volcasample

The KORG volca sample is here – and it’s more open than we thought.

We’ve seen KORG’s affordable, compact, battery-powered volca formula applied to synths (BASS and KEYS) and a drum machine (BEATS). I’m especially partial to the booming kick of the BASS, the sound of the KEYS (which despite the name also works as a bass synth), and the clever touch sequencing interface.

Well, now having teased the newest addition to the family, we’re learning about the details of the KORG sample. It’s not a sampler per se – there’s no mic or audio input – but what KORG calls a “sample sequencer.”

We’ll have a unit in to test soon, but my impression is that sample sequencing isn’t a bad thing at all. Sequencing has always been a strong suit for the volca, and here, it’s the main story. Every parameter of a sample is ready to step sequence, from the way the sample is sliced, to its playback speed and amplitude envelope, to pitch.

Additional features:

  • Reverse samples
  • Per-part reverb (ooh)
  • Active step / step jump (for editing steps)
  • “A frequency isolator, which has become a powerful tool in the creation of numerous electronic genres.” Or, um, to make that understandable, there are treble and bass analog filters.
  • Swing
  • Song mode – 16 patterns x 6 songs

That leaves only how to get samples into the volca sample, beyond the 100 samples already built in.

It has exactly the same complement of jacks on the top as the synth and drum machine volcas – sync signal in and out, MIDI in, headphone out, and … nothing else. So, instead, KORG wants you to use an iOS handheld to record samples first. You transfer them into the unit via one of the sync jacks. Initially, that came as a bit of a shock, and judging by comments, at least some of you readers didn’t like the decision much. Frankly, looking at the unit, it looks like like there just wasn’t room; KORG dedicated the jacks to their usual function and used up the whole panel on sampling and sequencing controls.

volcasampletop

Since then, though, we’ve had two developments that might get your interest back.

First, we’ve seen the iOS app, and it looks really cool. Brace yourself for cute video of designer Tatsuya Takahashi’s kid!

Okay, so the transfer process is a bit of a pain, but cutting samples on the iPhone is convenient, since you can see what you’re doing. It also solves the problem of needing to have a mic handy.

Here’s the surprise second development: KORG is releasing a free SDK for talking to the volca sample:

http://korginc.github.io/volcasample/

Basically, the volca sample’s trick is to encode binary data as audio signal, in the same way dial-up modems once did. (The technique is QAM – quadrature amplitude modulation – in case you’re interested.) The SDK helps you encode that data yourself. The software gives you several features:

1. You can encode audio samples to transfer – individually or as an entire 16-step sequence.
2. You can manage samples on the sample (delete them individually or delete all of them).

The SDK and library is written in C, but that means it could be used just about anywhere. I expect an Android app from a volca lover will be one of the first applications. It doesn’t have to stop there, though. You could build interesting sample-generating desktop apps – the KORG site suggests possibilities:

“Auto-slice a song to generate a sample set?
Turn photos of patterns into sequences?
algorithmic sample music generator?
generate random sequence from quantum effects?”

connect

And, oh yeah, you could even make your own sampling hardware with the library, though… if you’re savvy enough to do that, you might just go ahead and make your own sampling hardware.

Speaking of your own hardware, unfortunately there isn’t any decode capability, though I don’t see why someone couldn’t make their own. (QAM decoding is already something that’s widely available.)

What you get in the SDK source:

  • The “syro” library, the bit that does the encoding.
  • A project sample with examples, ready to build with gcc, clang, and Visual Studio 2010 or later.
  • Definitions for patterns.
  • Factory preset / reset data.

So, if someone wants to make a bare-bones sample project for the iOS SDK or Android SDK, for instance, let us know!

The whole project is covered under a BSD license, so highly permissive. Have a look, developers (or, um, Android users who aren’t developers, keep your fingers crossed, start buying beers and nice Christmas presents for your Android dev friends, whatever):

http://korginc.github.io/volcasample/documentation.html

https://github.com/korginc/volcasample

volca sample is shipping it seems in small quantities, but isn’t yet widely available. Stay tuned.

http://www.korg.com/us/products/dj/volca_sample/

Specs:

This is the heart of this beast – sequencing, sequencing, sequencing of … everything, actually, as the list below is identical to the list of sample parameters.

