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Korg KM-202 full review

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Korg KM-202 full review
I started playing gigs around 6 months ago & the Korg KM-202 is the 3rd mixer I’ve bought this year. I snagged this one from HTFR.com & had it shipped via FedEx’s platinum service.
At this point in time there’s a good chance I have the first one in Australia as it won’t be available here for another month, & due to the lack of reviews available anywhere for this mixer, I’ve decided to attempt to write out the most in-depth review available for those interested in pre-ordering or purchasing one.
*Apologies in advance for any lack of correct technical terms used.



First Impressions:
Inside its box the package includes the power cable, the mixer, owner’s manual & registration card. Its casing is first class, seems solid & at 5kgs it’s a big mixer for a 2 channel, dwarfing my CDJ-200s on either side of it. It definitely looks flashier & better quality in person than in any photo i had seen prior to getting my hands on it, but is it really as good as it looks?
A white face is complimented by a transparent glassy green inlay for the Kaoss pad section. Allen key screws on top & Phillips screws on the sides keep it intact. The plastic corner guards are part of the casing and aren’t removable without dismantling the unit. Contacts on the rear for each in/output plug are not gold plated. The single headphone jack at the front of the unit is for a 1/4 inch input. Universal power socket on the back will take any regular PC style 3 prong power cable (which is what I used to replace the UK cable supplied). I’ve found the unit fits into my Pioneer RC2 road case (for CDJ-200/100s), but you’d have to prop it up on an angle inside the road case when operating it with the headphone jack & input/output leads connected.



In Depth:
The phono/line & monitor switches are metal & a long throw back and forth, not quick or snappy at all, & located at the top of the unit they aren’t suited to scratch mixing.
The smaller knobs for the levels and pans on the unit are all the same, some with required centre notches which give a nice subtle feedback that disappears with heavy tweaking. The knobs sit above the faceplate and are very thin, a bit fragile giving the slightest play when jiggled, light friction when turned, good for quick tweaking.
One thing i like about the ergonomics of this unit is the space between not only each knob but every control on the mixer, the layout is perfect in my opinion, minimal style with each section grouped by its framing label, there’s no chance you’d ever accidentally bump any function on the unit. Buttons for the Kaoss pad functions all have the same stiff feel, they don’t push down they just make a clack sound & light up or turn off (more the Kaoss pad later).

The faders both channel & cue are smooth moving but not at all slippery, with plenty of friction from the textile fringes beneath the face plate (revealed upon closer inspection with a camera phone light). The metal neck of the fader toggle brushes these fringes as it moves past, with less friction as the fringes open wider at 0-2 levels. They inspire careful & smooth adjustments & will probably prove useful for anyone with shaky hands. I’m sure this friction will decrease over time. The fader toggles sit high off the faceplate and have plenty of unwanted seesaw movement when jigged horizontally. The friction is fine, but i would’ve liked something more solid for any vigorous movements (i hardly ever use x-faders).
The adjustable x-fader seems smooth & solid enough for scratching, but not quite as frictionless as a lot of other dedicated scratch mixers get but you couldn’t complain about it. There’s a combo button push you can perform that will show you in digits on the Kaoss pad display where you have your x-fader adjustment at, for accurate curve changes i guess. I don’t scratch so i can’t give it a run for its money in that sense & report on that unfortunately.

The Kaoss touch pad itself feels slightly spongy to roll your finger over, softer plastic than found on a laptop touch pad, & you can faintly feel some kind of grid underneath. You can touch it without it registering an input & you need to apply light pressure for it to implement the desired effect, I’ve found this to be a trait that improves your accuracy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the pad starts to show wear over time.
The Kaoss pad display screen will display more than just the assigned number of the effect chosen, when the strobing tap button is used it will display a BPM level (that you can fine tune in 1 BPM increments using the BPM/program knob), indications when using the memory buttons, & more. Each program has a different affect on the overall gain of the channel you’re using, with some programs requiring a different sweet spot with the dry/wet depth knob. Flicking through the different programs or adjusting the BPM knob is a breeze; scrolling the numbers to find the program you want is achieved quickly. The BPM tap function is the best I’ve seen, very accurately calculating & holding an input tempo ranging from 20-300bpm, although it cant be turned off.
The tail option called ‘FX release’ that follows through an effect when you take your finger off the pad (delaying & decaying perfectly at the BPM rate you’ve input using the tap button) can be turned off or on by applying a button combo. I won’t go into the Kaoss pad any more than that as there are plenty of KP mini reviews out there that this mixer’s model emulates. A complicated button combo can be used to reset the mixer to its default digital settings.

