Korg have been one of the most reputable companies in the electronic music scene since pioneering the keyboard market as far back as the ’60s, but didn’t really make a splash into the world of performance DJ accessories until the late ’90s, with their now-legendary Kaoss Pad effects unit. Let’s take a look at their latest creation — a Frankenstein-style fusion of both their synthesis and DJ FX, in the form of the exciting new Kaossilator Pro.
If you’re into your DJ technology, you will be familiar with Korg’s original Kaossilator, which was a pocket size synth that could simply be hooked up to anything that had an audio input. Despite it gaining a hardcore cult following, the slightly fragile nature of the unit and its lack of features lead this to be more of a cool toy to play with, rather than something that would be of use in a professional capacity. However, this all promises to change with the latest revision, in the form of its big brother, the Kaossilator Pro.
It is designed to be a stand-alone synth, drum machine, effects unit, and even a very basic sequencer which could be used as part of a studio setup for live performances, or as an addition to your DJ setup to add textures to your sets. It comes with 200 preset sounds, covering just about every perceivable style of music that producers would wish to make, from jazz to dubstep. The presets are broken down into leads, acoustic instruments, one-hit drum samples, sweep effects and drum loops.
The method in which these instruments are played is completely unique to the Kaossilator Pro. The Kaossilator uses the same XY pad that users of Korg’s other DJ style product the Kaoss Pad will be familiar with. With musical presets such as piano emulation, the ‘X’ axis controls the note that is being played, whereas the ‘Y’ axis applies modulation, which depending on the preset, varies from filters to reverbs, distortion and the likes. Another aid Korg have thrown in to help the less tactile musician amongst us is the gate/arpeggiator. It will re-trigger or gate the note that is being played to a musical timing that can be adjusted with a fader, so no need to worry about repetitively hitting the pad in sync. Adjusting the fader whilst simply sliding your finger randomly around the pad can produce some epic, complex-sounding riffs.
The drum samples are broken up into one-shot kit samples and loops. The one-shots allow you to tap different regions of the pad to trigger different hits within the set, effectively allowing you to play in your own drum patterns, much as you would in an MPC-style sampler, and when used in conjunction with the gate arpeggiator, this can produce some heavy sounding drum rolls. The unit also comes with an array of spooky space-style sweeps and effects that would even make Doctor Who’s panties moist!
As with all gadgets like this these days, the Kaossilator Pro has midi function, albeit quite basic. This is where the unit loses marks. Despite having full midi and USB connectivity, users are very limited to how it can be used. My first instinct was to connect a midi keyboard and play the instrument in a more traditional way but this is not possible. I understand the charm of the unit is its unique interface for performance, but if the ability to connect in a more elaborate way is there, I cannot understand why they wouldn’t make use of this opportunity. To add to the frustration, even though the unit can receive midi data from a DAW such as Logic or Ableton Live, and it detects clock tempo changes etc, there is no way to sync them up, so it will constantly be playing out of time. This leaves the midi functions limited — it just feels like it could so easily do so much more.
Overall, this is a great new addition to what is possible with live performances these days. The interface and how it is used is really refreshing. With Korg having thrown the traditional rulebooks away, they have succeeded in making this the professional version of the original Kaossilator, listening to the users, adding all the missing links, and packaging it in a robust body casing, and despite some minor midi issues that I’m sure could be fixed in firmware, the Kaossilator Pro is ideal for aspiring and professional DJs and musicians alike. Being such a flexible tool, I’m quite excited to see how different artists will find different ways to use it.
|Ease of Use||4.0|
|Value for Money||4.0|
|Hype||A truly revolutionary approach to live performances.|
|Gripe||Disappointing midi functionality.|
|Conclusion||Korg have successfully created a flexible ‘all in one’ solution for professionals and budding artists alike.|