Ar­turia DrumBrute Im­pact

The French brand un­veil a com­pact, af­ford­able drum synth with added punch. Si Truss straps in for a crash test

Future Music - - CONTENTS - CON­TACT KEY FEA­TURES WHO: Source Dis­tri­bu­tion / Ar­turia WEB: www.sourcedis­tri­bu­tion.co.uk / www.ar­turia.com Sounds: Kick, Snare 1, Snare 2, Hi/Low Tom, Cym­bal/Cow­bell, Closed Hat, Open Hat, FM Drum. I/O: Main ¼-inch jack out, mini-jack head­phone out, ind

If you were to spend a lot of time read­ing the in­ter­net’s var­i­ous com­ment sec­tions – not ad­vis­able – you might come away with the im­pres­sion that Ar­turia’s orig­i­nal DrumBrute is a gen­er­ally bad drum ma­chine. Opin­ion on the sub­ject has been – to me, sur­pris­ingly – di­vided. While there are plenty of fans, some com­menters will tell you that the sounds from Ar­turia’s ana­logue drum ma­chine are bor­der­line un­us­able.

On its first re­lease, I gave the DrumBrute a glow­ing re­view within th­ese pages, and I stand by that. While, ad­mit­tedly, its ana­logue drum sounds tend to skew to­wards a bread-and-but­ter vin­tage char­ac­ter, it re­mains a great source of punchy, classic drum sounds. More­over, its se­quencer is ex­cel­lent, hit­ting on the ideal bal­ance be­tween in­tu­itive­ness and cre­ative depth, with in­ter­est­ing fea­tures like the abil­ity to eas­ily pro­gram polyrhythms, and per-track swing and ran­domi­sa­tion.

For­tu­nately, all of those pow­er­ful se­quenc­ing tools are present in this new com­pact, wal­let-friendly fol­low-up, the DrumBrute Im­pact. Like its big­ger sib­ling, the Im­pact cou­ples its se­quencer with an all-ana­logue drum syn­the­sis en­gine and very flex­i­ble pat­tern sav­ing/song mode ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Vis­ually, the Im­pact looks pretty sim­i­lar to its pre­de­ces­sor, housed in a solid, navy blue chas­sis fa­mil­iar from the rest of Ar­turia’s ‘Brute range. The Im­pact is nar­rower than the orig­i­nal, but it’s also slightly taller and deeper, and the wood pan­elled ends of the orig­i­nal have been re­placed by an al­most fin-like shape with or­ange trim. The front panel lay­out is very sim­i­lar, so any­body fa­mil­iar with the orig­i­nal can drive straight in.

So what has changed? The most ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ence is that the Im­pact has fewer drum chan­nels than its pre­de­ces­sor. The 17 drum sounds of the orig­i­nal DrumBrute are here trimmed back to 10, which share eight con­trol chan­nels. The Im­pact is not, how­ever, sim­ply a cut-down ver­sion of the larger DrumBrute – much of the sound en­gine has been over­hauled here, and the over­all range of sounds has been switched up.

Here we get one Kick (as op­posed to the two kicks on the orig­i­nal DrumBrute), two Snare chan­nels, High/Low Toms, Cym­bal/Cow­bell, Closed Hat, Open Hat and an FM Drum. As be­fore, each has a hand­ful of ro­taries on the front panel for con­trol­ling the level and one or more sound pa­ram­e­ters. The big­gest change here though is in the in­tro­duc­tion of a new Color mode, which lets users quickly change the tonal­ity of each sound by shift­press­ing the pad un­der­neath each chan­nel. Sig­nif­i­cantly, the Color pa­ram­e­ter can also be en­gaged per-step via the se­quencer, giv­ing users a ba­sic way to au­to­mate sounds. One of the main draw­backs of the orig­i­nal DrumBrute was its lack of au­to­ma­tion record­ing or MIDI CC con­trol for sound pa­ram­e­ters, which ef­fec­tively meant that the only way to add move­ment to sounds was by get­ting hands-on with the front panel ro­taries. While this is still the case for the DrumBrute Im­pact, the abil­ity to en­gage/dis­en­gage Color does al­low for an ex­tra layer of va­ri­ety within pat­terns, par­tic­u­larly when it’s cou­pled with ac­cented steps within the se­quencer.

The sounds them­selves are no­tice­ably punchier than that of the orig­i­nal DrumBrute – hence the name, I guess? – but also a lit­tle more char­ac­ter­ful, par­tic­u­larly with Color en­gaged. While the Im­pact loses the sec­ond kick of its big­ger sib­ling, the kick here has a broader range. At its most vanilla, it has a punchy, full-bod­ied 909 qual­ity. There are wide rang­ing con­trols for both the pitch and de­cay, which al­low for ev­ery­thing from long boom­ing bass hits to tight, mid-range pops. The kick’s Color mode en­gages ana­logue dis­tor­tion, which sounds great – adding lots of gritty mid-range har­mon­ics in a re­ally pleas­ing, com­pli­men­tary way.

