Beats, Bass, Keys - a drum machine, a bass synth, and a lead synth, analog and $150 each. Now with MIDI.

The love of all things volca continues, as enthusiastic owners of KORG’s boxes create their own accessories.

The latest: a sample library (meaning you don’t even need to own the volca), a fantastic editor/control panel package that works standalone or in Ableton Live, and a MIDI output mod.

Free volca beats Sounds: First, let’s have a listen to a dark, dirty, free sample library from Dark Side of the Tune, aptly named Volca Beats.

The Volca Beats was put through multiple gain stages and frequency modulation to create even more depth and range. From quick thumpy sounds for techno and like genres, to beefy Hip-Hop style rhythms, Volca Beast can easily fit into most productions.

All sounds were recorded into analog outboard conservatively, then the Universal Audio Apollo for rock-solid digital stability. These sounds are not normalized, and brought up to about -6 so no digital distortion occurs.

I love the Apollo – more on that soon – though here I think it’s a bit overkill (the volcas sound terrific and grungy, but they’re not what you’d call high-fidelity instruments)! What’s actually best about the Beast selection is that it emphasizes all the sonic quirks of volca beats, digital PCM and analog sounds alike, and brings out that character in a way that suits productions.

If you like, you can even turn them into “pretentious fart noises” a reader on comments recently accused CDM of championing. (Sounds like a concept for an EP to me.)

Download those raw waveforms on Google Drive:
Volca Beast Dark Side of the

And check out the creators’ store:


Control, Edit: Part of the appeal of the volca series is the onboard controls. But it can be useful to add software for fine-tuning sounds, and storing them for future use (since there’s no preset storage).

Since we last checked out Max for Live control of the volcas, you’ve got an even better software choice. Fabricio Poce’s J74 Volca Control controls everything you can manipulate via MIDI, and adds new features for tracking and sync.

On the volca keys, in particular, you get control of nearly everything; you lose primarily only analog filter and beats’ analog drum synthesis parameters, since those lack MIDI support. (Also, it is too bad that Korg didn’t add MIDI implementation for its FUNCtion settings in firmware.)

From the creator:

These tools allow you to control, store and modulate all Volca native MIDI parameters while adding a bunch of new features for synthesis and performance, such as: filter KeyTracking (both VKeys and VBass), Chorus-like effects (VKeys), additional tempo sync LFO (VKeys), Pitch Tuning and modulation modes (VBass), 3x note Polyphony emulation on VBass, MIDI velocity emulation on VBeats, LFO auto-tuning modulation (VBass and VKeys) and Solo/Mute controls on VBeats.
All devices also offer presets storage (load, save, recall), a X/Y Panel for modulation of two parameters simultaneously and a parameter randomizer.

US$8 buys you the whole set, for all three instruments, in standalone and Ableton Live Max for Live versions. I’ve been playing around with them a bit. This is a no-brainer: they’re must-haves. They cost about the same as a round of (cough) volca batteries.


Mod: Add MIDI “Hackable” is a bit of a stretch with the volcas; the boards are fairly tight, so some mods aren’t for the feint of heart. And that’s okay; they do most of the things you’d want.

Fortunately, the one mod you’d probably most want is the one that’s also easiest to do.

After this mod, you get a 16 step sequencer, which can trigger 10 sounds over MIDI, with adjustable tempo. What you don’t get is any functionality provided by the knobs like Stutter, PCM Speed or the various Pitches, Volumes and Decays. Still a very easy and cheap mod (only a MIDI connector and the wires are needed) that can add some functionality to your box. It was done in about an hour with most of the time consumed in where to position the port.

Here’s a great how-to, from Greek hacker Vartan Aivazian:

KORG Volca Beats MIDI Out Mod [Utopian Labs]