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Korg Volca Keys Analog Loop Synthesizer Reviews

4.5 stars based on 16 customer reviews
Questions about the Korg Volca Keys Analog Loop Synthesizer?

Questions about the Korg Volca Keys Analog Loop Synthesizer?

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  • from March 13, 2017

    Most Powerful Synth for the Price

    This synth is the best that I have found for the price, and it has blown me away with how creative you can be with such a simple synth. I've tried finding cheap units like the monotron delay which is ultimately only good for as an effect unit and getting a dirty noisy sound, but this synth is so powerful on its own I can't believe it. It's as basic as you can get while still being able to have fun, and is a very effective learning tool on midi and hardware setup as well as instrument for simple sequencing and melodies. What is the greatest thing about this synth is the many versatile ways to play it in my opinion. You can power this on batteries and play it with its own built-in speaker for on the go boredom, or power this with their own supply and plug it in for hardware integration (not included). You can sequence a melody straight from the sequencer and save it, or you can plug a midi cable in and have it play a melody from your DAW. You can record motion with the sequencer as well, or apply your generic effects within your software or rig to add complexity to the sound. I would highly recommend this for any musician big on physical synthesizers regardless of level, for the many different ways to play it. Would also highly recommend this to anyone like me who is always looking around for cheap and usable hard synths. This is my final thoughts on the volca keys:

    Pros:
    Super easy to use in many ways
    Portability is as easy as it gets
    Super clean sound
    Many ways to be creative and record
    Overall clean look and feel
    Easy integration for other hardware and keyboards

    Neutral Comments:
    A little research and reading is needed to do some things like set midi channel etc

    Cons:
    Keys are very small, pretty hard to play in poly mode with chords on this
    Sequencer is a little crazy to work with
    Knobs are small (monotron small)
    Power supply not included

    If you can get passed the simplicity and small design, then this is a synth for anyone who loves them.

  • from Seattle January 28, 2016

    Sounds Great!

    What's not to like? This super portable, very affordable synth sounds fantastic. This is the first analog synth that I've owned and I don't think I'm going back. This has great range and can easily create massive low end in your tracks or upfront leads. My favorite part is the pattern sequencer - I can lay in bed with headphones and try out sounds, record bass lines and then automate knob turns into the sequencer to really make the patterns I've recorded come to life. On more than a few occasions, inspiration has struck hard with this device and I immediately have to get up out of bed, go plug this into my audio interface and begin making a track. This thing is amazing and sounds even better when played via midi by a keyboard. I love it.

  • from Fargo, ND June 13, 2015Music Background:
    Composer

    Awesome!

    This is the same review I'd write for the Volca Bass and Volca Beats, they're all awesome, huge range, easy to learn, super fun and most importantly....analog! For the price it is so worth it! I bought a Hosa 1/8" stereo to 1/4" mono chord to go from its headphone jack into the Behringer 4 channel Micro Mix then into my Peavey Bass amp and you get a really great sound! Also, if you get the Korg SQ-1 you can synch them up or get the Hosa Midi cable and control the Volca Keys or Bass with that.

  • from Miami, FL September 21, 2014Music Background:
    Musician, Producer

    Sawtooth Polysynth

    WARNING: THIS IS A SAWTOOTH-ONLY POLYSYNTH.
    It has a Square wave capability but only for the Ring Modulation. You will not hear polyphony for the Square Wave, only Ring Mod.

    That aside... This Sawtooth PolySynth is EXTREMELY simple. I wanted something that can do some nice pad chords. I was so Upset that it only had Sawtooth which is so harmonic that it could rarely ever be used in a soft way. But After a while, it grew on me so much. I find myself using for everything now, even though I have a whole collection of excellent synthesizers. It's just so liberating to have an analog polysynth in my little world of monosynths.

    But that's just the beginning. The several modes that you can select are all really great. No lie here... they're actually very useful, and not gimmicky. And I think the "Detune" knob is absolutely genius. The EG is the weakest point in my opinion, aside from the single waveform.

    I do not use the built in keyboard, I hook it up to my MPK49 as a controller. I route the faders to the MIDI Implementation CCs for the Volca Keys and the sound is tremendous without even any FX on it. And the crappy delay that's built in adds so much crazy Lo-Fi color.

    I have expensive synthesizers, but I can't put this little 150 dollar thing down!!

    Consider it a Module. That's how I look at it, like it's a Korg Sawtooth Polysynth Module. :)

    I regret the Volca Bass. I don't regret the Volca Keys.

  • from Upstate New York February 13, 2014Music Background:
    Hobbyist ..collects vintage analog synthesizers..some electronics background..

    A rockin' little synth..!!

