For this Holiday season’s gift to the studio, I decided on the Arturia DrumBrute. An analog drum synthesizer and sequencer, the DrumBrute simply demands to be played, considering its host of performance features and a classic drum machine sound, ala the TR-808 and TR-909 — all at a street price of $449. More esoteric functionality like polyrhythms and individual track outputs round out a great kit, worthy of interest to anyone creating Berlin School or electronica compositions.
Read on to see if the DrumBrute belongs as part of your studio setup.
Arturia DrumBrute Features and Functionality
Anyone familiar with an old school drum machine should feel comfortable with the layout of the DrumBrute. 12 velocity-sensitive pads allow beats to be entered in a kinetic fashion, or you can simply jam along with an existing pattern. There are 17 different sounds on the DrumBrute, so five of the channels sport toggle buttons to switch between two sounds.
These 12 channels all include level knobs as well as other controls; the majority of them are pitch and decay. There is no panning, as the DrumBrute is a mono device, but when connecting one of the 12 individual outs, that sound is removed from the main output. This is a great feature, especially if you have a dedicated mixer to pair with the drum machine.
16 step buttons allow patterns to be programmed or edited either on the fly or in step mode. When combined with the Last Step button, you are able to vary the amount of steps in a pattern from 1 to 64. As mentioned earlier, there is a polyrhythm mode that allows each track in a pattern to be in its own time signature. B’b’b’b’boom!
The DrumBrute stores 64 patterns in its memory. These are accessed using the Bank button (there are four) along with one of the step buttons. Song mode lets you string up to 16 patterns in a specific order; the drum machine memory stores 16 songs.
In addition to the previously mentioned audio outs (two headphone jacks as well!), the DrumBrute includes 5-pin MIDI I/O, clock sync I/O, and a USB port. Expect more on this functionality in a future article.
The Live Performance Features of the DrumBrute
Featuring a host of intuitive live performance functionality, the DrumBrute is simply fun to play. The built-in filter has low-pass and high-pass modes and includes the standard pair of cutoff and resonance knobs. A looper strip lets you play a smaller section of a pattern in real time; it is also used to program drum fills when creating patterns.
The Randomness knob is also a blast, and works as expected considering its name. Expect beat tweaking, including changes to notes and velocity, as you turn the knob. The Swing knob works in a similar fashion. Both knobs feature a Current Track button which lets you apply the effect to only one track within a pattern.
A global tempo knob with a tap tempo feature is another important DrumBrute control. Within a song, it is also possible to use patterns each with their own tempo.
If you are in the market for a drum machine, the Arturia DrumBrute needs to be in your wheelhouse. It sounds great, with its classic analog drum machine tones holding their own in a synth-heavy mix. Running it through the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Boy delay and Hotone Skyline chorus sufficiently puts things over the cliff!
Expect a trip into its deeper functionality, including syncing (it’s compatible with the Korg Volcas among other devices), in an upcoming TabMuse article or two.