Accessories for synths and synthesists
Accessories for synths and synthesists
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Volca Guide

In early 2013, Korg announced their Volca line. KVgear was founded a couple of months later, introducing our first Volca stand at Knobcon 2013 and a daisy chain cable shortly afterward. Since then we've rolled out dozens of stands and power accessories for Volcas and other small synths. All of these can be shipped worldwide. We’ve compiled the following information as part of our long history of supporting the Volca community. Contact us if you’d like to suggest additional content.

Models

Model Year Synthesis Output
Bass 2013 Analog Mono*
Beats 2013 Analog + PCM Mono*
Keys 2013 Analog Mono*
Sample 2014 PCM sample Stereo (panning of mono samples)
FM 2016 6 op FM Stereo (chorus on mono voice)
Kick  2016 Analog Mono*
Mix 2018 (none) Stereo
Drum 2019 Digital DSP Stereo (panning of drum parts)
nubass 2019 Analog Mono*
Modular 2019 Analog Mono*
Sample 2 2020 PCM Sample Stereo (panning of mono samples)

* Mono signal is duplicated in phase on left and right headphone channels.

Power

All Volcas except the Mix can be powered by 6 AA batteries or an external power adapter. The Mix can only be powered by an external power adapter.

By default, Volcas are set to use alkaline batteries. If you're using rechargeable nickel-metal hydride (NiMh) batteries, change the battery type setting in the global parameters for your Volca.

Power Adapter

A Volca power adapter should be 9 volts DC, center positive, with a 4.75 mm x 1.7 mm barrel plug per the EIAJ-03 standard. The KVgear PA-2pro and PS-1, and Korg KA-350 and 9V600MACPP are among the few power adapters that meet all of these requirements.

Many power adapter companies ignore the standard by using a smaller (4.0 x 1.7) barrel plug. They get away with this because the power input jack on a Volca can accept an undersized plug. While this shortcut improves the profit margin of the company selling the power adapter, it could potentially be a problem for consumers because an undersized barrel plug on a power adapter cannot be used with Volca daisy chain cables.

Another consideration is the physical size and layout of a power adapter. Ideally, a power adapter should be polite enough to occupy only a single spot on a power strip or wall outlet. But good manners are rare in the world of power adapters. Many adapters hog a total of 2 or 3 spots on a power strip. Other have right angle bodies that usually occupy only a single spot, but even this type can block additional sockets on some power strips. Thankfully, two power adapters are available which have a short AC cord and only occupy a single outlet under all conditions: the KVgear PA2pro and the Korg 9V600MACPP.

Current Capacity

The current rating on a power adapter describes the amount that it can provide if gear demands it. Think of current as being “pulled’ from the power adapter by the Volca. The power adapter does not “push” current to the Volca. For this reason it’s ok to use a power adapter with a high current rating. When using a daisy chain cable you should look for a power adapter with a high current rating to ensure that it has enough power for several Volcas.

Daisy Chain Cable

Power adapters can be expensive and occupy a lot of space on AC power strips. Many people don’t want to purchase a separate power adapter for each Volca. Instead, they use a daisy chain cable (daisy chain splitter, power splitter cable, squid, multi-adapter, or multi-plug cable) to power several Volcas from a single power adapter.

If you’re looking for a daisy chain cable, we recommend, naturally, our KVgear DC-5.

Guitar Pedalboard Power Supply

Another option is to use a multi-port “power brick” with isolated 9 V power outputs. One example is the MXR M239 Mini Iso-Brick with 5 outputs. Because polarity is generally center negative on a pedalboard power supply, Volca owners must use an adapter cable that switches polarity and has the correct plugs on each end. The KVgear CBL-FX cable is made for this purpose.



Korg Volca Mix and KVgear Vixen Power Hubs

The Korg Mix and KVgear Vixen (discontinued) have daisy chain power hubs. Cables must have 4.75 x 1.7 plugs on each end. The KVgear CBL-VV cable is designed for this purpose and it's longer than the ones provided with the Mix.

