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My initial reaction to Sequential Circuits’ new digital drum-machine their first was quite a neutral one but, as I spent time with it, that first impression was replaced by real interest. Given that manufacturers are continuing to make things a ‘tidy’ size, you’d think they’d have considered this possibility, but alas Before I mmanual the Drumtraks in, or even leafed drumyraks the owner’s manual, a brief first glance manuao the control layout told me I would be doing a lot of button-pushing to switch dgumtraks mode to mode, and so it proved.
All of the machine’s major functions are accessed by pressing one of two ‘select’ buttons, so, for example, to go from Record to Erase or from Insert to Delete, etc. On reflection, I have to admit that this method is at least a legible one, and so long as you remember where drumtrakd look it’s pretty easy drutmraks know where you are at any given time. Granted, having to keep chasing LEDs up and down their columns does tend to disturb one’s train of thought when programming, but to be fair, SCI have laid things out in as unconfusing a fashion as possible for such a complex multi-mode arrangement.
Most of these are fairly straightforward. There drumtrakss 13 percussion voices: Each voice has a ‘tap’ button so that all the sounds can be played ‘live’ or in the record mode. These perform a variety of functions, the simplest of which is manually stepping patterns along in consecutive order with just one stab of the finger, every time you want to go from, say, pattern 88 to pattern The mono output can also drive stereo headphones directly, giving a mono signal from each side of the cans.
There are also six audio channel outputs plus a metronome output, and these are shared by the percussion voices as follows: Channel 1 – bass drum; Channel 2 – snare and snare rim; Channel 3 – toms 1 and 2; Channel 4 – crash and ride cymbal; Channel 5 – open and closed hi-hat; and Channel 6 – claps, tambourine, cowbell and cabasa.
This makes most of the voices reasonably accessible. What sets the Drumtraks so firmly apart from its competitors is the fact that you can program tempos and tempo changes, levels of individual voices in both live and record modesand each instrument’s pitch. maunal
Now I’ve got your attention! No fader arrangement for levels is necessary because all the individual levels are programmable in steps from 00 to 15, this being displayed on one of the LED panels.
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Tuning is programmed in a similar fashion: The overall memory capacity is notes, while volume and tuning changes take up additional space in the memory, so to make sure you don’t run out while programming, remaining memory space is represented as a percentage display on one of the LED panels. Each drum pattern can be up to measures long and can be programmed drumtrak any time signature for those who have their own drumtdaks and wonderful methods of programming, I suppose.
Patterns can be chained together into songs of up to steps each, while the Drumtraks’ memory is retained when the mains is turned off via a back-up battery with ‘a ten-year life’. The machine has two forms of interface system built in to it. First, a selectable 24, 48, or 96 pulse-per-quarter clock input and a pulse output are provided for use with older sequencers, rhythm units and sync-to-tape. Second, there’s a MIDI interface that lets you use the Drumtraks in conjunction with any other similarly-equipped computer-controlled synth or sequencer.
This allowed me to use the latter’s velocity-sensitive keyboard to control the drum-machine’s percussive voices, so that the harder the keyboard was struck, the louder the drums appeared. I took the Drumtraks into Mayfair Studios, Primrose Hill, drumtrqks test the quality of the digital chip recordings through big control room monitors.
After all, all the programming versatility in the world doesn’t count for much if the basic sounds themselves are pretty ropey. I’ve got no complaints, though. Everything on the Drumtraks sounded very, very good: I know sounds are always a matter of taste of course, but I thought almost all the sounds were fine. The bass drum, in particular, impressed me because it had plenty of both bottom and top: The snare is also drumtarks and very workable, and in fact I achieved a usable sound for just about every percussion voice with the help of the Drumtraks’ tuning facility and some fiddling on the desk EQ.
The only small area of complaint is the tom-toms. Having only two tom-tom tap-keys isn’t a disadvantage in itself because the tuning can be adjusted onboard to give effectively 32 different tom sounds, but almost all of these lacked attack, which tended to make them appear a little weak by comparison with the other voices.
On the other hand, almost everything else sounded exactly like what a cabasa, clap, tambourine, or whatever should sound like, while the cymbals sounded even better than those on the LinnDrum, the Drumtraks’ extra ROM capacity for this sound allowing a little more decay.
This leads us on to a rather interesting discovery. After lifting the lid off the unit this is thoughtfully restrained in the ‘up’ position by a swing-arm arrangement which prevents it from swinging all the way back and crashing against the jack-sockets on the rear panel, unlike another rhythm-machine I can think of and conferring with Ultravox’s resident boffin, I discovered that drimtraks single-chip voices from the LinnDrum will slide straight in to the Drumtraks – a bit like lowering a cu.
V8 into a family car. I had a lot of fun.
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With the Drumtraks, I didn’t get as long a test of it as I would have liked, so perhaps there are some quirks and booby-traps about it that I didn’t have time to discover, but I certainly liked the machine while it was around. Due to their higher production volumes and a policy of holding back on product release to see what the other manufacturers had up their sleeves, Sequential Circuits have been able to offer a superb item at a very good price indeed.
I think the Drumtraks has a substantial future with musicians and recommend it. D is for Drum ES May You can send us a note about this article, or let us know of a problem – select the type from the menu above.
Please include your email address if you want to be contacted regarding your note. If you value this resource, you can support this project – it really helps! Controls Most of these are fairly straightforward. Interfacing The machine has two forms of interface system built in to it.
Sound Quality I took the Drumtraks into Mayfair Studios, Primrose Hill, to test the quality of the digital chip recordings through big control room monitors. Chip Replacement This leads us on to a rather interesting discovery.
Also featuring gear in this article. Previous Article in this issue Frankfurt Musik Messe Next article in this issue Hammond DPM Gear in this article: Other articles featuring gear in this article: Review by Warren Cann. Previous article kanual this issue: Please Contribute to mu: Searchable archive of old, out-of-print music production magazines.