Korg Volca Beats Snare Mod

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Korg Volca Beats Snare Mod

Postby chysn » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:16 pm

This afternoon, I finally got around to performing the snare mod on my Volca Beats.

There are two circuit boards in the Beats. On the board with all the knobs, between the Hat Grain knob and the closest IC, there are a couple unused pads labeled "C78", where an embedded capacitor was (presumably) supposed to go. The absence of this capacitor gives the Beats its notoriously-awful distorted snare sound.

I soldered a 104 (0.1uF) ceramic capacitor across the C78 pads, and it really makes a nice difference. From my experience, there are some important notes:

(1) Korg packed these things in at damn close quarters, so you need to have pretty steady hands and good eyes. In five years, I probably won't be able to perform this sort of mod, unless I really luck out and beat the age-related visual acuity odds.

(2) You should use a low-wattage soldering iron and a precise conical tip. I used a 25W Weller WP25, but a 15W iron might be more appropriate.

(3) Watch the nearby knobs! I managed to slightly melt my Hat Grain knob with the iron's shaft. It's easier to attack it from that side than from the IC side, but you do want to be careful.

For my time and money, I think doing the mod was worth a minor melting mishap. The snare has a nice snap to it now, the decay control is usable, and the instrument probably sounds more like it was designed to sound.
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Re: Korg Volca Beats Snare Mod

Postby namnibor » Sat Jun 06, 2015 11:45 am

That's very cool! Did you happen to take any pictures of your progress with this? Was this a mod talked about on say, the Korg Forum or elsewhere? I do not have any of the Volca's but love this technical wizardry.
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Re: Korg Volca Beats Snare Mod

Postby chysn » Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:03 pm

I did not photograph it. It would have been a good idea, but at the time my primary thought was getting my Volca back together to make sure it still worked at all. It's really easy to find info about this mod on various forums and YouTube, although I haven't found a video of the mod actually being performed. That's not surprising, since everything is so ridiculously tiny.

Here's an image of the mod from Gearslutz. It's not mine, but it's the same part in the same place:

Image

Here's a nice close-up. Again, not mine, but this is what I did:

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 9.17.19 AM.png
Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 9.17.19 AM.png (649.87 KiB) Viewed 2057 times
DSI: Evolver #1431
Other Synths: Moog Little Phatty Stage II (Red), Arturia MicroBrute
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Re: Korg Volca Beats Snare Mod

Postby Strange Quark Star » Sat Jun 06, 2015 7:11 pm

I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but I did the mod on my Volca, too; right when I got almost exactly a year ago.

Advices № 2 and 3 are good ones, as I both fried one little SMT resistor and singed one knob on my Volca! Fortunately I was able to replace that resistor and restore functionality.

My only instructions were this video I found on the GS forum on that topic which explains what goes where. In addition to soldering in the missing capacitor I also added an additional resistor, as recommended in that video. I compared a few resistance values and chose the one which sounded the best. To do that, I soldered a couple of wires to the pads instead of the elements themselves and connected them to a terminal in which I could insert different resistors/capacitors without soldering to try out different values.

Just before closing up the Beats I finally remembered to take a picture, so unfortunately no "in progress" shots from me, either :(
IMG_3840.jpg
IMG_3840.jpg (1.32 MiB) Viewed 2055 times


Upon a request I recorded a kind of demonstration of the resulting sounds, which you can find on my SoundCloud.
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Re: Korg Volca Beats Snare Mod

Postby chysn » Sat Jun 06, 2015 9:46 pm

I really like the terminal idea, for trying various components. Is that a tantalum capacitor?

I didn't catch the resistor mod. I may do it some day, but for now I'm pretty thrilled with the results of the one mod.
DSI: Evolver #1431
Other Synths: Moog Little Phatty Stage II (Red), Arturia MicroBrute
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Re: Korg Volca Beats Snare Mod

Postby Strange Quark Star » Sat Jun 06, 2015 10:11 pm

That's the cheapest kind of ceramic capacitor, from the leftovers from my synthesizer project ;)

The resistor mod changes the brightness of the snare. It was also more or less necessary, as I fried the exact right SMT resistor during the first part of the mod and had to replace it anyway :lol:

Have you compared your snare to mine on SoundCloud; does it sound differently?
Prophet '08 Serial № 01369, potentiometer retrofit
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Re: Korg Volca Beats Snare Mod

Postby chysn » Sun Jun 07, 2015 12:05 am

Strange Quark Star wrote:Have you compared your snare to mine on SoundCloud; does it sound differently?


Yes, yours is noticeably better. Not enough better to make me want to immediately go back in, but enough for me to put it on my list of future projects. It's like going from utter crap, to pretty nice, to a little bit nicer still. I'll post a short recording the next time I have my audio interface hooked up.
DSI: Evolver #1431
Other Synths: Moog Little Phatty Stage II (Red), Arturia MicroBrute
Other Hardware: Alesis MMT-8, Korg Volca Beats
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Re: Korg Volca Beats Snare Mod

Postby chysn » Sat Jun 13, 2015 1:04 am

All right... here's my first recording with the modded snare. The Volca Beats is on two hard-panned tracks, using the same pattern but with different part levels to achieve stereo positioning. This is the sort of thing that every Evolver owner eventually has to do: the improvised sequencer jam.

https://soundcloud.com/beige-maze/pet-rock

Fun fact: one of the sounds right at the beginning is a recording of the sound that my Little Phatty always makes when I turn it on cold. I love that sound, and I have no idea if other Little Phattys do it.
DSI: Evolver #1431
Other Synths: Moog Little Phatty Stage II (Red), Arturia MicroBrute
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Re: Korg Volca Beats Snare Mod

Postby Paul Dither » Thu Jun 18, 2015 5:05 pm

Thanks for sharing your synth jam. The Volca snare sounds a lot better. I should get this mod done as well at some point, since it really increases the value of that little machine. Also: great sounds from the Evolver.
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