June 29th, 2009

Korg Kaos Machines: Mini-KP and Kaossilator

"Ze power of the kaoss machines is virtually limitless, Mr President."

"Ze one who would harness zeh power of the kaos machines would be ze one to rule ze WORLD!"

Being a series of observations on the Mini-KP, which is the effects processiong unit, and its sibling, the Kaossilator synthesizer.  Both these machines feature the same touchpad interface, and both feature high end professional level quality sound.  Despite size and appearance, these are definitely not toys.

Both these machines are mounted in the same case,  have  the same digital readout, the same touchpad, and the same infinatly rotating control knob front and center.  There are three buttons on the upper right of the face plate, and one on the bottom edge, opposite the input/outputs.  The buttons perform different functions as per the different roles of the two machines, but otherwise the standardization is extreme.   The synthesizer is usually found in yellow and polished aluminum as below left, and the effects processor is in a snazzy black and red case.  I find the later particularly satisfying because red and black are the colours of my alma mater, the University of New Brunswick.
Korg Kaossilator Realtime Dynamic Phrase Synthesizer

Korg mini-KP Effects Processor

Just the right size to handle and manipulate, and a good solid feel to it:

Korg minikp mini kp kaoass pad review

Some personal observations:

Undocumented:  The touch pad is pressure sensitive!

I have not seen this mentioned anywhere, and it is not implemented as such in current versions.  But it is true and can be easily demonstrated.  Apply pressure with your thumbs on each side of the touch pad, as far apart as you can, like at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock.  Vary the squeeze pressure back and forth between these points.  You will see that the effective pressure point, as indicated in the readout and as heard, moves back and forth in a range of motion BETWEEN your thimbs, indicating that the touchpad can sense PRESSURE DIFFERENCE as well as movement. 

This has tremendous implications for future development.   Most obviously, a third sound (or other)parameter can be added to the two now available on the X and Y axes of the touchpad.

The Missing Backlight and USB socket.

Many marketing descriptions and spec lists of both machines which can be found on the net mention a backlight feature, as well as footswitch and USB support.  From the Amazon.com Kaossilator description:  "Power supply - Two AA alkaline batteries for up to 7 hours of continuous use (backlight OFF), 5 hours of continuous use (backlight ON), and USB bus-powered (when using the USB connector) " . The same is often repeated for the Mini-KP.

This is all incorrect.  If there is a backight feature on these machines, it is undocumented and I have found no reliable mention of it.  There is no USB capability whatsoever, nor a footswitch jack.  This false information is repeated over and over again and circulates around the net like a virus.  It"s a vestigial tail!
Bad cut-and-paste artist, bad!! 

Brian Eno:

"Korg have their Kaoss Pads, which are a way of taking sounds into the domain of muscular control. If you have a few Kaoss Pads in line, like I do, you can really start playing with sound itself, with the physical character of the sound. The pads are very intuitive, anyone can learn to use them in a second. It's immediately obvious what you do, and it immediately takes you into a completely different place, because when working with computers you normally don't use your muscles in that way. You're focused on your head, and the three million years of evolution that resulted in incredible muscular skill doesn't get a look in."
But doesn't intuitive, muscular skill bring in more personality, something he's not too keen on? Eno shakes his head. "I would say that, funnily enough, the muscular part is more likely to bring out our collective, shared part, while the brain part is more likely to be the individual, separate part. I feel that when I'm in the muscle world, I'm getting out of this little thing I call Brian Eno, and I feel more connected to a bigger community."
Another Day On Earth was mixed in Logic, with the aid of the Kaoss Pads and other outboard. "When I was playing parts live into the computer I would do processing through external boxes. I'd also sometimes feed stuff out of my computer through the Kaoss Pads. There's a lot of plugin processing going on. I'd usually print the processed track inside of the computer, and then push it back in time, because when there's a lot of processing you get latency problems. I like working like that, because I can do different things with the already-processed track."

reference: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/oct05/articles/brianeno.htm

That's Eno's opinion.  On the other hand, Ronniecat (see http://hearingloss.blogspot.com/) says "That thing is the bagpipes of synthesizers."   So there you go.

Hey look, a pink Kaossilator.  Limited Edition, obviously.