With its touchpad approach to riffing, Korg’s original Kaossilatorcaptured our hearts and minds when we reviewed it back in May ’08. Packed into a form about the size of two iPods, the little devil had a hefty array of highly playable patches, extensive key and scale options, tempobased rhythmic effects, and the ability to record your musical excursions as audio—all for a list price of just under $200. Of course, with such a killer set of tools for such a low price, a few features were left to be desired on the original model, like full-size audio connections, the ability to store your loop-based compositions, and more intuitive user interface elements.Even so, the first Kaossilator was a one-of-a-kind winner. (In fact, it still is, as the Kaossilator Pro is not meant to replace it.)
Thanks to a growing following among both DJs and producers, it was only a matter of time until Korg took the wraps off a better version that addressed the needs of the big boys. Introduced at this year’s winter NAMM show, the Kaossilator Pro took aim at this higher-end market.
It’s big, flashy, and shares design DNA with its cousin, the Kaoss Pad 3, only with a touchpad whose segmented backlights are green, not red. Unlike the original Kaossilator, the Pro is covered in knobs, slots, and connections, so there’s clearly a slew of new amenities. But it’s what’s inside that counts, and here, the new Pro does not disappoint.
Review Continues After These Online Extras
- Korg Video: Recording external audio into the Kaossilator Pro.
- Korg Video: Kaossilator Pro and KAOSS Pad 3 compared.
The Pro doubles the preset count to 200, and while there’s some conceptual and sonic overlap, the Pro’s bank includes so many totally new textures that original Kaossilator owners shouldn’t feel too much redundancy should they decide to buy a Pro as well. The lead patches make up the lion’s share of the material in the Pro, clocking in at 40 presets that cover the majority of current dance genres, as well as some prog rock inclusions like a nice Minimoog-ish sawtooth lead peppered with a touch of delay-based ambience. The acoustic section is largely comprised of synthetic emulations of traditional instruments, though the flute and trumpet are standouts. Bass, chord, and special effects sections are quite well-rounded, with a smattering of something for everyone, like subby bass drones, classic techno chords, and even that quintessential organ bass that launched a battalion of early ’90s house tracks.
Twenty drum kits range from hip-hop to arena rock in character—there’s also a selection of individual instruments such as filtered cymbals, processed tympani, and a stellar collection of handclaps. While the patterns section includes a few instrumental grooves, the majority here are various classic drum patterns with a lot of flavor and an attention to production detail that the original Kaossilator didn’t quite deliver. One particularly nice loop is a rhythmic groove based on telephone sounds—it does for pay phones what Pink Floyd’s “Money” did for cash registers.
The final 15 sounds make use of the Kaossilator Pro’s audio inputs, which consist of stereo RCA jacks on the back and a 1/4" microphone/instrument input on the front. The mic input includes a trim pot for adjusting gain, and is great for connecting guitars and other instruments, but the lack of XLR inputs means that clubs and DJs with classic dynamic mics (like Shure SM58s) will need an adapter.
The first ten presets are vocoder-based and sound great, especially the chords, fifths, and saw presets. Resisting the urge to use words like “body,” “rock,” “booty,” and “Trans-Europe Express” was nearly impossible, though I managed to survive with my dignity intact. You may or may not be so lucky.
The final five presets include exotica like granular and pitch-shifting effects, as well as delay and filtering, and will be welcomed by CD-based DJs looking for a little something extra.
To spice up the presets, there’s a more full-featured gate/arpeggio function that now includes a slider to govern either rhythmic note value or gate duration. This is cool for pulsed or stuttered effects, and having a slider for live performance makes the job a lot easier than on the original Kaossilator.
Like on the original Kaossilator, you can tune the touchpad to different keys and scales so you never hit a bad note. The backlit squares follow your fingers like they were Travolta’s shoes on a ’70s underlit disco floor, but the pad senses neither velocity nor pressure, nor is it multitouch.
The new presets, gating effects, and vocoding are just a fraction of the action in the Kaossilator Pro. Lo and behold, you can now record up to four discrete tracks of looped audio, each of which can be overdubbed—destructively, unfortunately—a seemingly infinite number of times. Better still, you can now save your creations to a standard SD card. The Pro’s USB port lets you mount the card like any storage device on your computer’s desktop for transferring the loops for organization, archiving, or importing into your DAW of choice. It can also be used to sync the Pro via MIDI to your DAW or DJ software.
What the Kaossilator Pro doesn’t offer is the ability to edit the presets in any manner, either via USB connection to a software editor or onboard. For most users of this product, that won’t be a huge issue, but for synthesists who want to tinker with the factory patches, or even dial down some of the ambient effects for custom processing, no can do.
All in all, the Kaossilator Pro is a more-than-capable upgrade from the original Kaossilator. It addresses the majority of customer requests, in a package that looks sweet by itself—or next to your Kaoss Pad, turntables, CD decks, or laptop. Whether you’re part of the next wave of DJs, or a producer looking to add an instrument that offers a new kind of playability, the Kaossilator Pro is a ton of fun in more ways than one.
PROS Outstanding presets in a variety of styles. Vocoding. Four-track audio recording. Audio can be saved to SD cards. MIDI- and USB-based tempo sync.
CONS Microphone input is 1/4" only. No editing of preset sounds.
CONCEPT Touchpad synth and effects for DJs, producers, and synth players who want something different and fun.
ONBOARD SOUNDS 200, covering leads, basses, pads, drums, and vocoder.
AUDIO RECORDING 4 loop-based tracks, each with destructive overdub.
AUDIO I/O Stereo RCA ins and outs, 1/4" mic/instrument input, 1/4" stereo headphone out.
STORAGE SD card slot with computer file transfer via USB.
Approx. street: $400