It's time to say sayonara to my little Korg Kaossilator, for which I received 50 clams for this morning via Gumtree and has gone to live with another user, much like my MicroKorg and its virtual analogue sound engine.
Of course, I did quite like using the Kaossilator for doing phrases with and also for adding sound effects when playing with my Volcas, but there are quite a few problems with the Korg Kaossilator v1 that I think need to be made clear.
1) Timing on the Kaossilator is crap.
Stick Volcas together at 120BPM with the sync cable and they will constantly keep time at 120 beats a minute. Add to the mix your Kaossilator at 120BPM and after a couple 8-12 bars the Kaossilator will start to go out of sync. This makes the Kaossilator only useful as a loop making machine for itself and doesn't seem to play well with others. As there is no way to sync the tempo of the Kaossilator, this is extremely frustrating.
2) Don't bother dynamically adjusting the tempo
The way that the recording works on the Kaossilator is that it seems to record at a specific BPM. Try and speed this up and the internal clock only speeds up the BPM rate and resets the 8 bar loop before the recorded phrase finishes, creating a jarring restart of the loop. The only way to beat this is to clear your recording and start all over again. Not cool, Korg.
3) The XY Pad is not accurate enough
I've seen mods that add a grid over the top of the XY pad, or people that use Nintendo DS styluses to play more accurately, but these are a bit of an inconvenience. Yes, this is supposed to be a fun loop creation machine, but there is no getting around it: for note-perfect recording the Kaossilator is just not good and/or easy enough when using your fingers.
4) Who designed the buttons?
The jogwheel is fine; the buttons are fine as buttons, but who decided that they needed to have a double function when you hold them down? Sometimes holding the button down doesn't work at all and sometimes holding a button registers just as a button press - really annoying when you're trying to do things on the fly and in particular annoying when editing the gate/arp button. Speaking of which...
5) Why put another button on the bottom edge?
Who decided putting the gate/arp button on the bottom edge was a good idea? It's completely incongruous to all other controls on the unit as everything else is on the top side. I expect opening up the unit will reveal that there's not a lot of space, but you have to hold the unit in a completely different way to access this one button and its useful function of doing gated loops.
6) No external control
In its inception, MIDI could be added to keyboards very cheaply for added control, which was a factor in its widespread adoption by the industry. I get that the unit is not tall enough to accept MIDI IN, but making it only controllable by the XY pad and buttons means that you eventually realize that its studio uses are limited if you can't get accurate control. This is a shame, as its sound engine (very limited in any tweakable parameters as it is) is quite versatile and could well serve as a little MIDI-controlled external synth box.
As it turns out, External Control is something that was added to the Premium Kaossilator Pro edition, so it's clear that this was a desired feature by some.