The EQ selector is (as far as I know) is a new feature to DJ mixers & the second completely unique feature to this mixer that sets it apart from its current competitors. Controlled by a large knob that is used to switch between 6 different EQ map settings, giving you different frequency division between the 3 equalizer bands, as well as different boosts & cuts ranging from combinations that include up to +18dB boost & right down to a full infinite cut. Straight away the different settings seem smart & actually very useful for many different styles of mixing, especially if you have a habit of doing plenty of EQ tweaking like I do.



The downfalls:
Along with its minimal stylings comes a minimal list of fairly basic features, and straight away I’ve noticed quite a few useful features from lesser priced mixers missing on this one. For example, if like me you are changing/upgrading to this mixer from a Numark DXM06, then you lose what should be an important feature of this mixer; the effects preview/cue mode on the monitor select switch (which is also found on the recently retired pioneer DJM-909) that allows you to test/listen to the effects you want to use before you apply them. Without this you need to know each of your required FX like the back of your hand along with their corresponding X/Y functions, or else your simply adding effectors & hoping for the best, but I suppose its really something to master over time. Only when the monitor switch is on master mode can you hear the FX you apply, which is something I found pretty annoying as I like to multitask where I can.
You loose an EQ section on the Mic channel, instead you have a gain knob & a choice of balance between channel 1 & 2 for x-fader control, this is a basic feature that even my first $100 mixer had, & I don’t know why they haven’t even included at least an on/off button for the Mic control section.
Although its hardly a downfall, you also loose one ground screw in point, with both phono channels sharing one ground screw.
More so on high-end mixers, you may have a reverse switch for each fader, a dedicated volume knob for the booth output, as well as multiple choices for different input and output socket types including XLR & balanced inch types, although none of these features appear on the new Korg.
But that’s not all; disregarding its lack of FX cue monitoring (which is dangerously stupid shortcoming considering how complicated 2D controls are), this mixer’s most annoying taint is surely its completely useless level meters.
When the trim is at 12 o’clock, no matter the source I feed into it, I cannot go past half way or ‘5’ on the channel fader without the level meter hitting a constant red. So naturally I turn the trim right down till I reach a 9 o’clock position (assuming that is highest level of red indicates the channel is exceeding 0db), and after pushing the fader up to 8 or 9, the meter reads as any other mixer would, at a constant orange with occasional flashes of red. So why am I attempting to explain the meters level in colours? because there’s no dB labelling beside each of the meters channels, rendering them (as I said before) completely useless. So using 9 0’clock as an assumed neutral 0dB trim setting (another assumption as the trim doesn’t have any dB labelling either) you still feel like your not using the mixer correctly, operating the mixer’s basic trim/gain function in a fashion that ignores traditional standards that every other DJ mixer adheres to. And before you ask, no, changing the digital EQ selector to a different setting doesn’t affect the neutral gain of the channel. Its like they might’ve labelled the phone & line channels the wrong way round? I think I’ll have to try using the phono inputs for my CDJs and see what happens.
At the end of the day I think they went a little overboard with the feature diet they’ve given this mixer, but this may be so that they can add features to dramatically improve this models update when it comes time for them to refresh their entry level product in the Korg DJ mixer range.



