Improve Korg Volca Beats With Individual-Out Mod

72,974

92

29

Introduction: Improve Korg Volca Beats With Individual-Out Mod

About: I'm a Dutch guy doing things with music and technology. At the moment I'm finishing my MSc in Industrial Design. Not limiting myself to any genre or discipline, I like to work on anything related to music, des…

WARNING, PERFORMING THIS MOD WILL VOID THE WARRANTY OF YOUR VOLCA BEATS AND MIGHT POTENTIALLY DAMAGE IT, SO PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!


The Korg Volca Beats is a really cool affordable analog drum machine, but having all the instruments summed into one output is a serious limitation. Luckily, Korg made it relatively easy for us to tap all the instruments off the circuit-board and feed them to individual outputs:

  • Kick
  • Snare
  • Toms (it is actually possible to get both toms separate, but I didn't think that was necessary)
  • Hats
  • PCM sounds

The tools you need are:

  • 5x 3.5mm audio jack
  • Nice thin wires will make your life a lot easier. Some thing like this would work perfectly.
  • A soldering iron with a thin tip.
  • A thin strand of solder.

The video below demonstrates how it looks like, what it sounds like and how I've done it.

Step 1: Open Up the Volca

Open up the battery cover and take out the batteries.

Pry off the two buttons of Stutter Time and Depth

Now you can take out all large screws. (You can leave in the smaller screws, as they just hold in the battery compartment.)

Carefully open the enclosure making sure you don't stretch the battery and speaker wires too much. I actually had to re-solder both speaker wires as they just broke off from opening and closing the enclosure too often. Not such a big deal, but beware of it.

Step 2: Mount the Five Audio Jacks

Find connectors that will leave enough space to fit underneath the circuit board. Mine were only just small enough that it fits, but I can't tighten the screws on the enclosure completely without putting pressure on the circuit board.

Measure out the locations for all connectors and drill holes of the right size.

My connectors didn't have enough length to fit through the casing, so I had to clear some extra material around it with a larger drill bit.

Step 3: Do the Wiring

First, get the right tools

  • Nice thin wires will make your life a lot easier. Some thing like this would work perfectly.
  • A soldering iron with a thin tip.
  • A thin strand of solder.

Now you can start by wiring one of the ground pads (see image) to all the SLEEVES (the large part) of the 3.5mm connectors.

With this connected, you can connect connect the pads shown in the image to the TIPS of the 3.5mm connectors. The pads for TOMS, HAT and PCM are easy to find, but KICK and SNARE are a bit harder to find. KICK is the right most leg of the top-right pot (KICK CLICK). SNARE is in between on of the tiny vias in between WHITE NOISE and TOM+SNARE+KICK, please let me know if the picture is not clear!

(It can be a good idea to test out the unit right now. Just put in batteries and plug all the outputs into a mixer. Please don't put in any headphones as they, or the circuit board might get damaged.)

Step 4: DONE!

Close up the device and there you have it; a Volca Beats with individual outputs!

I really love having the kick and toms under their own outputs, just to give them some compression and eq to make them sound even more awesome.

For me, the snare sounds a bit strange though. I might try to fix it with this trick, but if you have found a better output point, please let me know and I will update this Instructable!

Have fun, and remember that doing this is at your own risk and will void your warranty!

Epilog Challenge VI

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge VI

Battery Powered Contest

Participated in the
Battery Powered Contest

4 People Made This Project!

Recommendations

  • Unusual Uses Contest

    Unusual Uses Contest
  • Hide It Challenge

    Hide It Challenge
  • Made with Math Contest

    Made with Math Contest

29 Comments

0
RossM95
RossM95

Tip 3 years ago

The best place for the snare wire is as follows:

Look for the sign that says TOM + SNARE + KICK on the bottom left. Between the N and A of SNARE you’ll see a hole just below. That’s your one. I used a blob of solder but if you can get the wire in thin enough, hot glue could be better. I honed down a strand of Cat 5 using a craft blade and managed to get it in. You’ll know when the copper coating has gone from the wire that it’s thin enough.

