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KORG Volca Beats MIDI Out Mod

MIDI Out Installed

After seeing this little box, I had to have it, and after acquiring it, I couldn’t stop thinking how it could be modded. Following the Monotron tradition, the manufacturer has made it easy for you and even left labels to the appropriate solder points. I started with a fairly easy one, adding a MIDI Out Port

Disclaimer

The actions described in this post will void your warranty and can damage your equipment. I take no responsibility for your actions.

Info

Most of the details about what can be done with Volca Beats can be found in here. They mention that there is a possibility of adding a MIDI Out port, but don’t really get into any details. The solution was found in the comments of a youtube video. It is as easy as soldering three wires from the PCB to the connector. Let’s get into some more details.

The Connection

On the PCB you can clearly see three solder points, clearly labeled as VC, GND and TX. These are the points we must connect. Check the third image in order to see what must be connected where.

PCB

PCB

PCB Solder Points Closeup

PCB Solder Points Closeup

MIDI Connector

MIDI Connector

Soldered

Soldered

MIDI Out Installed

MIDI Out Installed

Result

After this mod, you get a 16 step sequencer, which can trigger 10 sounds over MIDI, with adjustable tempo. What you don’t get is any functionality provided by the knobs like Stutter, PCM Speed or the various Pitches, Volumes and Decays. Still a very easy and cheap mod (only a MIDI connector and the wires are needed) that can add some functionality to your box. It was done in about an hour with most of the time consumed in where to position the port.
This is the official user’s manual and check this to see which MIDI signals it recognizes.

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  1. Sean T.
    October 3, 2013 at 08:15 | #1

    Loving this post!

    Anyway you could add more detail? Like a detailed step by step.

    In other words, make this mod possible for a pure beginner.

    • nizz
      October 31, 2013 at 15:05 | #2

      There’s not much more to document. It’s a fairly simple mod, everyone can do it with a minimum (or even no) soldering experience. You just have to connect the Solder Points on the PCB to the corresponding pins on the connector. The only thing left to do is to find out where to drill the hole for the connector.

  2. shiftr
    October 3, 2013 at 15:35 | #3

    Thanks for publishing this mod.
    Does it also output midi clock?
    Does it also work as a midi thru?
    thanks!

    • nizz
      October 6, 2013 at 13:05 | #4

      Hi, sorry for the delay but I get a ton load of spam and was forced to disable auto publishing and go through them one by one. On the question now… yes it does and in fact, I use it as the master clock on ableton live when jamming. About MIDI through, I haven’t tried it (and there’s no setting in the box, though it does let you choose which channel it responds to, maybe it will let the others through. I’ll try and update the post)

  3. ffffizz
    October 31, 2013 at 14:40 | #5

    Hi, thanks for the well documented post. I just implemented this mod hoping that i’d be able to use the volcabeats to pilot a small hardware monosynth (midi in). Only the LFO on the latter seems to sync. The monosynth’s audio out is plugged into an amp but for some reason the sound of the volcabeats comes out through its internal speaker. I double checked my connections they correspond to what you indicate. any clue as to what’s wrong? thanks for the read and hope you can help.

    • nizz
      October 31, 2013 at 15:14 | #6

      Hi. Check that the monosynth can recognize the MIDI messages sent by the Volca Beats (check it’s manual to see what messages it can recognize and if you can map different messages to certain functions). They are listed on the PDF file linked at the bottom of the post (well, the messages it can recognize are listed, but they are the same as the ones being sent). Please mind that the Volca Beats sends messages every time a sound is triggered (or some of the knobs are being turned) but will not sent the stutters for example.
      About the sound, you just need to turn down the master volume of the unit. The MIDI messages will still be sent.

      • ffffizz
        November 7, 2013 at 09:40 | #7

        It turns out I was on the wrong channel.

  4. Lento
    November 7, 2013 at 00:49 | #8

    Hello,
    I’m being a little lazy and presenting this idea/question to you rather than going through the leg work. Anyway…
    From what you saw in there, how difficult do you think it would be to disconnect/cut the TX trace for the stock midi-in jack and wire it up to a 3 position DPTT switch so the one jack can be midi-in, midi-out or off(if you are playing the bass or keys with external keyboard then want to quickly separate them without yanking the midi cable)?

