The Korg Volca Bass is a fully analog mono synth that boasts a pretty impressive sound characteristic considering it’s diminutive size and budget pricing. For $150, musicians get a surprising amount of power and control from a portable 8x5 inch box. While the Volca series is definitely aimed at producers just getting in to outboard gear, at this price, the Volca Bass exceeds its duties and could be useful to any level of producer.
Yes, this synth is tiny and lightweight - Korg definitely had portability in mind here. The speaker on the bottom of the synth, however, is not really up to the task of letting you fully hear what the bass machine is doing. Just because you can play on the go doesn’t mean that this synth can’t shine in the studio. The Volca Bass has some serious grit and character.
At first glance, the Volca Bass seems to be a fairly limited machine; the three analog oscillators generate only square or saw waves, and you can only play monophonically here. However, Korg has included some features that make it possible to make a pretty wide range of sounds and even play chords. By detuning one or two of the oscillators you can create a width and warble to your bass tones that is super satisfying to record with. Korg didn’t stop with giving you the ability to detune each oscillator, however. It is also possible to pitch each oscillator up or down by half steps up to a full octave. This allows you to create a sub-bass layer a full octave below the other notes or even dial up a triad chord. Producers of dub and house music will enjoy setting up a minor chord and running the output through delay and reverb effects.
The sound here is unmistakably analog. The oscillators sound wonderfully full and deep. The filter is impressive as well, and cranking the resonance (peak knob) will send the circuit into screaming feedback. The 16-step sequencer is easy to program your sounds into either in step mode or live looping.
While the Volca Bass sounds great on its own right, those seeking a close emulation of the classic Roland TB-303 may want to look elsewhere. The Slide feature does allow you to add a gliding portamento to your bassline, but it’s nowhere near the same sound you get from a squelching TB-303. Roland’s new TB-03 will cost you about twice as much, but will get you much closer to that iconic acid sound.
The Volca bass uses 1/8th inch cables to sync MIDI to other Volca units and also for the single stereo output. Users may want to buy an AC adapter, as Volcas use six AA batteries.
All told, the Volca Bass is an incredible value considering it’s full analog circuitry, massive sound, and features. However, those looking for a 303 clone will want to look elsewhere.
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