With the volume on the beats turned down, the levels will be unadulterated on the individual outs, you’ll hear them clean and isolated on your mixing desk.

0
jimmiedave
jimmiedave

Reply 7 months ago

I tried this and it's not the greatest - the snare whines and sounds strange. I also looked around the Snare pots and found nothing useful for this purpose. Tried R212 on the top side of the board (as KAOS suggested in 2016 (I think - pulled the article from the Wayback), but this is not much different than Toms+Snare on the bottom side (and the latter has a silkscreened pointer and a solderable test pad). I've also tried the differential input method (add toms+snare and subtract toms) and it's OK (not great), but a whole lot of fiddly doing. I suppose best-case, you'd build a little board with an op amp to do this inside the Volca's case. I went with Toms+Snare and gave up at that point.

Here's a couple different thoughts on the separate outputs and snare: if you're doing live music, maybe pull out the kick, PCM, Snare+Toms and High Hat, but really, you could just run the combined mono output, vs. dealing with wildly-different levels, added noise (from adding gain), and spending tons of time fiddling with this (and having it break at a gig). Follow the K.I.S.S. rule.

If OTOH you're recording with a DAW, why not hook up MIDI to start the Volca, load up your pattern, mute everything except the drum you want to record, and make one pass per channel for each drum (and maybe even make it a very short pass, edit and loop it to length). That should get you a clean, full-volume snare, and best-quality on everything.

Another option for a DAW is to do the MIDI out mod, and use the MIDI to trigger drum samples in the DAW - maybe even Volca samples. You won't get all the fiddly PCM speed, and not every control, but you can get clean samples to process. Ableton Live 10 works great with the MIDI out mod - you can drive 808 sounds (for example) with the tracks in the Volca.

I've just done: Snare fix, MIDI out, Individual outs. Of these, I think the individual outs are the least valuable. I don't know that I'd have bothered if I had it to do over.

One last idea: if you (or someone helping you) is competent to do the delicate SMD-scale soldering, and has the magnifier, and temp-controlled tiny-tip soldering iron, she may also have a few spare SMD caps and resistors in the junk box.

I did a more mechanically robust fix to the snare by soldering on a .1µF (104) SMD capacitor to the C78 pads, and replaced the R200 resistor with a different appropriate value. The stock R200 is 8.2K (822). I replaced it with a 4.7K SMD resistor (472). Solid, no insulating or supporting tape, sounds great.

Since SMD capacitors are often unlabeled, I used an "ESR tester" to determine the value of several unmarked ones, before finding just what I needed: 100nF or .1µF. You can find cheap bare-bones ESR testers on eBay.

_Definitely_ do the snare fix mod if you're up for voiding the warranty, and the MIDI out mod is so brain-dead easy, you about have to get it while you're in there. It's worth your time, I think. The individual outs...yeah, maybe not so much.



20210407_213230.jpg
0
scotviel
scotviel

Question 1 year ago on Step 4

well done for this post! I will try this mod after having brilliantly realized the snare drum and MIDI out mods only I would like to do something a little different: draw separate outputs for toms, hats and PCMs then let the kick and the snare go out in the original output jack. For that, I think it would be necessary to wire chassis jacks with cuts so that; when one or more separate output jacks are plugged in, they do not go out in the main while the kicker and snare always go out there. Is it possible? how does the original output jack behave with the separate outputs? where to plug the jack cuts?

0
ScottMaple
ScottMaple

2 years ago

Help!

I’ve carried out this mod, except the snare.

I can’t figure out how you make the snare connection stick. There’s no pad, just a tiny hole which will accept only one strand/core. I can’t figure out how you made it solder.

Any advice is greatly received.

thanks

Scott

0
ArvidJense
ArvidJense

Reply 2 years ago

I used this thin solid core wire wrapping wire (30awg?). You can simply poke it in the hole and solder should stick.

0
ScottMaple
ScottMaple

Reply 2 years ago

Thanks Arvid, I'll give it another try.

0
ScottMaple
ScottMaple

Reply 2 years ago

Worked a treat thanks, I was able to solder the pad on the other side of the board

0
ScottMaple
ScottMaple

Reply 2 years ago

I found these jack sockets to be quite a good fit.

