Korg Volca Modular – A Battery-Powered West Coast Modular Synthesizer

Ahead of the 2019 NAMM Show, Korg has officially introduced the volca modular – a powerful mini-modular, featuring eight modules, 50 patch points, a step sequencer, microtonal support and more.

Korg describes the volca modular as ‘A fusion of West Coast style in a volca format’.

Here’s what they have to say about it:

Synthesizers of the “West Coast style” evolved in a uniquely different direction from such musical developments. Pursuing the freedom that is inherent to electronic musical instruments, these were based on oscillators such as FM modulation which generated numerous overtones, and used random and complex control signals and low-pass gate circuits to vary tonal character and volume, so that slight movement of a knob might dramatically transform the sound. While their potential was acknowledged, the resulting sound and its changes were difficult to predict, causing these synths to be used in a more experimental capacity.

For these reasons, hardware products of this style have been few in number. However, recent years have seen the popularity of modular synths such as Eurorack, as well as DAW plugin instruments that resurrect classic bygone synths of the past. This world-wide movement toward embracing interesting sounds has received renewed attention, spurring a new look at the sounds of this style.

Starting from analog, and freely taking in all elements including FM and PCM, the volca series has also focused on this trend. And now, this distinctive “West Coast style” sound has been added to the KORG volca series.

The Korg volca modular features 8 modules:

  • SOURCE: This consists of a triangle VCO carrier and a modulator. The complex overtones generated by FM modulation are sent through a wave folder circuit to add additional overtones, producing a distinctive sound. This module is important in determining the basic character of the sound of volca modular.
  • FUNCTIONS: This section consists of two function (envelope) generators. In addition to an ADH generator with attack, hold, and release, there’s a Rise-Fall generator, also known as a slope generator, which not only applies time-varying change to the sound but also lets you patch the end trigger out back into the trigger in as a loop, making it usable as a VCO or LFO.
  • WOGGLE: This is a random signal generator containing a sample & hold circuit that uses pink noise as its source. Two outputs are provided, allowing it to output either stepped or smooth random noise.
  • SPLIT: This module distributes one input to two outputs. It can also be used in the reverse direction, combining two control or audio signals into one.
  • DUAL LPG: This consists of two low-pass gate circuits. Typical of the West Coast style of synthesis, the module packages a filter with an amp, allowing the brightness and volume of the sound to vary together.
  • UTILITY: This is a mixing scaling module that combines two signals in various ways. It can mix not only audio signals but also control signals, as well as inverting or attenuating those signals.
  • SPACE OUT: This is a stereo module that applies a reverb-like effect to the audio signal.
  • SEQUENCES: This module is for connecting to the internal sequencer. You can set the tempo, and select different rhythm divisions to output via the gate counter.

Other features include microtonal support, randomization and support for CV control.

Korg Volca Modular Video Intro:

Audio Demos:

Pricing and Availability

The volca modular will be available in early 2019, priced at $199.99. See the Korg site for more info.

39 thoughts on “Korg Volca Modular – A Battery-Powered West Coast Modular Synthesizer

  1. nice Volca Modular – mix that with a 0-Coast (and 12V batt) and a Korg Monotron Delay (fx), Kaossilator2 (beats) and watch out… mobile power 🙂

  2. Would be interesting to see video footage of how they patched the audio demos. That would make for a good tutorial and product overview.

      1. Great! But something is bothering me. In the Vibrato example, the way the sound decays doesn’t sound like just a LPG to me, although it sounds really nice. Is it because the user is manually turning an FM knob or something?

  3. Hmm. To be honest I don’t really like the sound (I think because of the triangle VCO) but so what, it’s an amazing achievement and they should sell bucketloads and get rich because they deserve it. I ‘don’t like it’ in the same way that I don’t like a banjo compared to a guitar, but it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the banjo. The mere fact that this exists makes me very happy, the fact that it exists for $200 makes me ecstatic because it’s going to spur a lot of other people to push their envelopes.

  4. Well done regarding features in such a small format. Full of possibilities.
    But the sound… Everything sounds like it’s over saturated, LPGs sound harsh and fast, far from Buchla style bongos.
    I thought I would buy it right away, now that I’ve heard it I won’t.

    1. I wonder how they implemented the LPGs. I have LPG modules from Metasonix and Synthrotek, and each of the channels has a different character. I am glad that Korg designed in 1V/oct input, though.

      The one thing that the demos show is what I want: that every manufacturer should play JS Bach’s Sinfonia from Cantata #29 on each new instrument. Want to strut your stuff? Play a tune.

  5. When Korg makes real modules, I’ll be more interested. Buy a used iPad for $250 or one on sale, and put Gadget on there or Ripplemaker and other Bram Bos apps, and do 10x more.

    1. Yes, you can do 10x more things. But it won’t sound the same, it won’t have that hands-on feeling, you won’t have the same level of hands-on control, and your overall sense of achievement may well be less.

  6. I liked the sound. It did have the west coast vibe and that’s pretty neat for $199.
    I’m very interested

    I mean look at it… it’s fricking badassssssss cool!!!!

  7. As someone said about the Volca Drum, I’ll say about this, the Korg Modular may well be my first Volca. I love that there are 50 patch points. Wow! I also love that they borrowed the same color scheme from the Buchla Easel for the keyboard area – definitely a nod to the pioneer of West Coast style. The sound demos sound ok so far and nothing too unique, but should make for a fun instrument to play with.

  8. Korg needs to update the 3 original Volcas to include “Global System Parameter” #8 which is for the “Sync input/output unit”. This would allow the entire collection of Volcas to sync to “Once a step” (or 4 PPQN). The added bonus is that when the Volca Drum, Volca Kick, or Volca Sample is used as the master clock, the swing settings will extend to all Volcas in the chain.

  9. How many people have listened to the demo tracks versus falling in love with the visual design? I hear very little that sounds musically usable or interesting. The new drum volca sounds more production capable.

  10. i found the sound examples rather surprisingly good for a 200 bucks vhs casette. for this u get just 2 2hp modules otherwise which have the same cheap haptics. Im much more concerned about the tiny patch cables. how long will those last? and is it really fun to use them. is it maby more fun to use a mouse and a vcv rack and save 200 bucks? If you wanna go cheap, then go free.

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