Conclusion:
The layout and ergonomics are unbeatable, putting even the finest Allen & Heath mixers to shame. The unit seems durable enough although it probably isn’t the last mixer i’ll ever buy. Its knobs & faders don’t have the solid unbreakable feel a lot of other mixers ive used do although the overall feel of using it is growing on me quickly. I’m certain the KM series shares nothing in common with its big cousin the Zero series. Its Entry level price when compared to the rest of the Korg mixer range, bares more than a few budget mixer qualities, & ill admit that after often using the Allen & Heath zone 92 & 62, Pioneer DJM-800 & 909, plus a few entry level mixers like the Numark DXM06 as well as a beginner mixer from the likes of German brand Omnitronic, the KM-202 has traits that clearly make it more comparable to the cheaper of the list of brands & models mentioned.
Although I’ve never used a Pioneer DJM-400, I’d imagine that unless you’re dying to get your hands on the endless possibilities a Kaoss pad offers, or you’re already a Korg fanatic, the Pioneer competitor at a similar price, could be a better buy & is also worth giving a look into. Although you wouldn’t pick it at face value, the Numark DXM06 still puts up a very good fight at budget level prices half of what you would pay for the Korg or Pioneer. If you own a Numark DXM06 now and are looking for an upgrade, unless its worn out/broken, you were also going to buy a Kaoss FX pad, or your rolling in cash, i'd be waiting till you find it at a bargain price before changing.
From my limited experience with this model so far i really cant say i want to discourage anyone from buying it, especially if they find it suits their needs. If you cant save your money and wait for the Pioneer’s DJM-909 replacement (due out at the end of the year) and decide to buy this model, expect a simple, quality mixer, blended together perfectly with the Kaoss pad mini. On the downside however its ultimately marred by a handful of noticeable & primitive design flaws that will interrupt your natural mixing reflexes, requiring more adaptation than should be necessary for a brand new entry in DJ equipment available today.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Happy to look into any questions anyone has about it.

Last edited by DJ Hejira: 05-Sep-07 at 01:25am

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Great review!

So - no booth volume control? And that gain thing and metering probs sound positively retardo!
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nice, fyi storedj are apparently, "now shipping"
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last week i rang up djwarehouse & storedj and they both said it wont be available for another month, even though their online stores say "in stock". if this is still the case then its just to get people to pre-order.

And pro tool, the booth volume control is only a feature found on mixers of a higher price range so it can be forgiven in that respect. Im still to figure out whats going on with the off center trim & Ill post up if i figure it out, but in general level meters that arent marked out seem pretty useless to me, its not an assumption any DJ should have to make, especially if like me you use the mixer for radio shows & recording mixes.

Last edited by DJ Hejira: 04-Sep-07 at 06:02pm

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Top review, would definitely read again AAA++++

Shame it doesn't have a built in BPM detector for the FX section but it still looks like a hot mixer.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by DJ Hejira

lAnd pro tool, the booth volume control is only a feature found on mixers of a higher price range

Is that so? I'm pretty recent to the whole DJ thing but I'd say it's one of the controls that I certainly give a workout to. But that could be because of my hearing It's either"I'M MIXING, WHAAAAAAAT?" = Booth MAX or "I'm not mixing, whaaaat?" = Booth < max
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spose it doesnt bother me much personally as i dont use booth monitors much. & auto BPM detectors arent as usually as accurate as a manual tap anyway. the tap function on this mixer is perfect imo.
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Mmmmmm alot of things has put me off this mixer, thank you for the review

Quote:

Originally Posted by weapon

These days, whenever I'm balls deep, I can't help thinking "I cant wait to tell my buddies on ITM"

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yeah, same. it looked really good but lacks a few things . i reckon it will go the way of the kaoss mixer...
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and the kp bpm light flashes constantly? That could get a bit annoying. I find the one on the kp3 a bit distracting sometimes.

Awesome review btw
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definitely has some basic flaws but i must say after using it for a radio show last nite, once you get used to it, each adjustment you make to it feels extremely accurate, & it does have the same satisfying feel you get from using a higher priced mixer, i mean i really enjoyed the set i got out of it & my audience gave very positive feedback. shame the level meters on this mixer arent more useful though.

the tap light cant be turned off, some FX are BPM syncronised & some ignore it, but as long as your busy enough mixing its really not an annoying light.
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how much will this be?
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$700-800 retail
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Pro Tool

Great review!

So - no booth volume control? And that gain thing and metering probs sound positively retardo!

Sorry noob question here but whats booth volume control?
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I seperate output channel so you can hook up monitor speakers and adjust the volume independently of the master volume control.
I'll be back...
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it's the volume control for a second output - like for a set of speakers in the dj booth
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Ohh so you can have one set of speakers louder then another set?
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A booth volume knob would be used to control volume of the 'monitor' speakers you have next to you that provide you with a close range speaker for accurately monitoring/listening to the signal/output your audience is hearing. This missing feature isnt that big a deal as most powered monitors have their own volume located on the back of the speaker box, or on its amp if its a passive speaker.

