Korg Volca Keys Delay Circuit Noise


I have had the Korg Volca Keys for a little over a week and have gotten quite comfortable with the unit. The feature set can be learned in a matter of minutes, but the sonic range of the instrument is impressive and much more broad than I expected. The strength of the Volca Keys is in the modes: poly, unison, octave, fifth, unison ring, and poly ring. The sound I posted earlier, for example, demonstrates the poly ring modulation mode. Lately I’ve been enjoying syncing the Volca Keys with my DSI Tempest and Korg Monotribe, but more about that later.

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Of course a hardware analog synth that exhibits the diminutive size and cost that the Volca Keys does is bound to have some limitations. From my perspective the most obvious limitation is the quality of the onboard delay. According to Korg’s block diagram the delay is the final circuit in the signal flow. Therefore, high frequency noise coming from the delay can’t be rolled off with the filter. The noise is most obvious when playing a sound that is programmed with the cutoff frequency most of the way down, the delay time at the slowest setting, and the feedback at the highest setting.

To illustrate the noise introduced by the delay circuit I created a few versions of a simple test sequence. One without delay, one with the internal delay, one with Ableton’s Simple Delay, and finally one with my Electro-harmonix Memory Man Delay. The sequence sounds pretty clean on its own, but buzzy, high frequency aliasing becomes audible when the Volca’s delay is introduced. In comparison, Ableton’s Simple Delay doesn’t add any noticeable noise, while the Memory Man adds a little noise (and pleasant chorusing), but nowhere near as much as the Volca delay.

Korg Volca Keys Sequence with No Delay:

Korg Volca Keys Sequence with the Internal Delay:

Korg Volca Keys Sequence with Simple Delay:

Korg Volca Keys Sequence with Memory Man Delay:

Some might find the buzzy delay noise desirable at times. To me it sounds more-or-less like a cheap, digital delay circuit that uses some down sampling and/or bit reduction to handle the memory requirements for the repetitions. I have also noticed that the filtering on the delay trails is significant. Cranking up the cutoff and lowering the attack, decay, and sustain on the EG produces obviously muffled delay trails. All of these limitations are not that noticeable when you’re using the Volca alongside two or more other instruments, but I plan on using my Memory Man as an alternative to the on board delay when it’s convenient to do so.

Yamaha FS1R Formant Sequencer Ra Re Ri Ro Ru


This short experiment was produced by programming a custom formant sequence into the infamous Yamaha FS1R. This is not possible to do with the unit alone, but there are some great tools that make it possible that I’ll discuss an upcoming article. A formant sequence essentially modulates the formant shaping operators on the FS1R modeled after the spectra from am audio signal. This patch repurposes a vocal track from my project Voice Lessons as the formant sequence.

Ra Re Ri Ro Ru FS1R Formant Sequence

Call for Artists: Videographer / Sound Design

I am currently working on an MFA in interactive media at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Minneapolis. My thesis project involves musical improvisation and various environmental and sensory influences that impact soloists and ensembles. To explore these ideas I am performing at the Compound Gallery, Minneapolis on December 7, 2012. The performance integrates an hour-long audiovisual score composed from crowd-sourced video content. The idea is to collect recognizable segments of non-dialogic, everyday video/sound from society (things like traffic, factory machinery, water dripping into bathtubs, the list goes on). We are looking for on site sound in the video that would be interesting as a layer within an experimental music context. To submit, please send an email with the following details to audiovisualscore@audiocookbook.org:

  1. Link(s) for one to three HD videos on vimeo.com or youtube.com, each with a length between 30 seconds and 3 minutes.
  2. A Drop Box (or comparable service) link to download the video file(s) at full quality.
  3. List the camera, resolution, length, and microphone used to capture the audiovisual content.
  4. Include your full name, email, and link to a site of your choice for attribution (artist portfolio, etc.).
  5. State that you are allowing us to use the video in the performance on December 7, 2012 and the documentation produced afterward about the performance (video will be attributed to the artist).
  6. A statement that the video is the sole property of the artist and does not violate any copyright laws or restrictions.

Please submit these materials by no later than November 21, 2012. Submissions from around the world are acceptable. Sound and video quality are important, but if you have something interesting that was shot with a mobile phone submit it anyway. It might just be what we’re looking for. The upcoming exhibition titled Frank also features the work of first and second year MCAD MFA graduate students. The performance is open to the public. On December 7, 2012 the doors will open at 6pm and our performance goes from 8pm to 9pm. Compound is located at the Whittier Studios, 2840 Grand Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404.

F1 @ Silverstone Grand Prix 2011

Having asked around the forums (http://socialsounddesign.com/) for tips, I headed up to Silverstone this weekend to camp & record some sounds for the F1.

The cars were LOUD. I must have been 50 metres away and had to wear ear plugs and cans…the gear changes kick you in the chest!

It was an entertaining race, and great experience. Tech below:

I was up by Abbey (and walking around) and managed to get lots of useable material. I sampled at 24/96 but there’s not much going on above 20-25k, only the really raspy exhaust stuff.
I hired out some low sensitivity DPAs and ran them into a fostex FR2LE at almost 0dB gain, coming up to -10dBFS.
The recordings do sound small and tinny. I remembered distinctly they had weight and size to them, although if you played them back at normal levels, you’d probably get near to the feeling – it’s the extreme volume.
The Lotus F1 engines had a new front firing exhaust and this made some entirely wierd noises, great for SFX.
(click for audio)

F1 Silverstone 2011 © Lostrack

Manually Modulated Polyphonic Wind

I created this polyphonic wind sound on the Roland MKS-80 using the Bitstream 3X to manually modulate the filter to give it a more natural and irregular sounding whistle. I did this rather than using the LFO because although I could adjust the rate the sweep would be automated and too regular instead of being based on human judgement. I am presenting it here in mono with no processing. If I were to use this I would process it in several ways including some volume automation, panning, equalization, probably a bit of slap back delay for stereo imaging, and a fairly short linear reverb that doesn’t sound too roomy.

Manually Modulated Polyphonic Wind