Korg Volca Beats Design Offers Flexible Voicing, Easy Mods – If You Don’t Mind Voiding Your Warranty

korg-volca-beats

Over the weekend, we shared information about a mod reader Darren Glen identified for the Korg Volca Beats. He noticed that there was an empty spot on the Volca Beats’ circuit board, and that modding the board by placing a capacitor in the empty spot resulted in a ‘crisper’ snare sound. Because of this, Glen speculated that the part may might have been left off by mistake during manufacturing.

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.”

They added that “Tens of thousands of current Volca Beats owners have been pretty happy with what they bought.”

This highlights something very interesting about Korg’s recent analog instruments.

Korg wants their instruments to have their own sound. So, whether you like the snare sound on the Volca Beats or not, the drum machine ships sounding the way Korg intends it to.

But, unlike most instruments these days, if you don’t like the snare sound, or if you want to tweak the kick sound, or if you want to add individual audio outputs for each sound – Korg’s design makes these easy to mod.

Korg’s Take On Mods

snare-outWhile Korg doesn’t officially endorse modding their gear, many of their recent electronic instruments are designed in a way that is very ‘mod-friendly’. They’ve shared schematics and even labeled useful ‘hack points’ on the Volca PCBs.

Synthtopia has shared several mods for Volcas and other recent Korg analog synths. We wondered what Korg’s official position was on the Volca Beats snare mod and other popular mods. Here’s what they had to say:

“Unfortunately, we [Korg] are not in a position to check and comment on every modification that’s proposed to us by fans and those intending to commercialize their ideas (there are always ideas being proposed from around the world for all our products).

We do think this Synthtopia reader’s mod is interesting and worth exploring. However, we should also remind everyone that any modification to the board will invalidate their warranty.”

From what we can gather, Korg doesn’t want to explicitly encourage you to mod, and potentially damage, their gear. They want you to understand that, if you hack your instrument and break it, it’s your responsibility.

But they are doing what they can to be ‘hacker friendly’ and even showcase user mods. For instance, Korg has previously highlighted examples of users showing off their modified Monotrons:

What do you think of the approach that Korg is taking with devices like their recent analog devices? Is it important to you that gear is ‘mod-friendly’? And do you think other companies should follow suit?

35 thoughts on “Korg Volca Beats Design Offers Flexible Voicing, Easy Mods – If You Don’t Mind Voiding Your Warranty

    1. Yeah, even if it was left off by accident, no major company would ever admit it. That would be an unnecessary PR disaster, when they can just say that it was removed from the final design on purpose.

        1. Exactly Percivale. what else are they going to say…sorry the robot left the SMD off by mistake but we are not going to fix the problem with our customers? pffft. So what they ARE saying is that they had a spot there, positioned and labelled for a Capacitor, but they left if off because it makes the snare sound distorted and faulty….on purpose. whoever made that decision is a genius at Korg give the man a raise.

  1. I love that a company makes their gear open (to a point). Korg could go further and support the community by releasing detailed pin-outs, I/O specs, etc. Their new analog gear (monotrons, volcas) are amazing and cheap. So if you fry one, you aren’t out hundreds of dollars.

  2. I bet Korg loves all the free press they have got over the hacker friendly nature of the mono and volca lines. Yeah Korg’s official stance on modding is “What really? well that’s cool, but be careful”, but In a business sense, I think Korg has the right approach. Give the people who want to hack/mod the tool but taking a step back so they don’t get slammed with people who spend money fuck it up and then complain.

    1. Translates as – we said nothing, and seem to have gotten away with it, and we’re not about to recall tens of thousands of Volcas, what would the shareholders think? But now that its been spotted, we can claim we liked the idea so decided to use it from serial number ****** forwards.

      1. The idea that Korg needs ‘get away with it’ is ludicrous.

        This is undeniably the instrument that they decided to ship, and it sounds great with or without mods. And nobody ships thousands of instruments by accident.

        Maybe the way to go would be to put a toggle switch on the mod so you could get the best of both worlds?

        1. They also decided to ship hundreds of defective Kronos 73/88 with malfunctioning RH3 keybeds. I will never forgive them for that. Cost me months waiting for repairs and replacements. One lost customer who will never buy anything from them again. 🙁
          I think there is something very wrong with Korg. I am not surprised they now cover up their faulty machines with lies about it being designed this way.

    2. Translation: we would have to recall Tens of thousands of Volca Beats. what would the shareholders say…bugger that….deny deny deny, even in the face of solid evidence.

      Most reviews of the Volca Beats say “great little unit, awsome kick drum, great price…The snare?…meh….but its still a great unit”. Since when did someone plonking down their money to buy a piece of gear translate into “i think every single sound in it sounds great!”. pfft.

  3. I don’t believe this. But I don’t blame korg for not admitting it, what else can they do? When I hear the before and after, I hear broken – no broken.

    I find it hard to believe they would design a very nice snare and then choose to disimprove it by removing a resistor. The very fact that the space for the resistor exists proves it was designed into it in the first place.

    I also think the fact that they have now said they find this mod interesting gives them lisence to include it in future updates and say they simply liked the mod.

    Either way, doing this mod is a no-brainer, other than the warranty issue of course!

