It’s April Fools’ Day! It’s become an internet tradition to post an announcement for a fake product on this day. Usually, these fake products are too silly to ever become real, but sometimes they have that “why doesn’t this thing already exist?” quality, and there’s enough demand to make them real. This year’s fake product that people want turned real is the Korg Volcassette.
The Volcassette is supposed to be the latest in Korg’s “Volca” line, which is a series of very portable, very inexpensive (they retail for US$150) synthesizers that are about the size of a paperback book. The Volca line is “retro” — these synthesizers replicate the technology and sounds from 1980s. The Volca FM synth pictured above does a pretty good job of duplicating the sounds of the Yamaha DX7, the bright, ringing sound that defined the ’80s pop and synthpop sound. For example, the opening to Howard Jones’ What is Love? is littered with DX7 sounds, especially the bass and bell sound.
Just as Korg’s Volca synths are inexpensive “throwback” devices that bring back the sounds of the 80’s, the Volcassette is supposed to be a throwback to four-track tape recorders, which let you record four separate recordings and layers them — typically vocals on one track, drums on another, and two or more other instruments on the other two tracks. Through the ’80s and ’90s, the 4-track cassette tape recorder was a mainstay of home recording studios; I even had one.
There are far less clunky ways to do multitrack recording these days. Even smartphones do it well these days. If you have an iPhone and want to do 4-track recording, you’ll find the excellent Spire app perfect for your needs. Its features run circles around the feature set of the Volcassette, which are straight from the stone age:
- Transport: Play, Record, Rewind, Rewind 2x, Fast Forward, Fast Forward 3x, Tape Speed (for playback and record), Auto-Reverse
- Recording Capabilities: Four-track recorder
- Display: 7-segment LED play counter with reset
- Inputs: Combined 1/8″ guitar/XLR input (includes breakout cables); onboard microphone
- Outputs: 2 x 1/8″ stereo headphone jacks for shared listening
- Output Processing: Dolby A noise reduction; dedicated Bass and Treble controls
- Power: 6 x AA batteries (included) for up to 20 hours continuous playback, or optional 9V adapter
- * Optional volcahead head-cleaning tape also available
But in the hipster era, when people are buying increasing numbers of vinyl albums and turntables, when photographers are getting into old toy film cameras like Lomos and Holgas, when Moleskine notebooks still sell even though our phones have more powerful note-taking apps, and when things like vintage typewriter stores exist (Tampa’s own Paper Seahorse has a lovely collection), it shouldn’t a that big a surprise that musicians would want an old school 4-track tape recorder.
Here’s a sample of reactions to the April Fools’ Volcassette announcement on Facebook:
If Korg end up having to make the Volcassette real, it wouldn’t be the first time this sort of thing has happened:
The iCade — an miniature cabinet that turned your iPad into an arcade machine — was originally a ThinkGeek April Fools’ joke product announced in 2010. However, the idea was so good, the demand was so great, and the idea was actually within the realm of possibility, so they had to make it real.