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Inspiring Technology

The Korg Kaoss Pad

Korg KAOSS Pad QUAD mangles audio with 4-effect touchpad control
Kaoss Quad,, unknown.2017.

The Makers:

Korg’s first product release was way back in 1963 (the year the author was born) and was a rhythm machine device called the  Donca matic DA-20 (, 2017). The name Donca is  onomatopoeic reference to the sound the machine made. The are now owned by Yamaha and make a wide selection of effects, instruments, software and amplifiers. The most notable product that Korg gained success with was, the Keyboard Synthesiser the  M1, examples can be found on “Rhythm is a Dancer,” by Snap! Or Madonna’s “Vogue.”

What is it?

The Korg Kaoss Pad is a multiple effects processor for music output. It has small x-y touchpad MIDI controller, sampler, and built in effects processor for audio and musical instruments. Originally it was designed with DJ’s in mind, as a way of them having tactile control method of adding effects into their musical performances. The Kaoss’s touchpad can be used to control its built in effects modules, which then can be applied to a line-in signal (sound in) or to any sampled sounds recorded from the line-in. The latest version blends up to 4 effects at once. Another large change to the touchpad is LEDs that light up in an array of colours. The illumination changes depending on the state of the effects, the BPM setting, and on your movements while performing.

Who uses it?

Famously, Matt Bellemy from the Teignmouth based rock band Muse has one built into his Manson built guitar. But influential (McNamee, D. 2017) music producers such as Brian Eno (Talking Heads, David Bowie) are also renown for exploring the Kaos’s potential to add texture and effects to their productions.

Matt Bellamy, Muse.,unknown,2017.

The technology:

The X/Y touchpad acts as a control interface that regulates the effects and filters that are programmed by the user or pre-loaded into the Kaoss. To change the parameters,live, of the effect’s blend the user moves a finger across the pad exploring the sounds required, then the user can either freeze the setting or change it to another sound setting by manipulating the pad further please. The various models of Kaoss Pad each have a subtly different purpose.

Why choose this technology?

The reason for highlighting this technology is because way back at its’ launch in 1999 touch pads were not widely used in laptops or other interactive mediums: Triumph-Adler introduced the first laptops with touchpad in 1992, Apple adding it to their Powerbooks in 1994. ( 2017)

Guitar Effect board. wikimedia, by Unknown, Public domain.2017

Effects units for DJ’s were usually based on studio rack effects such as Echo, Delays & Compressors or  DJs were forced to cobble together in line guitar effects that were design for interact with feet, switches and rocker switches (variable resistors) being manipulated via foot presses, as the guitarist hands were, by necessity to be kept close the instrument. By introducing a simple finger touch interface the musicians were given greater freedom and flexibility as to how and where to use the mechanism for adding real-time effects. Therefore for an effects processors to adopt such a radical interface was ground breaking and still has influence today.


McNamee, D. (2017). Hey, what’s that sound: Kaoss Pad. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017] (2017). Korg Kaoss Pad. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017]. (2017). Touchpad. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017]. (2017). Effects unit. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017]. (2017). Korg. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017].

Laughton, J. (2017). The Most Iconic Keyboard by Decade. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017].

KORG Global. (2017). Features | KAOSS PAD QUAD – DYNAMIC EFFECTS PROCESSOR | KORG (USA). [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017].

Images Ref

Anon, (2017). [image] Available at: ht tp://2. [Accessed 15 Oct. 2017].

Anon, (2017). [image] Available at: [Accessed 15 Oct. 2017].



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