  4. I don’t know… If it were me, I would also be tempted to leave the snare as is. I don’t think its bad at all – it sounds like some of the more noise based snares on some old drum machines. I think korgs attitude is great. its annoying we live in a stupid world were a company can’t outright say “go for it!” without risking being sued, but ho hum.

  5. I still say the snare before the mod sounds like a mistake and after the mod sounds “correct”. Korg can call me if they want to discuss it any further. LOL!

    1. If you need to mod the snare that badly, buy a second Volca and do it. They’re cheap enough to be stocking stuffers. If you ever sat in on the final-design phase of any product or venture, you’d hear compromises addressed from many angles. Its never just “How much money can we make.” There are materials to gather, CAD/CAM things to finalize, honest tech doors to leave open for a bigger model if the first is a hit, etc. I snort at people’s complaints over this when you have near-endless options from a Volca to a Serge. You need a snappier snare? Wise up and run it through an EQ and an external envelope generator. Don’t criticize, synthesize.

  6. Who really cares? I’m glad we have a market that presents us with multiple choices, warts and all. The character of the instrument dictates what will be perceived as “correct” when used in context. If people want what they conceive of as perfection, they choose to go elsewhere.

    All of Korg’s promotional materiel used that snare and people bought it accordingly. It’s a non-debate. Korg is the first company of it’s size to be clear that the idea of modifications to Monotrons, Monotribes, Volcas, even the new MS 20 were possible. Of course they gently aided/encouraged such action as to generate dialog. Look at the kits they have made with Little Bits. I highly doubt that “empty” spot on the board was a mistake… it was probably more like a test, at the very least a carrot.

    I think it’s cool that a company puts the creates a product that is good enough to generate the kind of drive to explore and take some real risks with it. Not to mention enriching the community that chooses to share each others innovations. Does any other major company really do that now? Even accidentally or inadvertently?

    1. I love what Korg’s been doing recently with the analog gear, especially the Volca series. I’d really like to see a ‘Volca Pro’ line that incorporates some of the key mods out of the box and that offers a sequencer closer to the electribe series.

      Or an ‘analog electribe’! Take the EA-1, which is everybody’s least favorite Electribe, and redo it with analog voices.

        1. I know I’ll take some crap for this but I compared an EA-1 with my Roland SH-09 and for the most part I could get the EA-1 to sound like the SH at a lot of different settings. I listened through several different sound systems and headphones. Listening to the raw waveforms with no filtering or modulation there was no significant difference. I had a hard time believing it myself.

      1. the only other thing i can think of Huh is that Korg knows that its going to make the Volca Beats Pro, and then said at the last minute to manufacturing “break the Volca Beats snare a bit, otherwise it sounds too good and will leave no room for the Volca Pro line to sound like an upgrade…so designers, leave off C78, oh…and disable any swing or accent option in the firmware whilst youre at it. These things will still sell enough until our Volca Pro range is ready..

    2. I HAZ MONOTRON, too! I love doing squealy things with it. I just happen to not need a Volca. I’m sure a few originators of this general line have (hopefully) gotten some nice bonuses at Korg.

  7. It´s KORG getting ahead of the game again amigos!! “Give them what they want…but not everything,of course!! In the process let us separate “DIY”ers from “diapers”, and shape the better things to come 🙂 ” It´s called “joining useful to agreeable”…and i loooooovit!!

    1. In what way is producing low frequency range electronic circutry “getting ahead of the game”?
      If they would produce an analog synth with nanotech so you could have a single eurorack module with 256 stable analog voices, then I would call it a breakthrough. Is is old tech sold again and again to the fanboys.
      It´s called “riding the gravy train” in english I think!?

  8. I think korg have a real interest in growing more sound engineers and hackers, partly because there’s a market but also because an increased level of creativity in this field could lead to some real breakthroughs and korg might find themselves able to hire the next bob moog of synthesis.

  9. I’m with Darren on this. The evidence he uncovered is quite clear, and the before and after sound is so obviously better. I still haven’t modded mine. (Darren, i read through the thread on gearsluts, and i now know what to get and where to put it, and to make sure i use a smaller 15v soldering iron, but i don’t trust myself to do it right, it’s such a damn small area…but thanks for the info. I really really want to do it, but if i fuck it up i’ll never forgive myself…)

    1. The snare does sound better after the mod, but after doing it I find it way harder to get good results using the snare with the stutter. This is fine for me, and I could just be trippin. Something worth investigating for anyone who is in a position to do an A/B comparison to confirm. I dunno. Maybe a reason why Korg would leave it out.

  10. Korg understands, that most musicians want to experiment and they give them all options to do so. Their devices are cool for musicians and also for people who like to do modifications on electronics for fun. Most importantly, Korg makes gear which people can have a lot of fun with. I think fun is the essence why most people make music, and Korg understands this really well.

    Also, people are sick of technical restrictions companies add to their products, like stupid simlocked cellphones, DRM or the provisioning hassle for mobile apps. It is refreshing, that Korg is providing some gear people can easily be really creative with.

    1. Good point. I had to watch the video a couple of times because it is out of sync with the audio. When the demoer started tweaking the snare sound I got confused when he turned the pitch knob and the decay changed :D. The snare is different though.

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