Pocket-sized music-maker for fidget-fingered technoheads
No, not a GPS gadget for scuba divers – the Kaossilator 2 is a portable rave generator. We had a lot of fun with the original Korg Kaossilator back in 2007, and the second-gen update promises even more idiot-proof ways to make electro beats and bleeps.
Korg Kaossilator 2: how it works
What you get is a synthesiser drum machine wrapped in an apparently very simple interface. Instead of a keyboard there's a touchpad; the sort of thing you'd find on a laptop. Moving your finger left and right plays your chosen sound at different pitches (locked to a specific musical "key", such as C), while up and down swipes alter the character of the sound in some way.
Korg Kaossilator 2: drums
Choose a drum kit or drum loop, and the areas of the pad correspond to different sounds or adjust the complexity of the loop, from a simple "boom, boom, boom, boom" to a "boom, chick, tst, blam, diga-diga-diga-diga, splash".
Korg Kaossilator 2: patterns
But there's more. A little button labelled "arp" toggles the arpeggiator, which plays your notes in one of a number of sequences for as long as you hold or move your finger around the pad. That makes it easy to lay down a jiggly bassline with perfect timing.
Korg Kaossilator 2: timing
Well, not quite perfect timing. You can record and layer up 8-beat loops, but even with the tempo light to guide you it's harder than it should be to get them all playing along tightly. Some automatic quantisation would have completed the "no skills required" interface. Maybe that's something for a future OS update.
Korg Kaossilator 2: sounds
Alternative sound banks and settings can be accessed via a combination of a titchy LCD screen, four weeny buttons and a ribbon controller. The system works but it's not ideal as an interface, and we miss the original's knob.
Korg Kaossilator 2: recording
Unlike the original, the Kaossilator 2 has an audio input as well as a built-in microphone, and along with the microSD card slot these let you record your own warbles or instruments along with the internal sounds, then export them as WAV audio files for sharing or use in other music applications.
Korg Kaossilator 2: inspirational
While you can make some great sounds, this isn't something you'll use to get an idea down. In fact it's almost impossible to play a melody of your own as there are no markings on the touchpad to tell you where the notes are. Instead, the Kaossilator 2 is at its most useful when you don't have any ideas. Just pick it up, start poking and you might end up with something worthy of a podcast jingle, some home movie sound effects or the basis of a track to be built up later.
If there was a little more serious potential and a less fiddly interface the Kaossilator would be a five-star product, but even so there's a lot to love about it, just the way it is.