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Billed as a hybrid drum machine Arturia’s Spark blends the conventional interface of an old-school drum machine, complete with TR-style step-input buttons, with a capable software instrument.
The hardware controller, primarily designed to be paired with the accompanying Spark software, is a handsome thing, bristling with knobs and buttons, and looks enough like a vintage drum machine to belie the fact that all of its sounds come from your computer rather than the unit itself.
Eight drum pads along the bottom edge can be switched between two banks for a total of 16 assignable triggers, although we’d much prefer there to just be 16 pads. Three rotary encoders per pad enable instant access to favourite parameters, while six more knobs and an X/Y controller adjust the filter, effects sends and mix for the currently selected pad.
In this guise, Spark excels as an old- school beatbox chock-full of quality sounds, but team it up with the MIDI Control Centre software that’s also included and the hardware module becomes a more generic MIDI controller, with a range of assignable pads, knobs and switches all made accessible.
Pitched at the higher end of the price spectrum, Spark is an intriguing mix of old and new - exactly the sort of thing we’ve come to expect from Arturia. It could be more than you need if you’re just after a controller, but if you have more lofty ambitions for it, the extra features, versatility and extensive sound library could well swing things in Spark’s favour.