Korg Kaossilator 2 and Mini KP2 Review
We have just received the Kaossilator 2 and the Mini KP2 and we are stoked to get our hands on them. Korg first introduced the Kaoss Pad in 1999 and it was a one-of-a-kind touch pad effects unit that took the world by storm.
I remember the first time I used the original Kaoss Pad during a gig many years ago; it was a lot of fun to use because it had a lot of cool effects and it was really the first FX touch pad that I had ever seen. I could plug a mic into it as well and do cool vocal effects whenever I performed in a live PA environment. I also remember watching a guitarist run a Kaoss Pad inline with his guitar pedals, using the pad FX with his bare foot while he played. It was really versatile and super fun to see.
Korg has always had a reputation of having solid synthesis in their keyboards, workstations; and the release of the Kaoss pad, along with their Electribe series, pushed them into the DJ/remix world with full force in the late 90′s. Their products stemmed from synth or sample-based grooveboxes, vocoder mini-synths, like the Micro Korg, to DJ mixers with the illustrious Kaoss Pad built directly in. They were all pretty good, but it was the Kaoss Pad that really became popular, and stood the test of time.
Many different versions were to follow, including the Koassilator, which introduced a phrase synth complete with built-in sounds, the Kaoss Pad 3, and more recently the Kaoss Pad Quad as the range of Kaoss products continued to grow and evolve. They are all a lot of fun to use, whether it is in production, recording, or live performance. The latest additions to the Kaoss family were unveiled at Winter NAMM earlier this year and now we have them in the studio for a proper review.
Korg Kaossilator 2 and Mini Kaoss Pad 2 Overview UniqueSquared
The Korg Kaossilator 2 is a portable handheld phrase synth that has capabilities far beyond its small stature. With 150 PCM synth and drum sounds, 50 arpeggios, dual loop recording and playback, it is an awesome way to create dance grooves from anywhere, anytime, on the fly. Here are the basics.
- 150 built-in sounds cover every style of dance music
- PCM sound engine serves up realistic drums
- Scale Key and Note Range eliminates “wrong” notes
- Built-in Gate Arpeggiator with adjustable gate time and swing settings
- Loop Recording allows the creation of layered phrases with unlimited overdubs
- Dual Loop Recording banks allow DJ-Style mutes and cross-fades
- Record using the built-in mic; or use the mic input for recording of external input
- microSD/SDHC card slot for saving loops and recorded performances
The Kaossilator 2 is palm-sized, slightly thinner than a gameboy, with a black top face and a detachable yellow back. It is powered by a pair of AA batteries when on the move, or by a 4.5V optional DC adapter. The screen is a small, but brightly lit OELD, organic electroluminescent display, which is a nice change from the standard LED displays on Kaos devices past. You have a nice +/- touch strip for cycling through and selecting your patches and functions.
The x/y touch pad is much smaller than the original Kaossilator, but it feels good and looks quite durable. The loop recorder buttons are LED back lit, green when playing, flashing red when recording the loops. Power on button and volume control are located on the upper right side of the Kaossilator 2, with the microphone on/off on the upper left. The 1/8 inch mic input, headphone output, and DC input are along the top. Overall, it is built well, and exactly what you expect from a palm-sized device.
The Kaossilator 2 has the ability to save and record 2 loops, with unlimited overdub. This is really the bread and butter of this device. You can choose from numerous lead, bass, acoustic, chords, drums, and drum patterns, with 50 different arpeggios. When playing any of these musical sounds, it’s probably a good idea to choose which key and key range you want to play, and also the scale i.e. major, minor, lydian, ionian, etc. This is pretty important because the small size of the touchpad makes it quite a challenge to pluck out individual notes, sure it is possible, but very difficult to be bull’s eye accurate without hours of practice.
Determining your favorite arpeggios, patterns, scale and key range makes the performance and production process much easier and the result will sound much cooler. I chose a basic Hip Hop pattern at 110 BPM and extended my loop length to 8 beats before I recorded my loop. I then selected an arpeggio to use when I played the wobble bass. The overdubs are unlimited, but I didn’t want to add too much this loop. I pretty much just want to establish a foundation to play over with some of the other patches.
For the second loop, I chose a more minimal beat as the foundation and balanced it with a synth bass line and nice synth pad. The cool thing about the Kaossilator 2 is that I could create a loop, cross-fade into the next, and then create another one. Rinse and repeat. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to compose simple grooves, or ideas, especially since I am able to save my loops. As far as being a piece of gear that I must have in my studio, probably not, but the Kaossilator 2 is fun to use when I am on the go and have the urge to jam out.
The Mini Kaoss Pad 2, Mini KP2, is the Kaossilator 2′s partner in crime and the latest touchpad-controlled effects processor to come from the company. Like the Kaossilator 2, the Mini Kaoss Pad 2 lets you play back MP3s (and vary the pitch), which you can record yourself using the line input or mic and store on the microSD card. Also featured are 100 effects programs, auto BPM detection, pitch change and cue point settings, and more. Here are the basics.
