KAOSS as Music: Korg's Latest Pad
(ShackMan | Posted 2010-04-01)
The KAOSS Pad is already half as old as I am, and musicians are still only just realizing its full potential. The first KAOSS pad drifted onto the market as an expressive controller, allowing the adjustment of multiple parameters at once simply by sliding a finger across an X-Y touchpad. DJ's were the first ones to start using it in their rigs, and the KAOSS line catered to the customer, adding mixers, video and audio samplers, and various instruments, all bearing the KAOSS name. In the last few years, though, KAOSS has become much more than a DJ's tool. It's become an underground sensation among keyboard players, bass players, and even drummers who are adding to their stage shows and bringing new ambiance to their recordings.
The newest in the series, the Kaossilator Pro, offers new PCM samples which are of much higher quality than on previous models, featuring samples of guitars, pianos, brass, woodwind, and various orchestral instruments. Also sampled are various drums (twenty in all) as well as twenty-five preset drum patterns. In total, the new Kaoss Pro makes over 200 programs available, including 15 vocoder programs intended to process an external audio signal. Programs can be saved to eight memory keys on the unit; saving, like many of the unit's features, requires only the touch of one (or two) buttons. Even setting up a loop is largely self-explanatory.
As a new feature, users who want a more musical experience can select a key and any of 31 scales for the Pad to perform in. Range can even be scaled down to a single octave. This more melodic side can be combined with the Arpeggiator (from Korg's Electribe series) for quick and easy groove creation by adding timing and specific pitch information.
All these features are just the tip of the iceberg, however. While Korg has produced the base unit, it's the users who are really turning this product into a phenomenon. The back panel features 2 RCA pairs and a balanced XLR jack, but that certainly hasn't put any limitations on it's functionality. Solo artists are sampling songs from mp3 players and making loops live on the fly with it's looper. Jazz, rock, funk, and noise groups are plugging their instruments into it and using the vocoder patches for experimentation using adapters to turn an unbalanced 1/4" signal to an RCA signal. Laptop artists are using it as an expressive MIDI controller, and Korg even included MIDI IN and OUT jacks on the front of the unit to better facilitate their efforts. As a neat little piece of flair, the screen can even be configured to display a custom message when it isn't in use.
While I'm proud thinking of how much of the music community is trying to get as much out of the KAOSS series as possible, it's a bit strange to me that Korg hasn't started producing units with more connectivity than this. While there may in fact be some technical issue that I am not aware of (and I would be curious to know), I'm honestly stumped as to why Korg hasn't released units with 1/4" inputs and outputs, or perhaps even video outputs for projecting the touchpad onto a screen. It could be great at a rave to watch all the colored dots dance across the walls from a projector.
All in all, I'm very impressed with the unit and the series, and I hope Korg only takes it even further than it already has gone. You'll be able to find the Kaossilator Pro in stores this May. Korg has set the U.S. MSRP for the unit at $460.
Information taken from a Korg Press Release
ShackMan is a bassist, keyboardist, author, and composer living and working in the greater Pittsburgh area. Feel free to send your questions, comments, or thoughts to him on the forums (ShackMan) or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.