Photo: Marsha Vdovin for CDM.

Remember when electronic sound gear hid in hulking, rack-sized cases? Korg’s Kaossilator series had already begun shrinking the desktop KAOSS Pad gear, but even the first-generation Kaossilator wouldn’t fit in your pocket, given its square shape and corners. (Well, unless you were wearing overalls.) The Kaossilator 2 and Mini Kaoss Pad 2, on the other hand, are scaled perfectly to your hand and would tuck neatly into a pocket in your pants or bag. And while I know some readers were hoping for a new Pro addition to the KAOSS line, these little bundles of joy have added some functionality that could make them musically useful. Being dedicated hardware, they also won’t suffer from a battery sapped by phone calls or the interruption of a Facebook message – and that input jack is built in.

We saw the new models at the NAMM show this month. The highlights:

The Kaossilator 2 is a PCM-based phrase synth, inspired by the original Kaosillator, for improvising melodic lines. What’s new is some handy recording functionality:

  • Scale Key and Note Range so every note is “right,” effectively, as on the original
  • Drum sounds
  • Gate Arpeggiator with adjustable gate time and swing settings
  • Loop recording to layer phrases and add as many overdubs as you like
  • “Dual Loop Recording banks allow DJ-Style mutes and cross-fades”
  • Record using the built-in mic; or use the mic input for recording of external input
  • microSD/SDHC, so you can cheaply add up to 32G of removable storage

That crossfader, of course, is entirely new, and Korg does mention “dance music” in the sounds and focus. It’s easy, then, to imagine this as a pocket-able instrument for jamming or something you’d use to make musical ideas on the go, and it does look like a lot of fun.

The Mini Kaoss Pad 2 is an effects box to the Kaossilator 2’s synth – and it even has a built-in MP3 player, so you can load up sounds and tracks ahead of time:

  • MP3 player with microSD card slot for data storage/exchange – or record performances and mixes
  • 100 effect programs, with 3 favorite slots
  • Looper, Vinyl Break, and Ducking Comp from the Kaoss Pad Quad (actually, need to find out if all the slicer effects from the Quad are there)
  • Internal mic plus external audio inputs
  • I’ll quote them directly on this: “Support for pitch change and cue point settings allows serious DJ play.”

Now, it’s a little hard to imagine DJing on something the size of a deck of cards, but, of course, I hope somewhere out there tries. I like the idea of putting your tracks on there and improvising a little mix, especially with the ability to record. Again, you could use it as a little sketchpad.

I got some hands-on time on the first morning of the show, and they’re a blast to play with, certainly. See the official Korg videos.

The other advantage of dedicated hardware here is, again, having a dedicated resistive touch interface. On a phone, the highly-sensitive capacitive interface can lead to missed triggers, and you have to fiddle around with menus and the like. There is something to be said for this dedicated gadget, at least for some. And it seems worth comparing, since many of you have a smartphone. What do you think – are you intrigued at all by these latest Korg gadgets?

With a US$160 street, if you are, they may be hard to resist. We’ll watch for when these start shipping.

Previews of each, then the two together: