Korg Volca Keys MIDI Out Mod


Recently I have been looking for a way to sync the Novation Bass Station II (BSII) and the Korg Volca Keys. So what’s the problem? They do not communicate without a third party. As the firmware stands on the BSII, MIDI clock is not sent via the MIDI out port. The BSII cannot be used as a master clock to sync other devices. Fortunately it can receive MIDI clock, but unfortunately the Volcas only have MIDI in. The Volcas have gate clock out, but the BSII doesn’t do gate or CV.

This is particularly frustrating because I bought both synths for an upcoming project and would like them to play well together. To get around this I have been using a third device to send MIDI clock to a thru box then taking outs from the thru to the Volca Keys and BSII. This creates a mess of, what should be unnecessary, cables and power supplies. The upcoming project involves travel and requires battery operation in remote locations without power, so this work-around is not acceptable.

My next thought was to build a MIDI clock box. There are a few examples on the market, but they can be expensive (except for this one). Fortunately DIY solutions, like the Arduino, are fairly easy to build. Another way is to use the Highly Liquid MIDI CPU. Sending the MIDI CPU a signal from a circuit with a 555 timer chip controlled by a potentiometer is a great solution. Using this technique I was able to sync the BSII from a test gate signal. I may finish building this anyway because I have all the parts and it’s an interesting project.

However, the ideal solution would be for these instruments to communicate without additional hardware. Novation has said that they might enable MIDI clock out on the BSII in a firmware update. This remains to be seen, so I can’t get my hopes up. As it turns out Korg, like with the Monotribe and Monotrons, made the Volcas very easy to modify. A simple MIDI out mod sends MIDI clock, note on/off, velocity, and more.

To add MIDI out one simply needs to attach a MIDI jack with three leads to clearly labeled solder points on the circuit board. There’s almost no room inside for a recessed MIDI jack, so I used some spacers and mounted the jack on the right hand side. This also keeps the MIDI lead away from the knobs for playability. Voila! It works beautifully. Thanks, Korg!

32 thoughts on “Korg Volca Keys MIDI Out Mod

  1. A rather elegant solution. I could live with a small protrusion sticking out a wee bit. It beats some other examples I’ve seen. Good work.

  2. Nicely done! I’m curious…does this transmit the cc data from the knobs as well?

  3. Yeah it does. Not sure exactly which knobs or what values they send, but when I connected the Volca Keys to my BSII on the same midi channel the cutoff and a couple other things worked.

  4. Really well done, Bryan. Looks great.
    My MIDI-Out (on Volca Beats) is in a separate Box, because I need ed the space for additional Audio Outs.

  5. Awesome news! Thanks for your detailed post. I’ve got a Volca Bass, a BSII, and a Microbrute that I’ve been trying to link up. It sounds like the MIDI Out mod should be great for my needs. I even just realized I can use a 3.5 mm TRS jack instead of a MIDI jack on the Volca. I’ll just need to make an adapter similar to the one that is slated to come with the new Arturia Beatstep. They use 3.5 –> MIDI since you only really need 3 conductors. Seems like that will be better for the lack of space in the Volcas.

  6. Good thinking! That’d definitely take up less space and give you all the necessary connectors. Pretty smart what Arturia did with the Beatstep. Can’t wait to get my hands on that piece of kit!

  7. I found them in my tool box, so I don’t remember exactly where. Most hardware stores will have something like them. Often they come in hardware assortment packages. I had to cut them shorter with a utility knife because they were too long. Good luck!

  8. Hi,
    great post. I am thinking about adding a MIDI Out to my Volca Keys too. Could you tell me if every knob except the Filter Resonance sends MIDI CCs with the mod? That would be great!

  9. Hi, Trunks. I haven’t tested this recently, but everything that was listed in the documentation that could be received seemed to be sending. Good luck!

  10. I’m thinking of adding this mod, but I really only want it to clock-sync with my MicroBrute. If I add midi-out to the VolcaBeats and route that to midi-in on the MicroBrute, won’t it be sending the midi-note data over as well as the clock? Im trying to figure out how to just midi sync the clocks..

  11. @joejoe Yes. It will send clock and MIDI notes, but you can always set the MicroBrute and Volca to different MIDI channels. Then the sequencer will not be driving the MicroBrute and you’ll still get the clock.

  12. Im a little late, but thanks John! Midi-connector piece finally here in the mail, and ill try and post back after i bust out the solder!

  13. boom – soldered it. pretty sweet to sequence drum samples in my DAW.. i wish the mute function would mute the midi-note sends.

    anyone have any tips on where the midi connector can fit? I cant decide if I should just scrap the battery area and use it for my midi-out. heres what i’ve got so far..

  14. Nicely done, @Grit! Your mod looks really clean. I went for quick and easy, but it has held up for dozens of performances and recording sessions.

  15. Hi John, Thanks for this. Nice work.

    Does this mod enable you to output three midi sequences (on separate midi channels) or just a single one?

  16. Yeah I found that too. It has little detail about where to connect the midi out jack, but that’s what me and the technician are goin by is that picture to see if we can do it. I’m just trying to find other people that have//thought about this

  17. Or at least I dont understand what they did and how it works.care to decipher/translate where/what that is being connected to? I would really appreciate it. Im such a newb

  18. Yeah. It is explained in the Muffwinglers post, but the black lead from the MIDI cable (pin 2) is going to a ground, the red lead (pin 4) is going to pin 5 on the voltage regulator next to the big square IC, and yellow (pin 5) goes to pin 82 of that same big square chip (LPC2361). Looks like they attached a thinner green lead to yellow so that they could connect it to pin 82 on the CPU more easily.

    From the post:
    Wire Yellow : DIN pin 5 on LPC2361 pin 82
    Wire Red : DIN pin 4 on 3.3V with 100R in serial
    Wire Black : DIN pin 2 on ground

  19. Hi!

    Does anybody know whether the Volca Keys allso transmits CC messages recorded into motion sequencing through a midi out? Would be lovely if those CC’s could be recorded into my MPC at the beginning of a sequence as a kind of patch memory that would automatically kick in the right sound on the Volca as I start the sequence. I guess I could program the CC’s manually but it’s kind of a hassle on the MPC…


  20. Hi John,

    Ok, looking forward to hear if it does! I guess another way of doing it is tweaking each knob just enough to send the message and record it into the sequence on the MPC and then move all the messages to the beginning but that’s allso pretty tiring work..

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