Ground Loop Hum

Ground loop hum can sound like a faint train horn, a buzz, or slowly alternating random tones. It can occur any time multiple pieces of electronic music gear are connected by electrically conductive cables. All types of conductive cables can contribute to ground loop hum, including power, audio, MIDI, sync and USB. The cables do not generate noise. But they provide a pathway for different ground (or neutral) voltages to interact, resulting in audible noise being generated within one or more pieces of gear. USB cables tend to be among the worst offenders. Daisy chain power cables can also allow ground loop hum to occur.

In a Volca setup using a daisy chain power cable, the easiest solution is to place an audio isolator cable inline with the audio cable on whichever Volca is experiencing the noise. In our experience, if you are powering 3 to 5 Volcas on a daisy chain cable, you might need a single audio isolator cable, although it’s possible you could need 2; or you might need zero if you're lucky. There are many audio isolator cables on the market. We have used the PAC SNI-1/3.5 and Mpow Ground Loop Noise Isolator with great success. We have no connection with either of these companies. We're just recommending what we know will work at a reasonable price.

     

If you're using USB power or if you have an audio interface connected to your system, you might need to use a USB audio isolator. There are many on the market. If using USB power, make sure that the USB audio isolator can provide enough power for your devices. The pictures below show typical USB audio isolators.
 

Audio Cables

Short answer -- Use any of the following:

3.5 mm stereo (TRS) to 3.5 mm stereo (TRS)
3.5 mm stereo (TRS) to 1/4" stereo (TRS)
3.5 mm stereo (TRS) to dual 1/4" mono (TS)

To minimize mechanical strain on the Volca headphone jack, it's recommended that you do not use a 1/4" cable plugged into a 3.5 mm adapter. Instead, use a 3.5 mm cable and plug it directly into the Volca headphone jack.

Korg recommends that only stereo (TRS) cables should be used for Volca audio output, even on mono Volcas. This applies even if you're plugging the stereo cable into a mono input on a mixer. There's no harm in this because a mono jack in a mixer does not make use of the duplicate mono signal on the other side of the stereo connection.

A 3.5 mm stereo (TRS) to dual 1/4" mono (TS) cable is a valid option. If used with a stereo Volca, both mono 1/4" plugs should be connected to inputs on a mixer or audio interface. If used with mono Volcas, the two 1/4" mono plugs will carry the same signal and you only need to plug in one of the 1/4" plugs; you can leave the other 1/4" mono plug hanging loose (not connected) or you can plug it into a different device (audio interface or an effects pedal).

A 3.5 mm stereo (TRS) to 1/4" mono (TS) adapter should NOT be used when plugging into an UNBALANCED input. However, this type of cable SHOULD be used if you are plugging into a BALANCED input. This is because balanced and unbalanced equipment have different electrical paths for the three signals coming out of a Volca (left, right, neutral). Be aware that connecting a Volca to a balanced input can sometimes cause problems with sync. If sync problems occur, carefully check all cables (audio and sync) to ensure that they are the correct type. 

Sync Cables

Short answer: Use 3.5 mm cables for sync. Mono (TS) is highly recommended, but stereo (TRS) can be used.*

*NOTE: Korg consistently states that sync cables must be 3.5 mm mono (TS) even though they shipped early Volcas and the Mix with TRS (stereo) sync cables. Some users report sync problems when using mono sync cables, especially when using mono audio cables (mono audio cables are NOT recommended). But this type of problem is not widespread. If you experience timing issues or glitches, make sure that your audio cables are stereo and then carefully go through the global parameters on all your Volcas to ensure that sync polarity is set up properly across all devices. If sync problems persist, remove all audio output cables and continue troubleshooting.

Volcas will share the same tempo if you connect them with sync cables. Plug one end of a sync cable into the OUT jack of a Volca and into the IN jack of another Volca. Continue to connect sync cables to the OUT and IN jacks on other Volcas. The first Volca in the chain will be in control of the tempo for all. You can start and stop the sequencers on each Volca independently, but they'll all be on the same beat.

There's a hack to allow all synced Volcas to receive a start signal at the same time. On the master Volca (the one at the start of the sync chain), plug one end of a sync cable into the IN jack and leave the other end of the cable unplugged. Press PLAY on each of the Volcas. When you pull out the extra sync cable from the master Volca, all Volcas will instantly start playing at the same time. All Volcas will stop at the same time when you plug the loose cable back into the IN jack on the master Volca. If any notes continue to play on any of the Volcas, hit the PLAY button on that Volca to stop the sound.

