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Review: Volca modular takes creative synthesis into a small package

Review: Volca modular takes creative synthesis into a small package

Can KORG introduce modular repairs and Buchla-inspired synthesis and squeeze it into a $ 200 instrument that is still obtainable to each synthetic newcomers and specialists? We came upon deep in the new $ 199 KORG volcano.

To know what this cute little box is, we turn to veteran know-how vendor Francis Preveen. Francis has labored as a sound designer throughout the business, so he has the experience – but he is additionally an experienced instructor, so he can flip this experience into learners. He is among the first to get hold of the unit, so right here's his son:

Ed.: Richard Devine additionally makes some voices; we add consumer creations once you send them to:

@@ KorgUSA Volca Modular Solo Patch 2 ⚡️⚡️⚡️ 2003.199952] – Richard Devine (@RichardDevine) January 15, 2019 [19659005] The place the volca module matches

Three analog synthesizers (volca-bass, kick and keys), two drum machines (volca beats and pattern) and the FM synthesizer (volca fm), it was exhausting to guess the place Korg might go to broaden this a very successful product range. Physical modeling was an obvious selection, however the West Coast modular? It's not simply unprecedented, it sounds virtually bodily unimaginable. How on Earth might a company ship versatile modulars with restore factors and cables whose measurement is hardly bigger than a hardcover guide? Once I noticed the press release, I used to be undoubtedly skeptical, as most compact all-in-one modular synthesizers surrender on requirements resembling dividers, mould and patchable chopping tables, which are important for true modular work

West Coast Synthesis is new to many users because it isn’t targeted on the discount strategies beneficial by mainstream analog synthesizers. As an alternative, it’s based mostly on building new thimbles by manipulating easy waveforms (resembling triangles and sine) with complicated FM or AM modulation and distortion instruments. Insightful this distinction, you’ll be able to learn a simplified definition of

Korg went happily and needed to caution the reference card, one aspect was a diagram of each module and one aspect of the structure and the correction factors, together with 4 common patch "recipes" to start out your experiment.

You are not left in the dead of night: straight out of the box, KORG incorporates some recipes that may provide help to get began.

a week ago and at that time I can confidently make this easy statement: the volca modular is pioneering, incredibly versatile and price every penny. But it’s just for me a veteran synthesizer and a sound designer.

TLDR Summary

For many who simply need a fast evaluation of the unit and sufficient info to find out whether it is well worth the money earned, begin a high-level overview of the necessities and a jiffy of untreated sound instantly from the system (hyperlink under)

Se is definitely an analogue West Coast modular. It has more restore points than virtually each entry-level unit, however packing features which might be brand new for producers who do not yet have 168HP, two bus Eurorack. In case you are already accustomed to East Coast's subtractive synthesis, the volca-modular feel that it has started with The Upside Down, which immediately awakens curiosity and experimentation, because should you haven't already began, the results may be less than intuitive. If in case you have by no means worked with the West Coast technique, you might be a little misplaced. But this may be a good method to transfer your strategy to a "beginner's mind" like Zen. You’ll be able to't set a worth for this type of inspiration – and when you already know what you're doing on the West Coast, the depth of this little titanium will go away.

It does sound with out a patch, however it's also straightforward to fix. The oscillator pair has each FM and waveform by way of its three knobs – and the tuner digitally “clicks” into crucial ratio settings, so that you don't hit the FM walls too much. This cannot be executed with a absolutely analog module. The built-in wave folder can also be quite tough and aggressive. At zero (off), you will get audible feels like FM, however whenever you strategy the very best values, it’s rather more flexible than distortion.

You recognize these action turbines. Double-function turbines are quite genuine because they have inspired a earlier Serge and Buchla gearbox, so West Coast fanatics will recognize each their implementation and their repairability. The first is an offensive-release-release envelope, whereas the opposite might be printed as a pseudo-LFO with one patch wire for reuse or clock. More once we go deeper.

– and extra "west coast" goodness from downstream port and other important instruments. Two downstream ports [labeled LPG] are suitable for both audio signal processing and management voltage testing – and talking of CV, the volca modular additionally consists of a utility module with trim pot and mult / splitter. These are important elements of each primary module construction, and for some purpose they are overlooked of the main-level semi-modules * cough *. Korg didn't reduce these corners, luckily.

