The new Korg KM-202 KAOSS Mixers merge the effects and revolutionary interface from the KAOSS PAD, six different types of EQ, and an adjustable crossfader curve to deliver the most unique DJ mixer on the market.
Review by: DJ Blaze (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Introduction/First Impressions – The Korg KM-202 is the newest 2-channel Korg DJ mixer that includes the super famous effect unit called the Kaoss Pad. I think that when Korg announced this mixer (and the KM-402 which is the 4-channel counterpart), they envisioned a mixer that would suit the needs of all DJ’s, from turntablists to club junkies and everything else in between, and they succeeded…for the most part… When the KM-202 is unwrapped and taken out of the box, the first thing that hits you in the face is the white semi-glossy finish and the big green KAOSS Pad area smack dab in the middle of it all. The Korg KM-202 is also bigger than the normal 10-inch 2-channel mixer and it actually shares its dimensions with its 4-channel counterpart the Korg KM-402 clocking in at about 13 inches wide. The layout is extremely familiar to anyone who has used a 2-channel Scratch mixer before, with the channel controls located directly above each channel fader. It seems that Korg went for the “simple-is-better” design and only provided the crucial/necessary controls for mixing and scratching. Going around to the back of the Mixer, I was disappointed to see that there are only RCA outputs! A company like Korg who is known for their superior sound quality should have DEFINITELY included balanced outputs such as XLR or ¼” connections. I am not saying that I am an audiophile or anything, but there is a small but distinct difference in sound quality when both are compared. Also around the back there is RCA BOOTH output, two RCA Line inputs, two PHONO inputs, and a Mic ¼” input. Around the front of the Mixer there is the Crossfader Curve control knob and the ¼” Headphone input. All of the knobs are constructed of a hard sturdy plastic that feels good to the touch. All of the knobs are situated on a plastic posts which is still more than enough “sturdiness” for mostly all DJ’s needs. The unit itself is constructed of a thin metal which should structurally stand up to abuse…The white finish is another story all together. After using this mixer for a little over a month now, I must say that the faders and white face of the mixer WILL easily get dirty over time. A simple wipe with a microfiber towel every once in a while is definitely in order.
The Faders – Now we will move on to my favorite (and arguably the most important) component of any Mixer; the faders. The Crossfader on the Korg KM series mixers feels really light and smooth. It feels somewhat like a cross between an early Vestax PMC-05 fader and the Penny & Giles faders but it feels a bit looser; which, to me, is a good thing. Underneath it all, it is actually an Alpha fader and it feels really nice while scratching. The fader holds its own while laying down some serious scratching with my younger brother. Through our numerous “battles” throughout the weekend we didn’t feel any signs of obvious wear and I doubt that it will start showing signs of degradation anytime soon. The Crossfader Curve works well and the dead space for each side of the Crossfader is minimal; making the CRAB and Transform scratches pretty easy (actually very easy) to pull off when the curve is set to its sharpest setting. The Line faders are a totally different story! They are simply not made for scratching at all! There is no curve control for them and they have a lot of friction/resistance when moving them up and down (this was perhaps purposefully done by Korg so that volume control remains accurate through the Line Faders for mixing). In my opinion, the line faders on this mixer should only be used for volume control purposes and nothing more.
EDIT: The crossfader is COMPLETELY adjustable for the cut-in travel time. I overlooked this item because it is not actually controlled by analog knobs, but rather a digital crossfader interface. The user simply has to power on the unit while holding the PGM3 and HOLD button for the digital adjustment to come up on the display. You can adjust the cut in from 00-50 on each side. At the sharpest setting "00" (which I now ALWAYS keep my mixer on) the cut in travel is barely even existent making scratching even more precise.