3.5 mm mono (TS) cables are easy to find at nearly any place that sells audio cables. If you're fond of rainbow colors, consider the Korg SQ-CABLE-6 sync cable (pack of 6).

MIDI

All Volcas include a MIDI in port to allow you to control it with another synth, drum machine, sequencer or MIDI controller.

MIDI Out Mod

Although Volcas do not include built-in MIDI out jacks, Korg included the necessary contact points on the PCB, including markings to clearly indicate their purpose. You can add a MIDI out jack by following DIY instructions or by buying a kit. Most MIDI Out modifications require soldering, but there are some products that do not require any soldering. Be warned that if you modify your Volca you will most likely void your warranty with Korg.

DIY Instructions (text, photos and videos) from Marcus Hamblett for installing MIDI Out jack on top panel.

Shock Electronics kit for adding MIDI Out jack to rear wall of housing.

Amazing Machines kit for adding MIDI Out jack to rear wall of housing.

USBtribe Kit for adding TRS MIDI Out jack to rear wall of housing. Includes TRS to 5-pin DIN cable. NO SOLDERING REQUIRED.

DIY instructions from Eunjae Im for installing TRS jack on rear wall of housing for MIDI Out.

MIDI Cables

Any standard MIDI cable can be used with Volcas.

MIDI Setup

Korg Volca MIDI Implementation Chart

MIDI Hub

MIDI Solutions Quadra Thru

Motu MIDI Timepiece

Caution: Users report mixed results (some bad, some good) with MIDI 4x4 USB MIDI hubs sold on Amazon

Patch Editor (via MIDI)

Unofficial software has been created by users to allow for adjustment of patch parameter over MIDI,

https://korg-volca-keys-editor.jimdofree.com/

https://synthmata.com/volca-drum/

Firmware Modifications

All Volcas use firmware to control their digital functions. If you're feeling adventurous you can install third-party firmware in your Volca Sample or Volca FM to add extra features. But do so at your own risk. If you damage your Volca in the process you will void your warranty. With that very real disclaimer out of the way, check out the following:

Pajen Unofficial Firmware Information and Links at Reddit
Pajen Unofficial Firmware Description at Synth Anatomy
Pajen Unofficial Firmware Description and Links by Ranzee
Pajen Unofficial Firmware Announcement at Gearslutz (page 21)

Hardware Modifications

See below for a few DIY hardware modifications you can make on Volcas.  Elsewhere in this guide are links to MIDI-out mods for all Volcas.

Beats: Snare Mod

The analog snare sound on the Volca Beats can be made to sound more snappy by making simple changes.  There are multiple versions of this mod.  

Volca Beats snare mod (by Darren Glen, AKA Blackout)

Gearspace discussion about Volca Beats snare mod

Muffwiggler discussion about Volca Beats snare mod

Volca Beat snare mod (by Mark Steiner)

Beats:  PCM, Kick and Toms Mods

Darren Glen (username Blackout on Gearspace) has created three mods for the Volca Beats to modify the PCB sounds, kick, and toms.

Beats:  Individual Outputs

Each drum sound on a Volca Beats can be given its own individual output jack.

Volca Beats individual-outs mod (by ArvidJense)

Improvement on ArvidJense mod using different snare output (by 2btech)

Beats:  Eurorack Integration

A Volca Beats can be fully integrated into a Eurorack system by removing its plastic housing and making some modifications.

Mixers

To bring the sound of multiple Volcas together you'll need some sort of mixer. Options range from a simple headphone splitter on up to a pro-quality mixer. Each option has benefits and drawbacks. We'll examine them below in order of cost.

Headphone Splitter

Some people use a headphone splitter, such as a Belkin Rockstar, to combine multiple Volca outputs to a single stereo output. While many people swear by this incredibly inexpensive approach, there are some who warn against it due to the possibility that impedance mismatch could damage the Volcas. When impedance mismatch occurs, the output of one device is fed into the output of another device, potentially resulting in permanent damage to one of the devices. Headphone splitters are not designed to act as passive mixers, and the outputs of Volcas are not designed to receive the signals from other Volcas. The safest approach is to avoid misusing a headphone splitter. Instead, buy a passive mixer if you want to go the inexpensive and compact route, or an active (powered) mixer if you have the space and money.

