Initially released in 2016, Korg’s Volca FM was an affordable synth for those looking for that classic FM sound. The Korg Volca FM was a compact and travel-friendly way to get those tinny mallet sounds, pads, and resonant FM basses that defined the sounds of some of the most popular records of the 80s.
Korg recently released an upgraded version of this DX7-inspired FM machine by releasing the Volca FM2 after hearing the overwhelmingly positive response of the original Volca unit.
And the latest iteration offers a whole new slew of features that expand upon all of the most popular features of the original unit. We’re talking twice the amount of polyphony, free software, better MIDI functionality, and an incredible-sounding reverb.
So let’s dive into our review of Korg’s latest release and discover whether or not this is the perfect budget synth to add to your music studio.
What I Liked About The Korg Volca FM2
Right out of the gate, the first thing that caught my attention was the number of voices in this synth. The original Tamaha DX7 had a thick and juicy FM timbre that the original Korg could never compete. While it did host a six-operator design with 32 algorithms built in, the simple fact that it had far fewer voices meant that any sound you did, be it mallets or basses, never sounded as texturally dense and rich as the original.
And sure, the Korg Volca FM2’s six voices don’t quite compete with the original Yamaha’s 16 voices, but the added polyphony certainly helps get you much closer to the texture and tones of the original.
As a producer of ambient music with lush soundscapes, the second thing that wowed me was the addition of that icy, crystalline reverb. The sound is instantly recognizable as coming from that iconic era of the 80s and immediately conjures up nostalgia for some of Michael Jackon’s most timeless music. While it doesn’t come as a massive surprise, it’s also good to note that the reverb, like the onboard chorus effect, is stereo!
And finally, I love that it’s velocity sensitive. Modern music production is all about attention to detail, and having rigid and unmodulated sounds in your tracks will make them sound dated (and not in a good way). But the ability to adjust notes and sounds based on MIDI velocity allows you to get much more granular with your emphasis and other details that can easily take your productions to the next level.
What I Wasn’t Crazy About On The Korg Volca FM2
My list of critiques is relatively short but should indeed be noted!
Firstly, I understand this is a gripe with any budget synthesizer because the build quality seems poor. It has a lightweight and plastic-like feeling that doesn’t feel like it will hold up when used on the road. Granted, I handle every synth I own like the synth was made it out of fine china, so I doubt I will be breaking this thing anytime soon, but for those who are a bit harder on their gear, this is certainly something to note.
Next, there are some features on the unit that take up valuable real estate on the unit that I think are pretty useless. The main one is the keyboard, which takes up a bit of space unless you want to test your sequence patch quickly. But other than that, the keyboard is quite uninspiring. The other thing is the cheap speaker that comes built into the unit. It has a poor sound quality that makes it unusable to me.
Not that both of these gripes have nothing to do with the actual sound quality outputting from the synth. The quality is pretty damn impressive for a synth at this price point, and these nit-picky things should only prevent you from purchasing this Volca FM synth on rare occasions.
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Specs Of The Korg Volca FM2
Type: Desktop Synthesizer and Sequencer
Type of Keys: 27 x Key Buttons
Other Controllers: Transpose and Velocity Faders
Presets: 64 Programs
Oscillators: 6 x FM Operators, 32 x Algorithms
Effects Types: Reverb, Chorus
Sequencer: 16-pattern, 16-step, Real-time step recording, Motion Sequence
Headphones: 1 x 1/8″
Features: Built-in Speaker, Compatible with DX-7 Sound Libraries
Power Supply: 9V DC power supply (sold separately), 6 x AA batteries
Weight: 0.79 lbs.
The bottom line is that this synth is a great sound FM option modeled after the classic DX7 Sound Engine from the golden era of analog synths. The software just doesn’t cut it when you’re working with FM synthesis. This is an excellent budget option to get the analog irregularities without forking out hundreds of dollars for the more premium FM synths.
Furthermore, this unit has seen significant improvements in sound, features, and tonality over the original team and warrants a slight price hike over the original Korg Volca. This synth is proper for you if you want something small and easy to slot into your workflow and studio.