Parameters that can be used with Motion Sequence:
・ Start Point (Playback start location)
・ Length (Playback length)
・ Hi Cut (Cutoff frequency)
・ Speed (Playback speed)
・ Pitch EG Int (Pitch EG depth)
・ Pitch EG Attack (Pitch EG attack time)
・ Pitch EG Decay (Pitch EG Decay time)
・ Amp Level
・ Pan
・ Amp EG Attack (Amp EG Attack time)
・ Amp EG Decay (Amp EG Decay time)

And full specs:

100 sample slots (you can overwrite these)
4 MB (65 seconds) sample memory total (of course, divided across those 100 slots)
31.25 kHZ, 16 bit
Digital Reverb
Analogue Isolator
10 parts, 16 steps
Sync In (3.5mm monaural mini jack, Maximum input level: 20V)
Sync Out(3.5mm monaural mini jack, Maximum Output level: 5V)
MIDI IN
10 hour estimated battery life on 6 AA batteries or optional 9V AC adapter
372 g / 13.12 oz. (Excluding batteries)
193 × 115 ×45 mm / 7.60” x 4.53” x 1.77”

  • Bynar

    Nice. Really makes you wonder what you could do with just one sample. Kind of inspires me to work with one sample and load into a bunch of simplers to see what I can come up with.

  • Bynar

    Nice. Really makes you wonder what you could do with just one sample. Kind of inspires me to work with one sample and load into a bunch of simplers to see what I can come up with.

  • Bynar

    Nice. Really makes you wonder what you could do with just one sample. Kind of inspires me to work with one sample and load into a bunch of simplers to see what I can come up with.

  • Thms Rmn

    what prices are they going to be going for?

    • Michael Aldridge

      Ordered mine in the UK for £119

  • Thms Rmn

    what prices are they going to be going for?

    • Michael Aldridge

      Ordered mine in the UK for £119

  • Thms Rmn

    what prices are they going to be going for?

    • Michael Aldridge

      Ordered mine in the UK for £119

  • chaircrusher

    Looking on github, it would be dead easy to write a Qt-based cross-platform application to do what the IPhone app does. In fact, Korg should already have done that, IMHO.

    I’d use a fancier library to read/write audio files myself. It would be interesting to see if mp3-encoded ‘Syro’ files would work — for a live show, you could use a cheap little MP3 player to change sample sets.

    Other options — a Max/MSP external to call from Max for Live, to integrate into Ableton Live.

    • mano

      Since the “Syro-files” really are WAV-files (which most MP3 players understand) there is no need to turn them into MP3-files to be able to change sample sets with an MP3 player.

  • chaircrusher

    Looking on github, it would be dead easy to write a Qt-based cross-platform application to do what the IPhone app does. In fact, Korg should already have done that, IMHO.

    I’d use a fancier library to read/write audio files myself. It would be interesting to see if mp3-encoded ‘Syro’ files would work — for a live show, you could use a cheap little MP3 player to change sample sets.

    Other options — a Max/MSP external to call from Max for Live, to integrate into Ableton Live.

    • mano

      Since the “Syro-files” really are WAV-files (which most MP3 players understand) there is no need to turn them into MP3-files to be able to change sample sets with an MP3 player.

  • chaircrusher

    Looking on github, it would be dead easy to write a Qt-based cross-platform application to do what the IPhone app does. In fact, Korg should already have done that, IMHO.

    I’d use a fancier library to read/write audio files myself. It would be interesting to see if mp3-encoded ‘Syro’ files would work — for a live show, you could use a cheap little MP3 player to change sample sets.

    Other options — a Max/MSP external to call from Max for Live, to integrate into Ableton Live.

    • mano

      Since the “Syro-files” really are WAV-files (which most MP3 players understand) there is no need to turn them into MP3-files to be able to change sample sets with an MP3 player.

  • symbioid

    It’s like my old TRS-80 Color Computer with the cassette tape data loading and that modem glitch sound. Only more efficient and full of high def fidelity. (8 minute load times on cassettes were such a pain, especially if it failed to load that first time).

    I like what I’ve seen of the Volcas, but not sure I’d want this one.

  • symbioid

    It’s like my old TRS-80 Color Computer with the cassette tape data loading and that modem glitch sound. Only more efficient and full of high def fidelity. (8 minute load times on cassettes were such a pain, especially if it failed to load that first time).

    I like what I’ve seen of the Volcas, but not sure I’d want this one.

