KORG Volca Sample 2 Review

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Samplers are few and far between when it comes to the tradeoff between price and functionality. However, after KORG launched the Volca Sample, things would never remain the same. If you’re looking for a drum machine or a specialized sequencer, consider the Korg Volca Sample 2 instead. With the Sample 2, you can customize and load your samples—not just drum samples but a wide range of sounds. The device is a highly customizable and functional sampler instrument that can work as a drum machine or polysynthesizer. There’s truly nothing out there like the Volca Sample 2 in its price range on the market at the moment. Here’s a deeper look into why:

Established in 1962, the Japanese company KORG has largely shaped the landscape of modern music with its products over the years. When KORG launched its Volca range in 2013, it saw widespread adoption of its three initial products in the series: the Volca Bass, Volca Beats, and Volca Keys. All three devices became runaway hits across borders and around the world during the significant electronic music boom of the 2010s. KORG followed its Volca range with the Volca Sample, launched in 2015, and in 2021, they released the follow-up to the original Sample by introducing the Volca Sample 2.


Features of the KORG Volca Sample 2

With the breakaway success of the Sample, the Volca Sample 2 has some slight upgrades from its predecessor, the most notable being the USB slot which connects directly to your laptop or computer so that you can load, and manage samples. Other upgrades in the Volca 2 include pattern chaining and a couple of handy functions like Step Jump which skips or jumps a step in the order of samples loaded in the sequencer, and a Start Delay function that allows the next sample to play slightly delayed. 

As you can see by the latter features, the Volca Sample 2 is a brilliant & versatile, and compatible sampler for live performances. Although they are pretty tiny, there are several adjustable knobs in the central part of the instrument primarily for sample modification, with features – Sample (Start Point, Start Delay, Length, Hi Cut) Pitch(Speed, EG Int, Attack, Decay) Amp( Level, Pan, Attack, Decay). The middle section is completely dedicated to sample editing while the right side comprises the Tempo, Swing, Reverb, and Volume knobs. Just below the four aforementioned knobs are the eight buttons, where you can Switch, Play, Reverse Record, and Loop, apart from activating the sequencer using the Step Mode function and also writing patterns to memory. The total control modes are Motion Sequence, Active Step, Step Jump & Swing. 

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The meat of the sequencer is however, the area with the panel of the 16 touch-sensitive slots, of which 10 slots are for loading samples (since this is a 10-track sampler) while the last 6 slots are for added functionality like looping, motion sequencing, and clearing options. However, in Step Mode, you can push the sequencer to sequence all 16 slots. So to clarify, you can only load 10 samples in the first 10 slots while the sequencer sequences 16. The left side of the Volca Sample 2 comprises a classic analog state display area and two big EQ knobs for Bass and Treble which are perfect for on-the-go & live performance purposes. The Volca Sample 2 prides itself on its live playability for live performance and it’s also notoriously fun.

Apart from the functional features, the Volca Sample 2 has one power-in outlet on the left top corner, but to use it you’ll probably have to buy KORG’s KA-350 Adapter separately because using other 9V Adapters could damage the device. On the right-hand side top corner, there’s a USB port, a MIDI-IN port, a Sync in & out port, and an output/headphone jack. 

Advantages (Pros) of the Volca Sample 2

The first and most obvious advantage of the Volca Sample 2 is that it is affordable. Retailing for  $149/£150/€169, it’s the best & most affordable multi-purpose sampler in the market. There are several samplers out there when you run your searches and do your digging online, but in terms of affordability and functionality at this price range, there’s nothing like it in the market, especially if you’re making electronic music.

Secondly, this thing can do it all. It can work as a drum machine and a highly effective synthesizer. To be specific, it can be used as a polysynth polyphonic synthesizer or a mono synth, the difference between the two being that when used as a polysynth it can play multiple samples simultaneously as opposed to just the one when used in its monophonic capability. The official KORG website lists Sample 2 as having 8 sample polyphony. Apart from this, the Volca Sample 2 samples in 31.25kHz,16bit.

