GEAR EXPO 2022: It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing, and starting rhythm first has been the key to unlocking countless classic dance tracks from all across time.
Groovebox and drum machine hardware and software puts the beat first and foremost and frequently lets you get a fully-formed rhythm section up and out in record time.
Throw in smart slice-and-dice sampling, additional timing and swing quirks and - sometimes - synth-like features to add bass, chords and melody and you've got something with all the immediacy of a beatbox plus the power and controllability of a DAW.
Let's take a look at what's new for '22…
1. Korg Drumlogue
Experiencing a little déja vu round about now? No, your eyes and brain aren't deceiving you. You HAVE seen the Drumlogue before as it was officially announced this time last year.
However - blame the pandemic or unseen production problems - the Drumlogue is yet to appear, with Korg remaining stoically silent on its progress into the shops. Which is a great shame as - given our love for Korg's other 'logues - this beat-based variant was very welcome indeed, appearing originally alongside the company's miniKorg 700FS, Modwave and ARP 2600 M synths, all of which HAVE made it into production.
Promising multiple analogue parts, flexible digital parts and a rich effect section, Drumlogue aims to cover a wide sonic spectrum. Plus, you’ll also be able to load in your own samples and to add custom third-party content via a revised Logue SDK.
What’s more, we’re set to get individual assignable outputs, a performance-friendly interface and a deep sequencer… when it eventually appears.
A price is still to be confirmed. Watch this space.
2. Erica Synths Perkons
Another beat machine lost in transit? Having already impressed us last year with the LXR-02 drum machine, the Erica Synths caught our eye at the Superbooth show in late 2021 with its Perkons percussion synth.
Named after the ancient Baltic god of thunder, each of the instrument’s four voices features a digital oscillator switchable between three modes and shaped by a pair of parameter controls.
Sounds then pass through an analogue filter, switchable between low-, high- and band-pass modes, and equipped with a drive control for added heft.
Beyond this, Perkons features an analogue bucket brigade delay and optical compressor. There’s also a global LFO with morphable waveshapes, which can be routed to any of the voices’ eight sound-shaping parameters.
The sequencer is where Perkons looks especially interesting – there are four tracks for independently programming each voice, each equipped with probability, multipliers and dividers, ratchets and play direction controls. Shuffle and last step parameters look set to add further rhythmic variety.
The plan was to release Perkons before the end of 2021, but Erica Synths has now confirmed that it won’t be hitting this deadline, saying that its plans were affected by “unforeseen circumstances from suppliers”.
The company explains that it ordered microcontrollers for Perkons on the understanding that they’d be delivered in September 2021, but these now won’t be available until late 2022. A pretty severe delay, then.
In the meantime, Erica Synths is reworking the PCB to function with other parts that are available sooner.
The good news is that the extra development time has also enabled the company to improve Perkons’ user interface in the hope that this will make it an even better product.
Pre-orders for Perkons are set to open shortly, presumably at the previously announced price of $1,999/€1,650. Find out more on the Erica Synths website.
3. Twisted Electrons Blast Beats
You might not have been crying out for a hardware groovebox based on the tones produced by Creative Labs’ Sound Blaster cards back in the ‘90s, but that’s what you’re getting thanks to Twisted Electrons.
A throwback to the MS-DOS era, BlastBeats, as its known, is powered by a vintage FM chip called the YMF-262 (also known as the OPL3). This was a swine to program back in the day, so it was hard to get the best out of it, but now Twisted Electrons has harnessed its power into a 10-voice groovebox that offers six drum voices and four synth instruments.
Because all parameters are controlled using faders, you get a proper hands-on experience, and each parameter can be automated and modulated per step. There are 100 kits, and the step sequencer enables you to create 160 songs with 16 patterns and 64 steps (storage is on an included SD card).
You can also control the BlastBeats via MIDI and use it as a 4-operator, 8-waveform polytimbral synth. Connectivity includes quad outputs with custom instrument routing, and analogue sync I/O.
You can pre-order BlastBeats now for €599, with shipping expected in February. Find out more on the Twisted Electrons website.