Link: Korg – Price: $160/€135/£129
Ahhh, Korg. Up there with the best of them. They’re well known for their KAOSS Pads, the great Zero 8, and some awesome and legendary synths. Hot off the back of the Monotron series, the mini KAOSS Pad 2 (read our review of the KAOSSILATOR 2) is a portable “dynamic effects processor”, around the size of a smartphone.
This FX box is the smaller brother of the KAOSS series of pro effects units. Similar to their siblings, these have 100 different effects, broken down into several categories such as loopers, flangers and delays. You use an XY pad to control the behaviour of the sound coming out.
In the box
These days, packaged electronics seem to come sealed in ways that require a blowtorch and an angle grinder to get in. Korg bucks the trend with an easy box. You don’t get much, literally just the unit, a manual and (thankfully) a pair of AA batteries to get you started. One thing we noted was the lack of AC adapter. More on that later.
Looks and build quality
This is a dainty little box with a nice big XY pad, a touch ribbon and a few buttons. It fits nicely in your pocket and happily sits near your mixer. Korg has a long pedigree of pro gear, and always managed to build light but sturdy hardware. During our run through, we definitely struggled with the small buttons coupled with an interface that can be frustrating. The unit feels sturdy in the hand, with no give anywhere and secure buttons. The back flips off easily to replace batteries. We didn’t try a drop test, but I wouldn’t stress about this thing slipping off the table.
It’s also a nice bright Ferrari red, carrying on the Korg tradition of eye-catching paint jobs.
Sound quality and FX
There seems to be a noticeable difference in sound quality between headphone use and outputting through speakers with the mini KAOSS Pad 2. This may well just be headphones have better isolation so Also, while running as an ‘FX thru’ on your mixer’s master output, there’s a significant drop in dB back out to the amp and speakers. This meant that while the mini KAOSS Pad 2 was part of the DJ setup, the mixer volume was running near its ceiling. This meant that very occasionally, the sound coming in would confuse the FX processor.
All the cutting effects flowed nicely. Stacking up against software equivalents, the Korg seemed to have a really nice ‘tail’ to the sliced up sounds, ducking the end of the slice, unlike the sometimes harsh cuts in DJ software (and even Ableton). The only effect we couldn’t get to work properly was the ducking compressor. We still have no idea why!
Something definitely missing is a way to change the order of the effects list for quicker access to the most useful ones. You can add three of them to a ‘favourites’ menu, but that isn’t enough. Everyone has their own preferred filter or delay style and it can get fiddly finding what you need on such a small surface. While we’re on the subject of the effects interface, the unit doesn’t remember previously used settings. This means you either switch to a new effect and it’s waaaay too loud (enough to red-light our pro amp) or you clamber about trying to get it to sound how it did last time you used it. On top of that, altering the wet/dry is something like a four step process involving buttons and the ribbon. This thing could really do with a dedicated wet/dry knob somewhere in the centre of the unit.
Real world use
We gave this FX box a good run through its paces, both using headphones with the built-in MP3 player and as an FX box with the ones and twos. Truth be told, we struggled to understand any practical use of the MP3 feature, other than as something to keep you amused whilst sat on the loo (when you run out of shampoo bottles to read). Since samples don’t sync to the master tempo (ie what’s detected from your mixer output), there’s no easy way to use the MP3 feature as a pseudo sample trigger.
We set the mini KAOSS Pad 2 up feeding directly out of our test controller (Reloop Terminal Mix 4) and into a rack amp and speakers. Something quite surprising about this unit is just how flimsy the ins/outs are. A pair of 3.5mm sockets sit at the top of the case, one for input from mic or playback device and one for audio out. If you go for the pro-level £300 KP3, you can have some decent connectors along with MIDI clock.
While running music from the DJ gear through this, we found the BPM detection to be way ahead of Traktor and Serato. Apart from very complex tracks, the thing was spot on. This meant the looper and beat slicing effects were top notch.
Battery life can only be described as abysmal. We managed to squeeze in about one and a half to two hours with the set of batteries that came in the box. A nice feature Korg have added to save a bit of battery is that the screen dims when you are running low, though with what seems to be an OLED screen, we can’t see this helping much. This comes back to the lack of AC adapter… If this is meant to be a ‘serious DJ toolkit’ (Korg’s very words on the site), how are you supposed to get through a two hour gig with this thing?
So, we’ve been quite hard on this poor little box. Despite all the faults that come with this being an almost gimmicky toy, we really do love it. for around £100, you can get 100 FX that completely blow DJ software effects out of the water.
Some of this review is definitely a wish list of fixes that definitely seem quite easy to tweak. Korg obviously made some choices to strip out pro features, encouraging us to spend the extra on the KP3, but some of these niggles seem sloppy.
The final word from us here at DJWORX: we really recommend this unit to add to your setup, especially if you’re looking to turbocharge your effects use. Find the ones you like, learn their behaviour and have yourself some impressive Korg gear for a very attractive price. Even with the flaws, it’s still worth owning this kit.