Gear Review: Dave Smith Instruments Tempest

Dave Smith Instruments Tempest

When it was announced that Dave Smith (father of MIDI and Sequential Circuits) was to team up with Roger Linn (Linndrum) to create an innovative new instrument, it was rumored to take the analog community by storm. That storm has of course touched down, and ravaged all preconceived notions of what drum machines can do. For starters, this unit isn’t exactly a drum machine. It is a drum synthesizer. Which in short means that when you play sounds, you are not just simply recalling samples from a ROM chip, you are actually creating drums from analog and digital oscillators. How this exclusive style of sound design relates to music production is very crucial. With a unit like this in your studio, you are actually creating drum sounds that have never been heard before, and therefore renders your productions unique from the herd.

The sound engine for this unit starts with four oscillators per drum sound, two analog and two digital. With a wide variety of analog wave shapes and loads of digital samples to choose from, it is easy to get lost crafting the texture for your individual sound. Now multiply this by 32, and you can begin to see how massive this tool truly is. Moving on to envelopes, the Tempest is stocked with five envelopes per voice, that you can switch between AR (attack release) and ADSR (attack decay sustain release) mode, suitable for snappy drums or lush synth tones. Adding two LFOs to the equation, and your modulation possibilities become endless. One of the best implementations to this unit is the well-developed filter section. With a low-pass filter (LP) and a separate high-pass (HP) filter dedicated to each voice, taming and exploiting harmonic becomes the name of the game. The sound of the filter is about as good as it gets. Having years of analog circuit design under their belt, this team of electronic engineers are surely the elder statesmen of the synth world, and this filter is the flagship of their tenure. Once you get a sound going that you like, there are still several features that drive your drums to the next level. Adding a built-in compression, distortion and amplifier circuit, the modern day drum synth becomes a virtual studio in a box.

Don’t be dissuaded by the cost if creating legendary sounds and timeless music is your goal.

If all this drum and synth voicing wasn’t enough fun as it is, then programming your own rhythms will push to towards nirvana. With a powerful step sequencer on board, it is easy to step your grooves in just like you could with all the drum machines from the past. What makes the programming section of this unit so special, is that the 16 pads (2×8) are extremely sensitive to velocity and work very well for finger drumming. You can input rhythms by performing them live, and Tempest automatically quantizes them to the master tempo. There is also a added roll feature, which allow you to program MPC-style effects simply by pressing a pad. All of the expected edit functions are on here as well, so getting your groove right feeling tight just a few buttons away.

Truly living up to the revolutionary machine that it is, the Tempest comes equipped with a USB port on board, making for loads of MIDI and Sysex information to be transferred back and forth between computer and machine quickly and efficiently. Carrying quite the hefty price tag (MSRP: $1999), this monster of a machine may tempt you to look the other way, but don’t be dissuaded by the cost if creating legendary sounds and timeless music is your goal. Dave Smith and Roger Linn often get mistaken for being craftsmen of fine electronic music instruments; however, these prolific designers are actually engineering the future as we know it.

Gear Review: Wave Alchemy Electro House Underground

Wave Alchemy Electro House Underground

Looking for a little inspiration to get your house tracks up and going? Need a bit of crazy electric sounds to hurry some ideas along? Then look no further than to this fresh new electro house pack from Wave Alchemy.

This heavy-hitting sample pack includes a host of sounds and loops that have been road tested in some of the worlds top superclubs for the past year or so. Filled with hard floor smashing drums, booming basses, uplifting effects, electric hit and synth bits, it will take literally no time to get a top ten track shining with this royalty free pack. With over 1.5gb of sample content including 492 wave samples, 255 house drum loops, 50 filtered percussion loops, 95 bass loops, 92 electro loops, 50 fx samples and 56 patches, this pack is filled to the max with high-quality content.

Available as either a full package or Ableton Live pack, Reason Refill, or Apple Loops, this pack will work flawlessly with any host DAW you may be using. After loading these files onto my machine and filtering through them, I instantly became inspired and started working on a demo track, which ended up becoming something I wanted to spend some more time working on. The loops are inspiring to get an idea flowing, and since all the individual bits are included as well, you can load the sounds into sampler racks and build your own loops as well. Not to many packs offer this amount of killer content, and if you are into getting your house on, then this packed offering is truly a no-brainer!

Video Premiere: Nick Hook Studio Tour for Scion AV

Nick Hook

If you love vintage gear, get ready to drool. Greenpoint, Brooklyn-based DJ/producer Nick Hook gives Scion AV a look inside his studio outfitted with an array of vintage synths including a Dave Smith Prophet-8, Roland Juno 106, Roland SH101 and Sequential Circuits Split-8. Hell, Hook even has a Moog Vogayer. “I like keyboards with knobs,” he says in the video. “I like to run things through my keyboards.”

Hook’s amazing collection is rounded out by a host of vintage drum machines such as a Roland TR-808 and TR-909. Rather surprisingly, Hook proudly holds up his covered Rat distortion box and shows off his EMT 250, which is “the first digital reverb ever made.”

Though he’s big on hardware, Hook also gives us the lowdown on his software setup.

Watch the full video below.

Gear Review: Elysia Mpressor

While having dedicated hardware units built for specific audio processing would be the idealistic approach for every project studio, the fiscal cliff we would have to plunge off in order to reach that goal may seem riddled in myth. However, with today’s software technology actually emulating hardware circuitry and not just audio I/O paths, engineers can come amazingly close to virtually creating the real thing. Stepping up to demonstrate their heavy hitting software fortitude, comes the brilliant engineers from Germany’s own Elysia. This group set forth to change the way high-end compression can be used throughout the recording process, and with all of the team being versed as both a musician and recording tech, there was a load of experience at work.

The Mpressor plug-in is a virtual version of the company’s famed hardware unit under the same name. This hardware unit has been hailed in the audio industry as one of the best compressors ever built. The same is true of the software version, just without the rack space and check book impact. What sets this compressor plug-in apart from the rest of the field is that not only can this marvelous device add that transparent shimmer to your master track, but this plug can pump and excite your tracks in a harmonically musical way that has never truly been achieved before.

Featuring actual emulation of the hardware circuits and a distinct oversampling component, this compressor can provide optimum function even when the host track is of a super low resolution. With an auto-fast setting for the compressor’s envelope, you can dial in your attack settings to truly slam your drums and staccato instrument tracks. External sidechain is also built into this unit and integrated with your host DAW, making gain ducking gate effects easy to set up.

For that classic dance floor pump that we call expect out of dance music, sidechain the kick to this compressor and go to town. Another interesting feature to this unit is the negative ratios settings. This allows the user to set negative compression ratios, and create an almost revered compression effect, great when pumping full drum loops. Famed for their Niveau filter unit as well, this handy musical audio filter is also included on this compressor. After a few minutes of figuring out the orientation of the settings, this unit was flawless in operation, and became instantly useful on every track in the recording session. What makes a plug-in better than a dedicated hardware unit in this case, is that with a virtual plug, you can launch as many instances of the device that your computer’s processor will let you, allotting you virtually a full rack of Mpressors! By far the best software compressor I have ever used, this unit will from here on out be used in every recording session moving forward. Drop the coin on this plug and take your productions to the next plane.