Plus is a retro-sounding reverb. At the finish of the chain there’s a unusual little digital reverb that melts the elements of discs, springs and multi-pin. It lives nice in the "Bebe and Louis Barron" mid-century experimental electronics mode

For volca-style sequencing energy, not just correction. The sequencing system is the precise sleep perform of this system. While everyone is at present hitting, it’s straightforward to overlook that the sequencing motion features permit virtually any front-panel knob to be automated, whereby the LFO or phase-sequencer is added to each parameter with little effort. The opposite sequence features are largely the same as these of the earlier volcano, and people who are new to this "music" have further scale / tonic options and a few microtonal design options for many who are utterly in this "music". In other phrases, including microtonal options is another aesthetic of the west coast.

It's simply skating by way of syntheses, so should you're nonetheless on the fence about whether or not this is the present volca rig (or studio workflow) listed here are a jiffy of sounds utilizing manufacturing unit cycles, some unique fixes, and a custom movement automation boat.

Finally, I consider that the volca module is an exceptional achievement in each synthesis and portability. A lot so that I can order a few models in your faculty so I can incorporate West Coast concepts into my artificial programs and travel with it on my # vanlife journeys. Hearth Modular? Hell yeah

Modules, Depth

Professional Mode. Nonetheless right here? Good. As a result of I will now take a look at every module individually and explain the West Coast concepts so that softsynth customers can easily understand. Although Volca Modular is analogous – by giving it a distinctly heat and chaotic character – the concepts of manipulating West Coast tone turbines might use little demystification for many who know mainly sawn timber, squares and waves.



That is Volcan's modular main tone era device and consists of a pair of triangular waves configured in an FM service modulator pair. These three parameters are modulator tuning (always altering, small digital clips for normal ratios resembling 1: 1, 2: 1, and so on.), modulator depth (FM intensity) and folding. The Swivel Knob is a West Coast sound emblem that always begins with a easy waveform, reminiscent of blue or triangle, then modulates and treats it as a brighter waveform. If you want to reverse the conduct of the folder, it isn’t a stretch to think about it as an imaginary distortion

There are CV inputs for basic quantity (both oscillators), modulator volume (ratio tuning), folding amount and FM depth, you need to use perform turbines and even downstream port to control these features. And this is simply the start line.

In Volcan's default unopened mode, the source output audio output is directed to the primary Lowpass port, which helps newcomers to rise up and operating fast.

Perform Turbines

There are two perform turbines and every behaves in a very special approach. The primary is the AHR (Assault-Maintain-Release) Generator, however there isn’t any separate Maintain Parameter, and the release is sure to decomposition, comparable to the unique Minimoog. Apparently, the assault phase is an inverse exponential curve, while decomposition / release is exponential. Exponential decompositions are probably the most and are nice for transients and Kraftwerkian's "thwips".

Patch-wise is a CV enter for gate, assault, and launch parameters, while CV outputs include constructive, adverse (inverse) and set off. Thus, there’s a CV for all sides of the module. Lively.

Within the default routing, this envelope has been repaired to chop off the first low-pass port, so it really works as a combined filter and amp AD envelope until repaired elsewhere.

The second perform generator is a bit harder. A practical analogy here is to match it to the LFO in a single picture mode (such as the Korgi monologue). Listed here are two parameters: waveform and time. Waveshape is consistently changing from an exponential downward ramp (think of it as a quick decay envelope) to a softened attack-decomposition envelope into a constructive ramp / saw-tooth (long attack, momentary breakdown) envelope. The time parameter controls the full velocity of each segments simultaneously – a bit like a lumber or a triangle LFO in single picture mode.

As with the primary perform generator, every factor has a CV input, including a journey, waveform, and time. On the print aspect, there are constructive and inverse voltages and a second trip when the shape ends. Right here is the LFO flavor.

Listed here are two methods to right a second perform generator for LFO effects

1. If you need a tempo-synchronized LFO impact, you’ll be able to route one clock trigger to the trigger enter. That is probably the most familiar LFO impact, and the clock modes are clearly marked on the Volcan modular entrance panel.

2. If you need the perform generator to play independently – non-synchronized – you’ll be able to management its end-trigger input again to the enter set off and create a loop through which the time parameter controls "LFO speed".


The term "underpass" sounds complicated at first – "low belt" refers to a filter; "Gate" for envelope. You will get a precise rationalization of the term – perhaps too detailed – you’ll be able to learn [19659002] But the primary concept is precisely what the time period says: a low-pass port combines the properties of the filter to the gate properties. And it sets it aside from the standard vanilla stability filters, as you encounter with most synthesizers.

