I’ve been playing with the LXR-02, the new digital drum synth from Erica Synths and Sonic Potions. Verdict: it’s versatile, loud, and brutally violent when it wants to be. Here are some sounds, plus more tips for LXR-02 players, and the latest on the just-out 1.2 firmware update.
Let’s start with some noises.
Live jam sounds
Full sounds on SoundCloud in case you don’t want to deal with YouTube:
I decided to take the LXR-02 into a fairly… uh, aggressive place, thanks to its distortion effects, per-voice drive, and per-voice FM and digital sound sources. You don’t have to go there – more videos below that are completely different – but that’s what I was feeling. Everything you hear in these videos is a straight line recording from the LXR-02’s stereo output – no effects whatsoever, no dynamics processing. I adjusted master gain in DaVinci Resolve to make sure these videos wouldn’t hit YouTube’s automated leveling; that’s it.
While I didn’t record it, the Mod Devices Duo Dwarf is a great companion because you can dial in a little bit of plate reverb.
And I had great fun. I need to go back over these kits and, uh, adjust pan a bit since everything is very center, but this is just me recording straight via iPhone and line recording as I worked – so literally, this is the sort of idea that flows straight out of this box.
Basically – program a kit, save it, make a pattern, add a morph target, and… wow. First, a slow jam:
I love that the default bpm on the LXR-02 is 149 bpm. (No idea how many tracks Live has ruined by defaulting to 120 bpm. Maybe it should have a built-in randomizer.) But let’s turn it up a little – and yeah those punchy sounds can keep up even with some over-the-top mixing and running too fast:
I finally get around to using some ratcheting on this next one – the new 1.2 firmware feature. I am keen to try Erica’s PĒRKONS HD-01 drum synth, but if it’s too rich for your blood, or too big, or both, the LXR-02 has its own heavy-industrial sonic tricks, even with the digital engine in place of the PĒRKONS’ analog one:
And fine, let’s go for too much of everything – ooh, I am eager to get back into cold warehouses again:
What’s new in 1.2
Official release notes:
- new feature: Microtiming. Steps can be shifted forward and backward in a 1/8th step raster. (Step parameter page)
- new feature: Flam. Steps can be re-triggered multiple times (x2, x3, x4, x6, x8) on a single sequencer step. (Step parameter page)
- fixed: analogue clock input 24ppq prescaler
- fixed: Shuffle working with ext. MIDI and analogue clock sync
- improved MIDI live recording. Notes that are played after 50% of the current step have elapsed are recorded to the next step now. Fixes notes recorded to the wrong step when played a tiny bit too early
- more clock out ppq options (2,4,8,16,24,48 ppq)
- fixed: clock out working with ext. MIDI + clock sync
- new FX added: ping pong delay
- allow synth parameter editing in performance mode (voices can now be manually triggered while editing sound)
- fixed: MIDI notes also recorded on voice channels now (worked only on master channel before)
- fixed: LFO sync calculation when external sync is used
- fixed: shuffle changes not saved when pattern saved to another slot
- fixed: possible crash when engaging external sync
So the main thing here is, you can work more easily with MIDI and sync/clock (both MIDI and analog), and re-trigger steps. The thing they’re describing as “flam” I would say is actually not flam at all – it’s a ratcheting/sub-step. (There’s already a flam setting inside the voice.) But that’s great – as it allows you to produce some more complex and stuttering rhythms. You’ll hear that in my video #3.
Firmware update / details:
I covered some tips in the CDM deep dive, but here are some other comments on adjusting to workflow and play.
Morph is really the best thing ever. I experiment with this a lot – and you’ll find various sweet spots as you morph between kits. The results can be extreme and glitchy, or subtle, depending on how far apart kit parameters are. But it’s great both for finding unexpected sound design nuances and for live jamming.
