Many musicians still hold a huge place in their hearts and virtual racks for Roland's classic drum sounds. This is where ADM - AudioRealism Drum Machine - comes in.
The idea is simple: take the sounds of Roland's classic TR-606, 808 and 909 drum machines, and put the lot of 'em into one virtual beatbox, complete with a step-sequencer and added goodies.
We won't bore you by explaining the Roland drum machine concept yet again, but suffice to say that ADM does an absolutely sterling job of emulating all three models, providing an uncanny level of realism.
Each 'slot' (kick, snare, etc) enables independent selection of an appropriate sound from the 606, 808 or 909. Analogue modelling is used for all of the 606 and 808 sounds, and it's a combination of samples and synthesis for the 909 (which is exactly how the real 909 tones are generated). You can use, say, an 808 kick with a 909 snare and 606 hats, and there are 34 different sounds available in total.
Not so real deal
The only drawback is that, out of respect for Roland's copyright, genuine 909 samples aren't provided (some convincing replacements are included instead), though you import your own. Adding samples, however, is not so straightforward, as you need to put them all in the Sample Library folder.
This is painfully longwinded, and not something you want to be getting into when in the throes of making a hot beat. A further annoyance is that there are no controls to quickly flip through the samples.
This doesn't detract from ADM as an emulation, but it feels like the only reason for external sample support is to get around the fact that it doesn't ship with certain authentic 909 hits, robbing it of the chance to become the staple drum synth/sampler of choice for countless musicians.
Another gripe is that for all of its modern enhancements, ADM is still sometimes too strict an emulation. While you might not have been able to play the clap and maracas at the same time on the original 909, you always wanted to!
And although some sounds do indeed have extra controls, some are still a bit limited. The 909 clap, for example, has only the simple level control of the original. Modern production often requires greater flexibility, so we'd like to be able tune it too, and set the length.
The one truly new feature is the FX section, which combines a really tasty 'sound mangler' with a filter bank. This adds crunch and depth, and sounds absolutely great, whether used subtly or to totally mash up the signal. You can send sounds to the FX section independently, alter the 'output quality' of the master output for an old-school sound, and also route the drums to separate mono outs, if you choose.
It's hard not to recommend ADM. It's a bit fiddly and restrictive in places, but it does a stunning job of emulating those vintage Roland machines. Throw in a few more features and a more refined user experience and we would be talking modern legend, but for now, it's just a 'must have'. And that's a great start.