Pros:

  • Very inexpensive, very compact

Cons:

  • Potential damage to Volcas due to impedance mismatch.
  • Loss of volume
  • Can cause sync problems, especially at high volume

Passive Mixer

A passive mixer is an unpowered device that can safely combine signals due to resistors in the circuit. This makes a passive mixer a step up in safety and price from a headphone splitter. A passive mixer can be as simple as a DIY circuit board with resistors and audio jacks, on up to a device with a metal housing and faders. But be aware that a passive mixer can only attenuate (reduce) volume, not amplify it. Because there are dozens of passive mixers on the market, you should be able to find one that has the right number of channels, jack size and type, controls, and physical size to meet your needs.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive, compact

Cons:

  • Loss of volume
  • Can cause sync problems, especially at high volume

Compact Mixer

In recent years a number of small mixers have become available. They have a wide range of features and prices, and varying levels of quality. A few notable ones are listed below.

KVgear Vixen
  • Pros: 8 channels, mutes, panning, 2 aux sends, separate phones and main outs, power for 8 Volcas, battery powered, same size as Volca
  • Cons: no longer available
Korg Volca Mix
  • Pros: can power Volcas, same size as a Volca
  • Cons: only 3 channels, not battery powered
Bastl Dude:
  • Pros: small, battery powered
  • Cons: limited features
Maker Hart Loop Mixer
  • Pros: inexpensive, pan controls
  • Cons: limited features, noise
1010music Bluebox Compact Mixer and Recorder
  • Pros: 6 stereo inputs, per channel FX and EQ, global compression, MIDI sync, records onto microSD card
  • Cons: expensive; menu diving
                     

Large Format Mixer

Traditional mixers commonly found in home studios and touring rigs can offer a lot of features. There are too many mixers to list them all. A few that are popular with Volca users are: Behringer Micromix MX400, Mackie Mix8, Behringer Xenyx 1002B, Soundcraft Notepad (-5, -8FX, -12FX versions).

Stands & Racks

Volca users are spoiled for choice when it comes to stands and racks. There are dozens of options ranging from 3D printed, to metal, to wood, to precision plastic. There are even clever DIY designs that use cardboard. But buyer beware! Quality, sturdiness, appearance and price vary widely. When shopping for a Volca stand, pay attention to the materials used, especially in the pieces that connect the side panels together. Is the stand designed to prevent structural failure? (Screwing into the edge of an MDF panel can easily lead to failure.) Is the stand freestanding (or does it squeeze the Volcas for stability)? Can it be assembled/disassembled without tools? Is the stand able to resist falling backwards or wobbling side-to-side when the Volcas are played? Is there room for cable routing? Can the stand be expanded or added to?

See our collection of professional quality Volca stands from KVgear that answer "yes" to all of the above questions.  See below for a summary of our Volca stands.

Single-Wide
  • Boo-1, -2, -3  >>>  sleek, solid, unobtrusive, staggered (stair step) tiers for touch strip access
  • Volc 45-2, -3, -4  >>>  sleek, solid, unobtrusive, economical
  • Captive V2, V3, V4  >>>  secure, flippable
Double-Wide
Any of the above stands can be converted to double-wide, allowing 2 Volcas to sit side by side on each tier of the stand. The double-wide option is achieved by upgrading to long telescoping tubes and adding Volca Trays.

Euorack Mounting of Volcas

Check out our Volca Eurorack Mounting Kit for a super easy way of mounting a Volca into a Eurorack case.

Cases & Covers

Soft Cases

Hard Cases

Covers

Troubleshooting

If your Volca appears to be malfunctioning or acting strangely, you can reflash the panel processor, which is done by holding REC and MEM while starting the Volca. (Thanks to Pajen for the tip!)

Further Information

Volca groups on Facebook

Korg Volca Expert Guides by Tony Horgan

Volca Fan Art by Henry Kalenius

Volca Jam (monthly jam contest)

Reddit Volcas group

Tutorials, Tips, Trick by Filipe Teixeira

Volca Series Buying Guide on Reverb