Kaoss Pad Guide – A Mini Tour of Korg’s Pioneering Effects Units

Korg KP3+

A guide to the rapidly expanding Korg Kaoss Pad range

The Korg Kaoss Pad revolutionised the way that people use effects in live situations upon its launch in 1999. Until then, adding dynamic effects, or effects parameter changes was a matter tweaking knobs on a rack-mounted effects unit. If you wanted to tweak more that one parameter, you had to tweak two controls simultaneously, which was not exactly elegant.

The design of the Kaoss Pad was a breath of fresh air. At its heart was a backlit touchpad, where each axis controls a different effects parameter. So, with a sweep of a finger, dramatic effects changes could be applied to audio running through it. In live situations, this opened up a world of performance and sonic manipulation.

Nowadays, a full range of Kaoss Pad models is available, each offering different spec, and in the case of the Kaossilator, a very different underlying premise. There is often confusion about what each Kaoss Pad model does. This mini-guide aims to demystify the range.

Korg Kaoss Pad KP3

The Korg Kaoss Pad KP3+

The KP3+ is the direct descendant of the original Kaoss Pad. In this regard, it is primarily an effects processor. Alongside more traditional effects, such as reverbs, filters, modulation and delay effects, are Vocoder, grain shifter, decimator and more. A selection of synthesiser sounds is also equipped, operated via the touchpad, along with an onboard sampler.

Motion across the pad can be recorded, so that effects changes can be replayed at the touch of a button. Key to the use of the KP3 is its ability to be in-sync. In this regard it is equipped with a tap-tempo button, but will also detect BPM from audio input, or via MIDI clock. You can, of course, simply enter the tempo manually, too.

For those looking to integrate a Kaoss Pad within their computer-based studio, the KP3+ is one of the best equipped. The USB connection allows samples to be transferred and edited, or used as a MIDI controller, for use with software.

The Kaoss Pad Quad

The Kaoss Pad Quad provides, as its name might suggest, up to four simultaneous effects. The Quad is purely an effects processor; so don’t expect any synth sounds here. The four effects slots allow the user to pick one of five effects, from four effects groups. This means there are a potential 1,295 combinations of effects. A brightly lit touchpad follows your movements across it. Each effect can be individually frozen, adding even more to the creative possibilities.

The effects onboard include Vinyl Break, DJ emulation and ducking compressor, and the Quad maintains the BPM detection, which keeps things tightly locked to tempo.

The Mini-KP 2

The Mini-KP 2 is smallest Kaoss Pad model in the range. The successor to the original Mini-KP model, the Mini-KP 2 packs an awful lot into its pocket-sized package. As the name suggests, this is essentially a smaller effects unit, based on KP3 technology. However, this updated version has plenty of unique features, too. Alongside 100 effects programs, based on the KP3, an onboard MP3 player allows audio to be played back from the unit. Combined with the ability to set cue points, adjust pitch and more, this makes the Mini-KP 2 a great, handheld DJ sound source.

Performances can be recorded and saved, and a built-in microphone adds even more to the versatility of the unit.

The Kaossilator Pro+

The Kaossilator Pro+ is the ‘daddy’ of the Kaoss Pad ‘s sister range. The Kaossilator is a slightly different beast to the KP range, but employs the same interface. Unlike the Kaoss Pad models, the Kaossilator Pro is primarily a sound source. Put simply, it is a synthesiser, with a built-in sound-on-sound looper. Two hundred sounds are equipped, from basses, leads, chords, and acoustic sounds, drum sounds and percussion loops.

The user selects a sound, and then records a riff or part via the touch pad. They can then change the sound and add another riff, and keep on doing this until they are happy with their loop. A gate arpeggiator allows patterns to be triggered perfectly in time, and in a selected scale, with ease.

The Kaossilator Pro+ has four loop banks, each allowing four measures of loop recording, and loops can be stored via SD card. Alongside the onboard sounds, external sound sources can be recorded, looped, and layered. The Kaossilator Pro can be used as a controller via its USB socket, or MIDI connections, and even includes onboard Vocoder effects.

The Kaossilator 2

The Kaossilator 2 is, as Korg says, a pocket synthesizer. It does so much more, however… Like the Kaossilator Pro, it differs from the Kaoss pad range, in that it is a sound source, rather than an effects processor. It is based on the same synthesizer-with-looper principles as its big brother. Rather than be a ‘lite’ version, however, the Kaossilator 2 has plenty to offer.

Alongside 150 sounds, gate arpeggiator, different musical scales, and unlimited loop overdubs, Kaossilator 2 provides dual-loop recording, such that two loops can be cross faded between, DJ-style. The unit has a built in mic, and a mic input for recording from external sources. Data can be backed up to micro SD, and the unit can even be synched to Korg’s iKaossilator app. All of this is contained in a sleek, pocket-sized unit.