Korg KAOSS Pad

Korg KAOSS Pad

Donald Bell Senior Editor / How To
Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.
Donald Bell
3 min read
Korg Mini Kaoss Pad

The Korg Mini Kaoss Pad is a music remix tool designed with musicians in mind, but it can be used by anyone looking for a fun, hands-on way to manipulate and add effects to audio. The original Kaoss Pad was created in 1999 and has been a mainstay of DJs and electronic musicians ever since. The Mini edition of the Kaoss Pad--which will set you back $200--is the first in the series to be entirely battery-powered and small enough to fit in your pocket. Unlike its big brother, the Kaoss Pad 3, the Mini Kaoss Pad is stripped down to its bare essentials--100 preset audio effects, RCA line in/out, a headphone jack, and the touch pad.

What does it do?
The Korg Mini Kaoss Pad is a fun and addictive way to manipulate and add effects to music. By wiring an audio source into the Korg Mini Kaoss Pad and then out to your receiver or headphones, you can use the Kaoss Pad's touch pad surface to apply and control special effects to your music. The effects range from the mundane to the bizarre, with names like Pitch Shifter & Delay, Morphing Filter, Slicer, Dub Echo, Vinyl Looper, and Broken Modulation.

Why would I possibly want this?
This is not a sound enhancer like the Creative Xmod or a high-fidelity equalization tool--this is a fun device for people who enjoy screwing around with sound. It turns the otherwise passive act of listening to music into an interactive experience, allowing you to squish, reverse, distort, and filter music simply by scribbling your finger across the touch pad. The Mini Kaoss Pad is pretty expensive for an audio novelty, but for those who have longed to apply real-time reverse turntable spins to audio from a television, video game system, or party mix, the price may be well worth it.

Running an MP3 player through Korg's Mini Kaoss Pad is simple, and the results are addictive.

How does it work?
Audio sources connected to the Mini Kaoss Pad will play though to your headphones or receiver completely unaffected until you place your finger on the device's touch pad. Using the coin-sized scroll wheel above the touch pad, you can choose from one of the 100 effect presets, which display as a number on the LED display to the left of the scroll wheel (a list of what each effect does is included in the manual). Once you've found the effect you like, you can then move your finger across the touch pad to control the effect.

Just as the touch pad on your computer gives you control of two parameters (up/down, left/right), the touch pad on the Mini Kaoss Pad controls two parameters, which change depending on what effect you've chosen. For instance, on a delay effect, moving your finger horizontally will control the length of the delay, while moving vertically will control the intensity of the effect. Whether you read the manual or not, the gist of each effect can be determined within seconds of touching the surface and moving your finger around. If you find an effect you're particularly fond of, you can store it using one of two memory recall buttons located to the right of the scroll wheel, giving you quick access to any two of your favorite effects. A Tap Tempo button, also located to the right of the scroll wheel, lets you manually tap in a song's tempo as it plays so effects will stay in sync with your music.

We think the Mini Kaoss Pad is a fun product. It is pricey at just less than $200, but to its credit it has the solid feel of a pro-audio device built for musicians (which it is). The four AA batteries that power this little beast make it extremely portable and an option to power it from an external wall adapter means it can be left powered on as part of your home stereo system as well.

What does it sound like?
To better understand how this product manipulates audio, here are some recordings we made using the Mini Kaoss Pad to apply effects to a dry drum loop playing from an Apple iPod.

  • The drum loop with no effects (MP3)
  • The drum loop run through the Mini Kaoss Pad's "Smooth Delay" (MP3)
  • The drum loop run through the Mini Kaoss Pad's "Vinyl Looper" (MP3)