    The Volca Keys is a great little analog synth for a beginner to learn about analog synthesizers with, or the pro who wants something small and portable to bounce some ideas around with, when not in the studio. It would have been nice, if Korg had incorperated a mixer in it (for each of the VCOs) and a noise source (pink and white), but I guess you have to cut corners somewhere to keep the price down. I have been a little annoyed of what I've read from people on other sites, giving reviews of it though. Contrary to what they have been saying, this Synth's VCOs gives you 2 different waveforms, (a sawtooth and square)..not just a sawtooth. I guess those people should have had their hearing checked, if they can't tell the difference between a Sawtooth and Square wave, because they are as different as night and day.!! Plus, it tells you right in the owners manual about it having 2 different waveforms, not just one for the VCOs. A great little synth all in all, for the money. I would have liked to seen Moog come out with something like this, but I guess they dropped the ball on this one or were sleeping...

  • from Outside Philly February 4, 2014Music Background:
    Electronic

    Another A+ for Korg

    Got this monster to swap out a Volca Bass and im glad i did!
    I didnt think this machine would be to my liking but Ive been so absorbed in it that i haven't even started playing with the beats unit 2 months after Christmas! Im very impressed with it. Worried you cant live with just one wave form? The 6 modes of operation gladly compensate for that. The sound is very rich for $150 in my opinion. Not too mention its 3 voice poly. You will not be sorry you get this one.

  • from Venice, Florida January 1, 2014Music Background:
    maker of

    Another KORG funbox

    It seems like KORG just can't make a synth that is not fun to use. Cool little noise maker synth with an affordable price tag.

  • from December 10, 2013Music Background:
    i play guitar

    magic trick in real time recording

    HAVE YOU EVER SEEN: a music person with like a faqir box supposedly playing like a looped sequenced synth part with breaks and leadparts jamming like a lead guitarist-tthat's what this is.
    I DO NOT NEED TO SAY MORE.
    But i will tell you that if you have roots in those syths or listening toacid lines in old heavy metal venues then welcome to that long forcast future it is here!
    ....with all the adjustments and light weight your simple operation makes it a blast......jam to old disco albums or remix with effects the classics while burnished synth parts glide katabaino/anabaino-the ascending and descending angels shall bounce with it.

  • from Hamilton, AL October 30, 2013Music Background:
    Experimenter, Hobbyist, Programmer

    Surprisingly Capable

    The Key's polyphonic capabilities and midi implementation were the deal clinchers for me. My use is mainly as a synth module instead of a live sequencing device and it exceeded my expectations. It can do things through midi that cannot be done otherwise. All knobs except peak (resonance) are available through midi CCs even the filter cutoff. Polyphony mode is limited because there is only one EG and to get proper polyphony you need to disable attack. But the real outrageous sounds come from the unison modes where it becomes more like the Volca Bass. If there were anything I wish Korg had done differently was to add a CC for the modulator waveform and my pet peeve is using sawtooth instead of a triangle for the default modulator waveform. Maybe in an update.

  • from December 29, 2016

    Great beginning synth

    Got this to dabble in synthesis without spending too much. Great little synth... Not too complex....The instructions aren't very helpful... But there are plenty of helps online for specific questions.

  • from Oakhurst, NJ February 2, 2016Music Background:
    Hobbyist

    Love-Hate Relationship

    When I first got it, I hated and nearly returned this synth, but have come to find it very useful having taken more time to learn its strengths. It sounds very good, and the filter and time-based sound shaping controls add quite a bit of versatility. The detune function and built-in delay also strengthen the character of what you can get out of this knobby little box. The fact that this is (mostly) a sawtooth synth works for me, as I use sawtooths pretty often. The oscillator presets offer a good variation to use as foundations to build upon.

    I typically use this to work out ideas on the couch or while I’m in a situation that I’d just be sitting around otherwise. Playability is difficult with my larger than average hands, but after a couple of recording passes, I can build a sequence I am pleased with. Sending MIDI from a sequencer or controller also makes this process easier in the studio.

    One of my two favorite features is the fact that you can cut the sequence speed in half or one fourth - giving you 2 measures of 1/8 notes, or 4 measures of 1/4 notes (based on 4/4). The other thing that convinced me to hold on to this box is the "flux" option - which releases the quantizing function and allows you to play "between" steps. This takes some of the rigidity out and adds a human element your sequence allowing some notes to be played slightly off time. Using these two functions together allows you to (theoretically) stretch this 16 step sequencer to 32 or 64 steps.

    Most of the turnoffs that I had with the Volca Keys have faded except for the fact that it has no display. Most of the visual feedback provided by LEDs gets the message across, but there is no way to view your tempo as a result. To solve this, I just sync it from one of my other Volcas and set the tempo there, but it would be nice to have that info available when using this independent of any other equipment.