- Control effects in real time using the intuitive touchpad interface
- MP3 player with microSD card slot for data storage/exchange;
- Perform on the Mini Kaoss Pad 2 without needing any other equipment!
- 100 effect programs, ideal for DJ mixes or sound design
- 3 Program Memories provide instant recall of favorite effects
- Powerful Looper, Vinyl Break, and Ducking Comp effects borrowed from the Kaoss Pad Quad
- Internal mic plus external audio inputs
- Support for pitch change and cue point settings allows serious DJ play.
- Record your performances and save them to using the microSD card slot
- 6 preset audio demo loops
The Mini KP2 is pretty easy to use because you can take almost any source adapted to 1/8 inch and start jamming and tweaking lickety-split. You can also load your own MP3′s conveniently via the mini SD card slot, or just use one of the six groovy patterns that the Mini KP2 comes with. The legacy of the Kaoss Pad definitely is upheld with the Mini KP2, having all of the popular effects from the original series, plus adding the powerful Looper, Vinyl Break, and Ducking Comp effects borrowed from the Kaoss Pad Quad.
The effects are robust, the pad is very responsive, and it is very easy to navigate with the bright OELD and the touch strip. One major difference in the Mini KP2 than of previous versions is having a built-in microphone. This was an obvious addition because this is really the first hand-held, or palm sized Kaoss pad. This really opens the door to some really creative, on the fly production, especially by using some of the vocoder FX on board. The Mini KP2 is very functional, even in a more compact size, and the recording and saving capabilities really steps it up compared to previous versions.
In The Groove
I hooked up the Mini KP2 directly from my DJ mixer’s main outputs using 2 RCA to 1/8 inch cables, one each for the in and outputs. These cables may not always be readily available in your DJ bag, but they are easily found at any type of consumer electronic store. After getting the Mini KP2 set up, I selected some of my favorite DJ friendly FX, like Isolator, Flange filter, and a standard Delay.
With the Mini KP2, I am able to save up to three program memory settings to easily access my favorites. In true Kaoss fashion, the FX were easy to apply and tweak, especially since the size of the KP just felt nice in the palm of my hand. The cool looper FX was something I discovered when we did the Kaoss Pad Quad demo, and it was nice to have them on the smaller KP2.
Navigating through was really easy because I could use the +/- on the touch strip for smaller increments, or I could swipe quickly to navigate deeper into the 100 effects. With the improved BPM detection, the delays and loops synced pretty well, but you still had to decide exactly when that loop effect could be useful; probably as a transitional effect when switching to a considerably different BPM. Another cool thing about the Mini KP2 is that you can set a cue point on the internal MP3 player, which could be helpful again if used in a DJ environment. Overall, the Mini KP2 stayed true to form and continues the legacy of the original Kaoss Pad.
At first glance it is very easy to brush off the Kaossilator 2 and the Mini KP2, probably because they look like a cross between a guitar tuner and a Fluke multimeter. But for those of you who have the urge to create grooves and tweak effects while on the move, these are both perfect and a whole lot of fun.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Kaossilator 2 for advanced studio production or a live performance because the amount of sounds is just too limited, and the surface in which to create just doesn’t make sense because of the size. The x/y pad just does not allow for any real defined note play, especially when you could buy a number of controllers, keyboard or otherwise, for the same price that could be more effective in production.
The built-in microphone and microphone input are a nice touch, considering you can record simple licks, grooves, and vocal stabs on the fly, making for a neat session, but again the limitations on the pad surface might hinder any real accuracy in doing so. The Kaossilator 2, now with record/save/load functionality, is a great scratchpad for coming up with ideas that could potentially serve to inspire more complex productions, but for now it is a really fun novelty. The street price of $159 is a bit much, considering apps on your smartphone might have more capabilities for a fraction of the cost, but if you have the means, and you are familiar with Korg’s pedigree of Kaoss products, then you will thoroughly enjoy your investment.
On the other hand, the Mini KP2 has some really cool, decent quality FX, and I could see it being used in a live environment for DJ’s or live performers. It is compact and extremely easy to use, considering an FX unit does not often serve as the foundation of the performance. The Mini KP2 is cosmetic and ornamental, but the FX are chunky, flexible, and tweaking them in a live environment might serve to elevate your performance.
Having only an 1/8 inch input and output does mean you have to get creative adapter-wise, but that minor headache is worth the end result. It is a major plus that the Mini KP2 has memory saving capabilities now, so if you spend the time cycling through all of the rad effects that it has to offer, you could come up with the perfect combinations that suit you best, and save them. I don’t know if I would necessarily use the memory to record the performance for production or playback, but it is nice to be able to save my favorite settings. The Mini KP2 will also cost you around $159, but as an FX unit/controller it makes more sense to pay that amount if you are a serious DJ or performer and you are a Korg Kaoss fan.
Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below and I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Until next time, happy gigs!