It is no secret that the Japanese are obsessed with miniaturisation and Korg are a company that reflects this trait, having gone from producing truly gargantuan synthesisers in their early days to now producing pocket-sized analogue synths like the Monotron series. In-keeping with their recent philosophy of creating pocket-sized analogue monsters Korg have released the Volca range of analogue synthesisers complete with built-in sequencers, a move that is destined to keep synth-fetishists' mouths watering.
The Volca range consists of three separate synthesisers: Volca Keys, Volca Bass and Volca Beats — and while these synths are clearly an evolution of the Monotron and Monotribe they have a much slicker feel and more professional set of features compared with their younger siblings. Each of the synths in the Volca series can be powered either by battery or using a power adapter and each one also has a built-in sequencer perfect for making music on the go.
Multiple Volca units can be connected together using the Sync-In and Sync-Out ports, with an unlimited amount of Volcas potentially being able to be chained together. A standard five-pin DIN MIDI socket takes care of sequencing via a DAW or external sequencer, a feature that was sorely missed on the Monotron and Monotribe, prompting many owners to hack their synths to add MIDI themselves.
Volca Beats as the name suggests is all about the drums and percussion, with many tight 808 and 909-style presets on offer along with the ability to record patterns and parameter settings in real-time using the sequencer. While effective, it can be a little fiddly to use.
The Volca Bass looks strikingly similar to a Roland TB303 but is sonically a completely different beast with some seriously fat sounds on offer, and the same classic Korg filter found in the miniKorg700S from the '70s. Despite its tiny size Volca Keys has been fitted with 27 keys and also has the miniKorg700S filter to produce the kind of richly expressive lead sounds that can only be achieved using analogue technology. Each of the synths in the Volca range manages to get the balance right between ease of use and tweakabilty. The control surfaces are logically laid out and the recordable parameter knobs are easily distinguished from non-recordable ones.
With the recent trend towards digital and in-the-box plug-in style synthesisers it is refreshing to see Korg sticking to their guns and doing what they do best — making analogue synthesisers. The Volca range is authentically analogue with a fully analogue signal path; however, the control signals are generated digitally which means that these are hybrid synthesisers, giving the best of both worlds. The styling of the Volca range is nicely balanced between a retro cool TB303-style with a modern professional finish that is honed to perfection thanks to the top-notch build quality, that will ensure many years of service.
This range of synthesisers will find favour with many producers and musicians thanks to their unique nature and portability. For producers who are running out of studio space but still have a need for external synths the Volcas will be a godsend and for gigging the size and weight could not be more perfect, not to mention the ability to make music on the road thanks to the built-in sequencers. It is hard not to love the entire Volca range. The sounds are great, the size is perfect and the price is very reasonable. Korg have clearly added another winning line of synthesisers to their impressive range and the Volcas are sure to sell like hotcakes.
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