The EQ and Channel Functions – The Equalizer section of the mixer is pretty straight forward. You have the hard plastic knobs for High, Mid, and Low frequencies situated directly above the line fader for that particular channel. All of the knobs have the center (absolute zero) click in the dead center of the turn radius so DJ’s know exactly where the knob is positioned. Korg shakes things up a bit by adding a large plastic black dial that changes the style of the EQ parameters when switched between the settings. The switchable settings (which can be changed on the fly and at any time during a performance) include: KM-Q, Round-Q, BOOST, SLAMMING, ISOLATOR, and HYPED. Each one has a distinct sound that totally changes the output of the source material. It is very fun to use and great for experimentation. Above the EQ’s of each line is the Trim knob which acts as a GAIN control for the output volume of the particular channel. Above the TRIM control is the non-scratching style Transformer switches. They are simply used to switch between LINE and PHONE inputs of each channel. The bad part about them is that you simply cannot use them for scratching as they are way too stiff to pull off most techniques. Other than that, we have a MASTER LEVEL control which is a white knob (of the same materials as the rest) and a black L/R PAN knob. To the bottom right of the mixer lays the MONITOR/Cue section of the mixer. There is a metal CUE/MASTER switch which allows the DJ to listen to either the Master output or what is being selected by the CUE MIX Fader. Under the switch is the same plastic white knobs used throughout for the LEVEL control of the headphones and at the very bottom is the CUE MIX fader which can be adjusted to play what the DJ wants to hear in the headphones. The CUE Mix fader seems to be of the same quality of the line faders, which means they will last as long as it is only used for what it is meant to be used for!
The KAOSS PAD – Back in the day, when I was still just a young buck, I was able to play with the first (silver colored) Kaoss pad and I have always been amazed by the endless possibilities that such a device presents. The KAOSS Pad is what sets this mixer apart from the rest. The KAOSS Pad is a touch sensitive user interface that allows a DJ to change effects parameters by moving their finger around the face of the pad. Think of the pad as a Giant graph where the X plane is horizontal and the Y plane is vertical making it so that the effect gets stronger the farther up and to the right that the pad is touched. The effects brought on by the KAOSS PAD are active only POST FADER. There is also a DRY/WET plastic white knob that will let you adjust the richness of the effect. There are a total of 99 different effects that can be utilized to change the way in which the sound is outputted. There can be only one effect in use at a time, so there is no way to have two separate effects on different decks. The DJ can store three of their favorite effects in the three Program Memory buttons which light up when they are engaged. The KAOSS Pad effect can be applied independently to each channel by pressing the KAOSS button found above each Line Fader. When the effect is activated for that particular channel; the KAOSS light is engaged. To turn the effect off for that particular channel; simply press the KAOSS button again, and the light turns off, meaning that the feature is disengaged. There is also a big illuminated HOLD button that is engaged when the DJ wants the KAOSS PAD effect to keep working even after the user’s finger has left the pad.
Conclusion - Is the Korg KM-202 the best Scratch mixer out there? NO! Is the Korg KM-202 the best Effects/House Mixer on the market? NO!
Does the Korg KM-202 Mixer open up a world of new endless possibilities to DJ’s while providing a mixing console that will suit most professional Mixing DJ’s and Turntablists alike? YES! While the Korg-KM202 doesn’t do one thing perfectly; it does a lot of things extremely well.
-On-Board Kaoss Pad with 100 Effects!!!
-Fully adjustable Crossfader (Digitally controlled cut-in time & Curve knob)
-High Grade ALPS Crossfader
-Unique EQ Selector Controls
-Light color (which is now thankfully growing on me)
-Stiff Line Faders
-Lack of Line Fader Curve Control
-Lack of Crossfader Reverse Function
-Lack of balanced outputs
I call these Cons “minor” because for the way I spin, they aren’t really necessary for me but I know some other DJ's that simply need these options. Despite the shortcomings; Korg has done a good job overall and they managed to do it without breaking DJ’s wallets during the recession (the current retail price is a bargain at only $249).
The bottom line is that the scratching and mixing capabilities of the mixer are very, very good. I can also honestly say that the Korg KM-202 Mixer with the KAOSS PAD has made DJ-ing fun all over again for a 16 year DJ (man I feel old at 28)! There are endless possibilities and new doors that the KAOSS PAD opens up to DJ’s of all genres, and IT IS SO MUCH FUN TO USE!