Welcome to my Korg Volca Beats review. Korg has released a bunch of these fun little analog musical toys in recent years. The great thing about something like this is that anyone can just immediately get stuck straight in and start making sounds. The 16-step sequencer means you can get a pretty good beat going easily, and the sound editing knobs mean you can tweak the individual sounds on the fly. As you can probably tell from the video review below, this is not really a professional drum machine, and the sounds that it produces are somewhat limited and clearly won’t be for everyone. But for a fun musical toy that anyone can use, it’s good value at this price.
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Product: Korg Volca Beats
Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon
Sonic Lab Think it’s Great Value for Money
Live Electronic Beats for a Very Reasonable Price
For a fun way to create electronic beats and play around with them on the fly, this is good value for money. It is very easy to use, so anyone can get a good beat going, no matter what their level of musical expertise.
Being able to tweak the sounds in real time adds a fun performance aspect to the Volca Beats. For the analog sounds, you can alter Click, Pitch, and Decay. For the PCM sounds, you can alter the PCM speed to dramatically change the pitch of the sound. Some people may find that the knobs are a bit small and fiddly, but their small size means that the Volca Beats unit is nicely compact and therefore great for traveling or using in gigs.
Then there is the Stutter function, which works very much like a delay sound effect, but I think it actually works by re-triggering the sound. You can change the depth and speed of the stutter to get the effect you want, whether it’s drum-roll like effects or more of a delay-style effect. You can even record your knob turning into the sequencer so that these effects become an integral part of your beats.
You can also play around with the sequences while they are playing. For example, Active Step allows you to spontaneously skip a step. This can create unusual time signatures or allow you to repeat a small part of the sequence. The Step Jump function allows you to spontaneously repeat one step. Together, these features can make your beats sound more like they are improvised or performed live.
The step sequencer is limited to only 8 sequencers, and you cannot program in full songs. However, I don’t think that’s what this little box is designed for. You have a bunch of sequences saved, which you can then set going and manipulate live. It’s more of a fun live beat making box than a tool for composing whole songs in advance.
Real Analog Drum Sounds Complemented by PCM Sounds
The main drum sounds (kick, snare, hi-hats, and toms) are all generated using analog synthesis. This gives them that classic analog drum machine sound, reminiscent of the Roland 808 and 909 drum boxes of many years ago. However, there are some sounds (clap, claves, agogo, and crash) which analog is unsuitable for. These are created using a PCM engine.
When you first hear the Volca Beat’s sounds, you may think it sounds a bit cheap and toy-like through its own built-in speaker. It definitely sounds better through a good set of external speakers. That being said, the quality of the sounds is probably not quite a professional standard, it does have quite a limited range of sounds that it can make, and it is only mono, not stereo.
But it depends on whether you want this particular style of drum machine sound. For some people, it will be just what they are looking for, but others will want something more. If that sounds like you, the Korg Electribe Sampler might be more suitable.
Easily Sync with Other Machines in the Korg Volca Range
The sync in and sync out sockets allow you to connect the Volca Beats up to other similar Korg machines such as the Volca Keys or Monotribe so they can all play in sync with each other. If you like the idea of having several similar little boxes all linked up making sounds in sync, it could be a great fun way to go. I know my brother, in particular, enjoys making music in this way.
You can also use the MIDI in to sync with MIDI devices or control it from an external keyboard or sequencer. So even if you find the tiny built-in keys a bit too fiddly, you can play it via the full-size keys on a MIDI keyboard. However, there is no velocity sensitivity to any of the sounds. It’s all just flat at one single velocity level. What you can do, though, is to control the volume of the individual sounds.
With the light weight, small size, long-lasting battery life, the built-in speaker, and the headphone socket, the Volca Beats is super portable. Use your train journey to create beats. Take it to a friend’s house and show off your beat-making skills. Take it to a recording studio, sample your beats and then play around with them in a DAW.
Is the Korg Volca Beats Suitable for You?
I would say that the Volca Beats is great fun for someone who wants to play around with electronic beats. It could possibly be used in a professional music setting if you are aiming to use basic electronic beat sounds like those produced by the Volca. I can also imagine it being fun to use in a live setting, but I would probably want to put it through some good external effects to make it sound good.
However, serious music producers who are looking for access to a wide range of different drum sounds may be disappointed by the limited sounds available on the Volca Beats and may find the sounds on the Korg Electribe Sampler to be better quality.
I hope you found my Korg Volca Beats review helpful. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them in the comments area below and I will reply as soon as I can.
All the best,