Mute + performance is great for jamming. In performance mode (PERF), mute toggle on each part is mutes that track on the sequencer – not the voice. The upshot of this is, you can mute a part, then play it manually using a ROLL. (Set roll division up to 1/16 on the PERF parameter page, then hold down the part to play it. I still want more division options, but it’s fun nonetheless.) So –
Don’t be afraid to edit while playing! Especially since you can recall (or morph) kits on the fly, you now have fairly quick access to any parameter – AEG to get at a decay, SHIFT + FX to adjust effects, etc. It could be fun to set up an external controller, but honestly, it’s also very doable to mess with your kits as you jam.
Holy Ratchet! You can use ratchets for sub-steps! In the previous review, I wished for this and – it seems I wasn’t alone, because there it is. These effectively divide each step of the step sequencer into smaller rhythmic divisions. The trick is to enter and leave this mode using shift + VOICE.
Save, save, save. Saving is a little bit of a chore – each element (kit, pattern, song) must be saved separately, and you do need to save the whole project before you power down or you’ll lose changes. The good news here is, you won’t accidentally overwrite your work, but you may accidentally forget to save so… I hope they do provide an option at some point if it’s technically feasible. In the meantime, though, your best bet is to get in the habit of routinely saving at each level when you find something you like.
My other big feature hope is for the ability to copy between Projects, since that is largely how you organize all your kits, patterns, etc. That’d be especially useful for tasks like live performance. On the other hand, I think you should never be afraid to get spontaneous with this machine, since tweaking is so fast, so I wind up using saved materials a lot less than I imagine I would.
Parts can be melodic. Note that these oscillators are already mostly pitched, so you can use this as a synth, too, but with the addition of snappy envelopes and layered transients (via CLICK), overdrive, and lots of extras. I made some drummy examples now, but intend to go back with the challenge of being kickless or even beatless, as there’s no reason to limit yourself to thinking of this as a conventional drum machine.
Most of the videos I see online just jack in a MIDI keyboard or something, since then you can jam on the synth directly.
Set BPM to 0 to use external sync. This means you also can keep your LXR as a tempo-synced sketchpad next to your DAW of choice. Trigger the sequencer with your DAW and its tempo, and jack the audio outputs of the LXR back into the sequencer. (For added control, remember that you can route not just main out L / R but also out 2 L / R. If you treat those as stereo sends, you have four independent outputs. Record into clips with tempo on (as in Ableton Live, for example), and you’ll generate lots of materials.
Pattern switching! This obviously is useful in live performance, along with morph targets. One tip, though – I find it’s useful if switching kits not to make timbral differences too abrupt, or you’ll hear a little too much discontinuity.
Be careful with kick envelopes, etc. Oscillators re-trigger phase and envelope, so you will sometimes get pops with particular parameters. The LXR-02 pushes into the danger zone in a way that I think is very appealing, so that’s ultimately not a criticism, just something to keep an eye on as you tweak.
All in all, it’s in the jam/improv. Our friend producer HRTL (who worked on a lot of the preset content) put some of my thoughts into words succinctly, in that pattern and kit saving aside, the real fun of this is starting fresh and tweaking and improvising right away:
For me, it’s very much a hands-on device. I don’t use the pattern memory so much as it’s so fast to program — I usually go in and program beats on the fly and play around with the automation recording; it’s so much fun! Thanks to the clock I/O it works great next to the modular setup. The sixty knobs controller should definitely work with it even tho some parameters might need remapping, but as I said before, I don’t really see a need for such extensive physical control anymore, since it has these encoders. What could be nice though is expanding its modular integration with something like the Befaco VCMC. And what really blew me away was using a synced Bastl Thyme as a master processor for it. The LXR sounds otherworldly on its own but this combo brings it to a whole new level:)
Richard DeHove has put together a great video tutorial series covering a lot of features in detail.
And for one last video – here’s a demo showing some different musical character and the advantage of playing from a MIDI keyboard:
Happy LXR’ing, everybody!