  • symbioid

    It’s like my old TRS-80 Color Computer with the cassette tape data loading and that modem glitch sound. Only more efficient and full of high def fidelity. (8 minute load times on cassettes were such a pain, especially if it failed to load that first time).

    I like what I’ve seen of the Volcas, but not sure I’d want this one.

  • teej

    Now this thing looks bitchin’!

  • teej

    Now this thing looks bitchin’!

  • teej

    Now this thing looks bitchin’!

  • pinta_vodki

    ua ua uh Dinosaur!

  • pinta_vodki

    ua ua uh Dinosaur!

  • pinta_vodki

    ua ua uh Dinosaur!

  • SpaceTravelMadeEasy

    The Korg Sampler looks like real fun for coming up with crazy sounds or ideas, mashing, looping and sequencing samples. Especially great for artists who improvise when playing live.
    Will be interesting to see what the tech-heads do with the SDK!

  • The Korg Sampler looks like real fun for coming up with crazy sounds or ideas, mashing, looping and sequencing samples. Especially great for artists who improvise when playing live.
    Will be interesting to see what the tech-heads do with the SDK!

  • The Korg Sampler looks like real fun for coming up with crazy sounds or ideas, mashing, looping and sequencing samples. Especially great for artists who improvise when playing live.
    Will be interesting to see what the tech-heads do with the SDK!

  • Zzx

    It hasn’t retrig

  • Zzx

    It hasn’t retrig

  • Zzx

    It hasn’t retrig

  • Silverfish

    I was totally put off by the iOS-ness of this thing, but now that they’ve released a dev kit, I’m really excited to see where people take this (but not me. You don’t want me to code anything… seriously).

  • Silverfish

    I was totally put off by the iOS-ness of this thing, but now that they’ve released a dev kit, I’m really excited to see where people take this (but not me. You don’t want me to code anything… seriously).

  • Silverfish

    I was totally put off by the iOS-ness of this thing, but now that they’ve released a dev kit, I’m really excited to see where people take this (but not me. You don’t want me to code anything… seriously).

  • Jordi Vives

    Can I make one 65s long sample?

  • Jordi Vives

    Can I make one 65s long sample?

  • Jordi Vives

    Can I make one 65s long sample?

  • Freeks

    4mb is real bummer. Sure it’s like samplers in old days, but still. 16-32mb and you actually make live backing tracks with it.

    Also no resonant filter. Maybe there is coming Volca Filter/FX box where you can route all your volcas. In the one volca sampler video the Kork Guy said that more volcas are coming.

    • Octavio

      I was thinking in a Volca 4 Channel micro Mixer with Fx Sends, or on board filters.

  • Freeks

    4mb is real bummer. Sure it’s like samplers in old days, but still. 16-32mb and you actually make live backing tracks with it.

    Also no resonant filter. Maybe there is coming Volca Filter/FX box where you can route all your volcas. In the one volca sampler video the Kork Guy said that more volcas are coming.

    • Octavio

      I was thinking in a Volca 4 Channel micro Mixer with Fx Sends, or on board filters.

  • Freeks

    4mb is real bummer. Sure it’s like samplers in old days, but still. 16-32mb and you actually make live backing tracks with it.

    Also no resonant filter. Maybe there is coming Volca Filter/FX box where you can route all your volcas. In the one volca sampler video the Kork Guy said that more volcas are coming.

    • Octavio

      I was thinking in a Volca 4 Channel micro Mixer with Fx Sends, or on board filters.

  • asd

    *Use iTunes to syn–

    lol nope. fuck that.

    • foljs

      Lol, yes. Gimme…

    • jimboba

      Some dude has now made an android app that works with the volca sample! 🙂 I’ve just placed my order…

  • asd

    *Use iTunes to syn–

    lol nope. fuck that.

    • foljs

      Lol, yes. Gimme…

    • jimboba

      Some dude has now made an android app that works with the volca sample! 🙂 I’ve just placed my order…

  • asd

    *Use iTunes to syn–

    lol nope. fuck that.

    • foljs

      Lol, yes. Gimme…

    • jimboba

      Some dude has now made an android app that works with the volca sample! 🙂 I’ve just placed my order…

  • WetBoy

    I smell a max4live sample trasfer device 😉

    The demo vids make me want this after certainty I wouldnt !

