KORG’s runaway-hit volca series has proven small can be fun. But the volca FM promises more power in a small package. The volca FM, teased in California in January and demoed in early prototype form, is now official. And part of why we’re eager to get our hands on one is that it’s more than just another little synth box. Okay, so it’s a 6-operator FM synth that’s fun to play with – that you probably got right away. But it’s also a way of loading vintage FM patches, and has powerful editing features. Let’s look and listen.

Here’s a listen to some early sound samples.


The basics: it’s 3-voice polyphonic, capable of 6-operator synthesis. That gives it some classic 80s bass and electric key sounds, as well as more far-out metallic timbres.

And being a volca, you get quick access to a sequencer – now with WARP ACTIVE STEP and PATTERN CHAIN. PATTERN CHAIN lets you create longer patterns, up to 256 steps. Also, the volca now includes an unexpected arpeggiator, too.

Of course, there’s hands-on, twist-and-see-what-happens control of parameters. Modulation/carrier moves are one way to do that quickly, and you can also mess around with actually switching presets as you play. There’s also an onboard chorus effect.


But it’s the editing side where you might be surprised.

It loads vintage patches. SYS-EX/SYX dumps from an original Yamaha DX7 work here on the volca. Of course, that also means any editor capable of producing those works, too.

You can go deeper into editing. Thanks to the multi-segment display, you can menu dive into full parameter edits – and there’s a Parameter List included to guide you, just like on an original DX.

You can clone settings between units. Designer Tatsuya told me about this one – and it’s now officially announced. You can connect sync and MIDI in on the volca FM just as on the other volcas. But now you can also connect one volca FM to another volca FM via minijack connection and clone units – so you can copy settings and parameters to other volca FM instruments.


Oh, yeah, and if you’re wondering how that happens: it seems the volca FM likely uses the same data encoding feature that the volca sample used to load samples. Huh. So … that seems like it might open up the possibility of mobile editing or hacking, right?

Check out the official volca product page:

  • Even has the DX7 color scheme! Nice!

  • beatboxing

    Just like the DX series, why didn’t they put a filter in it, even a lousy 12db one? Today there’s no reason not to.

    • Ashley Scott

      Purism maybe. Also the chance to sell a kaoss pad for filtering I guess?

    • heck

      with FM you get that effect in other ways. not as intuitive but it’s a totally different way of thinking and it’s fun

    • guerritas

      the velocity slider do the trick.

  • Virtual Flannel

    Stoked, first Volca!

  • brianmoore

    Such a cool little unit – I love the Volca Sample and the FM is soooooo tempting! The motion sequence on this thing is potent, especially when you start turning the “ALGRTM” knob 😀

  • Kudamm99

    What about chaining two units for 6-voice polyphony? Is that implied by the cloning capabilities?

    • Not by cloning, no. But you can chain otherwise. Either:
      1. Route MIDI to each unit OR
      2. Use the sync jacks and just sync up the two instruments, sequencing them separately

      And I think the implication of cloning is that you might like to play with more than one at a time, for sure.

      • Steve

        Do you think data encoding could open up a chance for 6 voice? I made the same assumption today.

        • Kudamm99

          Yeah, Peter – what I meant is an overflow mode. VolcaFM #1 responds to held notes 1,2,3, and VolcaFM #2 is only triggered by notes 4,5,6.

          • sgtpepper

            theres some midi tool (software )that allow you to do that. unfortunately i don’t remember what it was called.

          • Yeah, http://polymer-app.com but I don’t know if there’s hardware that could do the job, too…

          • Kudamm99

            MI’s MidiPal looks like it had a “Dispatcher” mode which distributes an incoming polyphonic MIDI stream to multiple monosynths. Now available here: http://midisizer.com/midigal/.

          • Will

            There’s also the Future Retro MondoVox (hardware).

          • You could do this with http://polymer-app.com 🙂

        • seismologist

          http://www.thepiz.org/plugins/?p=pizmidi Old as the hills and indispensable. “midiPolyphony” is what you’d want here.

  • NRGuest

    Super excited for this!

  • Foosnark

    Tasty. My biggest dilemma right now is whether to get a Soulsby Atmegatron first and then this, or the other way around. 😀

  • Dexed would make a good – and free – editor/librarian for patches too as it opens and saves out DX7-suitable sys ex files. https://github.com/asb2m10/dexed . Potentially the ‘send current program to DX7’ function would allow editing and sending on the fly.

  • FS

    Tats is a G, he’s killing it right now.

  • Robin Parmar

    Excellent utility in this. The bar is set higher for future Volcas!

  • Ashley Scott

    for some reason I always get dumped on when I say that Korg are kill.en.it but I just wanted to put it out there agin

  • Polite Society

    Yup, I think this is the first volca i have to pick up.

  • Disease

    Very interesting. I’ve been having some fun recently with FM4 but have been thinking there are probably more interesting algorithms than what you get on that software – I’m guessing that two more operators could really help out there. Also LFOs seem rather limited on FM4 as well so maybe this is the next step for me and FM synthesis.

  • Will

    Will be hard to resist. I think that please-make-one-already Volca mixer should also have a little Polymer App/Mondovox style MIDI router built in! Can use it to turn a Keys or an FM into a 6 voice. 🙂

    Any idea of the menu-dive params will be addressable in realtime via an external MIDI controller (programmed for sysex, natch)?

  • Will

    Cool to see the sequencer upgrades but it’s definitely a shame about the lack of Flux mode. It’s one of the things that makes the Keys so fun.

  • I barely know what the fuck I am doing and I am still getting redonkulous sounds out of this tiny little beast. Love it.