    • nizz
      November 7, 2013 at 07:40 | #9

      Hi,
      I see a few drawbacks for this operation, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. First of all, the stock MIDI In jack is mounted directly on the PCB, which means that it would have to be desoldered and remounted. Then, the existing jack won’t be able to be mounted anywhere, since there are no mounting holes, only the pins soldered on the PCB. This means that you will have to use a standard jack like the one I used in order to mount it on the enclosure. The spacing between the enclosure and the PCB is not that spacious. I chose that spot for 3 reasons.. a. Looks, b. There was a mounting thing that I reused for on of the screws and last and most important c. It was maybe the only spot that the pins wouldn’t touch any components soldered on the PCB, and even then I had to bend the used pins 90 degrees and cut the others. I guess since you will have to remove the MIDI In jack there will be some space, but I don’t remember how crowded the spot was, I will have to open the enclosure to see and I don’t have it with me.
      To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t go into all this trouble. I like having both a MIDI In and Out. Keep in mind that you can program the Volca Beats to respond (and thus send) MIDI messages to a certain channel, so for you example I would just configure the MIDI channel on each Volca and just change the channel on the keyboard according to which one I would like to use.

  5. josh hoffman
    December 6, 2013 at 18:08 | #10

    Sick work nizz. I love seeing people mod and improve everything! Can’t wait to get my hands on one to try this out!

  6. December 8, 2013 at 06:30 | #11

    Amazing work! Do you know if this would work for the Volca Keys and if it would output MIDI Clock as well?

    • ffffizz
      December 8, 2013 at 11:13 | #12

      They all have the solder pads for adding a midi out. In the Volca keys it’s below the wires connecting the two circuits together. I did the mod and then removed it: sure you can play it with your keyboard but I actually find that having th little slider keyboard lends itself to different ways of playing. Pity there aren’t any cv connections: gate pitch out or in?

  7. December 14, 2013 at 20:47 | #13

    I love that Korg has made these sorts of mods possible in the Volcas and on the Monotribe. Congrats on making it happen! This particular mod has the potential to solve a major headache for me. I want to sync the Volca Keys and Novation Bass Station 2 for an upcoming project, but as the firmware stands on the BSII there’s no MIDI clock on the out port. To get around this I have had to have a third device provide the MIDI clock to a thru box. This creates a mess of what should be unnecessary cables and power supplies. If the VK mod sends MIDI clock then it’s problem solved. I will give this a try soon, but do you know off hand if the VK mod will send MIDI clock as well at the Beats? Thanks!

    • nizz
      December 15, 2013 at 18:22 | #14

      Hi, I haven’t tried this (yet) with the keys, but I’m pretty sure that they share the same sync mechanism. Just a side note here, the clock coming out of the Beats wasn’t exactly stable, and when using it with recorded audio on Ableton Live, it caused slight glitches in the sound (due to the recorded parts constantly stretching and compacting), though I believe that the variation is so small, that in your case it’s not going to make a difference (it’s maybe even going to make it feel more natural)

      Nice site btw…

  8. December 17, 2013 at 00:44 | #15

    Hi and thanks for documentary,
    I also added Midi-Out after reading your blog,

    Rock on,
    Rob

    • nizz
      December 17, 2013 at 14:21 | #16

      Hey, I’ve seen your videos on Youtube… Good job man.

      • December 17, 2013 at 15:43 | #17

        Hi Nizz , thanks for listening to my Vids,
        btw I have linked your article on my blog @intersting links :-)

  9. Philip Cleary
    December 17, 2013 at 04:12 | #18

    Excellent post, I’ve been lusting after the volca range for a while and this mod makes the range even better, awesome! :)

  10. Vesa
    December 17, 2013 at 16:23 | #19

    Hey! Thanks a million for the instructions, i did the mod today, the work part took me like 1,5h and my soldering iron was cold for like 6 years. It works! Crazy, props to Korg and especially to you!

    The thing is now that i tried it in action i’d actually need only midi clock out from the beats and no notes. Could you tell me which wire that would be? Or is the clock layered within the note data? From other sources it seems pin 3 carries clock, here 3 is empty.

  11. December 21, 2013 at 00:09 | #20

    hi there… i did read VD on the pcb board pictures instead of VC mentioned in your text… “The Connection
    On the PCB you can clearly see three solder points, clearly labeled as VC, GND and TX. These are the points we must connect. Check the third image in order to see what must be connected where.”

    sooo i asume it was/is a mistype?

