Korg Volca Sample Guide

I previously looked at the Korg Volca Kick synth and today it’s the turn of its sibling the Korg Volca Sample. First up I’ll give you a brief overview of Korg’s popular little sampler gadget and then answer some of the most common questions and I’ll also be looking at third party Volca Sample apps to help you get the most of out your Volca Sample.

What is the Korg Volca Sample?

The Korg Volca Sample is a small, affordable and fun digital sample player and sequencer. With the Volca Sample you can edit and sequence up to 100 sample sounds in real time for powerful live performances.

The Volca Sample features built in filter and reverb effects and a powerful step sequence.

Note that the Volca Sample is not called ‘Sampler’ for a reason – while you can import sounds into the Sample via an app you can not record directly into the Sample.

What is the Volca Sample maximum sample size?

You can store up to 100 samples in total with 4 MB of storage. Maximum 65 seconds of samples. Note that your samples are converted to 32kHz which combined with some mild output noise means this machine delivers a lo-fi and gritty sound – just think of it as old school – rather than a crisp and pristine sound.

Does the Korg Volca Sample have a built-in speaker?

The Volca Sample features a single built-in speaker although if you’re at all serious about the loops, beats and tracks you’re making with this thing you’ll no doubt want to either use headphones and/or studio monitors.

How to import samples into Korg Volca Sample?

Sample input is only possible via Korg’s Volca Sample ‘AudioPocket’ iOS app.

You can record your own samples live with the app and then instantly preview, trim and normalize your sounds.

On a Mac you can use iTunes File Sharing to drag and drop your samples into “AudioPocket documents”.

Third party apps exist to add extra features beyond the AudioPocket’s capabilities and these are essential if you’re PC based rather than Mac. (See below for more details.)

Does the Volca Sample have built-in effects?

Samples in the Volca Sample can be tweaked and mangled with the ‘frequency isolator’ section on the left of the unit. The ‘frequency isoLator’ lets you boost or cut the low/high ranges. The isolator is implemented as a genuine analog circuit with two controls for ‘Bass’ and ‘Treble’.

A built-in reverb effect can be switched on/off for each part.

Sample reverse playback can be turned on/off independently for each part. Samples can be looped and the sample length and envelope controls used to determine the repeat time and number of decays.

You can adjust a sample’s playback speed, level and panning position, start point and length.

The Volca Sample Sequencer

Of course having a machine full of your sounds is no fun unless you can string those sounds together in unique ways via patterns and this is where the Volca Sample sequencer section comes into play.

The Volca Sample gives you space to create up to 10 patterns, each with a maximum of 16 steps. You can create patterns either in real time or by Step Mode recording (or a combination of both methods). You can also use ‘Step Record’ mode when the Volca Sample has stopped. With the motion sequencer you can record and plays back up to 11 parameters. Impressively for a machine of this price, the Volca Sample is able to record all of the knob movements that are related to sample sound editing.

When you have your patterns set up to your liking you can enter ‘Song Mode’ where the Volca Sample can play a sequence of patterns. You can store up to 6 different songs which make use of any of your 10 patterns.

Does Volca Sample have Tempo and Swing controls?

At the top right of the Volca Sample unit are 4 global controls where you can adjust volume, swing, tempo and reverb mix. Tempo can range from 10bpm to 600 bpm. The Volca Sample swing can push even-numbered steps forwards by up to 75 percent (or backwards when combined with the Func. key.) and is great for adding some serious groove to your beats.

Does Volca Sample have MIDI Out?

No. Volca Sample has MIDI IN and sync in/out headphone jack (3.5mm stereo mini jack) only.

Is the Korg Volca Sample battery operated?

Yes the Korg Volca Sample can be powered by batteries (alkaline battery × 6 or AA nickel-metal hydride battery × 6) or via an optional AC adapter (DC 9V).

Is the Korg Volca Sample worth it?

In a ideal world, technological advances will see a Volca Sample 2 launched one day with the ability to store many more samples and patterns and it’ll cost half the price!

Spend more money and you can get more powerful hardware samplers, no doubt (see my recommended alternatives below). That caveat aside, the Korg Volca Sample is cheap, portable, inspirational, easy to use and good fun.

In this day and age of powerful sampling apps on phones and tablets – and in your DAW too – it’s fair to say that some limitations certainly prevent the Korg Volca Sample being an essential purchase but if you want a fun and portable machine you can use to quickly sequence your sounds then the Volca Sample represents good value for money.

If you work in any kind of music genres where gritty, glitchy and lo-fi sounds and loops and FX are a dominant factor then the Korg Volca is well worth checking out.

What is the Korg Volca Sample OK GO edition?

The Volca Sample OK Go edition is the result of a collaboration between Korg and the Grammy award winning band OK GO. The OK GO features one hundred guitar, bass, drum, synthesizer, and vocal phrases from the OK GO album “Hungry Ghosts”.

The visually striking design of the OK GO edition is down to Taku Sakaguchi, the Japanese graphic designer who handles the official artwork for OK GO.

If you manage to get hold of one of the first 3000 OK GO units you will bag yourself a numbered certificate with the signatures of all four members of OK GO.

Volca Sample Apps

Vosyr – free Volca sample manager by frederikson-labs.com. An absolutely essential app for Windows users but Mac users will also get a lot from this too. With Vosyr you can Add WAV and AIFF files, manage all 100 of your sounds at a glance, edit parameters, create patterns and motion data and much more.

SampleRobot 6 Korg+Wave – SampleRobot Korg+Wave offers sample export functionality for various Korg products including volca sample, microSAMPLER, Kronos and Pa4X.

Momo Volca Sample Editor – check out my post on this brilliant VST and standalone Volca Sample editor app for PC & Mac.

Best alternatives to the Korg Volca Sample:

Listed below, in order of price (cheapest to most expensive), I have three alternatives to Korg Volca Sample for you to check out.

Akai MPX16: Akai’s MPX16 is a sample player with sixteen pressure-sensitive pads. You can use the MPX16 to trigger sound samples stored on standard SD or SDHC cards but it lacks the Volca Sample’s motion recording and pattern sequencing. This is a good choice if you just want a simple gadget that can play back one of your own sounds when you tap a pad.

Korg Electribe Sampler: The Korg Electribe Sampler is more powerful and bigger than the Korg Sample but comes in at twice the price. Originally launched to mixed reviews, the Electribe Sampler has as many fans as it has detractors. Arguably just a few minor software quirks and workflow issues prevented the Electribe becoming a much loved classic.

You can load any sample from an SD card and there are 499 user sample slots in which you can store your sounds. Unlike the Volca, the Electribe actually samples – connect a record player or instrument to the audio in jack and sample directly from it.

32 built-in effects, velocity sensitive pads, modulation options, step sequencing and pattern chaining plus much more ensure the Korg Electribe Sampler is a viable all in one sample recording and playback unit.

Elektron Digitakt: The Elektron Digitakt is a real step up from the Volca Sample in terms of features and sound quality but that increased power comes at a cost in both monetary and learning curve terms. This is an eight voice digital drum computer and sampler geared towards the more ‘professional’ end of the producer/musician/composer spectrum.

As it typical with Elektron gear, buying one of these machines might result in you becoming enthusiastically lost in a world of infinite sound design and sequencing possibilities and you might be using it for the next 50 years of your music making career … on the other hand you might find its sheer scope and depth and the ‘Elektron way’ of doing things completely frustrating and overwhelming!

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