Saturday, 16 January 2016

Korg Volca Beats - A Modding, Circuit bending & Hackers Guide

The Korg Volca Beats is an awesome drum machine which can only be made better with the help
of some mods and a bit of hacking. There are quite a few mods out there already so we (Cobramatic & I)
decided to have a go at ours. I'd particularly like to thank Instructables & Darren Glen.
I've placed links to all theirs ideas at the bottom of this post.


The actions described in this post will void your warranty and may damage your equipment. I take no responsibility for your soldering ability or actions.

This blog posting covers the obvious improvements like the snare, adding midi & getting individual outs for each voice.Plus there is a bit of circuit bending. If you have discovered any new mods please let me know.
I'd be happy to put a link to your page in this post.
First remove the battery compartment, then detach the two PCBs from one another.

This is the top PCB board.
Notice the rather tiny SMD components.
You will need a magnifier, a good light and as fine a point tip as you can find, as well as very thin solder. 
The mods are in the lower right corner.

Of course just opening this box will void your warranty. So only do this if you are confident you can solder onto SMD components.
This is a closeup of the first mod. It's replacing a missing capacitor.
This involves soldering a capacitor across these two points. I chose to solder leads first then attach the cap.
I used a 104 ceramic. ... 0.1 uF (5mm pitch)
Once you have done this it's a good idea to secure the leads with electrical tape or glue stick to the board. I found this out the hard way as after I was done I decided to try my hand at a bit of circuit bending and in doing so inadvertently undid all my work.

And a good bottle of Red will do wonders if you need extra help to steady your nerves.
Today I'm using a Taylors Red. This is a lovely 2001 drop from the Clare Valley of South Australia.

Thus the second mod point was tried. This involves soldering a capacitor across a resistor.

I wanted to test if varying the capacitor size would affect the sound. Yes it does !!!
The interesting ones were 105 & 104s.
My idea was to use a SPDT switch to access both sounds.
From another angle.
At this point secure your leads with tape or glue.
Don't do as I did and leave them to float.
All these tests will put strain on your solder joints and lead to tears.
To make matters worse when the second mod failed the solder came off along with a resistor which now meant I have to replace both caps and at least one resistor.  :-(

This is what I should have done from the beginning. Glue stick rules !!
These accidents happen for a reason. In accidently removing the resistor we were forced to test replacements. I decided to replace the 1k SMD resistor with a 100k linear pot.
Now its time to drill holes into the front panel and install switches, pots and the midi out socket.

This is the ideal drill for that midi socket. It reminds me of the "Mole" from Thunderbirds.

The panel is quite strange. It's metal over plastic

Next the Midi out jack:
Just 3 connections are required. These are labeled VD, GND and TX.
 This gives a 16 step sequencer, which can trigger 10 sounds over MIDI, with adjustable tempo.
This pic is from Paul's drum which has a different mod - more circuit bending. However, the midi connections are no different from mine.

Next individual drum outs

Paul's mod is slightly different to mine and uses switches rather than pots to allow quicker swapping between sounds.
Useful Links.
+ Instructables
+ Darren Glen - Snare Mod hack
+ Circuit Surgeon
+ Utopian Labs - Midi Mod
+ Muffs - Cobramatic lament  - My Mod BLEW UP!!!! – Please give me some love (A Novel)
+ Muffs - Volca Skiff
+ Muffs - Volca beats PSU for Euro
+ Muffs - Volca BeatsE


  1. For the volca sample its possible making supply aux?

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    1. Cheers Jackson.
      Good luck with the circuit bending.

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