    The only other gripe I would have is the lack of patch memory. It would be nice to save your settings along with a sequence. I've had occasions where I'd play a saved sequence and it would sound awful. I would then have to remember (or get close to) the settings I used that made that pattern sound good enough to save it in the first place.

    Those two issues are minor enough to only warrant removing 1/2 star.

    All in all, this is a lot of bang for the buck. It’s fun to use, sounds great, has lots of sonic possibilities, and the flexibility in the on-board sequencer take it well beyond a simple single measure loop maker.

  • from Parkersburg, WV October 31, 2014Music Background:
    Newb Hobbyist

    Volca Keys Review from a Newb

    This is my first synthesizer and for the price I couldn't be more pleased. First, the thing just sounds cool and is very tweakable. Very compact, runs off of batteries, and has MIDI. I used a 300 mA power source that I already owned and it runs fine off of that. So in the future as I acquire more gear I predict that this little synth will always have its place in my setup. The touch control surface works fine but if you have big fingers you will have a hard time with hitting the right notes in a chord. When I'm looking to play a sequence with chords I prefer to use a MIDI controller.

    The modes are all useable. At first I wasn't sure what I would do with the ring modulation but if you set it to poly and use the touch control surface you can get some fantastic glitchy 8-bit video game sounds or with some tweaking of the envelope controls some wild effects. Can't wait to get a sampler and incorporate these into a performance.

    Now to nit pick a bit:
    -Some reviews have noted stepping in the filter when sweeping the VCF, I think that only pops up when you have the resonance (peak) up or the delay up.
    -The delay can be noisy and not great especially in the lower octaves.
    -Some of the knobs seem touchy like the attack and the LFO rate knobs. I would like to see a smoother transition throughout the range of the pot.

    But for $150 you can't beat it.

  • from Chicago July 26, 2016Music Background:
    Electronic music production and DJing

    amazing for the price

    I'm really impressed with this little synth. You can get some fantastic beefy sounds that you'd expect from a piece costing 4 times as much or more. Plus 3 note polyphony...wow! The ring modulated modes are fantastic. Filter is decent. Wish the knobs were a bit bigger and easier to see (translucent on top of more translucent). This seems a Korg thing. I have a minilogue and the decision to place a black dial indicator on a black dial is similarly not helpful. Nothing a fine-tip marker can't fix. Anyhow. Totally worth it for the money.

  • from USA February 10, 2014Music Background:
    Musician, Producer, Home Studio Engineer

    Great for the price, but falls short in minor areas.

    For the portability and the price, the Korg Volca Keys gives you some simple analog options. It's great for those on a super low budget and just need to add some analog flavor to a recording or live performance. It's interface is very easy to understand and the ribbon keypads seem pretty accurate.

    Where the Volca Keys loses a little luster for me is the quality of the filter and overall build. The filter itself is decent enough, but it's not overly smooth. You can hear it step as you open and close the filter, so you don't get that nice smooth transition. Same happens with the delay. I also get a slight hum from the unit's output. It's very faint, so it's easy to bury it in a mix.

    A far as the build, it's not overly durable. The body is a light plastic, so you have to be a bit careful with toting it around. The nobs also have a minor problem, for me at least. The notch in the nobs to indicate the level at which it's turned is very difficult for me to see, so sometimes I'm double and triple checking a nobs position whilst using it during live performance.

    One other minor issue are the options for output and connectivity. The midi in is nice to remotely sync it to another midi device or use an external keyboard to play it. However, the lack of output options puts some limitations on the device. Some CV control would have been cool, as well as a standard line out or XLR out.

    Again, these negatives are only minor and are expected from such a low cost analog synth.

    For what it is the, the Volca Keys are great and definitely recommended for a novice that wants to get their feet wet with something analog. It's a lot of fun to sequence things and you can create some crazy loops very quickly.

  • from IN February 24, 2017

    Great Synth. Unacceptable Noise

    This is a great little synth. The killing flaw for me is the output jack has an unacceptable amount of noise when you try to record it. I also have the vulca bass and it doesn't have this problem. It might be my individual unit, but after this experience I'm going to seek out higher grade synths.

  • from United States March 19, 2014Music Background:
    Pro musician, composer, producer, arranger

    Likely good capability undercut by bad manual, non-intuitive use

    I'm certain that once one has managed to figure out how to use and really exploit the capabilities of the Volca, it will be a worthy tool. However, it is drastically non-intuitive, and the manual is miserable. A book is radically needed. It took 3-4 minds together (including those of Sweetwater tech support, who, to their credit, went beyond what they should be expected to do) and about 45 minutes to figure out how to record a sequence! I still don't know how to (or whether one can) save a sequence. I cannot recommend this unit unless/until someone comes out with a decent book (just as the same goes for the Zoom R24).

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