    • nizz
      December 22, 2013 at 01:31 | #21

      Ooops… you’re right… The VD solder point must be connected to VC on the connector.

  12. December 21, 2013 at 00:10 | #22

    btw,.. anyone know how i can send tempochanges TO the Volca Beat by midi? or do i need this mod… the Midi OUT thingy
    i want to use my Yamaha AN1x (with stepseq and arpegiator) to control the tempo (BPM) of the Volca Beat…. sofar it seems it only would work within a DAW (with very terrible syncing in Ableton…. im kinda disappointed about that part of the Volca`s)

    • nizz
      December 22, 2013 at 01:41 | #23

      I’ve only tried to sync it with Ableton through MIDI In, and it works good enough (with slight drifts). Are you sure the AN1x sends out MIDI clock? In a quick search I did, I came up with this (http://www.synthforum.nl/forums/showthread.php?t=114686) where it says that it can only receive MIDI clock. So (if this is true) if you want to sync them by MIDI, you either have to make this mod or have an other MIDI clock source feed them both

      • December 22, 2013 at 12:57 | #24

        hi there.. thnks.. and yeah.. i found the same thread so :(.. my beloved AN1x doesnt have MIDI Clock Out :(.. so i think i will go for a MIDI OUT mod in the future.. first the other 2 volca`s and then maybe some modding.. (never done it before so i have to think over about it)

        about your comment about Ableton.. it seems no-one can synch the beats and ableton as easy,… how did you compensate the Beats? External Instrument and then MIDI Clock delay settings or?

        thnks for any help btw :)

        • nizz
          December 22, 2013 at 21:51 | #25

          What I’ve realized is that when pressing play in Ableton (and I guess anywhere else), the beats starts at it’s last set tempo until it receives the second clock signal and starts playing at Ableton’s tempo, giving you the feel that it has some delay. When you press stop, after a while it resets to the previous tempo. If you set the tempo to the tempo used on Ableton, no “delay” will occur.
          Setting a delay on an external instrument isn’t the best solution because a. the delay depends on the song’s tempo and the last tempo set on the beats and b. you will have a minor shift until the second clock signal comes.

          • December 29, 2013 at 17:43 | #26

            hmmm thats a good reason to look for.. i will try twhat u mentioned as soon as possible..
            if its that simple.. well.. i can live with it then :)
            but as you told it, it makes indeed some sense how it works..

            thnks.. again!

  13. Roads
    January 22, 2014 at 00:14 | #27

    hi, i want to biuld a midi out on my volca beats to, i’ve been looking for a detailed manual or a “how to do” to do that, but i could’t find one – does anyone have a link for me?

    • nizz
      January 22, 2014 at 03:05 | #28

      I don’t think there’s anything more to see… You just have to connect the solder pads to the connector… What do you think is missing? maybe I could add it to this walkthrough.

  14. Eric
    January 26, 2014 at 19:40 | #29

    Done the mod to use it as a sequencer. Is this really possible (if yes how)? I mean I want to drive a monophonic synthesizer with it. So far I did not succeed.

    • nizz
      January 27, 2014 at 12:50 | #30

      Hmmm… first of all it depends on the synth, but yes, it can be done. On the other hand, the Volca Beats output specific note values (not serial), so it doesn’t really makes sense to drive a synth with it. You can try this mod on a Bass or Keys, so that the note layout you see on your Volca corresponds with the same layout on your synth. Also make sure that the synth and the Volca talk to the same channel.

  15. Tiax
    January 27, 2014 at 20:03 | #31

    Hi, thanks for this guide!

    As a total noob, may I ask you what kind of cable you used to connect the DIN connector to the Volca’s PCB ? I’m not sure of what I should use.

    Thanks a lot!

    • nizz
      January 27, 2014 at 20:29 | #32

      I just ripped an old IDE ribbon cable I had laying around, but you can use virtually anything (as ling as it’s not too thick).

      • Tiax
        January 27, 2014 at 21:52 | #33

        Thanks for your answer !

  16. Nexus
    February 1, 2014 at 17:45 | #34

    Hello, I’m trying to clock my modular from my volca beats. Are the points for clock outs on the individual sounds or a general clock out?

