Volca; I also have a Volca FM which I love).
Disclosure: I also have an Easel-K, so I will end up comparing even if I didn't want to.
TL; DR: price-performance ratio: GET ONE! THEY ARE DA BOMB!
The question: Can Two Benjamins Ever Compare to Five DeWitt Clintons?
First unboxing (serial number 000105), put in the batteries.... and nothing. yuck. Bad unit?
No, I hear something. Turn the knobs, okay, hear a weak tinny crappy little sound.
Engage sequencer. Ahhh, that's a little better; the LPGs don't open AT ALL without
something kicking them a little; the knob doesn't have that level of control
authority. But it's really got no body. Sure, it's got the same functional modules
as an Easel (pretty much, not exactly, but pretty much), but the sound ain't there.
Well, whaddya expect, an Easel for $200?
So I plug and I play and... bleah. Disappointment. Turn it off, get a snack, play some
Team Fortress 2. Oh, it's late. Play on headphones.
Headphones? Worth a try.
HOLY MOTHER OF BUDDHA! The little downward-facing speaker on the Volca was
keeping all the good stuff in; through even $20 headphones this thing ROCKS.
Okay, now I can get my groove on. And what a groove it is. Glorious.
Everything works now, at least sorta as expected.
Similarities between the Volca Modular and an Easel:
- Pretty much the same block content- a complex osc, two loopable EGs, two LPGs, and a kinda-crappy waveguide-style reverb.
Normalized audio path.
- Volca also normalizes the CV path as well as the audio path. But you can cross
over between audio and CV (Easel uses Buchla style bananas for CV and tini-jax
for the audio)
Volca has a 1-256 step sequencer with skipstep and pendulum vs. Easel with 3/4/5 steps
Volca has a bunch of scales, well chosen.
Easel has 4 independent S/Hed random values. Volca has one S/H and one smoothed.
Volca has one "utility" - A + B * C, A - B * C . You can use it to make a constant voltage.
Easel (well, the 208 Sound Generator) has full control authority on the sliders and on
CV. Volca doesn't; you can't change pitch or open the LPGs without patching or using the KB.
Easel has pressure sensing KB. Volca doesn't.
Volca has one waveform for each osc in the complex osc- a foldable triangle. Sounds
great though, has great modulation and even the modulation osc folds well.
Volca can't decouple KB tracking on either osc. :-( Modulation osc is ratio-set from
Easel is 1.2 volts/octave, 12 volt span. Volca is 0.5 volts/octave, 3.3 volt span.
Volca uses these tiny pin connectors. Fortunately, Adafruit and SparkFun sell them
for like $7 / 40 so they're not hard to come by if you lose them.
The. Volca. Sounds. Great.
How great? "Remember to breathe!" great. That's how great.
Is it an Easel Killer - despite the "west coast"-ness of the function block complement, no.
The Easel is a musical _instrument_, meant to be played easily in real time; the Volca is
a more deliberate device (maybe if you're good enough you could play it realtime but
the knobs are somewhat fiddly- which is expected when you have 1/15th the size
and 1/100th the weight).
Is it "West Coast" - DEFINITELY. It rewards morphing of sound from one timbre and
beat to an entirely different timbre and beat in real time.
Is it "like an Easel" - yes, in the same way as Wendys hamburgers are like McDonalds
hamburgers; two different implementations of the same basic concepts.
Remember, if you audition/buy one... just ignore the crappo little speaker and use
headphones. Well worth the $200.