The two snares are roughly sim­i­lar in their core sound – a mid-range thud paired with fil­tered white noise – but dif­fer­ing con­trols al­low them to be shaped into con­trast­ing ter­ri­tory. The first has a Tone/Snap con­trol which ranges from a flat white noise hiss at one ex­treme to a punchy tom-like thud at the other. The sec­ond snare, mean­while, has a tone con­trol which fil­ters down the sound to more of a murky, low-mid hit. The first snare’s Color op­tion adds Body, giv­ing it a woody mid-range thump. The sec­ond’s Color mode is la­belled Clap, and adds a slightly stag­gered at­tack el­e­ment for a hand­clap-like qual­ity. Both snares have wide rang­ing de­cay con­trols, which can go from long washes of sound to tight rim-like hits.

The low and high toms are fairly vanilla, Roland-style sounds, but both have enough punch and body to cut through a groove. Although they can be se­quenced in­de­pen­dently, the two sounds share a pitch con­trol, so it’s im­pos­si­ble to tune one with­out af­fect­ing the other. Both lean to­wards the low-mid end of the spec­trum,

mak­ing them good for techno-style bass. De­spite its name, the high tom is more of a mid-range in­stru­ment, although this isn’t a prob­lem since high-fre­quency per­cus­sion is eas­ily cov­ered by the FM Drum (see the op­po­site page).

The cym­bal and cow­bell are prob­a­bly the weak­est of the Im­pact’s sounds. The cow­bell is a de­cent 808 clone, but has no tone or pitch con­trols so it’s a bit of a one trick pony. The cym­bal, mean­while, has a de­cay con­trol and can have its pitch shifted by the Color op­tion. It’s a de­cent enough sound but in terms of its char­ac­ter it’s pretty sim­i­lar to the open hat – a more pro­nounced ride or crash feel may have been prefer­able.

As with the orig­i­nal DrumBrute, the hats have quite a metal­lic qual­ity, which I re­ally like, but oth­ers might not. There are front panel ro­taries to con­trol the tone of the hats and the open hat de­cay. The Color switches be­low the two hat chan­nels can ex­tend the length of the closed hat and change the over­all har­mon­ics of both sounds; this lat­ter op­tion gives a nice al­ter­na­tive flavour that broad­ens the sonic scope.

The other sig­nif­i­cant change from the orig­i­nal DrumBrute is the master ef­fects. The Im­pact loses the Steiner-Parker fil­ter of the orig­i­nal, but gains an out­put dis­tor­tion with level con­trol and on/off switch. While this isn’t the most ex­treme ana­logue dis­tor­tion in the world it adds a nice bit of sat­u­ra­tion and com­pres­sion-like gel to the over­all sound.

Taken to­gether, I re­ally like the sounds of the Im­pact. It’s per­haps not the most son­i­cally flex­i­ble drum ma­chine on the mar­ket, but pro­duc­ers of cer­tain elec­tronic gen­res will find a lot to like. To my ear, th­ese sounds lend them­selves most to rugged ana­logue house and techno, but there’s also enough punch and bass for hip-hop pro­duc­tion too. In­di­vid­ual sounds can sound a lit­tle dry straight out of the box but I don’t find that too prob­lem­atic. The Im­pact has in­di­vid­ual mini-jack out­puts for the kick, snares, hats and FM drum, so it’s easy enough to add a touch of pro­cess­ing to each sound (a lit­tle out­board re­verb re­ally brings the snares to life).

Be­yond this, the rest of the Im­pact’s work­flow is pretty much iden­ti­cal to the orig­i­nal DrumBrute. As be­fore, the se­quencer is very in­tu­itive but has some great cre­ative tools. The polyrhyth­mic Last Step func­tion is a high­light, along with per-track swing and ran­domi­sa­tion. Again, the se­quencer Roller and Beat Re­peat tools are a cou­ple of handy op­tions for spic­ing up fills and turn­arounds. The am­ple crop of 64 pat­tern slots means there are plenty of space to save and re­call grooves (although only pat­tern and tempo info is saved, not sound pa­ram­e­ters) and the Song mode means th­ese can eas­ily be stitched to­gether into full ar­range­ments. The Im­pact also re­tains the flex­i­ble sync I/O of its pre­de­ces­sor, with MIDI in and out, USB and ana­logue-friendly clock in and out ports on its rear.

The orig­i­nal DrumBrute was a very solid all-round drum synth paired with an ex­cel­lent se­quencer, at a price that made it very tempt­ing. The Im­pact dou­bles down on all of this. While it lacks a lit­tle sonic flex­i­bil­ity and isn’t all-round per­fect, it is an in­spir­ing and en­tic­ing drum ma­chine at a very good price. Whether th­ese new sounds will win over naysay­ers re­mains to be seen, but I’d rec­om­mend they take a fresh look.

Dis­tor­tion : The out­put dis­tor­tion isn’t par­tic­u­larly ex­treme, but adds a nice touch of sat­u­ra­tion to the mixColor: The Color op­tions add ex­tra depth to each sound, as well as a way to liven up se­quencesMetronome: This out­puts to the head­phones only, for a con­ve­nient click track when per­form­ingSe­quencer: The step se­quencer is largely un­changed from the orig­i­nal, but is still in­tu­itive and fun

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