A pad-based virtual drum machine for Kontakt 5/Player, Drum Direktor blurs the line between playback of loops and one-shots, bringing the two together in a single instrument featuring almost entirely acoustic content.
Each of its 16 pads is loaded with a loop (synced to host tempo or not) or one-shot sample chosen from the included library of 300-odd.
Loops can be whittled down to individual sounds or sections (just a snare hit or two beats of a four-beat groove, say) by moving the slice start marker – which snaps to transients but can be freely offset – and using the amp envelope to control the shape of the 'masked' area. It's an admirably quick and effective system, though visualisation of the envelope would only make it more so.
General sound shaping controls comprise pan, pitch, stereo width, resonant HP/LP filtering, bitcrushing and sample rate reduction, and randomisation of pan and pitch, the last ranging between +/-100 cents and proving handy for gentle hit-to-hit variation.
Every pad is made a member of one of eight colour-coded Groups, each routing to its own mixer channel and choke group. The use of colour makes the interface that bit more intuitive, certainly, but if we were nitpicking, we'd prefer separate assignment of choke groups and mixer channels.
The 32-step sequencer holds up to eight keyswitchable patterns. It's only got four velocity layers, plus a global Accent lane that boosts all hits on its active steps by a user-definable amount. There are Mute and Solo buttons on every lane, and choke groups are reflected in note placement – drawing a note deletes an existing note on any lane in the same Group on that step.
The Mixer page enables adjustment of pan and volume for each of the eight Groups, plus transient shaping, compression, EQ, reverb, delay and tape saturation effects at the Group level, and compression, EQ, filtering and digital distortion at the Master level.
While its scripted engine does a great job of both sequencing and sound shaping, Drum Direktor's defining features are its beautifully played and produced library of live drum loops, and the ability to easily target single hits within them. Without the ability to import samples, though, the whole thing feels as awkwardly restrictive as it does powerful and innovative.