The Korg Volcas are pretty flexible devices that received a little firmware-update last year. But there are also unofficial firmware versions for the Volca FM and the Volca Sample, which I have tested as well.
Similar to the installation of the official updates, the update mode must be activated while the Korg Volca is started. Therefore, you have to keep the buttons Func and Play pressed while you switch the Volca on. Now, you can connect the sync-in jack of the Volca with the audio-out of the computer. The volume of the computer ought to be quite loud, but not maxed. I mostly use a level of 80%. By using an adequate media plays, the firmware can be played back as an audio file via the computer. In this case, it is important to deactivate all further sounds (like emailbox or likewise). Otherwise, you will get an error message. After the update is finished, the Volca needs a re-start.
Volca FM 1.09
For the velocity function is a decisive characteristic of inspiring FM sounds, a FM synth actually is supposed to provide such a feature. Unfortunately, Korg has not implemented this feature by now. Alternatively, you could complement this function for external keyboards via using a specific Retrokits RK-002 midi cable. The unofficial Firmware 1.09 add the velocity function to the Volca. The keys of the internal keyboard do not send velocity information, but by connecting an external keyboard, the respective data can be sent to the FM.
Another interesting feature is the patch changes note on/off. While it is deactivated, a played tone can be sustained, even though you select another sound. Until now, the sound has been stopped in this case. Now, a fluent transition between different sounds is possible.
Besides, there have been new control change orders added. For example, the free assignment of the mod wheel, various chorus settings, the loading of patches and pattern as well as subdivisions of the tempo.
The firmware runs quite reliably. Only some posts on the internet revolve around the problem, that the Volca switches itself of with this firmware. The reason is a flat battery or the power supply does not provide enough current. The FM needs more than 100mA to work reliable. The unofficial firmware might need a little more current; thus, you should keep the capacity of your power supply in mind.
All of these new features can be deactivated in the global menu. Ant those, who don’t like the firmware anyway, can downgrade the Volca to the official firmware easily. The Korg Volca support website offers a free download of this file.
Volca Sample Beta 7
Regarding the Volca Sample, the process of the installation of the Beta 7 firmware update is identical. You can replay all samples chromatically as well as using the “sequencer channel” to select all of the 10 sounds via the midi keyboard. As with the Volca FM, you can also activate velocity. It can be selected just like pitch and note triggering via part or pattern.
New control changes for reverb, mutes, pattern-changes, reverse and so on have been implemented. Besides, there are also to new reverb algorithms. Many of these new parameters can be changed directly in the live mode. It is not necessary to enter the global setup and re-start the device. By keeping the func button pressed, you can select a respective function through the sample pot.
Another interesting feature is the SAMP. It assigns 100 samples to the midi keyboard. Thereby, you can use all samples at the same time or rather program them via midi. Thus, the Sample becomes a fully adequate sampler. Of course, you can play polyphonic samples as well. Similar to the Digitakt, you can adjust the probabilities of a trigger. The standard setting is set to 100%. By reducing the probability, each pattern becomes a diversified part of the song.
Last but not least, there is the drone mode. It allows to set the decay of all samples to the maximum and thereby enables you to create some kind of infinite mode while you are looping. This unofficial Beta 7 firmware runs stable and reliable. Because of the numerous features, I really recommend this type of firmware. And it also applies in this case: if you don’t like the new firmware, you can go back too the official Korg firmware easily and for free.
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