Korg Volca Sync Issues and How to Solve Them

Ever since I got my Korg Volcas (all 4 of them) I have been struggling with timing issues. The units sync up fine most of the time, but sometimes one of them skip a step or two when I press play and gets out of time with the other units.

At first, I thought the problem only occurred when I sync the Volcas to my computer via MIDI, and suspicion immediately fell on my home made MIDI Thru Box. I later discovered that the same thing also happens sometimes when I use only Volcas with sync cables, so I started doing some research.

It turns out that the sync problems were caused by my mono audio cables! When using mono cables (or a stereo cable plugged into a mono input), one of the audio channels is shorted to ground and this somehow interferes with the sync circuits of the Volcas.

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The solution was straight forward – I took some minijack stereo cables I had lying around, got out my wire cutters and snipped one of the 2 wires in each cable. I covered up the cut with electrical tape to provide isolation and avoid pops when I touch the cable.

I haven’t had any sync issues since and this solution also allows me to plug the Volcas into the balanced inputs on my Scarlet audio interface without having the two¬†stereo channels cancel each other out.

Live Perfromance with 4 x Korg Volca and Waldorf Rocket

I recently watched an interesting video with Saytek on how he does his live performances and got a few ideas for my own.

I started out by creating kick, bass and pad loops in Reason, and imported them into Ableton Live as clips. I then created additional parts with the internal sequencers on the Volca Bass, Beats and Sample and used Ableton Live to sequence the Volca Keys and Waldorf Rocket. I love the  Volca Keys but the internal sequencer is pretty useless in my opinion.

All the hardware synths go into Ableton Live for real-time FX processing and mixing (no multi tracking was involved). I set up the Korg nanoKontrol to control volume on the kick and a couple of other tracks, to be able to fade them in and out.

I played around with the parts for a while and set up a few scenes in Live to outline the arrangement. I maximized the width of the master track in Live and typed in notes along with the scene names to guide me during the performance¬†–¬†a cool trick I picked up from the Saytek video. I mapped one of the buttons on the nanoKontrol to “Scene Up” in Live and used it switch scenes during the performance.

All in all I think the setup¬†worked out pretty well. The notes really did help¬†me bring more structure to the performance but they are also somewhat constraining.¬†I will probably not use performance notes¬†moving forward – I prefer to improvise… after all, making good electronic music is all about fortunate accidents!