In typical terminology, the low card is simply a VCA sure to a non-resonant downstream having a 6 or 12 dB roll, typically based mostly on a Sallen Key filter (resembling KORG MS-20, MS-10 and Arturia Brute) . If you open a minimize, you can even improve the quantity by means of VCA. The time period "lowpass gate" is associated with the Buchla synthesizer (which added it to the early 200s of the 200 collection synthesis history), however the primary concept of ​​combining filters and amplitude frames shouldn’t be unique to those instruments. For example, Roland SH-101 has a filter / amp combo that works in the same approach.

The particular "west coast" flavor is partly loud. In this volcano, the attentive ear picks out that with very low limit values, the Source triangle wave (with out folding or FM) turns into a muted noticed that progressively breaks into the triangle if you reach the upper boundary frequencies. So while it really works very similar to a traditional decrease restrict in traditional configurations, it has a little "something extra" that makes it much less predictable in some contexts.

Opening two LPGs opens the world of opportunities. For instance, you’ll be able to route a modulating oscillator to a different LPG to take care of the dual-triangle oscillator impact whereas sustaining the first liquid fuel for processing the FM modulated service, after which use a second perform generator for LFO effect LPG2 cleavage / VCA. When the sequencer is on, it is rather complicated.

On this viewing (and listening):


Area is a digital reverb with a lot of retro taste. It sounds loud from the hybrid room's reverb, which has a lot of filtered early reflections, which makes me suspect that there is a hidden delay somewhere. The sum knob controls both mixing and decomposition. Some settings are brief and versatile, others know a bit like a filtered delays cluster with a longer room. Nevertheless, everybody has a BBC radio workshop.

Modular Tools

Though the foregoing is a primer for individual modules, the one which makes the Volcan modular absolutely practical is a assortment of utilities that they have been capable of compress on the front panel.

True, there are massively produced half-module buildings that value 3 times extra and don’t include these important elements. Without them, it isn’t potential to get a properly difficult modular patch. Thus, these volcanoes present Korg's consideration to detail and true value to clients.


This is a sequence that controls the overall price of sequences and increases outputs for sub-groups of the clock. There’s additionally a clock transfer signal. Though you need to use any of those, they’re good at triggering the action generator 2 for tempo-synchronized LFO results.

Cut up / Mult

Here, you’ll be able to divide a number of modules into multiple outputs to modulate multiple alerts – or mix two alerts into one output. For example, if you wish to control a perform generator for multiple locations, that is your transfer. I’m happy to see this addition, as a result of it is costlier starters who forgo it altogether.


One other typically missed however utterly essential modular device is the secondary shear modulation scaling source depth. It’s included within the Utility module, plus a couple of extra sum inputs that can be sent in A + BxC or A-BxC format.


t much of the performance of the Buchla uncertainty source module. In apply, the Volcan "Woggle" module acts as a composite pattern and maintain (randomization) generator with the desired additional delay generator.

This Woggle module has two inputs and two outputs. The "sample" enter is normalized to noise when nothing is related, suitable for traditional "random" effects. In the Woggle patch, you’ll be able to bypass this exterior sign (resembling VCO). The second enter triggers the sampling of this voltage, which is then sent to both stepped and leveled correction factors for various randomized effects.

Because the smoothed output is actually a delay generator, you possibly can fix the Volca keyboard output management surface to the enter of the Woggle sign, then perform the smoothed output again to the primary input CV enter and create sliding / portament effects.


What Korg has packed within the Volcan shape issue is another essential module with versatility. This modular design is straightforward to slot in a backpack or messenger bag, nevertheless it accommodates virtually all the important modules for embedding a massive toe in West Coast impressed sound design. In case you are a volca collector, that is undoubtedly the fact that Korg has thus far released a hippest unit. And for those who're simply a synthetic fan on the lookout for a solution to give much more analog style, the worth point is completely irresistible. In different words, for those who purchased Eurorack for West Coast Synthesis and installed it in the same approach, you employ at the very least 3 times more than this unit.

I'm pretty positive that volca-modular can be again for fairly some time, so area it now.

Francis Preven's website covers in detail his professional background from voice design to writing and manufacturing – and distinctive tasks akin to his Scapes environmental voices. Go to [19659066] Tags: analog, Buchla, creative analogue, Francis-Preve, gear, sensible, hardware, profound, korg, critiques, sound design, synthesis, synthesizers, volca, volca modular, West Coast Synthesis

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