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.



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Dec.26.2006 @ 5:31 PM
Jeremy Cox
I agree--the worst multi effect deal out there. The KP is extremely limited by its sound quality and I/O.

Dec.26.2006 @ 10:08 PM
well how about listing 3 or 4 of those 67 other better tools put there..I'm real curious

Dec.26.2006 @ 11:28 PM
I try to stay way from toy-gear like this. It eats up time and in the end the sound quality is dissapointing. I can see its use as a distraction/inspiration source, but i'll stick to drugs for those things. Plus don't you hate dj-oriented gear, it's flashy, its ugly and it always comes with a wall-wart.

Dec.27.2006 @ 1:08 AM
should have shootout between cheap gear like this and see who rises to the top. cost vs. preformance.

Dec.27.2006 @ 1:51 AM
The Wolfman
Have you considered modding some proper I/O onto the thing? It's a change begging to be made. I wonder if the presets are in any sort of flashable ROM, too. That'd be a neat experiment.

Dec.27.2006 @ 10:22 AM

Once you start going through that kind of trouble, you are better off buying a critterboard ( link []">link [] ) and building something completly original... for must less money.


Dec.27.2006 @ 12:33 PM
Chris Randall
Indeed. If I truly wanted to build my own effects, I'd probably do it in C++, maybe as a VST? Slap a nice UI on there, and I could probably sell 'em... Oh, wait...



Dec.27.2006 @ 2:23 PM
i'm curious what cheaper and better fx processors you would recommend... all I know is that I've been using a Kaoss Pad 2 for stage performance for almost 2 years now and my live act wouldn't be the same without it... I have used certain beat-repeat or sampling effects on 1 or 2 simple loops and made entire rooms start jumping... I have never thought the KP2 was anything short of phenomenal... and I'm dying to get my hands on a KP3 to try some new ideas....

I mean i'm open to suggestion... maybe I'm just blissfully ignorant... but in regards to the KP3, if you can suggest a better live alternative for less, I'll happily go test-drive it. ~S


Dec.27.2006 @ 3:02 PM
Maybe that guy with the WACOM guitar could whip up an FX processor that's hipper and higher quality. And it could have a Z-axis and tilt-axis too.

Dec.27.2006 @ 3:05 PM
Chris Randall
You missed (or rather, reiterated) my point, something I took pains to point out in every post I've made about the KP3: for live performance of electronic music (your context) it is unparalleled. For studio use as a multi-fx, it is useless. Read the last paragraph again.



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