In the past month of using the KM-202, ive found the faders to be more durable than they seemed at first impression. The only downfall that i still notice today is the lack of fx preview on the cue monitoring switch. At this point in time im still content, if not happier with the mixer (after getting used to it) than i was when i wrote the review.
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Ahh ok yeh i get it now thanks
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Quote:

Originally Posted by DJ Hejira

A booth volume knob would be used to control volume of the 'monitor' speakers you have next to you that provide you with a close range speaker for accurately monitoring/listening to the signal/output your audience is hearing. This missing feature isnt that big a deal as most powered monitors have their own volume located on the back of the speaker box, or on its amp if its a passive speaker.

In the past month of using the KM-202, ive found the faders to be more durable than they seemed at first impression. The only downfall that i still notice today is the lack of fx preview on the cue monitoring switch. At this point in time im still content, if not happier with the mixer (after getting used to it) than i was when i wrote the review.

Hey DJ Hejira,

I see the eq are pretty unique with its selector, I just wanted to know if you had more time to explore the different eq settings and play around with it.

I am considering buyng a 4 channels next year, and the 402 seems to be in my limited budget, I am really interested in the eq functions of the unit and how they sound.

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nice review stue.
after reading this i think i mite just go with the korg 04.
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I heard the biggest problem with these Korg mixers is the use of ho hum average run of the mill type faders. Certainly not Mackie/Rane/Ecler 'Eternal'/P&G type faders.
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and neither is it reflected in the price.
step on my cubes.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by TurntableTech

I heard the biggest problem with these Korg mixers is the use of ho hum average run of the mill type faders. Certainly not Mackie/Rane/Ecler 'Eternal'/P&G type faders.

Theres nothing wrong with the faders, im not disapointed with them, however they arent solid feeling like a top end A&H fader & its not a good mixer for scratching, but theyre more durable than they seem, & the curve is good.
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i just bought one yesterday its a step down from a pioneer djm 600 but i think for its price its a kick ass unit ...
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^^^
How are the eqs and that selector that let you change how the eq sound???

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Nice to see such a comprehensive and objective review of a newly purchased product.

Too often owners of new products are too proud to admit shortfalls of their purchase.
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D1 - you dont really get use of all the different EQ modes, i tend to change between one mode with a subtle kill/boost & the isolator mode with full kill & strong boost depending on genres being mixed.

Axel - i think my neutral bias is because id had frequent use of top end (& entry level) mixers prior to its purchase.
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Reviving old thread.

How do all the different EQ selections behave apart from the two you've mentioned?

Contemplating getting one of these when I can afford to get a setup. Looks like it would be a bunch of fun.
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hmm i have my name on one of the 16 km-402's arriving in the next month.. Wonder if there will be much difference between the 2 in terms of what heijra has reviewed on.
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they're exactly the same unit quality wise, with a few differences to accommodate for the 2 extra channels, a better mic channel, & a pan knob for the master output for some reason. my km-202 (as seen in the first post) is still working perfectly after plenty of use at house parties, etc.. & the kaoss pad isnt showing any signs of wear at all, the whole mixer has proven to be very durable.

one thing i never mentioned is that the gain knobs are very sensitive & i find that a bit annoying, the slightest adjustment makes a noticable difference in volume. would be interested to see if anyone else with a KM series mixer finds the same issue i found with the gains and their 9 o'clock position (see 3rd photo & the downfalls section to follow)..

Last edited by DJ Hejira: 26-Apr-08 at 10:37am

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as mentioned about the lack of dB Level Markings on the LED indicators.. I am assuming that could be fixed by a phone call to korg tech support whom should be able to tell you the scale they used them apply them as a sticker and bam..

i noticed the lack of a booth volume control on the 402 which is i supposed okay as i will have my amp for the booth nearby at all times anyways.. rack mount ..

Surely a list of the effects and the corrosponding x, y value modulations can be obtained from Korg themselves?

I am emailing them about these 2 things now so hopefully my 402 should be a breeze.. but i will let you know how 'touchy' my trim / gain controls are anyway.. i am used to touchy gain controls as my mixing unit at the moment has touchy controls lol.. taught me to be very gentle and accurate with my movements which i feel is a bonus..

Well hopefully i'll have my new mixer long enought of play with it extensively before too long i have 2 21st to dj at and i want it for them :p.
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