Korg Volca Beats Snare Distortion – Manufacturing Problem Or Design Decision?

korg-volca-beatsReader Darren Glen contacted us to let us know about something interesting he noticed on the Korg Volca Beats circuit boards.

Some Volca Beats owners are disappointed by the analog drum machine’s snare sound. Glen and others have identified a mod that gives the snare a less distorted sound. Here’s Glen’s demo of the mod:

Glen says the hack fixes a missing component on the Volca Beats boards:

Boards are missing a key component on the board, which specifically relates to the snare, namely C78. This component has been left off during manufacture, seemingly by robot manufacturing error. There are solder pads and a space for this missing component, as well as a screen printed label for it, C78, which refers to a capacitor, but this capacitor is missing, and is right in the middle of the snare circuit.

With it missing, the snare sounds distorted, crackly, “burnt”. When a 104 capacitor is placed directly across this position C78, the snare distortion problem is …fixed…and it sounds clean and sharp and crisp.

He adds:

In my mod explanation, i describe how to put the 104 capacitor across a SMD resistor to fix the snare. This was before the missing location C78 was discovered, and in reality this SMD resistor location connects directly to the missing location C78. This is why the capacitor works across the SMD resistor as well. But the exact same result is achieved by putting the 104 capacitor in its rightful location, C78, only a few mm away on the board.

If you are doing my mod, then instead of soldering the 104 cap across the resistor, instead place it in its original location that the designer envisioned, the currently empty location C78. it will be much easier to solder there and you will not risk damaging the SMD resistor in my original explanation. Thus the snare mod should be easier now to perform by all users.

Note: We spoke with Korg about the board design and they confirmed that the Volca Beats is shipping as designed. “This was a purposeful design decision which gave us flexibility during voicing, and while that position does indeed exist on the board, it was not intended to be filled in the final production version.” See our update for more info!

See Glen’s YouTube channel for more examples of interesting mods for the Volca Beats!

35 thoughts on “Korg Volca Beats Snare Distortion – Manufacturing Problem Or Design Decision?

  1. Damn, you scooped me on this one! I was trying to get confirmation from other Volca Beats owners before reporting it.

    I’d still like to hear from others that are brave enough to void their warranties and check to see if they are also missing the capacitor. Serial numbers would be helpful to know, if this was limited to a specific manufacturing date.

      1. The mod’s been around since February but the missing component was only found within the past few days.
        LOL??

        1. wow you’re an idiot…

          the video from february CLEARLY shows the same capacitor being used.

          only the placement is different.

          nice try though….not

              1. fyi the reason why i waited some time (since feb) to reveal the missing C78 component issue is also because i firstly contacted Korg and waited some time for their response. I wanted to do the right thing before “throwing them in the deep end” in regards to this issue.

                However i got the response from Korg that i pretty much expected…essentially they said “dont know what youre talking about, theres no problem” which is why i have therefore released this evidence.

                I hope this explains things further. Its a shame that Korg has chosen to “Deny Deny Deny” but i guess they were just hoping that the problem would never be discovered.

                Cheers,
                Darren.

  2. I saw this post then did the mod, took about twenty minutes. Sounds great! I didn’t mind it before, it’s one of my favorite drum machines to program and I rarely use it entirely clean anyway, but now the snare stands out in the mix a lot more.

    It is weird when you look at the board, these two empty solder pads labeled C78. Keep in mind they are surface mount though, so be very careful when you do it, they are small.

  3. The snare on my Beats sounds like crap. I think Darren’s mod makes it sound like it’s supposed to. I was getting ready to do the original snare mod along with some others he’s found which make a great little drum machine even better. This discovery will make it a little easier. Glad I waited.

  4. Thank you for posting this. hopefully we can force Korg to recall these faulty units with the missing component. My serial number is 012187. Its possible that people who say “i like the sound of my Volca Beats Snare” have had this missing C87 component problem fixed in their later manufacturing batches. So it would be great for ppl to post their serial numbers.

    Cheers,
    Darren Glen

    1. The idea of asking them to recall the Volca Beats seems really far-fetched. What’s next? Recalling the 303 because it doesn’t sound like a real bass? Recalling the DX line because it’s got usability problems? Recalling the Minitaur because it shreds your sub?

      The Volca Beats is an awesome cheap drum machine and it does what Korg says it does. Most people love it.

      I think Korg is great to support modders – they are the only big music instrument company doing this. Not Roland, not Yamaha.

      1. i think your “whats next” reasoning is a little rediculous THJ, and suggests to me that you are probably an employee of Korg or something? Is the 303 missing an electronic component off some of the manufactured boards? No. is the DX line missing a key electronic component from its board due to manufacturing error? No. All people who own the Korg Volca Beats love it! including me! but that does not mean you must love every sound in it. And most people say the snare is naff because of this problem.

        1. That may be so, but actually I agree with THJ. Their demo videos show the exact same snare, if you played a demo at NAMM that’s how they sounded like. Review units were the same distorted snare. They advertised and sold it as you had bought it, you knew what it sounded like therefore you knew what you paid for.

