Korg announces Volca analog synth series, we go eyes-on

Korg's love of the mini-analog synth clearly remains strong as it's added three more new ones to the fold -- the Volca Beat, Volca Bass and Volca Keys (the clue to what they do is in the names). While some firms take a pro product and work down, making cheaper versions, Korg seems to take a different approach. It did the stripping-back thing when it launched its popular Monotron synth. Since then, it's incrementally developed it back up into a whole category of its own, the latest iteration of which we apparently see before us here. The trio of mini-synths clearly take inspiration from the Monotribe groovebox that came before them, but are a step up in terms of design. Brushed metal finishes give them a vintage, almost Stylophone feel. The Volca Bass, in particular, looks almost too much like the legendary Roland TB-303 to be coincidence, and if we didn't know better, we'd say the color scheme of the Beat echoes the TR-808. As we happened to be in Frankfurt, we couldn't resist getting out hands on them, or as you'll see past the break, at least trying to. %Gallery-185299%

We really wanted to give you a proper demo of the Volca series, but Korg apparently had other ideas. Only one of each device was on display, each firmly (and understandably) fixed down to the display unit. We did manage to elbow our way through the ever present crowd and sneak in a listen though. Fear not, as Korg has provided a juicy demo video of its own, that should satisfy your urge to hear what they sound like. We did, however, get the chance to have a quick play with them and get a feel for the hardware.

First things first, these are unmistakably Korg. The look, the feel, the very idea, is almost becoming a signature of the brand. A good balance between retro authenticity, paired with modern needs (affordable, analog sound, portability) undoubtedly makes them a tempting prospect to a wide range of musicians. So it comes as no surprise that Korg might keep reinventing them. Sound-wise, it's more of the same. And again, that's no bad thing. All three devices perform their respective parts well, with that familiar crunchy, lo-fi, yet complex analog-based sound. This time, there's full MIDI support across the board, with each unit sporting a 5-pin port right up top. This said, they truly work on their own, too, with each one housing an inbuilt loop sequencer for phrase-based performance, and can be sync'd to one another. As before with the Mono-series, you can run them on batteries and there's a loud speaker to annoy impress your friends with. Volca Keys has three oscillators and 27 (albeit small) keys to thumb at. Volca Bass also has a three oscillator configuration, and takes some inspiration from Korg's Electribe range in the form of its step-sequencer. As for Volca Beat? As well as its true analog internals, there is a PCM engine for punchy clap and snare sounds, and a choice of parameters to allow a catalog of different drum sounds to be generated. Frankly, we were sold on them the moment we laid eyes on them, but don't take our word for it, head south for the evidence. Back already? Then the answer to your next question is June, and $149 each.