Review of the Korg Kaoss Pad
by Rich the TweakMeister
Don't even think this is just for DJs (though my DJ friends like it) It's like 2 products in one, a midi controller (with teeth) and an audio FX unit.
Did you know the Kaoss Pad sends out MIDI for 6 continuous controllers and two switch controllers? It's an immense amount of fun just as a midi controller and will work with your sequencer. Faster than tweaking knobs! It's like turning 6 knobs with the squiggle of a single finger. Or draw a box on the pad, or tap your finger randomly and watch the sound dance around. The Kaoss only has a MIDI out; there is no MIDI in. That's all you need.
What you need to use these MIDI features:
Simply a synth that responds to MIDI controllers. Some synths I use that work great are The Korg Triton Rack, Proteus 2000, Xtreme Lead --all the emu synths have a flexible controller setup. It works with my E5000 sampler and esi 32, my wavestation SR. Nearly any synth that takes standard continuous controller commands will work. Here's the details: 3 of the CCs and both the switches are user definable (the range is from CC#1 to CC#31 and CC#64 to CC#95) and they are easy to change. There are 3 controllers you cannot change. Those are Pitch bend, CC#1 (mod wheel) and CC#2 (breath control). You can turn these on and off though, so pitch bend is not always in the X-Y equation if you don't want it there. If your synth responds to controllers for frequency cutoff and resonance, you can set one to X and the other to Y and turn the rest off. You can do a classic filter sweep just by "doing a diagonal" on the XY pad.
Audio FX Features
And that's not all, it's also an audio effects engine capable of dynamic audio effects and can record a sample (and effect all the audio streaming through) and can severely warp and distort, delay, filter. reverberate and modulate. Plug it in your mixer send/returns or use it direct to your audio interface. There's a switch on the back for either mode. I really appreciate that, because the Kaoss is small enough to move it where you need it. My favorite application so far is to put it directly on an input and output of my audio interface so I can route soft synths and audio tracks through it and record them back into my sequencer. Just assign the tracks, press record, give it the finger and your Kaoss track is recorded. There are 60 programs, all arranged in groups that make sense, so you can find them. (The unit comes with a little sticker you can place on the unit to remind you.) Of these effects there are 13 types: Pitch shift, Distortion, Filter, Wah, Tremolo, Flanger, Delay, Reverb, Pan, Gate, Phaser, Ring modulator, Sample / Play [Forward, Reverse, Time stretch, Loop time modulation
In addition to the RCA line in jacks, the Kaoss Pad also has inputs for phono (RCA jacks with a ground screw for turntables) and Mic in (phone jack with trim to adjust level) and a mini phone jack (with level) for headphones. There's the MIDI out. The power supply is a typical DC 12V adapter
How do the audio effects Sound?
These are not pristine effects you might get on top quality FX box. If you want hi quality reverbs and sampling, this is NOT the ticket. The specs say it's sampling frequency is 48khz and does 18 bit linear conversion. To my ears it sounds like my old 12 bit sampler, which, actually, can be seen as a plus for DJ like material and dance music. The cool thing is that these effects MOVE with your finger and I don't hear any glitching, which is rather surprising given how fast you can tweak this box. This is where the Kaoss really shines, with FX that change and mutate over time.
The only thing I don't like about the unit is that it forces you to use line level RCA jacks. There is no way to use balanced cables. In terms of MIDI operation, (which DJ's may ignore) I have to question Korg's wisdom of not making all 6 CC's user definable. Why they made pitch bend, mod wheel and CC#2 as unchangeable assignments is a mystery to me. If you synths has configurable CCs you can put a cool parameter on CC#2 so that way you can have 4 CCs operating on a finger sweep. But even with 3 CCs defined, the sound gets wild pretty quick
It's versatile. Fits anywhere, can be connected as a MIDI controller and an audio FX unit and used in two different ways without unplugging anything. It does outlandish things to synths and audio. It is simple to operate and can be used live or in the studio with ease.
This is an extremely well thought out product and has earned the coveted Tweak's Pick award for effects processing. It's a winner!
Read the manual