Thirdly, the USB port means that loading samples into the Volca Sample 2 is pretty easy, you get a tailor-made software that comes free on KORG’s website called the Volca Sample Librarian, which has a Send & Receive mode to… as it’s rather apparent, send and receive data to and from the Sample 2. So essentially, you can send and receive samples and patterns (the sequences you write to the device’s memory). In total, you can load 200 samples and write 16 patterns to the device’s memory.

Lastly, in terms of advantages, you can produce, or play/record a wide range of genres with the Volca Sample 2. Whether you’re producing electronica, techno, EDM, ambient, or Lofi beats and everything in between, the Volca Sample 2 can be used to make music in almost any contemporary electronic genre out there today. With its sleek & portable build and in-depth features, this is more than just a regular sampler.


Disadvantages (Cons) of the Volca Sample 2

There are, however, a few downsides to the Volca Sample 2. The first is that its battery life is abysmal. On batteries, (and it takes 6 of them), it can be used for up to 2 hours at max (This is on the AA ‘Eveready’ batteries in India), so I’m not sure about its battery life in the EU, UK, US or elsewhere; it depends on the batteries in your region. KORG states that it can run up to 10 hours on batteries, but if you’re in Asia, you’ll just have to put your head down and cough up the extra cash for the KORG KA-350 adapter. This can be a huge downside if you’re playing live & need it to run for more time. So if you’re using your Volca Sample 2 at a gig, make sure you pack enough batteries. 

Secondly, the Volca Sample Librarian is frankly a really poor piece of software. It’s very poorly designed despite KORG’s software developers only having to build a piece of software capable of sending & receiving data to and from the Sample 2. You’ll often find niggling issues of the data transfer breaking, messages like “MIDI not available” & you’ll have to keep restarting your computer to complete the sync in and out, so when you want to upload & download samples make sure you load up all the samples you need before your session. You’ll also have to buy a Micro USB cable since the USB port on the Volca Sample 2 is for a Micro USB which doesn’t come with the device.

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Thirdly, very long samples that are also larger in file size like samples over 1 minute that say are 2 or 3-4 MB or more just don’t sit with this thing. This is despite the Volca Sample 2’s sample length having an upper limit of 130 seconds. It’s got 8 MB of memory max, so if you want to load longer samples (up to 130 seconds) you’ll have to reduce the memory size of your samples significantly. You’ll probably have to run your samples through Audacity or some audio editing & size-compressing software to ensure the file size is the smallest possible. Even if you want to load larger-size samples, ensure that there’s enough memory in the indicator on the right-hand side top corner of the Volca Sample Librarian. The factory samples take up to 80% of memory.

Lastly, the built-in library of samples, when you buy the Volca Sample 2 off the shelf, isn’t great, or very useful or appealing. Other than a few decent enough sounding kicks, and a handful of piano & bass one-shots, the Volca Sample 2’s library is expendable. Just back them up for posterity on your computer and use all 200 slots for your custom samples.

KORG Volca Sample 2 Final Rating & Summary

The need for hardware samplers & sequencers is seeing increasing demand these days and could be that missing piece of gear or element needed to elevate your music. For its price tag and its full capabilities while serving as a multi-purpose & multi-genre instrument – this is a must-have sampler & sequencer to get started with if you want to explore the playful & versatile world of hardware samplers. Especially if you can’t pay up for say the Elektron Digitakt, the Elektron Samples, or any other mid-range sampler, the Volca Sample 2 is power-packed with features & functions that hit a sweet spot. The fact is that any hardware sampler and sequencer is going to cost you upwards of $300. So in the low-budget range of half that price, this is one of the most versatile, powerful & highly utilizable & customizable hardware samplers available out there at the moment. 

Final rating 4.2 out of 5 stars


Technical specs

Sampling: 200 slots (150 preloaded samples)

Memory: 8MB sample memory (up to 130 seconds maximum)

Audio I/O: Audio in, headphone out

MIDI/digital I/O: MIDI in, USB (micro-B), Sync

Sequencing: 10 parts, 16 steps, 16 patterns

You can find the full specs on the KORG website.

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