  17. jp
    February 9, 2014 at 23:12 | #35

    hi will this mod able me to sync the volca to other hardware like an mpc?

  18. February 17, 2014 at 11:12 | #36

    Def no midi thru on this. I’m working on that now though. going to see if I can do it without desoldering the midi in jack.

    • Vartan Aivazian
      February 17, 2014 at 18:40 | #37

      That would be a nice project, although it’s a little cramped in the case… I’m taking a different approach, building a MIDI Thru Box.

  19. DJM
    February 24, 2014 at 03:07 | #38

    Dumb question here, but if I want to hook up all three of the Volcas to receive MIDI clock signals (and other parameters, like those found in the J74 Fabrizio’s M4L software) do I need to have three separate MIDI-OUTS from my Focusrite (I have the 2i4 with one MIDI-OUT) or can I just use a four port MIDI-Thru box, connecting one MIDI-OUT from my Focusrite to each of the MIDI-IN’s of the Volcas? Thanks in advance!

    • Vartan Aivazian
      February 24, 2014 at 17:30 | #39

      Theoretically you should be OK with a MIDI Thru box… It’s supposed to replicate the input signal to the outputs, so if it receives a clock signal, it would pass it to all outputs. And since the clock signal is channel independent it should work on all devices connected to it, no matter what channel they respond to.
      I’ve build a MIDI Thru box, but hadn’t got the opportunity to test it in real conditions yet. When I do, I’ll update the blog.

  20. Peter
    April 6, 2014 at 06:26 | #40

    Hi, I’ve never modified any equipment before, but I really want midi-out on my volca beats. I just ordered a female 5 pin connector and 3 pin cable. I have a soldering iron. Do I need something coming out of the pins? This is the part I am confused about. Can cut and strip the wire down to what I need, or is the little assembly piece on the end necessary when I solder? If you can understand my question and give me any I help it is much appreciated.

    • Vartan Aivazian
      April 7, 2014 at 12:34 | #41

      If I understand correctly you are asking about the header I’ve added to the solder pads. No, it isn’t necessary… I just added it so that the port can be easily removed… You can solder the wires directly to the pads.

  21. cooptrol
    May 23, 2014 at 16:53 | #42

    Hi just wanted to show this very easy MIDI out mod I did, you don’t need to drill the case and you dont need a DIN connector:

    http://www.korgforums.com/forum/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?p=594941#594941

    pics:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/68730219@N03/

  22. Zen
    June 14, 2014 at 05:02 | #43

    FYI korg has an app called SyncKontrol that sends pulses from an iOS device to stereo out. This can be used to send the master clock to the sync in of the volca via a stereo cable. With the Volca’s I measured a pulse on the tip and about 400 mV on the ring. (Current leakage?).

    Are these the connection you made? If so I think that means sync in clock would work with your mod!

    1. DIN PIN 5 and TX (on pcb)
    2. DIN PIN 2 and GND (on pcb)
    3. DIN PIN 4 and VD (on pcb)

    Thanks!

  23. Zach
    June 14, 2014 at 20:04 | #44

    Awesome. Thank you for posting this!

  24. July 2, 2014 at 23:14 | #45

    So I tried this mod on my Volca Keys and now the startup sequence where the lights blink goes forever and I can’t use it anymore. Bummer.

    • Vartan Aivazian
      July 4, 2014 at 00:29 | #46

      Are you sure you haven’t sorted something or removed some connector that you forgot to put back? If you placed the connector where I did, it could be touching the PCB.

  25. JF
    July 29, 2014 at 21:28 | #47

    Hi. What kind of wire should I use to wire the midi jack to the solder points? I don’t know anything about wire so can someone be very specific?? Thanks!

    • Vartan Aivazian
      July 30, 2014 at 02:22 | #48

      I just ripped an old IDE ribbon cable I had laying around, but you can use virtually anything (as long as it’s not too thick).

      • JF
        July 31, 2014 at 20:12 | #49

        Thanks! I don’t know what that means though. Can I just go to radio shack and say that I need some wire and they’ll know what I need?

  1. November 7, 2013 at 04:39 | #1
  2. December 2, 2013 at 18:25 | #2
  3. December 3, 2013 at 16:56 | #3
  4. December 16, 2013 at 18:21 | #4
  5. January 25, 2014 at 04:34 | #5
  6. May 13, 2014 at 11:21 | #6

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