  • WetBoy

    I smell a max4live sample trasfer device 😉

    The demo vids make me want this after certainty I wouldnt !

  • WetBoy

    I smell a max4live sample trasfer device 😉

    The demo vids make me want this after certainty I wouldnt !

  • Will

    SDK release is really great news. Makes the “iOS only” thing make way more sense—it was a real world test of the SDK. Why write apps for 4 platforms if your business is selling hardware? Make an SDK and an example app.

    Looks like you can also transfer sequences to it which is potentially very cool. I’m still wondering about getting sequences *off* of it for backup or whatever.

    Hoping AudioShare and Gadget incorporate the SDK.

  • Will

    SDK release is really great news. Makes the “iOS only” thing make way more sense—it was a real world test of the SDK. Why write apps for 4 platforms if your business is selling hardware? Make an SDK and an example app.

    Looks like you can also transfer sequences to it which is potentially very cool. I’m still wondering about getting sequences *off* of it for backup or whatever.

    Hoping AudioShare and Gadget incorporate the SDK.

  • Will

    SDK release is really great news. Makes the “iOS only” thing make way more sense—it was a real world test of the SDK. Why write apps for 4 platforms if your business is selling hardware? Make an SDK and an example app.

    Looks like you can also transfer sequences to it which is potentially very cool. I’m still wondering about getting sequences *off* of it for backup or whatever.

    Hoping AudioShare and Gadget incorporate the SDK.

  • james_shmames

    so now they’ve added swing.

  • james_shmames

    so now they’ve added swing.

  • james_shmames

    so now they’ve added swing.

  • Octavio

    Then of seeing how the volca line is going, I think the next volca it is gonna be a 4 channel mixer with:

    a.- Fx sends
    b.- an on board FX unit (delay, reverb and filter)
    c.- or full mixer with eq, and gain controls, and maybe a way to connect one mixer to another to expand your setup with mor volcas!!!

  • Octavio

    Then of seeing how the volca line is going, I think the next volca it is gonna be a 4 channel mixer with:

    a.- Fx sends
    b.- an on board FX unit (delay, reverb and filter)
    c.- or full mixer with eq, and gain controls, and maybe a way to connect one mixer to another to expand your setup with mor volcas!!!

  • Octavio

    Then of seeing how the volca line is going, I think the next volca it is gonna be a 4 channel mixer with:

    a.- Fx sends
    b.- an on board FX unit (delay, reverb and filter)
    c.- or full mixer with eq, and gain controls, and maybe a way to connect one mixer to another to expand your setup with mor volcas!!!

  • Kevin Kennedy

    So glad you’e on it! All the iOS naysayers can now consider this as an option!

  • Kevin Kennedy

    So glad you’e on it! All the iOS naysayers can now consider this as an option!

  • Kevin Kennedy

    So glad you’e on it! All the iOS naysayers can now consider this as an option!

  • Daed

    The…”Syro” library..?

    Hi Richard.

  • Daed

    The…”Syro” library..?

    Hi Richard.

  • Daed

    The…”Syro” library..?

    Hi Richard.

  • I ported syro in javascript so you can run it in the browser http://ptigas.com/syrializer/. Here’s the github of the project https://github.com/ptigas/syro.js (feel free to report issues)

  • I ported syro in javascript so you can run it in the browser http://ptigas.com/syrializer/. Here’s the github of the project https://github.com/ptigas/syro.js (feel free to report issues)

  • I ported syro in javascript so you can run it in the browser http://ptigas.com/syrializer/. Here’s the github of the project https://github.com/ptigas/syro.js (feel free to report issues)

  • Korhan Erel

    One serious problem/issue that no reviewer has yet mentioned is that Volca Sample does not accept MIDI Note messages! It is not possible to trigger samples using another software or hardware sequencer. I wonder what the Korg engineers were thinking when they designed a sound-producing unit with MIDI In that ignores MIDI Note??? I hope they fix this in the next firmware update (if there ever will be one).

  • Korhan Erel

    (deleted)

  • Korhan Erel

    (deleted)

  • Tramplovell

    just purchased this for my Son.Will he be able to connect it to his Korg M3?

  • Tramplovell

    just purchased this for my Son.Will he be able to connect it to his Korg M3?

  • Tramplovell

    just purchased this for my Son.Will he be able to connect it to his Korg M3?