Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.

Archives: 2006

December 26, 2006

Total Kaoss...

by Chris Randall

It was requested that I provide a review of the Korg Kaoss Pad 3 I just received. Since there are about 300 proper reviews on the Interwebs that go in to some detail about the various aspects of the machine, I'll limit this to subjective opinions based upon a few days of use. So, in no particular order...

1. I/O: The I/O on this machine is a joke. Just stereo RCA on the back, and a quarter-inch jack on the front that is ostensibly a "mic" input with a trim knob. This may be fine for a weekend warrior/DJ/whatever, but for a professional user, it's annoying in the extreme. Why on earth would I even own unbalanced RCA to balanced XLR or TRS cables? I wouldn't, because they're stupid. At least put 1/4" on there, so we can use normal TRS cables in a pinch, rather than building some adaptor contraption. Or SPDIF? Christ. This is, by far, the most annoying aspect of the machine, and was very nearly a deal breaker for me.

2. Delay Modulation: This is another fairly annoying "feature". There is a delay that is always on, who's volume is controlled by the large slider on the left of the unit. The purpose of this delay is to ease the transition between "on" and "off" so you can play the effect or whatever. Not a bad idea in theory. However, the delay in question has some ridiculous modulation on it that kicks in after about the third repeat that sounds like a warped record. This is gay. Many of the real delay patches (all but two, actually) also have silly modulation in the tail, for what purpose I don't know. Whoever thought that was a good idea needs to have their head examined. Since you can't edit any of the patches, you can't take it out.

3. Aliasing: most all of the clean patches have digital aliasing noise. When there is any modulation at all, there is also zipper noise. This isn't so obvious when you're rockin', but if your stock in trade is nice clean, sparse music, you're gonna hear it for sure. It sounds very "digital" as a result. Don't come here if you're looking for any sort of "analog" sound (the word "phat" comes to mind, even though it's not a word) because there ain't none.

4. The User Interface: now we get in to something I actually like. The interface is incredibly well-laid-out. You're only two button presses from _anything_, which is nice for a live context. Since they used an LED display instead of an LCD, it isn't always obvious what the patches are about, so there's a bit of a learning curve. The X/Y pad actually displays the full patch names, but it takes a while for the whole thing to go by.

5. MIDI: The MIDI features are comprehensive, both sending and receiving. You can play the sampler/looper engine via MIDI, which is nice, or record X/Y pad moves in your sequencer. All fine.

6. Sampling/Looping: The implimentation of the sampling engine is kind of odd. I'm having a hard time getting loops to record without modulation in them, which is weird. Also, the A/D or D/A really sounds like ass on a platter, so what goes in and what comes out have no resemblance to one another. The most annoying feature is that if you play a bit of a loop, when you restart that loop, it starts at where you stopped it, not at the beginning. I'm sure there's some thought behind that, but I can't for the life of me see the reasoning.

In conclusion, for a $400 multi-effect, this is probably the worst deal on the planet. If you're looking at this to add to your effect arsenal, I might direct you to about 67 other devices that cost less and do more. For a live performance device, especially if you do some of the harder electronic styles, this unit is the business. I almost want to book a Micronaut show just to use it on stage. (Almost, but not really at all, actually.) As I said, these are subjective opinions. My love/hate thing I have going with this box is in its infancy.

December 25, 2006

R. I. P. James Brown

by Chris Randall

December 24, 2006

And one other thing...

by Chris Randall

Do I care that Otis can't dance? No. Do I care that Wayne Jackson is piss-out-of-tune 100% of the time? Not a bit. Does it bother me that Al Jackson Jr. is playing like he snorted a line of meth before the song started? Not in the least. This is one of the best recordings of one of the best performances of one of the best songs ever, by the greatest singer that ever walked the face of the earth. My Christmas gift to you...

December 23, 2006

Happy Holidays...

by Chris Randall

December 21, 2006


by Chris Randall

What's a cheap-ass A/D - D/A converter with AES besides the M-Audio Flying Cow? Never mind my aversion to all things Digi, the Flying Cow has been discontinued. I could probably find one somewhere, but I'd rather just order something that's new and, like, supported.

I know we had this conversation before, but I have a Kaoss Pad 3 showing up tomorrow, and Korg, for some bizarre reason, seems to lack the intrinsic understanding that it's, like, 2006 or something and it's easy to throw a pair of SPDIF jacks on any random piece of gear. This thing has RCA jacks. (Really?) So I need to get a converter just for it, because my system isn't hacked together with some whack-ass DJ mixer. I'm not going to bother using an Apogee for something that is just going to do another conversion process with A/D/A of a _much_ lower spec, so I just want to throw a cheap-ass converter on there.

I _suppose_ I could live with SPDIF->RCA->SPDIF (in for a penny, in for a pound, right?) just to use the damned thing. But I'd prefer AES, so I don't have to go through the drama of converting the native AES of my system with some silly adaptor. Oh, wait... That's what I'll be doing no matter what.


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