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Korg Kaoss Pad mini KP
Reviewer: Deft • Date: October 2007 • Price: $199/€140£99 • Link: Korg

Introduction

Korg minikp mini kp kaoass pad review

The ‘Kaoss’ method of controlling effects parameters has been around for a while, with the original Kaoss Pad launching back in the late 1990’s. We are currently up to version 3 of the main unit, but Korg have now launched an ultra portable piece bearing the Kaoss legacy – the “Mini-KP”. The premise is the same as the rest of the series, the main thrust being a boat-load (100) of DSP effects controlled by an 8x8 X-Y touchpad. Whilst this doesn’t appear to add huge scope for depth and subtlety of control over your effects, the Kaoss way of working should certainly allow instant gratification and ease of use with its obvious control mechanism.

Main Interface

Korg minikp mini kp kaoass pad review

The simplicity of the Mini-KP is exemplified by the fact the ‘manual’ is essentially a small piece of paper with some brief instructions, diagrams and effects listings. The unit is supplied with 4xAA batteries, but can be powered via an AC adaptor (not supplied). When they say ‘Mini’ – they really mean it. The unit is 11x13cm and weighs around 0.5kg with batteries inside. Everything is clearly marked and obvious – it shouldn’t cause even the most stupid of djs any problems.

Korg minikp mini kp kaoass pad review

The inputs and outputs are on RCA connections, and there is a 3.5mm headphone jack and level control on the front of the unit for those wishing to listen directly through the unit.

In Use

Korg minikp mini kp kaoass pad review

The first thing to choose is how you are going to operate the Mini-KP in relation to your mixer. The manual makes an attempt to help end-users, but might actually cause a few problems to those not totally confident with the differing ways you can route audio for effects processing. The Mini-KP has two modes – ‘dir’ or ‘snd’ (direct or send). Essentially all it means is that one of the modes (direct) passes audio through when an effect isn’t engaged, whereas the mode for send / return doesn’t. So although most dj mixers will have connections marked send and return, they may well be pre/post-fader insert points in reality – so the ‘dir’ mode would be a better choice. I guess most people will try both modes if they are not sure anyway.

The other issue some may have is that although the Mini-KP has a PEAK led to let you know when you are likely to be clipping the A/D converters, there are no facilities to adjust the input or output levels of the unit. This meant that is was actually impossible to use the Mini-KP in a satisfactory way with my A&H Xone:02 mixer, as the send and returns on the Xone are post-fader inserts rated at 0dBu with no specific level controls. Although the manual doesn’t state it, the Mini-KP’s inputs and outputs appear to be at -10dBV. Therefore, for my set-up – I had to drop my channel levels to stop the Mini-KP from distorting and always got a quieter signal back than I sent.

In contrast to the KP-3, the Mini-KP doesn’t have a backlit touchpad and it needs more than a feathery touch to engage. If you lightly brush you finger over, the effect will cut in and out as it struggles to sense the position. The touchpad is more rubbery and you can feel the pressure sensing pads. It works fine providing you give it a bit more force and actively press down slightly as you move over it.

Korg minikp mini kp kaoass pad review

There is a small ‘hold’ button which continues to keep the effect engaged at the last value that the touchpad was at (so you can give your finger a rest!). It works really well for punching the effect back in and out, with no obvious engage clicking in the audio or suchlike. There is also an ‘FX RELEASE’ option and setting, which is a mechanism to avoid the abrupt closing of effects action. This means there is a more graceful BPM-linked delay out of the effect when you disengage, and it really does sound a lot better in most instances (even if your BPM isn’t synced). Leading on from this, the BPM is not automatically calculated and relies on a BPM tap button or manual dial in. For the effects that are reliant on an absolutely accurate BPM reading such as the looping effects, I think this works OK – but these type of real-time effects are always prone to human error as much as a slightly wrong BPM reading. The brave amongst you may like the idea of jumping straight into a 2-beat loop mid track, but it’s very hard to get right!

Korg minikp mini kp kaoass pad review

The only other controls are the effects depth and two memory buttons. The effects depth is hidden away through a simultaneous button press menu, so is not really easily there for on-the-fly adjustment. This setting will be more dependent on whether you are inserting the effects or blending them back in via the mixer. The two memory buttons can store your favourite effects choices plus all associated settings (hold status, depth and touchpad position).

Korg minikp mini kp kaoass pad review

In terms of effects type, most bases are covered by the 100 programs available. They are broadly split into groups so many are permutations of a core effect, combined with different filters or X/Y controls. On first attempt, most of the effects seem very upfront and bold – really mangling the audio (especially as your first instinct is to wildly drag your finger around the touchpad). However, with a bit of restraint you can achieve some really impressive results and it’s very satisfying when you get it right. The high number of effects is slightly daunting and initial plays can be a bit “Russian Roulette” in their nature, as there is no visual feedback as to what effect you are using aside from a program number. You’ll remember your favourites soon enough, once your “Rain Man” ability to recall numbers and their associated effects type kicks in.

The tactile feel of the pad works great, something no amount of endless rotary encoders can replace. And although 8x8 control levels doesn’t sound much, you never feel like you need masses more resolution to get the sound smoother – it feels very natural. There are lots of really ‘modern’ sounding effects – grainy stuttering, pitch-shifting distortion types of madness. The vinyl looper where you can grab the audio and speed or slow it down with the pad is really clever, though the low horsepower of the Mini-KP means the looping time is only a bar or so.

The overall sound quality of the effects are good, given that a lot are very “in-your-face” and destructive in their nature. In terms of general quality when just passing audio through the Mini-KP, it’s o.k. It’s certainly not absolutely transparent, but no worse than the competition and better than I remember by Electrix Mo-FX being. This was probably not helped by the mismatch in nominal levels between my mixer and the Mini-KP.

Final Thoughts

Korg minikp mini kp kaoass pad review

The Mini-KP is a lot of fun, and the small size doesn’t feel like a restriction in terms of effects control. It’s a really quick and easy way to add a lot of effects power, and I think it bodes well for the new Korg KM-202 and KM-402 mixers. The main caveat is getting the levels right with your set-up, and in certain circumstances this may cause problems when interfacing with certain mixers.

Ratings

Build Quality - 8/10
Robust casing with good touchpad and button action.

Sound Quality – 8/10
Not totally transparent but impressive audio mangling capability.

Features & Implementation - 10/10
Broad set of effects and it doesn’t get much more intuitive than this!

Value For Money - 10/10
A lot of fun for a low price.

The Bottom Line

Maybe a bit quick and dirty for effects purists, but you can’t deny the massive appeal of the Mini-KP.

 



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