has infiltrated every corner of modern music. With world class DJs, producers and even rock bands such as Radiohead performing with KPs it seems like they have carved a niche for themselves.

Korg have continued to evolve the KP's capabilities. Now in its third incarnation, it's dressed in a sexy matt black finish, with a glowing red touch screen and matching trim. It bears an uncanny resemblance to Darth Vader's chest piece! This is easily the best looking model in the range. Off to a good start then…

INSTANT GRATIFICATION

Switch it on, run some sound through it, and get those fingers working, it's that easy.

There are three program categories, the first includes effects such as filters, flangers, echoes, pitch shifters and more. The second is dedicated to sampling and sample playback. The last bank is loaded with synthesiser sounds and drum beats which can be played, even when there is no audio running through the unit.

A sheet of paperThe effects list comes as a separate sheet of A4 paper, categorised into effect types, while highlighting what parameters are on tweaked using the X/Y pad.

KAOSS IN THE MIX

DJs wanting to hook up the KP will need to connect it to the effects loop of their mixers. There is no direct input for turntables, so the best results are to be had using it with the insert configuration, rather than a send/return set-up. This will enable filtering to completely affect the sound running through it.

So many usable effects are lurking amongst the 128 programs and the KP3 covers all standards with style, EQs, flangers, filters and echoes are all represented.

Lots of effect programs combine two effects in tandem so with the touch-screen, controlling the interactions is a smooth and musical experience. If subtlety is not the intention then there's some real weird shit in there too, it's a serious box for glitch heads and experimentalists.

The Auto BPM feature is a must for getting the effects perfectly in time with tracks, and it actually works very well. With four on the floor tunes its always spot on. Good timing is essential for echoes to work with your music and the same can be said for gating, the transformer and LFO controls.

The manual tap tempo button blinks in time with the tempo and along with a dedicated rotary control above it can be used to make adjustments to the BPM.

Another well thought out advancement is the ability to specify the beginning of a measure; i.e. where the first beat of a bar starts. This is perfect for some of the synchronised effects. This box also sends and receives MIDI clock, which can keep it locked in with mixers like Xone:3D and DJM-800.

EYE CANDY

The new red LED is much more useful than the old one. When dialling up an effect, the red squares scroll the presets name across, so it's much easier to find the right effect without thinking.

The 8x8 squares aren't a gimmick, they help to align the fingers to the perfect settings on the pad, e.g. with echo effects, each square represents a different rate, so now DJs can accurately jump to the right place without messing around, and the LED stays on so settings remain visible. In previous models the colours where a bit vague and didn't really help on a technical level.

When using the EQ, it transforms to display the frequency bars and the gain for each one, set the EQ, toggle the hold button for instant cut and boost isolation.

The FX Release slider was a much needed feature that was lacking on the previous models; it makes the transitions between effects totally smooth by adding a variable length audio tail that reduces in volume, whereas in the past it could be jerky. The pad also remembers the Release settings with each program, which is more significant than it sounds.

PORT FORWARD

The USB port gives the KP3 several major advantages over the other models. Installing the MIDI driver turns it into a fully working MIDI hub, so sequencing programs can use it's IN and OUT to trigger other gear.

There's an editing program for both Mac and PC's, which makes easy work of setting up all the MIDI functions, and more importantly, transmitting samples and programs to and from the unit. This way, all those weird and wonderful samples that were spontaneously captured won't be lost after powering down. They can also be archived, recalled and used on future tracks.

CONCLUSION

This review was actually quite hard to finish, with the KP at arms reach it proved a major distraction. Its flashing light show calls out for it to be played with, it's really bloody addictive.

The sheer variety of effects and sound quality are head and shoulders above the standard found built in to mixers. And there is no substitute for the touch screen. The bottom line is, live or in the studio, if you try one, you could easily get hooked on the Kaoss. Hell, we'd even get one to remix the TV sound with.

ON THE ROAD

Product.01 crashed onto the scene with their warped version of 'Heart Ov Glass', since then they've gone on to remix Adam Freeland, Dave Clarke, Princess Superstar and more. As suckers for technology producer Marc Adamo put the KP2 to good use on their debut album 'Bullet Ride'.

"We took the KP3 up to the Mint Club in Leeds for the Product.01 live show. Ableton 6 provided the beats and the master Midi clock, with the Kaoss Pad and a Nord G2 synth slaving in sync." Says Marc "Having sound running from Live straight into the KP3 is so cool.

The pad is a perfect size to jam with, and the lights help it stay visible throughout the night. At any point I could just reach over and spice things up a little, or completely decimate the sound. It's well and truly got its place guaranteed in my rig."

"Sampling is the other jewel in the KP3's crown, and its stepped up the game significantly. There's space for up to 100 samples (depending on length), which is stacks more than before and everything can be saved onto an SD Flash Ram card.

The four pads have a cool three-colour light system for recording, a big plus for keeping task of what's going on.

Looping can be taken care of automatically, and so can time-stretching which is a real advantage. Adjust the tempo and the KP3 pitches samples up or down to match like a vinyl record."

"Sample slicing is a new feature that chops a beat into eight equal pieces, the eight little pad buttons can be toggled so each piece can be played or muted, very neat for creating new grooves and remixing on the fly.

Since it measures in beats, it never goes out of time, and makes it easy to concentrate on the creative aspect without getting bogged down in technical nonsense.

The sample cross-fade patches are a wicked way of layering up to four sets of beats, glitches and weird noises, cross-fading between them to make freaked out fills and stutters. The inclusion of filters and effects within the patch add an extra dimension of weirdness which leads to some real sonic mayhem."

SPECS

Price: £314.99
Contact: korg.co.uk

TECH
• X/Y illuminated touch pad
• Four Sample Pads
• Auto BPM and Tap Tempo
• Mic or Stereo Line input
• 128 Programs
• 14 effect groups
• 4" x 3" Touch Screen LED
• Midi In/Out

GEEK SPEAK

Up to 100 samples in memory
Sampling: 16-bit, 48kHz
24-bit A/D, D/A converters
SD Card for Data Storage
USB for MIDI and data transfer
Software Editor, librarian and sample transfer.
Inputs: Mic (1/4") with trim knob
Line In L/R (RCA)
Outputs: Headphone (1/4" Stereo) with volume
Line Out L/R (RCA)

HYPE

Easier to use than ever, slicker control surface and the red LED screen isn't just eye candy. Improved Midi spec and sample triggering makes it a more effective studio tool.

GRIPE

No direct inputs for decks, built in drums and synth sounds are a bit naff.

VERDICT SENTENCE

Hands down the best little FX box on the market for live use.

VALUE FOR MONEY: 4
BUILD QUALITY: 4.5
SOUND QUALITY: 4
EASE OF USE: 4.5
FEATURES: 4.5
OVERALL: 4.5