          This might just be a flaw in the manufacturing process that they couldn’t fix in time so they kept it, either way it doesn’t matter because they advertised and sold it as a unit with a crappy snare. They didn’t lie to you.

          Perhaps they’ll make an MK2 that includes the manufacturing fix and maybe some updates. As it is they won’t recall a product that isn’t technically faulty in terms of what they advertised it to be.

    1. Mine is SN 7378. I’m going to see if the place I bought it (Sweetwater) will replace it under warranty before I open it up.

      1. “I’m going to see if the place I bought it (Sweetwater) will replace it under warranty”

        They would “replace” it with another Beats that has the exact same layout and components. As far as Korg/Sweetwater are concerned, it is as intended. There is no rev2.

  5. What an incredible co-incidence this post is. I was going to email Korg, to ask if there was going to be a possible way to fix this snare sound by downloading something. Now i know that this is impossible, but i only thought about that cos they did something not long ago where you downloaded some audio file and had to play it to load some update into the Volca Beat. I’m not sure what that update was for? Did anyone do that, or know what it was for? I’m definately going to attempt to do this, cos the previous tutorial confused the hell outta me. I don’t care about warranty, cos i bought my unit off gumtree, almost as soon as it had been released. So it’s probably stolen, but i got it for a bitchin’ price! It IS a fantastic drum machine, with such a whopping bass drum that would make anyone happy. I hope i can conquer this tutorial, and find the parts easily etc…, thankyou very much for posting this tutorial, i’ll go watch the rest of ’em ….

    1. Hi Jake, the download from Korg was a firmware update for a bug in some of the early units that related to the sequencer. Later units were shipped with this sequencer problem already updated / solved. it did not change any of the sounds, or indeed fix the problem of a missing component off the sound board. If your Volca Beats sequencer works fine, you probably do not need the firmware update.

      1. Hi Darren, thanks for the reply. The sequencer seems to be fine, so i guess i shouldn’t bother with that audio input update.
        I watched your original mod video, and i still can’t grasp what to do at all.

        Your new explanation seems more novice friendly, but i still wouldn’t know what to do without a
        video, so naturally i’m wondering if you’re going to do a new one?
        I’m fine with soldering, it’s just that i don’t understand what i need to buy and where to connect (or even where to buy). Many thanks. I like the video for the smart meters too ;), good to see a fellow Australian covering these.

        1. Jake go to the gearslutz link in the video descriptions. there is clear instructions there also on what to do, parts lists etc.

          Cheers,
          darren

  6. I actually like the original snare sound, especially with a short decay. But I have to admit, that sounded great with the cap in there, definitely better to my ears. When I first read the description I disagreed with assumption that it was a manufacturing error, I figured korg just changed their mind after the boards have been made. But after hearing it its clear that it was a manufacturing error. Korg probably figured that it sounded good enough and wasn’t worth the price to fix it.

    Error or not, korg clearly advertised with the “faulty” snare, and people bought it anyway, so thems the breaks.

    1. “thems the breaks”

      Also, part of the intrigue and excitement of gear with an analog signal path which one can tap into is the ability to do mods and fixes. Those who want the “advanced” snare sound can have it, for the price of a soldering iron, a 1 cent component, and some fun. Hoping that my Volca arrives with the missing cap since that is more of an adventure.

  7. A snappier snare doesn’t mean the distortion is gone, you just masked it, that’s all.
    It is certainly an interesting mod, thanks for sharing, Darren.

    1. I’ve listened to Darren’s mod multiple times and compared it to my own Beats snare. Without the mod the snare sound does not seem to fit with the rest of the sounds. With the mod it does. To my ear, the non-mod snare distortion sounds like digital clipping and is not at all pleasing. I never thought it sounded “right”. I know it’s subjective but to me it just sounds like something is “wrong” when snappy and decay are maxed out.

  8. Better with the mod. In fact, hearing them side by side, it sounds faulty without the mod. If I bought one, I’d do the mod immediately having heard this.

  9. Hi Darren excellent mod and even better update, many thanks – one question if I may – exactly what diameter is the body of your 104 Cap? I’d like to make sure I source exactly the same one to ensure exactly the same sound improvement

  10. Ok, I haven’t gone through the entire thread but is the problem still being manufactured. Is there a rev2 now or is this really it? Because it looks like to me Korg is saying it’s by design which is a lie of course because they don’t want to bite the bullet and recall the product. Now this is going to hurt their reputation seeing how this could happen with just about any product and what are they always going to say? “Oh, it was meant to be that way” it’s greed here folks Korg doesn’t want to fork out the money’s. Something like this I don’t believe has ever been done in any industry. Where the manufacture outright lies to weasel out of a mistake they made. It’s not like anyone is deaf we all know about the story and the missing component and how bad this part sounds. It totally blows the whole products experience. A broken snare is a broken drum machine through and through.

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