Once upon a time in 1979, Pearl – yeah, the drum maker Pearl – made its own drum module. And it’s been sought after ever since, as well as enjoying a nice renaissance thanks to hardware remakes. Now at last, you can get it in plug-in form, with that friendly, playable panel layout. Cost: just a few bucks.

Soft Computing is a new Berlin-based software developer, and they’ve been putting out some braindance-y gems lately. The software is released on Bandcamp – you buy it like an album, but then get access to the installer as an extra. This week, they’re out with a Syncussion SY-1 clone dubbed the Synthcussion SC-1. macOS only, AU + VST3, £10. It’s the work of developer Domenico Cipriani for LunarBytes.

I’ve been testing it so can offer some impressions and tips. (I ran it on an M1 Mac, which handled it easily.)

Here’s that link with some sound samples:

Most drum machines, following in the footsteps of the Roland TR series, just don’t have a lot of expressive control. You get some tune, some delay, and almost everything makes you dig through menus to make more exotic sweeps and modulation, if they offer them at all.

But that’s what makes a tweakable drum synth so great. And even if you’ve never encountered the original Syncussion or have any idea what sounds it makes, some of the ideas of the SY-1 are deeply embedded in today’s drum synths. That includes excellent drum synthesizers in software like FL Studio’s Drumaxx and Sonic Charge’s MicroTonic.

With that in mind, it’s great to have the actual Syncussion SY-1 panel layout. Without overwhelming you with choices, though, the SY-1 gives you two channels of sounds with accessible controls. And the results can be delightfully weird. The SY-1 is just a damned-near perfect, simple design for moving faders around and making percussive sounds, from odd blips and blorps to reasonable hits, hats, and kicks.

The controls are pretty self-explanatory. Each voice gives you the same consistent controls: tune, decay, (filter) width, and then modulation. There’s sweep on each voice, with range, speed, and a choice of direction (up/down). And there’s LFO with speed, depth, and a choice of square or triangle waveshape. Plus you get a nice Sample & Hold option.

The real versatility here is that each voice has six selectable oscillator modes, A-F:

A: One oscillator

B: FM (oscillator 1 -> oscillator 2)

C: Oscillator 1 + 2 mixed

D: Oscillator 1 + 2 mixed with velocity mapped to sweep

E: Oscillator 1 -> 2 FM with noise

F: Noise only

You have two voices of polyphony, so you can drive both voices simultaneously (four oscillators + two noise sources in total).

Notes above C3 are routed to the upper voice; below C3 to the lower voice. The devs suggest using the “upper row for kick, bass, tom and the lower row for high pitched percussions.” Of course, you could try something else, too. I was actually suddenly missing a simple two-part sequencer, but I tried both Soft Computing’s own cute Brain Math2 and Ableton’s mono sequencer, each for Max for Live, just to get some quick results.

It’s all just uniquely playable, so with a small amount of effort you could map a MIDI controller and go to town here.

In this plug-in rendition, it can be a little dry, but this would be a great sound source for further processing.

A couple of glitches here and there. One, the knob mouse response works kind of the opposite direction from how you expect (making it seem more physical or something, but annoying to me at least). Two, this thing runs hot – I’d turn the Output level way down on the two voices to avoid clipping. I also hope there’s a Windows port at some point, since it’s built with JUCE. But it’s a great little instrument – do continue, Domenico!

Other Syncussion to consider:

Wave Alchemy has done a nice sample library mapped to various kit formats (Live Packs, Reason, Maschine, Kontakt, EXS24, HALion, etc.)


But you know me, I’ll always favor the synth approach to samples, especially for a drum synth. (At these prices you could easily get both, of course, so up to you!)

And for hardware, friends have been really pleased with kit builds like the KlangGenerator SY1-M clone:

But I’m happy to just spend a few bucks and map a MIDI controller here.

Here’s some fun with the original for added inspiration:

PS, in hardware, I think it’s an easy choice – the box that most continues the legacy of the Pearl invention as one of the best drum synths of all time is MFB’s legendary and underrated Tanzbär series:

Have a weird and percussive weekend, everybody!