Most of us have dreams of a vintage drum machine. And, there’s good reason for this. Back in the day, they were easier to use, bigger and frankly much more intuitive. Wave Alchemy, like many other companies has worked hard to bring us an instrument that emulates these old drum machines, while at the same time doing some things that are new and clever. Does this Kontakt-based instrument come close?
Before we get into the sounds, which are by far the most important aspect of any drum machine, of any sort, I’d like to talk about the execution and timing of Digital Revolution. One thing that has been a dead giveaway for what is real vintage and what’s a sample pack, or bank, isn’t really the samples as much as the timing. When you program a vintage drum machine, the timing, velocities, swing and fidelity are factors that many companies forget about, opting to only get the best recording. This is something that Wave Alchemy definitely understand and have obviously gone to great lengths to compensate for this with both clever programming and incredible interface design.
Digital Revolution provides an interface that supplies both step sequencing, real-time rhythm capture via MIDI, intuitive key mapping, and very clever audio manipulation parameters framed in such a way that you won’t spend weeks scratching your head. In fact, even if you don’t have too much experience with any drum machine, you’ll pick this up quick.
What I find particularly clever are the key mappings that Wave Alchemy obviously spent some time on. Not only can you trigger the sequencer from different keys, you can also program patterns, re-sequence patterns, and even load patterns all from your MIDI controller. So, you can play beats, program beats, and the drums never stop the whole time. This really is a freestylists dream that anyone can learn.
This is where I have to take a step forward and really commend Wave Alchemy on not only a great piece of work, but also for really spelling out the intention for what is taking place in a really nicely written manual. Many brilliant instruments come and go with features that are brilliant, but go unnoticed due to lack of clear explanation. Beyond the manual, Wave Alchemy has done something really unique here. They’ve created an instrument (actually several drum and percussion instruments, with additional drum modules intended for allowing you to utilize certain individual drums within a DAW) that is doing some incredibly complex tasks, in a manner that replicates not necessarily any particular vintage drum machine, but a culminations of features mixed with the feel, vibe and tone of the really classic, vintage drum machines.
So, in a sense, this is made for the lovers out there. The Bassdrum module, for example has an extremely basic layout that, in fact, houses a compressor, tape saturation effect, filters… This looks simple, but each drum module, each percussion module can become deep rabbit holes of sound design.
(...) there is so much amazing possibility for coming up with amazing new drum and percussion sounds of your own.
And, there is so much amazing possibility for coming up with amazing new drum and percussion sounds of your own. And, even though it may be a unique kick drum of your design, because of the effects employed, the beautifully captured samples, and even the signal chains taking place, your unique kick drum still sounds strangely vintage.
This is sound and instrument design taking place on the highest levels of professionalism. And, with regret, I can’t even begin to scratch the surface on everything that is possible and even going on in Digital Revolution. Suffice to say, if you’re doing any form of music that could benefit from a really classic electronic drum machine that always delivers, try this out. And, keep in mind that for some, this is a gift that keeps on giving. There’s also included Ableton Live and NI Maschine packs. All this, and it’s barely $100.
Price: £84.95 GBP
Pros: A serious instrument made up of many beautifully, and painstakingly recorded samples of some of the best drum machines ever, that also happens to have an incredible sequencer, set of effects and Ableton Live and Maschine packs.
Cons: There is a very real possibility that you could spend days on end doing nothing but tweaking Digital Revolution drums.