Luigi Felici and the folks over at Nusofting have put the finishing touches on Broken Drum Machine– a VST synth that emulates quite well the sounds and function of a circuit-bent or otherwise broken drum machine.
As they describe it, “To the fact that the broken sound is desirable. Yes! Knobs turn for satisfaction defective!”
The features are simple, but with some innovative controls that give it a very dynamic range. You only get four drum pads, but each is actually a blend of a PCM waveform (a sample of a drum sound) and a synthesized drum sound. Users can create their own drum sample packs, which is a nice feature.
Each pad has some standard controls, like pitch, decay, tone, but then there’s two extras called “chaos” and “chance.” This is where the fun starts. The programmers of BDM have done a pretty faithful job in re-creating the specific types of glitches, distortions, and odd sounds that occur when you circuit-bend or otherwise damage a drum machine. The chaos and chance controls cause those unexpected and interesting modulations, and they do so in a way that really feels like a broken device- you can’t quite control it 100%, and that’s what makes it great.
First, a hihat with some chaos: mp3-1
Next, a glitchy showcase of the “B” preset bank mp3-2
A “master” chaos control governs all pads, and makes the whole thing glitch out like mad when it’s all the way up: Pads will cross-trigger each other, lo-fi distortion buzzes, and you can almost smell dust frying inside.
There’s also some nifty MIDI capabilities, with some MIDI notes controlling decay and others giving better control of sample pitch-shifting.
One of the problems with circuit-bent devices is that it’s difficult to network them with other objects and keep them on time with each other. BDM seems to have kept the feel and aural aesthetic of such devices while adding things like master tempo and MIDI control. The end result is a fun-to-use VST drum machine that creates excellent crunchy lo-fi sounds, with a bit of the unexpected and surprising nature of actual broken drum machines.
Knobs turn for satisfaction defective, indeed.
The product page with a free demo trial can be found here.