Not content to rest on their laurels, Korg have been busy making some great videos of their Volca series and presented by none other than hardware designer and chief engineer of the project - Tatsuya Takahashi. Tatsuya is a bit of a surprise; he's a fairly young man, knowledgeable and has an excellent command of British English. Rather than hearing a brash Korg USA representative, it's great to have these demos come directly from the engineers themselves and are explained clearly and calmly. Well done to Korg for such a good series of videos, here are my thoughts on them.
One thing I liked to see was the fact that you can run all three basslines in unison or independently of each other, so this can make lovely detuned growls as much as it can make complex, multi-part sequenced bleeps. You can also cancel out individual steps - something I understand that came from the Electribe sequencer that works well here as well - and in general seems straightforward to use and get tweaking with. I definitely think that the Bass will be popular if only as a cheap alternative to the TB-303. While the filter is not the same as the 303, I don't think Korg actually designed it to be as close to the 303, though it certainly sounds squelchy enough as is. I'm sure it will sell like hot cakes, as having three tweakable basslines in one package with easy edit options will definitely be of interest to many.
Something I wasn't aware about with the Volca Beats was the stutter feature, which can be applied globally to all or to individual sounds to help give the sounds some atmosphere. That you can record levels of stutter as automation to give variety during playback makes this even more fun. The drums themselves are well recorded here: there's plenty to recommend it if you are looking for TR-808 or TR-606 type sounds and towards the end, there's a great little demo of how you can hook the Volca Bass and Beats up together for some minimal techno/acid sounds.
The Volca Keys is definitely the most versatile of the three synths, with up to three voice polyphony and plenty of different play modes including ring modulator and a phat unison mode. Something I hadn't seen previously was the octave mode, which puts the synth into monophonic mode with every key playing an octave above and below the note played, and fifths, which allows you to play fifth chords on one finger (nice if you need it!). It remains to be seen how easy this pseudo-keyboard is to play, but this might be one of those instances where the MIDI in port is a saving grace. Just plug a full-sized or more traditional keyboard controller and off you go. The delay part is also a great feature and looks as easy to use as the one that features on the Monotron Delay.
I'm throwing my money at the screen and nothing is happening! Some great videos from Korg that emphasise the units themselves and demos that benefit from being delivered direct from the inventor and engineer. Of course, these are also recorded in a nice quiet studio rather than a busy exhibition hall - the NAMM coverage from this year was pretty dire as all the videos picked up all the background noise. Still no word of an official release date but there are plenty of videos popping up on YouTube of unboxing videos already. Time will tell when European countries get their fill.