IMG_20190316_220140.jpgIMG_20190324_160107.jpg
0
existenz81
existenz81

Tip 3 years ago on Step 2

Why not scratch off the extra material for the jacks from the inside of the case? Also i think there is much space for jack socket above the pcboard and not below it.

0
FrankoC
FrankoC

Question 3 years ago on Step 2

Hi there, i have 2 questions. First question, what kind of audio jacks did you use. I didn't really find anything like them on mouser.com.

Second question, when you plug the in a cable from the individual output does it remove it from being sent out the main out put?

0
BrianH368
BrianH368

4 years ago

Thanks a lot for this! I've done the mods as listed to include the capacitor mod for the snare; it makes a word of difference in the sound. I found it best to take the snare/ tom combo output as the individual snare out mentioned here is very low.

IMG_3504.jpg
0
JoeT120
JoeT120

4 years ago

This mod is awesome,
Has made a cheap drum machine into a multi-out BEAST
So thanks a lot!
I tapped the white noise, ring noise, kick, snare+tom combined, hats and PCM
If you buy panel mount jack sockets you can attach them to the top surface, much easier to locate in the dark
Can't upload a picture though, this websites UI is horrid

0
manneokoko
manneokoko

4 years ago

I have done these individual noise mods. They work but I find some strange increase of noise in the master output.

The master headphone output gets quite strong noise, but when I connect the individual outs the noise is decreased. The ind. outs needs to be connected in the other end (to a mixer) otherwise the noise is still there on the headphone out.

I guess that the wires are picking up noise and sending it to the back through the solder pads, but when the cable is connected the noise flow the other way.

Would it be possible to connect the jack's (breakjacks) so that they are connected to ground when nothing is inserted in the jack? According to the instructions only the sleeve should be grounded, but what about grounding the third connector so that the wire from solder pads is going directly to ground when nothing is inserted in the jack? Or would this harm the machine?

0
ArvidJense
ArvidJense

Reply 4 years ago

This sounds like a great solution.

Also, if you're having noise issues, try checking your cables and power supply. Sometime running audio cables next to power cables can also be the cause of some noise.

0
manneokoko
manneokoko

4 years ago

If you do this mod then you can not use a a split cable for the PSU on multiple volcas. After doing this mod the volca beats need to have its own PSU otherwise you will get loud noise on all the outputs

0
paulheetebrij
paulheetebrij

4 years ago

Thanks for the clear picture. After using the Volca for a while, I've decided just to use 3 groups: kick/snare/toms, hat and pcm. I did the mod and it sounds as expected.

0
CoulroP
CoulroP

5 years ago

I found that the best way to do it is to connect the toms and snare together(it is marked) that way the snare maintains a nice volume...i dont know if you mentioned it but...i pulled the ground from the gnd pin destinated to midi and grounded the output jacks....i find it eliminates a lot of the background noise....

0
palletter
palletter

5 years ago

I do not think this is without risk. If you point out that testing with a headphone does damage to the circuit, and the solder points don't match up volume wise you are obviously slowly killing your'e device. The circuit was not designed for 5 multiple outputs. This will put strain on the circuit and some delicate components, and once been hot enough, part by part will start failing is my guess.

Maybe cool, but doubtfully without risk

0
colinrobot
colinrobot

5 years ago

Hi All, Has anyone found a better spot for the snare? I'm about to put the 104 cap in place then i'm going to do the individual outs and Midi . But before i do so just wanted to know if there had been any advances? Darrens work is amazing and i've been following all over the web from Gearsluts/ Youtube/ Here and related topics on Synthtopia and Utopian ... He is the Man!!! Just wondered if you use this site? Anyhow If anyone has done this Mod or found a better place ..... Cheers!!! :)

There has to be a better spot for the snare sound :/ with this mod the snare volume is low, as many pointed out already. The other instruments work flawlessly, even the BD seems great to me (as for the fact that you can't use its "part level" control... i never touch that knob on the volca, so it's not a big deal!)