Digital Drum Module
We preview the most sophisticated electronic percussion system yet devised. It's incredibly versatile, but it doesn't come cheap, as Paul Wiffen reveals.
ON A RECENT trip to Bavaria to see Dynacord's new (and rather impressive) factory) we took the opportunity to have a closer look at the company's new ADD-one digital drum brain.
Although produced by a German manufacturer, the ADD-one started life in Marina Del Rey, California, on the drawing board of ex-Oberheim designer Marcus Ryle, now a freelance researcher and programmer.
The ADD-one is an eight-channel drum brain which uses sampled sounds as the basis for its percussion voices. It comes with 1Mbyte of memory as standard, but this can be expanded up to 8Mbytes with plug-in boards which sit inside the unit.
This unprecedented memory capacity means the ADD-one can hold a large number of sounds at once. With sounds sampled at the highest rate of 50kHz, you can store 20 seconds' worth of sampling. At 25kHz, which gives respectable results on most sounds, you can have 40 seconds' worth.
The factory sounds which come with the ADD-one are grouped together internally under their generic names: Snares, Cymbals, Effects, and so on. You can assign each of the eight channels to any one of these groups, and then select one of the sounds within the group.
The same sound can be assigned to several channels if required (Dynacord call this Multiple Memory Access). There are several reasons you might want to do this. First, the ADD-one can play the same sound through several channels in what Dynacord call Rotate mode. So during a snare roll, for example, the first strike won't cut off when the second one is triggered.
It's also useful for multiple tom-tom assignments, where different pitches of the same sample can be triggered simultaneously through different voice channels.
Multiple Memory Access also allows you to take the same sound and process it differently through separate voice channels. This applies both to analogue parameters like filtering, and to digital effects like trigger delays.
As far as programming goes, nine buttons access the main modes, and there are several pages which can be stepped through. These show one parameter at a time for all eight voice channels in an 80-character backlit LCD. Alternatively, you can see and alter all the parameters for one voice channel at the same time.
The first page lets you choose which of the "groups" of sounds is assigned to which voice, while page 2 lets you go on to select the individual sample required. The third page governs which of the eight separate inputs will trigger each voice channel. Finally, page 4 switches the Rotate function on or off.
Param mode covers the basic replay parameters available. These are Volume and Pan (allowing a programmable stereo mix to be set up for each "kit"). Pitch, Pitch-bend Amount and Decay, and Filter Cutoff, Filter Bend Amount and Duration.
An Add Param mode features more esoteric parameters like Dynamic Scale, Trigger Repeat and Decay, Filter Resonance and Bend, plus the amount of change in Pitch and Duration caused by the two optional foot-pedals. Of these, the Dynamic Scale offers no fewer than 256 dynamic stages which can be set to match a drummer's individual playing style, while the footpedal control of duration is especially good for hi-hat parts, as it allows a much finer degree of control over the length of a sound than the standard open/closed pedal.
The second set of additional parameters governs a second envelope which can be routed to give control of Pitch, Filter, Resonance and Pan, with programmable Attack, Duration and Decay. The third set deals with the LFO, which can be similarly routed. The complex effects which can be created using these parameters include auto-panning, tremolo and vibrato, but there isn't space in this preview to go into any further detail. Wait for our full appraisal, or listen to an ADD-one for yourself to get a taste of what's possible.
The MIDI pages cover the note and channel assignment of each voice, MIDI pitch and mod wheel assignment, Omni On/Off and Base Channel. In addition, you can set different MIDI parameters for each "kit", or copy the same MIDI setup to all the storage locations.
The ADD-one allows 128 different setups or kits to be stored and recalled. The Chain mode then allows these to be called up in any order and stepped through by a footswitch. You can also call up each kit with a Dynacord Remote Pad (sits in amongst your kit) or via MIDI program changes.
Next year will see the release of the ADD-drive, which will allow you to make and store your own samples, connecting via a seven-pin DIN socket on the back of the main module.
The ADD-one is not cheap. But when you consider how many different electronic drum units you'd have to combine with samplers and effects units to achieve the results the ADD-one gives you all in one box, it suddenly looks like very good value.
Price £2,500 approx, including VAT