The DrumBrute Impact is new smaller and less expensive brother to Arturia’s DrumBrute. It’s an analog drum machine that packs a punch at an aggressively low price point for an analog synth. My video review shows you what it can do, and discusses its pros and cons.
ANALOG VS DIGITAL
First, and most importantly, the DrumBrute Impact is an analog drum machine – which means it doesn’t work based on playing back samples, but rather there’s a physical synth circuit behind every one of its instruments. This is not to say that sample based machines are bad, just very different in how they make sounds. There are things sample based machines can do that analog synths can’t, and vice versa.
BIRD’S EYE VIEW
There are three core sections to the DrumBrute Impact – sound synthesis, sequencing and performance. The sound synthesis section contains 10 different instruments, with adjustable parameters, and color function to add a little spice to each sound.
Sequencing is simple and straightforward based on a 16-step/bar, 4-bar per pattern and 16 patterns per song hierarchy.
Performance functions include a looper, roller and distortion, swing and randomness settings and the ability to mute and solo tracks.
INS AND OUTS
The DrumBrute Impact has two master audio outputs as well as four individual instrument outputs for the kick, snares, hats and the FM drum. There are also analog clock sync in and out jacks as well as MIDI over traditional 5 PIN DIN and USB.
The DrumBrute Impact accepts MIDI both in and out – you can sequence it with MIDI, and you can also sequence another machine or a digital synth on your computer using the internal sequencer. You can also play live with the pads, which are velocity sensitive.
DRUMBRUTE IMPACT VS DRUMBRUTE
If we compare the Impact to its bigger brother the DrumBrute, the two major differences are that the Big DrumBrute has a resonant filter on its output, and the Impact has a distortion unit, and of course in terms of Instruments – the Impact has 10 different instruments whereas the bigger DrumBrute has 17 different instruments. That said, the color option on the Impact sometimes changes the character of the sound so much is might be right to say there are more than 10 instruments in it.
The Big DrumBrute also has 12 individual Instrument outputs on the back compared to 4 on the Impact.
Other than a few exceptions, each of the DrumBrute Impact’s instruments has multiple control parameters as well as an optional color and accent options. Color can dramatically alter and instrument’s sound. In the clip I review each and every one of the instruments along with their various color and sound design options.
As I mentioned before, you can store (brace yourself for a lot of numbers..) 64 patterns in 4 banks of 16 patterns each. Each pattern can be up to 64 steps – visually, you see 16 steps at a time, and you can page through 4 groups of 16 steps, up to 64 steps in total.
Step sequencing is very easy – select the instrument – and punch in the steps you want sounds to trigger at. You can choose to add an accent or color on a per step basis.
Steps don’t have to be fixed to a rigid quantized grid. Subtle timing refinements allow you to move each step 50% forward or back. This can be done independently of setting global swing parameters. You can also program ratchets – anywhere between 2 to 4 ratchets on a per step basis.
Another way to sequence beats is just to play them live. You have a metronome, and you can choose to either record notes quantized to the grid, or if you hit the shift-record combo, notes will be recorded as you play them rather than forced to a rigid grid.
Once you’ve got a sequence playing, there are a bunch of things you can change, other than instrument parameters of course. You can add swing to the entire beat or just a particular track, and you can randomize either the entire beat or just a single track. The more you crank randomness up, the farther the beat gets from where you had originally sequenced it.
Aside from the fact that each pattern can be any number of steps up to 64, you can also move a pattern into Polyrhythm mode – where each of the 10 tracks can have their own length, which is extremely useful for creating evolving patterns that take much more than 64 steps to repeat themselves.
For a quick fill, the Looper function lets you loop either 4 steps, 2 steps, 1 step, or double-time a single step.
This same strip can also be toggled to behave like a roller – to repeat any one of the instruments, again, in 4 interval increments.
DISTORTION AND MORE
The DrumBrute Impact has a distortion circuit on the master out, and it can be used to apply anything from gain to proper distortion. It sounds great a nice way to impact, excuse the pun, your overall sound. You can also bypass the Distortion circuit be using the four outputs on the back, so, for example, if you want your kick unaffected by distortion, you can take the audio out through the back, in which case it will be automatically removed from the main mix, and you can mix the two together later on.
Final on the list of performance controls are mute and solo – two additional useful performance functions that let you mute and solo groups of tracks, and song mode, which lets you chain up to 16 patterns. My clip demonstrates how to use these functions.
SUMMARY, PROS AND CONS
So, in summary, when considering the DrumBrute as an analog drum machine, there aren’t too many cons except those that are inherent to the platform: you can’t load up your own samples, and there isn’t support for recording motion control or presets of knob positions.
Those cons aside, for the price, the DrumBrute Impact presents exceptional value. It’s priced competitively, sounds great, has flexible sound engines and is extremely easy to program.