Recording - June 2013 - (Page 58)
SHOWCASE OF SOUNDS
Arturia Spark Vintage Drum Machines
By Paul Vnuk Jr.
Released a few years ago, Arturia’s Spark Creative Drum Machine is part of
a new trend of hybrid percussive workstations that marry a physical USB controller with a software drum machine; i.e., all the sounds come from the computer. Spark’s physical controller has 8 large drum pads, transport controls, an XY
pad and a healthy complement of control knobs and buttons. The software contains 480 instruments in 30 kits, along with a 64-step sequencer and a 16-channel mixer complete with effects all for a street price of $499.99.
This review is not about Spark per se. Today we are going to be looking at
Spark Vintage Drum Machines, a software-only light version (or expansion set for
folks who own Spark already) consisting only of vintage drum machine emulations. But don’t let the words “light” and “only” scare you away—I will give you
a spoiler now and tell you that this program is amazing, when you consider the
low price and what you actually get for your money.
Lots to choose from
The folks at Arturia have been in the vintage synth emulation department for over
a decade now with their TAE (True Analog Emulation) technology with classic models
of famous hardware from Moog, Yamaha, Oberheim, ARP, Sequential Circuits and
more, so it’s only natural that they tackle the realm of vintage drum machines. Not
content to stop there, they have also blended many of these synths together into one
big hybrid collection with their Analog Experience: Factory/Laboratory packages
(last reviewed January 2012), not to mention the high-end Origin hardware synth
engine. It’s with this in mind that we begin our look at Spark Vintage Drum Machines.
To start with, Spark Vintage includes 30 classic drum machines which includes
the entire Roland TR family from the 6’s to the 9’s and everything in between,
various Linns, Korgs, and Casios, a Simmons SDS, a Sequential DrumTraks, and
a Pulsator. Of course there is the rare stuff like a Roland CR-78, an Ace Tone
Rhythm Ace, and an E-Mu Drumulator, and then some oddball choices from the
’80s and ’90s like a Roland R8, Yamaha RX5, Kawai R-100, and others. Check
out Arturia’s web site for the entire list.
There are a few drum machines that are obvious omissions from this list; I
missed seeing the original DoncaMatic drum machine that got Korg started, the
Sequential TOM, the Yamaha RY30, and the Alesis HR-16 (and its sibling the HR16B). It would have been icing on the cake for me if they’d added the Alesis
drum machines, just because the HR-16 was my first studio workhorse drum
machine. But then again, I already have issues with some of the included
machines being considered “vintage”, if only because they were around when I
was in college, and if they’re “vintage”, then what does that make me...?
only has 8 pads, in the sequencer you can
have up to 64 steps for up to 16 instruments.
The bottom window is the only one of the
three which offers 4 subwindows (we don’t
have room to show them all). The first,
labeled Studio, is one of two areas where
you can assign and deeply tweak the instruments in each of the 16 slots. You don’t have
to use a complete drum machine as is—you
can mix and match as well, for example
building a kit from an 808 kick, with CR-78
percussion, and a Simmons snare. The
sounds are made up of TAE emulations for
the analog machines. as well as samples
from the classic sample-based ones.
You can also audition and choose sounds in
the Library window. The last window in this
section is a standard 16-channel mixer where
you can further adjust levels and pan sounds,
as well as add compression, eq, bit crushing,
chorus, reverb, delay and more. There are
two inserts per channel and two effects sends.
Each effect opens in the fourth subwindow of
the mixer for additional tweaking.
One set of controls to rule them all
The secret of Spark in all of its guises is that while you have numerous drum
machine emulations, you only need to learn to drive one interface, whether the
Spark control surface itself or the virtual version on your screen. This may frustrate those seeking the totally accurate vintage experience (as if that’s possible
with software), but from a pure workflow standpoint it makes a lot of sense.
The Spark GUI is made of three sections. The center section, where you will
spend most of your time, is a one-to-one emulation of the Spark hardware. I can’t
go into every detailed control, but many of the controls
are user assignable and most can be automated; even
Delivery: boxed at retailers or web download
in software form, it’s made to be played and tweaked
Formats: Windows XP/Vista/7 standalone/VST/RTAS;
in real time. This is also where you can store and recall
Mac OS X 10.5+ (Intel only) standalone/AU/VST/RTAS
songs and patterns.
Copy Protection: Syncrosoft eLicenser key or “soft eLicenser”
Step right up and mix it up
Licensing: single user/single key or single machine “soft” install
The upper window is dedicated to the step sequencer
Documentation: PDF user manual
which is best described as nicely old-school on the surPrices: $129 boxed, $99 download
face, but also contains a healthy level of modern software
More from: Arturia, www.arturia.com
parameters so you can tweak precise levels of velocity,
panning, effects and more. Although the middle section
RECORDING June 2013
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - June 2013
Recording - June 2013
SXSW 2013—From Guerilla To Gorilla
Reviewed & Revisited: Ableton Live 9 and Push
Universal Audio Teletronix LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection for UAD-2
Reviewed & Revisited: Steinberg Cubase 7
Reviewed & Revisited: MOTU Digital Performer 8
Ingram Engineering MPA685
Reviewed & Revisited: PreSonus Studio One 2.5
Reviewed & Revisited: Cakewalk SONAR X2
Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 18: Headphones—Part 1
Recording’s Showcase of Sounds
For Your Bookshelf
Recording - June 2013