I first ran into this new generation of touchpad and user-friendly devices at a party. I started talking to the DJ who was running some vinyls on a turntable and asked him what this curious item was. It was a Kaossilator, a small portable device that would be played by anyone with barely any training at all. Having a bunch of drunk (and stoned) people around me all playing along to the music that was playing was a revelation to me. With an elegantly simple design and a few neat tricks (like the beat detector I will mention later) one was capable of improvising music without barely any prior training.
Now the Kaossilator is the predecessor of the larger and more professional Kaoss Pad, but it's what opened my eyes to the new opportunities of modern instruments, samplers and effect units. I started researching this line of units by Korg and discovered a few different models, some focused on synths and other sound generators, while the KP3 focusing mainly on sampling and loops.
The input is basic RCA, most likely since these are primarily made to be used with turntables. However, I've been using an adaptor cable ( 1/8" to RCA) to plug-in my iPhone and then send the output off into a pair of speakers. The audio is sent directly in the unit and I mix the depth of the effects with the effects level knob.
Loop & BPM - This unit is mainly a sampler and loop runner. With the beat detector, the device finds the rhythm of the music that is playing, then sets the BPM of all effects and loops to it. If however the detector doesn't find the beat, the user can manually punch it in. I found this element crucial to the quality of the units performance, and once one gets around setting up the BPM quickly, you can cut and edit, even fool around with the feel of a song as if you had the vinyl in from on you.
Effects - The effects library on the Kaoss Pad 3 is large and pretty much covers anything you will ever need from compression to filters, distortions to delays. The X and Y pad really gives you full control of the tone and intensity of any given effect.
MIDI - The unit has a MIDI input and output that allows for MIDI control of other units. I've used the Kaossilator with Reason a few times and am quite happy with the control I get using the X and Y axis.
Versatility - It works great with dance music such as Justice, Flux Pavillion and Nero, but is very versatile and i've used it to improv remix anything from Kanye West to Rage Against the Machine. It's also a superb unit for any Industrial music band, a style that relies on rhythm very much. The KP3 can add noise and chop up sounds to make them aggressive and brutal, the same way they can be run smoothly through without anyone noticing.