Korg’s excursions into the dj equipment market seem to be ever increasing, with a handful of interesting products all pushing through this year. The Kaoss pad mechanism of control is a core part and platform of this line-up, as it features in a number of their recent and forthcoming products.
The KP3 is billed as a “dynamic effect / sampler” – something lost in translation perhaps? Essentially it builds on the Kaoss line-up by adding a bit more power and control with respect to the sampling facilities and a load of new effects presets (now at 128 total).
The new futuristic styling looks impressive and the visual impact of the constantly changing red backlights is somewhere between Tetris and Knight-Rider.
The KP3 controls are all positioned around the central touchpad, with program / memory buttons at the top, and some sampling / looping bank pads at the bottom. All of the buttons on the unit are of the soft rubberized style, which work well for when you need to whack them in time to your music. Along the left hand side are the input volume and FX depth control rotaries. Just below this are an FX release / level slider and an FX hold button. On the right hand side is the push button endless encoder which controls the program selection and also lets you dial in a BPM value.
There are ¼” headphone and microphone jack sockets on the front of the unit with associated volume / trim controls. There is also an SD Card slot hiding on the front too (more on that later).
The rear of the unit has line level phono RCA connections for the inputs and outputs, a USB port, MIDI in / out and a connection point for the external power supply.
Like the Mini-KP, the KP3 allows you to choose a ‘direct’ or ‘send’ connection mode – which dictates whether you want the KP3 to pass audio continuously (‘direct’) or not (‘send’). In ‘direct’ mode, the FX depth control will blend between wet and dry – whereas in ‘send’ mode it just seems to act as a wet level control (as you will presumably have a dry signal running through your mixer anyway).
The input volume control should allow most users to fit the KP3 into their set-up reasonably well, but it’s still not ideal. Although you could argue that it is the place of the mixer to have the necessary flexibility to integrate all effects boxes – I’d still like to see the effects box inputs and outputs with selectable nominal level settings and something more than just a PEAK led indicator.
The effects types cover so much ground it’s hard to put any kind of sensible description into words. Again, like the Mini-KP, many are permutations on a core theme. The cynics may cite quality vs. quantity style arguments, but I don’t think that is quite the case. It’s more that because of the simplicity of the Kaoss controls, many variants of an effect become a new program rather than an additional rotary / slider or suchlike. Again, it depends on the end-user. I suspect every dj in the world could find a handful of programs they really liked using, and I suspect Korg were thinking along those lines too.
There are a couple of neat additions to the general Kaoss control, though neither feels perfectly executed. There is a pad motion recorder function, which lets you ‘sample’ and replay your amazing pad movements. It will only record for a few seconds, but will let you play the action in reverse too. It automatically starts looping the moment you record your pad motion, which I found a bit annoying in some instances. There is also no clean way of erasing the recorded pad motion other than over-writing it. Practically this isn’t too bad, but means you may play a snippet of your previously recorded movement before you record your next one (if your co-ordination is poor - as mine is!).
There is also a controllable FX release setting available, which allows you to have a delay effect applied to your outgoing wet signal to give a smoother transition between wet and dry. This works o.k., although the ability to have an infinite recurring delay seems a bit dangerous to me. Also, the FX release principle doesn’t work for things where there is no real wet signal to delay out – such as a filter setting where you have high- or low-passed to no audio. You can probably manage situations like this with the depth control (or a wet/dry fader on your mixer if you are lucky)
Looping & Sampling
The KP3 looping paradigm is based on default beat amounts, with restrictions on the number of sampling beats allowed dependent on the current inputted tempo. For music above 74bpm this means you can have a maximum loop length of 16 beats / 4 bars on each bank (which by my calculations gives about 13 seconds max per bank). This is all well and good, but is heavily reliant on an accurate BPM reading for your current track, which the KP3 really doesn’t do a very good job at. The auto-BPM detection is very jittery, even on very simple 4/4 music. It is constantly fluctuating around +/- 1bpm, when it definitely shouldn’t be. I’m hoping this could be a peculiarity of the review unit.
You can, of course, manually tap in a BPM value – which yielded better results for me. It seems a shame that you can’t rely on the unit for this chore though. The KP3 does adjust the tempo / pitch of your loop if you change the BPM value though, which is pretty smart for when you want to match a stored loop up with a different tempo track. The other master stroke of the loop section is that you can slice the loop up by mapping it to the 8 program buttons and selecting which parts to slice out. This lets you create new rhythms really easily with fun results. You can shift the start point of the loop by +/- 1 beat and set an individual playback volume. You can also use the loop / sample banks to essentially capture the output of the KP3, allowing you to effectively bounce down other loops and effects to a new sample. Pretty cool.
SD Card Slot
The KP3 supports SD cards from 16mb-2gb in size, and allows you to save and load sample data and settings back and forth. The real power from this comes when you link it with the KP3 editor software (PC and Mac) and fill it full of perfectly edited samples and loops. The naming system and time limits make it a bit clunky, but it seems a big step up from your average dj effects unit.
Although I didn’t delve into the MIDI side of the unit, the KP3 can transmit and receive MIDI messages from most of its controls (also over USB too if desired). It can also accept MIDI time clock messages to set the BPM of the unit.
It’s hard to argue with the KP3 in what it delivers. It is totally hassle free and well thought out in most areas. I’d feel happier with some more professional input and outputs connections, level meters and settings, but this is not a big worry for the target market.
Like all effects boxes, the more you get to know it – the more rewarding it becomes. The real-time looping could be made a little smarter, but gives good results as it is. Overall, the combination of sampling and effects is a winner.
Build Quality - 9/10
Decent casing with good touchpad, button and slider action.
Sound Quality - 9/10
No apparent extra noise from the unit and good effects quality.
Features & Implementation - 9/10
Totally intuitive and some really clever features. Poor Auto-BPM detection.
Value For Money - 9/10
Effects, looping and sampling – what more does a dj want?
The Bottom Line
Easy, fun and powerful – a well judged product from Korg.