Why no one created a tool like Korg's Kaoss Pad until now is beyond me. Whatever the reason, I'm terribly thankful it's here. This tabletop box combines a phrase sampler, a multi-effects processor, and an x-y touchpad controller that lets you "play" its effects in real time. Rubbing, scratching, and tapping your fingers on the pad controls the way that effects are applied by modifying separate effects parameters, such as distortion gain on the horizontal axis and cutoff frequency on the vertical axis. In short, you can take your sound from subtle to extreme in a single stroke.
The Kaoss Pad also serves double duty as a real-time MIDI controller, which any self-respecting sound programmer will appreciate. No MIDI input is provided, though, so its impossible to control the pad's effects with a sequencer.
Phono and line-in RCA jacks are provided for connecting the outputs of a turntable, CD player, or synthesizer, making the Kaoss Pad easy to integrate into a live DJ or studio setup. A single 11/44-inch microphone input is also available, which is handy for applying effects to your voice during a set.
SONIC SATISFACTIONSo how do the Kaoss effects sound? @#$%ing cool! The 60 effects programs are preset, meaning that you can't change program 10, a istortion effect, to be a delay, for instance. The first 50 are single and multiple effects that include filters, distortion, pans, phasers, flangers, chorus, reverb, delays, and more-perfect for all types of dance music. Effects are selected with the Program knob, and you can assign specific programs to the six program map buttons along the top of the touch pad for instant recall.
To audition its sound-shaping capabilities, I selected a distortion + lowpass filter effect while running a drum loop into the Kaoss. Sliding my finger from the bottom-left corner to the top right produced a steep, nasty sweep that turned my ho-hum loop into a dramatic lead-in. I was hooked.
The last ten programs are reserved for sampling incoming audio. Sampling in the Kaoss is straightforward: press the Rec button to start recording; press it again to stop. Up to five seconds can be recorded, which is enough to sample a couple bars of music at 120 bpm or more. Samples reside in memory until the pad is turned off, a new phrase is recorded, or a nonsampling program is selected. Once you've sampled some audio, you can play it back in a number of predefined ways by touching the control pad. For instance, select program 52 and you can scratch and slow the playback speed of the audio just like using vinyl and a turntable.
IN USEDuring my evaluation, I spent hours working with the Kaoss Pad. Not that it took that long for me to get up and running with it-quite the contrary. I couldn't stop using it. Just when I thought I'd had enough, I'd discover a new way to use it live or in the studio. One of my favorites was to plug its outputs into my DAT recorder and run audio-drum loops, synth effects, vocal samples, you name it-through the Kaoss, all the while performing unspeakable mayhem on the touch pad. I kept the DAT recording the entire time. When I was finished, I listened back and picked the best snippets for sampling into my Yamaha A3000 sampler.
For live use, I assigned a sample program to one of the program map buttons. I would sample a breakbeat from one turntable, and then trigger it during the breakdown from another record. If I wanted to keep things going, I would hit the Hold button to loop the groove for as long as I wanted. When I was ready to go on, I simply hit the Hold button again and dropped into the next track.
ON THE FLIP SIDEIt's easy to gush about the Kaoss pad, but to be fair, there are a few minor details that I didn't like about this product. For starters, its case is plastic, not metal, which leaves me wondering about how much abuse it will take before it dies. Second, the headphone jack is a stereo miniplug, so you would need an adapter if you were using pro headphones. And lastly, there's no way to synchronize the delays to audio tempo. Ideally, I'd like bpm sync from an audio source, or at least a tap-tempo feature. But these are only slight gripes.
TOUCH AND GOIf you haven't already figured it out by now, the Kaoss pad is all about hands-on control. The layout of the pad is simple and logical, so even the most tech-illiterate can plug in and go. I fell in love with the Kaoss Pad's tremendous capabilities. Never would I have predicted that such an unassuming little box could cause such a stir of inspiration. A
KORGKaoss Pad multi-effectsprocessor/controller withphrase sampling $350
PROS: Amazing cool effects. Fun, intuitive interface. Real-time MIDI controller. Phrase sampling.
CONS: No way to sync delay effects with audio. Mini plug headphone jack.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4.5
Contact: tel. (516) 333-9100; fax (516) 333-9108; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.korg.com