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short review: Korg KP3 Kaoss Pad

By the end of the 90ies, Korg created a revolution on the market for
electronic audio effects. Their KP1 didn't have the astonishing pitch
shifters or reverbs of some high-class effects, nor did it offer
never-seen-before modularity and huge number of parameters like the
well-known competitors. They also didn't knock us out with a price tag in
the $100 region for a 24/96 device, nor did they include state of the art
converters or whatnot.
You got some 60 effects presets, each of them had two parameters which 
be modified. No possibility to save user presets, and the sound quality was
rather poor. It did however have a different UI than all of the TCs or
Eventides or Lexicons. The Kaoss Pad's signature X-Y pad which blinked in
red when you moved your finger on it.
The package was rounded off with a mic and turntable in, and with its
tabletop package design, it really served the plug'n'play market, 
for DJs (and their wannabe brethren).

Great examples of its use include Radiohead's live renditions of 
in its right place", and I seem to remember one list member here had four 
these in his setup.

Some years later, Korg released the followup KP2, which had two sample lots
which could be used independently to the effects engine, and some of the
effects were now MIDI synced. And the audio quality was vastly improved.

Back in the day, I got myself a KP1, and it can be heard all over the early
Eclectic Blah work, as well as on the "Dem Andenken eines Engels" Album (on
"Epliogue", I play a duet with my guitar and the KP1s sample slot operated
with my toes). The KP2 had its debut on the "Neinnein auf dem kleinen Weg"
album (owners of that album might check out the tracks "A Hard Man's Cut"
and "Massive Retaliation"). I did back then decide to keep the KP1, simply
because some of its effect had such a "vintage digital" feel to them the 
simply couldn't (or didn't want to) reach.

Last year, the KP3 was released, and this time, the KP2 wasn't 
I had to get one sooner or later.

The most important changes: four independent sample slots (each a maximum 
16 beats at 74bpm long), where you can select each 2-beat-slice
independently. A resample function. A SD card slot for storing the samples,
plus USB connectivity. Improved configurability for using the KP3 as a MIDI
controller. About all effects are now MIDI-synced. And finally, it looks
much cooler than before, not only because of the all-black housing, but 
because of the improved touchpad (which now displays funny running patterns
when not in use) and three-color LEDs on the sample buttons.

On to a first test drive (just got it today). I put it at the end of my
microrig (guitar->Zoom G2.1u->Boss DD20).

I'd call the effect quality "sufficient for the application". As expected,
the ultra-dirty filter and distortion effects from the KP1 haven't 
but the list of effects is complemented by some nice strange
panning-delay-formant-filters, interesting lo-fi stuff and combinations. As
with the KP2, you get some stupid synth voices and a few basic drum
And now you have the possibility to record finger movements on the pad and
then play them back. Another cool new functionality is that when you remove
your fingers from the pad, the effect in action is not just turned off, it
is faded out in a cool delay fashion.

The funny part, however, and the part where the biggest change has 
is the sampling functionality. It has turned the Kaoss pad into a 
phrase sampler with effects and resample functionality. As to the important
question "Is it a looper"? According to the LD definition, "a Real-Time
Looper must be able to sample audio and loop it on the fly, and allow the
user to sample new material while the current loop is playing". This can be

First you have to set your bpm rate (everything is bpm-based here, and I
guess it will help if you use a looper which sends a MIDI clock). Then you
hit "Sample" and set your sample length as 2, 4, 8 or 16 beats (below 73
bpm, only 8 beats, below 36 bpm, only 4 beats). Hit one of the four sample
buttons, and the thing starts recording from the input (line or mic). After
the preset beat length has passed, it will switch to loop playback, which
can be stopped and re-engaged by pressing the sample button again. If you
hit the sample button again before the loop has finished recording, the
sample is automatically saved as a one-shot sample.
You can move into a non-destructive sample edit mode, where you can move 
starting point by multiples of 1/32nd of a beat (or 1/128th in musical
notation) for +/-1 beat. And you can select which of the total of eight
slices of the sample you want to play and which you don't want to.
Unfortunately, moving into edit mode will stop all other samples from
playback as well as the effects engine.
There is a resample mode, where the sampler takes the output of the KP3 as
its input - and this allows for true overdubbing.
Changing the bpm setting will pitch the samples already in memory - the bpm
range goes from 20 to 300, btw.

So how does it work as part of a looping setup? The answer: it depends on
what you already have and what you want to do. In my setup (or in any setup
with a simple one-track looper), the possibility of having four independent
tracks to which I can copy loops which I record in the DD20 is
awesome...plus the feature of artifact-free varispeeding. Add to that the
choice of performance-oriented effects and the cool looks, and throw in the
option to use prerecorded sample loops (e.g. to give you some drum grooves
from which you can select specific slices), and you really got a thing here
to turn your medidative small guitar looping setup into some electronic
dance-infected thing - or to extend your one-person-ensemble setup hindered
by the restrictions of the one-track looper into a four-piece combo. With a
price tag between the RC50 and the EH 2880, you get less looping than with
those - but far more effects and show!