Sonic LAB: Korg Wavedrum Mini Review

Mini percussion pad      11/08/11
    MP4 10:56 mins    

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I reckon Korg are on a mission to bring drummers, percussionists, and others wot hit fings up to speed with the world of music technology... and mebbe those who are already in it, a pathway to the world of percussion.
But maybe that’s just me being fanciful ;-]
Whatever... the basic story is that Korg have spawned another screaming infant in their ever-expanding Wavedrum family... only this one seems to be the love-child of an illicit affair with a Handsonic or an Octapad ;-]
See, it just doesn’t look anything *like* the previous kids in the Wavedrum clan - it doesn’t have a regular drum skin - it has a rubber pad instead, an external trigger you can clip on other objects or body parts, and a built-in speaker too.
In fact it has few apparent concessions to the drum genre - and the prominent ‘Looper’ function and ephemeral nature of the recordings you can make, seem to give more than a passing nod to the Beat-box world.
But scratch the surface, and the Wavedrum heritage does show through.
Just like the Wavedrum X and Wavedrum Oriental, there are two basic ways to play sounds; on the former it’s the drum skin and the rim - on the Wavedrum Mini, the designers have just taken the idea a little further and made the second zone totally external to the unit.
And a pretty inspired idea it is, too - it transforms an item that’s a lot of fun, into an item that’s a LOT of fun... and offers some interesting creative possibilities too.

But there’s still a nagging doubt that the Wavedrum Mini is a bit of a toy, rather than a serious percussion tool.

And for me, the biggest oversight is the total lack of any connectivity other than a single mono audio output.

Yep, this Wavedrum too, like it’s siblings, has no USB and no MIDI.

Ok - previously, I could buy the argument that the sheer expressiveness of the Wavedrum X, and the fact the sound was a combination of the triggered sounds and the audio signals of the playing itself, meant that it was impossible to fit into the narrow confines of MIDI. It was like trying to fit an elephant in a blender.
But with the Wavedrum Mini, that argument doesn’t really hold up.
Although there is undoubtedly a lot of expression possible, it’s much more akin to a trigger pad than a drum.
Due to its limited mounting options, small dimensions and plastic construction, it’s less likely (though not impossible of course) that it will be used on stage in a live gig environment - pointing to a life more suited to desktop and studio use.
A MIDI capability would be really welcome in these situations, and I personally think it’s an opportunity missed. Again.

While I’m in gripe-mode:-
  • The boot-up speed feels pedestrian
  • and you just can’t play the thing comfortably on yer lap - which I’m guessing is why Korg have provided a leg strap/tourniquet to keep it in place.
  • You can’t easily put it on a standard snare drum stand either due to the angled sides and small size
  • Despite having pad and a clip to trigger sounds and some funky built-in loops, it has a single Mono audio output. Stereo, or separate outs for loop and played sounds, or even pad and clip sounds might’ve been handy
  • No slots for frequently-used favorite sounds - you have to scroll through the 100 voices (oh, and you can’t go past 99 to get to 0 again; if you’re on voice 99 and want voice 1, you’ll have to go all the way back down again)
  • No voice editing or saving user sounds
  • the 100 built-in Loops are fixed tempo

Now the good bits :-]
  • External trigger Clip is a work of genius and a huge amount of fun!
  • Rubber pad and clip are both very responsive for finger playing
  • 100 voices assignable to Pad and Clip separately
  • There’s a wide range of usable sounds, and the loops are varied and interesting
  • Runs on batteries too for alfresco off-road finger-tapping joy
  • Changing between voices is *much* faster than the Wavedrum X
  • You can record and layer ‘tracks’ on top of the existing loops
  • or start from scratch and record your own loop parts (can’t save them)
  • Some voices have tuned/note melodic elements, and these can be edited (pitch, scale, etc.)
  • 10 built-in effects (with 2 slots for fast access)

Quick Snapshot

For those hoping for a rugged, stage-friendly instrument, or a workhorse studio tool - the Wavedrum Mini is not it.
But if you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way into the Wavedrum family - and having a great deal of fun in the process - definitely check it out and have a play with it... you might get hooked ;-]
Available Soon Priced: £249, $299, 285€ (Street price)


Andy McCreeth


Korg Social

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