Korg Volca Kick Guide

Korg’s cheap and cheerful Volca range of drum machines and synths have certainly won a legion of fans and plenty of plaudits over recent years and today I’m kicking off – pardon the pun – a new series of dedicated Volca guides with a look at the Volca Kick.

As its moniker suggests, the Volca Kick is geared towards one of the most important and fundamental parts of dance music production: the kick. Let’s take a look at it in more detail – check out the Korg Volca Kick video below – and answer some common questions.

Live & Kicking…

Is the Korg Volca Kick Analog?

Key to the Volca Kick’s sound is a genuine analog kick generator circuit. The Volca Kick’s circuit is based on an original MS-20 synth oscillating Rev. 1 filter. The Rev.1 filter self-oscillates when resonance is increased to the maximum and the resulting tone can be used to produce powerful kick, percussion and low frequency bass type sounds.

How to tweak Volca Kick sounds?

The Volca Kick gives you three core control sections to shape your kick sound namely the MS-20 Resonator, the Pulse and the Amp.

In the MS-20 Resonator section of the synth, you can adjust Pitch, Bend and Time knobs to set the main “body resonance” of the kick sound.

At the top left of the unit is the ‘Pulse’ section with two knobs labelled ‘Colour’ and ‘Level’. Adjusting these – rather small – parameters lets you adjust the clip components to control the attack of your kick sound.

Next you can move on to the Amp section where two ‘Attack’ and ‘Decay’ knobs let you dial in the decay settings of your kick.

There are no hard and fast rules about using these three sets of controls of course – as with any software synth, or drum machine, it’s a case of diving in and seeing what happens to the sound when you ‘play around’. With just these three main sets of controls you can certainly generate a wide range of kick sound from short, tight kicks to fat, slow-decaying and boomy kicks, and pitched kick bass sounds.

You can further shape the tone of the kick by adjusting the analog distortion via the ‘Tone’ and ‘Drive’ knobs on the left of the unit. The Analog Drive adds grit and harmonics and the Tone section gives you access to a Low-Pass Filter (12 db/oct).

Can the Volca Kick make more than just kick sounds?

While there’s no denying that the Volca Kick offers less options and a smaller palette of sounds than you can find on bigger (and more expensive) synths, get stuck in with the Volca Kick’s small number of tweakable controls and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the variety of sounds you can ring from this little box of tricks. As well as kicks you can create a variety of low frequency percussive sounds (such as toms) and the Volca Kick can also be used to generate bass sounds.

Does the Volca Kick have a step sequencer?

As with the Korg Volca Beats, Volca Drum etc the Volca Kick has a 16 step sequencer. With the sequencer you can build up patterns of not only kick drum patterns but percussive loops and chromatic bass lines. The sequencer offers plenty of advanced features including Pattern Chain, Motion Sequencing, Touch FX, Accents (On/Off, Depth), Slide, Bend Reverse and more.

The accent function lets you program accents on a per-step basis (not per trigger) – great for glitchy sequences.

Is the Volca Kick Battery Powered?

The Volca Kick is a truly portable machine and can be powered by 6x AA alkaline battery or 6x AA nickel-metal hydride battery (up to 10 hours using alkaline batteries). You can also power the Volca Kick with an optional adapter (DC 9V).

Does the Volca Kick have FX?

The Kick’s Touch FX function lets you instantly trigger a sequence effect simply by touching one of the step keys while the Sequence effects include a roll function that triggers a sound repeatedly.

Does the Volca Kick have Speakers?

The Volca Kick has an adequate built-in speaker although you should really hook it up to decent studio monitors to really appreciate the low end this little synth is capable of. There is a headphone jack (3.5mm stereo mini jack).

I personally opted for the Volca Beats over the Vocla Kick as it is more versatile however if you are in the market for a cheap, dedicated kick drum generator then the Volca Kick represents excellent value for money.

You can easily find used Volca Kicks on the secondhand market in perfect working order which makes them even better value for money.

Can the Volca Kick be connected to other devices?

The Volca Kick features a sync connector so you can easily connect it to other Korg synths and drum machines including other Volcas, the Minilogue, Electribes and similar devices. Use the MIDI IN jack to use the Volca Kick as a sound module for DAW and MIDI control. The Volca Kick does not have a MIDI OUT.

Who is the Korg Volca Kick aimed at?

There’s no denying that the Volca Kick is a very specialist or niche kind of synth. If you’re a producer in need of a dedicated kick drum generator then the Volca Kick could be the answer to your prayers especially when you take into account its small form factor, ease of use and affordability. The Volca Kick is capable of generating a wide range of meaty and fierce kick sounds, as well as sub bass, so I think it’s of particular appeal to techno and house producers.

Is the Volca Kick Worth it?

Summary: Predictably, the Volca Kick’s strength is its main limitation – while this little gadget is a useful – and often inspiring – addition to any dance music producer looking for a nifty, portable and cheap little kick generator, other Volcas in the range, such as the Korg Volca Beats, offer more sonic versatility.

Korg boast that the Volca Kick gives you an analog kick sound “that cannot be obtained from a plug-in or a sample” however samples and plugins and other hardware synths – including other Volcas – are all quite capable of giving you perfectly adequate – or even excellent – kicks so I could make the argument that absolutely non one needs a Volca Kick. That said, the Volca Kick is great fun and easy to use and is one of the cheapest ways of getting a genuinely analog sound into your workflow.

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