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Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02 review

Brace yourself for another resurrected blast from the past

  • £499
Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

Will appeal to the more techno-oriented but can do an awful lot more. An intuitive machine anybody can create with.

Pros

  • Easy workflow.
  • Excellent and versatile sounds.
  • Rock solid.
  • Lots of connectivity.
  • Saveable presets to SD card.

Cons

  • No sample voices.
  • No individual voice outputs.

MusicRadar Verdict

Will appeal to the more techno-oriented but can do an awful lot more. An intuitive machine anybody can create with.

Pros

  • + Easy workflow.
  • + Excellent and versatile sounds.
  • + Rock solid.
  • + Lots of connectivity.
  • + Saveable presets to SD card.

Cons

  • - No sample voices.
  • - No individual voice outputs.

Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02: What is it?

The LXR-02 is the product of a collaboration between Erica Synths and the creator of the original LXR, Julian Schmidt, also known as Sonic Potions. The original LXR was a do-it-yourself machine that, despite sharing many similarities with this new version, never quite achieved the mainstream drum machine status it hoped for. That said, it had a lot of love and was a fine machine for the more practically minded musician.

Physically, the second iteration has a similar layout and workflow but offers some well-deserved extras. The build quality for one is excellent, with a solid metal chassis, nice resistant controls and the addition of sliders; one for each voice plus a master volume. For performance and jamming, this is an especially welcome change, as it makes it far easier to note volume levels and make changes on the fly than with rotary controls. Visually, the LXR-02 will be familiar to Erica Synths fans, with its red display and that big black data encoder.

Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02

(Image credit: Future)

Round the back there is plenty of I/O running from four outputs (two stereo pairs) MIDI in and out and USB, as well as the power, clock in, out and reset and an SD card slot. Many questioned whether the SD card would allow for sample playback but unfortunately, this is not the case at the moment. The SD card is there for saving and loading presets, in itself a welcome feature. There are no dedicated per-voice outputs, but the mixer section allows the user to pan voices across the stereo field, which is a nice touch.

Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02

(Image credit: Future)

The lack of sampling kind of indicates what this drum machine is all about, which is virtual analogue sound shaping and sequencing using the tried and tested Roland standard, so most drum machine enthusiasts will be right at home with this.

From left to right, the voices start with three virtual analogue drum synth voices, perfect for kicks, toms and other more meaty rounded sounds. Next up are a noise-based snare, then a shared clap and cymbal voice based on FM synthesis. Next up are the hats, which can be varied in length for closed and open. Last in the row is the master volume.

As mentioned, the sequencer section is a fairly conventional layout with buttons above for selecting bars. The step buttons double up for other functions with the addition of the shift button. While this may put some off, in use it is a slick system that rarely has you fumbling for the right combo. All functions are clearly labelled, so building that muscle memory happens very fast. Likewise all the other menus and features fall to hand in a predictable and consistent way, so you’ll find the overall learning curve is very shallow.

LXR-02 Presets

Some drum machines and synths don’t allow for the recall of sounds or patterns, which is a huge failing. The LXR-02, however, has a SD card for this very purpose, so you can save those wonderful sounds you worked on and easily share them or back them up. This is a huge bonus and praise to Erica Synths and Sonic Potions for its inclusion here, as many artists will want a consistent tone for use across multiple tracks. Not only that, but this is key to being able to use the kit morphing feature, one of the star players in the feature list, and one that will earn it accolades for some time to come.

Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02

(Image credit: Future)

Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02: Performance and verdict

One of the triumphs of the LXR-02 is the sheer depth of control over every element of each voice. Not only does each have its own attack/decay envelope but an incredible transient generator. These can add as much or as little punch, click and pop to each hit as is needed, as they can be mixed into the main voice with separate volume controls. There are waveshape options for transients too, making it a breeze to shape each and every sound.

One of the triumphs is the sheer depth of control over every element of each voice

The LXR-02 feels fast in use,  due to the four button/screen combo, which gives instant access to the most commonly needed attributes, with less common ones on a second page, almost as speedily accessed.

Likewise each of the voices has a dedicated button under its slider, to help bring it into focus on the screen.

Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02

(Image credit: Future)

Keep it moving

Drums often need plenty of modulation to really come alive and the LXR-02 doesn’t disappoint there. Each voice has controllable LFOs for amplitude, filter, oscillator settings and more. 

Also consider...

Arturia DrumBrute Impact

(Image credit: Future)

Arturia DrumBrute Impact
The DrumBrute Impact is similar in that it’s as much drum synth as sequencer and is quite hands on. It’s not as deep a sound design tool but is half the price.

Elektron Digitakt 
Another solid, great sounding device, the Digitakt has a great reputation but doesn’t quite offer the immediacy of the LXR-02, although it’s very versatile.

On top of that, each has a sample rate control and distortion setting, bringing plenty of grit to the sounds without unpleasant digital harshness. Yes, they can be gnarly and aggressive but in a refined and usable way.

FM controls are suitably intuitive too, making it easy to dial in more metallic tones. This is a lot of functionality for a small drum machine but it never feels unwieldy. It’s as fast to dial in as it is to think about what you want to dial in in the first place. 

Sequencing is incredibly straightforward and easy – if you’re familiar with the classic XOX format, programming will be second nature. There are four bars of 16 steps with a pattern length definable either in a menu or by the last step button.

On top of all that familiar workflow is also an automation recording function, which lets the user sequence parameter changes. This is becoming more common on synths and nice to see it find its way here too.

Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02

(Image credit: Future)

Not content with excellent sound design tools and a sequencer that offers more than you might expect, the LXR also has an onboard digital effects unit.

Digital effects can sometimes sound a bit rigid or harsh and although that’s true to an extent here, they all perform well nonetheless. You can only run one at a time, but that may well be a good thing to help stop them overpowering your carefully created tones. 

Effect types are a dirty drive, a ringmod, delay and a compressor. These all have a number of settings to help tame your tone. The drive is the star of the show here, with a really tasty saturation.

The highlight of the whole machine is the truly magical morphing feature. It’s a simple idea but makes for great live play as well as interesting studio use. It is simplicity itself allowing users to morph between different kits, on the fly. That may not sound like a lot but it can invigorate a jam session, with an extra layer of modulation that can help you transform a track.

MusicRadar verdict: Will appeal to the more techno oriented but can do an awful lot more. An intuitive machine anybody can create with.

Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02

(Image credit: Future)

Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02: The web says

"LXR-02 is what the world needs now: a drum machine with its own personality and soul. It slaps harder, plays easier, and does grunge, glitch, grime, and digital mayhem unlike anything else."
CDM

"A lovely further development of the beloved LXR drum machine from Sonic Potion."
Synth Anatomy

Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02: Hands-on demos

Erica Synths

Sense Music & Media

Red Means Recording

Sonic State

Erica Synths and Sonic Potions LXR-02: Specifications