- Korg’s Drumlogue combines analog and digital into a do-it-all beat-making tool.
- An open SDK means that anyone can add their own custom synthesizer to this box.
- The do-it-all design might lack the depth required by advanced users.
Korg's new drum machine combines ease of use with deep power and some killer sounds.
There are tons of drum machines to choose from, not counting the software that lives inside apps like Ableton Live and Logic Pro or your iPhone. And there are many different approaches to how to make one, all to suit different user preferences. But Korg's new $600 Drumlogue is a kind of compromise, an attempt to put the best of everything into one box. And, amazingly, it might just have pulled it off.
"It's really the details that, at least on paper, give you pretty much everything you might wish for in a drum machine/tabletop synth. And you could use this as a synth, too, while you're at it," Peter Kirn, founder and editor-in-chief of Create Digital Media, says on his CDM blog.
The Drumlogue is a hybrid analog and digital drum machine with a sequencer for playing those drum rhythms. Analog electronic circuits generate the bass drum, snare, low tom, and high tom, and the high hats and other sounds use digital samples, either the included ones or any you load in yourself.
The box offers a nice mix of hands-on direct control of sound parameters using knobs that have just one or two functions and a menu-based section for deeper sound design. The idea is that you can quickly sculpt the drum sounds on the fly, either for quick sound design or during a live performance, but when you need to dig in and get your hands dirty, there's plenty of, uh, dirt. And speaking of the box, it is made from aluminum, with nice wooden end pieces.
The built-in sequencer lets you create drum patterns, ready for performance or recording, and you can tweak them as you go and, of course, save and recall them for future use.
Connection-wise, there is the usual selection of MIDI and audio ports, including individual outs for up to four drums (in addition to the overall stereo output). That's handy for routing individual sounds through effects boxes.
The other connection worth mentioning is a USB MIDI host port. This lets you plug in external keyboards and other controllers directly without using an in-between adapter box. This is a rare feature and very welcome here, especially as the Drumlogue can do much more than just drums, as we shall see in a moment.
So far, we've seen that Korg's new Drumlogue can do both analog and digital drums and sequence them for you. But then we get to the "logue" part of the name, which in Korg-speak means that you can load in custom synthesizer units built with the Drumlogue SDK (software development kit). Essentially, it lets anyone write plugins for Korg's -logue hardware boxes. In the case of the Drumlogue, these are known as 'synthesizer units.'
Out of the box, the Drumlogue has a few synths built in, which lets you hook up a keyboard (or use the sequencer) to play melody lines as well as drum hits. This turns it onto a full-featured groove box, which could sit at the center of your hardware-based music rig. For example, the Drumlogue ships with a virtual analog synth from logueSDK plugin developer Sinevibes. It's called Nano, and it shows what the machine is capable of in good hands.
It's comprehensive. And yet not everybody is happy about focusing on the breadth of features over depth. It comes across as competent but perhaps better suited for beginners.
"I thought it sounded good, crisp, clear, and nice FX," says electronic musician BOA on an Elektronauts forum thread participated in by Lifewire. "Down the line, when second-hand prices drop, I think it could be a good first drum machine for people wanting to get in the game."
It all comes down to preference. As we mentioned at the top of this article, there are so many drum machines out there that you really can pick the one that's perfect for you. But what if you're looking for your first drum machine and don't yet know what you want? This could be the perfect way to find out.