REVIEW: Korg KAOSSILATOR 2


Link: Korg — Price: $160/€159/£129

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Introduction

This little yellow beauty is the Korg KAOSSILATOR 2, a pocket-sized synth designed as a companion to the mini KAOSS pad 2, which we reviewed alongside this. I’d suggest reading that review as well to get a better feel of these products.

In the box, looks and build quality

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Much like its sporty crimson sibling, the KAOSSILATOR 2 comes in a practical and easily opened box. Inside, you get the device, some batteries and the manual. Like the FX unit, there isn’t a AC adapter included to power it. These are cheap batteries, so don’t expect to get much play time without investing in some spares.

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This is a practical and compact device about the size of a smartphone, with a large XY pad dominating the front, a touch sensitive ribbon, cozy OLED screen and backlit buttons. The Korg KAOSSILATOR 2 has an identical layout to the miniKAOSSpad 2, apart from the different use of buttons. The case is solidly built, with no real give anywhere, and Korg didn’t skimp on the buttons, although some are a bit on the small side.

Sound quality and synths

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So what does this thing do that the miniKP 2 can’t? Instead of a wide array of effects to mangle your music with, you get 150 built-in instrument sounds, an arpeggiator, and some overdub recording. All the sounds are excellently done, using Korg’s synthesizer technology, as PCM (pulse-code modulation) audio. Basically, these aren’t samples – they’re done by the unit in real-time.

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The arpeggiator works really well, helping you build various patterns easily. As you select the different patterns, they are illustrated on the screen so you know what you’ll get. With all the great included sounds, you can build some funky rhythms.

Real world use

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So, on paper this sounds like a cracking little box of tricks. Does it stand out in real world use? Hold onto your hats!

We tested this synth hooked up to a speaker set using the 3.5mm output jack. Sounds coming from this thing filled the room well, matching up against the tunes from the laptop. There is a mic input jack next to the output, which allows you to run external sources through the effects, but if you need that, why not go for the dedicated FX of the miniKAOSSPAD 2?

We mentioned being able to overdub, allowing you to record loops over each other to form rudimentary pieces of music. This works pretty well until you make a mistake. There’s no undo feature once you have recorded.

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Although the synth sounds are excellent, using the XY pad means you can’t easily find the right keys to play a tune. Unlike the Monotron series, which feature a ribbon keyboard to give you an idea of what note you’re hitting, there just isn’t enough accuracy to know you’ll hit the right place. This really couldn’t be used for performing. Coupled with the lack of undo while recording, it’s really hard to reliably come up with a tune you want.

On the other hand, the percussion sounds work much better. When you select a sound library (for example a ‘Techno’ percussion set), the XY pad is broken up into sections, with each triggering a different sample from the library. This means you end up with a system similar to drum machines such as the famous Akai series. Could this be used for performance? Maybe with practice!

Summary

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So is there anything we feel is missing from the Korg KAOSSILATOR 2? Yes… We really wished it had a built-in metronome while recording, to help build rhythm when using the synths and some form of ‘undo’ would make the overdub feature into a much more flexible and useful tool.

We’re not quite sure who Korg are targeting with this product. For an eighth of the price, you can get any of Korg’s great iOS apps (you have an iProduct, right?!). This is definitely a toy for the DJ/producer that has everything. So if there’s space in that Christmas stocking, this may well fill it! Honestly though, I’d go for the classier (and cheaper) Monotron series for some proper knob twiddling filter synth action.

If you’re looking for something affordable to enhance your DJ setup, we have to strongly recommend the Korg KAOSSILATOR 2’s red sibling, the mini KAOSS PAD 2. Searching online, you can dig up videos of creative soles putting this to use, but this here synth is strictly a toy for the average user.

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