Korg's Beat Boy may just be the ultimate portable digital scratch pad and virtual partner for the aspiring or practicing songwriter. Interested in how this simple, pocket sized tool can make you a better player?
By Chris Loeffler
Playing good music is about practice and inspiration. Unfortunately, practice takes time and inspiration isn’t limited to striking in the practice space. Bringing your guitar to work or school to practice between breaks is a good way to keep progressing, but it is also a way to take on sloppy habits (especially around timing). Worse yet, capturing those elusive moments of inspiration can be easily to lose between the hustle of daily responsibilities and the sanctuary of the practice space. Korg looks to address these needs, keeping in mind affordability and portability, with the Korg Beat Boy.
"Practice makes perfect", as the old saying goes. The Korg Beat Boy makes practice anywhere easy with over 100 rhythm patterns to play over and a tuner to keep you honest. The addition of a built-in recorder expands the application of the Beat Boy beyond simple practice by giving you a pocket-sized digital sketch book to lay down song ideas as inspiration hits. Powered by two AAA batteries with an approximate continual operationing battery life of ten hours and featuring 128MB of internal memory, the Korg Beat Boy can accept instruments via the ¼” input or through its internal microphone and outputs audio through a 1/8” headphone out or its 23mm dynamic speaker.
What You Should Know
- The Korg Beat Boy has three primary functions- tuner, beat box, and recorder. All three functions can be used independently or in any combination. Each mode features a dedicated On/Off button and independent controls.
- The tuner function is as simple as any tuner on the market, with a clean display covering nine 1Hz increments (436-444Hz), a green "In Tune" LED, and red Sharp/Flat LEDs. Instruments can be tuned either by running into the unit via the 1/4" input or via the internal microphone. Tuning was accurate when compared against high-end rack units and, surprisingly, was more accurate than several built-in tuners on sampled acoustic-electric guitars.
- The 100 rhythm tracks included in the Korg Beat Boy are separated into the following genres- 8-Beat, 16-Beat, Pop-Rock, Jazz-Funk, World, Dance, Fill, Odd Meter, and Metronome. Each genre features eight to ten beat patterns that are different enough to cover the standard beats and syncopations of the genre. While the tones of the drum machine are far from "realistic", as soon as you start playing along with them they fit in perfectly and feel natural. Each beat can go as slow as 30 BPM or as high as 252 BPM, from excruciatingly slow to Adderall-overdosed fast. Tempo can be set either manually via buttons or tapped in by the Tap Tempo control.
- The recording feature of the Korg Beat Boy is equally simple and intuitive, featuring track up/down, Start/Stop, Record, and Loop controls. An eight beat count-in initiates when Record is hit, and any drum track that is selected will start on the first recorded beat. Drum tracks can be added or removed from the recording at any time. Recording instruments through the ¼” input yields adequate enough direct tones, and there are two levels of internal distortion that can be applied if so desired. Acoustic instruments recorded with the internal microphone are much more lively and detailed than one would expect for such a small, inexpensive setup. Somehow, microphone recordings made with the drum track playing through the internal speaker managed to have no trace of the drum track when it was turned off post-recording. Up to 100 tracks can be recorded and stored on the device, but the unit can only store twenty-three minutes of audio, and each track has a time limit of twenty minutes. A USB out allows users to export their recording to a PC or MAC.
- The drum tones and distortions can sound a bit hokey on their own and, unless you’re Ween, you won’t be using them beyond the rough demo stage.
- Limited recording time and no overdubs.
At its size and price, it is hard to deny the value the Korg Beat Boy can bring to the busy guitar player who is looking to continue to improve themself and their songwriting on the go. All three primary functions are so intuitive that the inclusion of a manual seems almost comical. Most surprising of all is the quality of the recorded tones.
Korg Beat Boy Product Page (Street $89.00)