deton8 is a little drum machine with loads of soul

Twisted Electrons move on from acid and chip synths to drum machines. And the deton8, for around three hundred bucks, packs a ton of personality and sound possibility in a cute, playable package.

Twisted Electrons made a name for themselves in fun little boxes and boards packed with 8-bit, chip music, and acid sounds. Those instruments all stand out for lots of sequencing features and hands-on playable options. So a drum machine is of course a natural next step.

But what a next step the deton8 is. Mixing samples and synthesis, 8-bit sounds and wavetable synth, custom kits, and a ton of control and performance, it promises to be one of the more fun packages we may see this year. There’s even a simple NES-style synth in there, so even though a compact bassline synth would be an obvious combination with this, you could even do a lot with just the voices in this hardware.

I’m terrifically eager to get my hands on this one. It’s now much clearer what deton8 is about thanks to a new video – and some tantalizing new details:

For live performance, what’s especially appealing is the sound knob, which has different characteristics for different sounds. That’s a lot more fun than menu diving to change sounds, or being limited to tweaking pitch and duration alone.

Oh yeah, even that decay knob is more fun than usual, since decay doubles as glitchy repeat “delay.”

And in keeping with Twisted’s legacy, this thing is packed with downsampling and bit reduction, which is a perfect match for drums. (Again, that’s especially live – there’s a reason those Game Boy parties got so wild. There’s something about squashing dynamic range and making things screaming and digital that can make people go nuts. I guess partying is about reducing bit depth, anyway, right?)

Stutter, reverse, retriggering, granular algorithms – there’s a bunch there to play and record. I imagine you might make this a primary instrument, or some icing on your existing drum machine … that you could use it for relatively subtle stuff, or go totally nuts.

And it’s eminently affordable. The deton8 is 255 EUR (that’s under US$300), or around 300EUR with VAT.

Here’s the full list of features. The big development was, at the last minute, Alex at Electron responded to overwhelming user requests to load your own samples. So that means in addition to multiple kits included in the box, you’ll be able to use a software editor to slice up and upload your own samples, as both loops and 1-shots – see screenshot.

(Dear Roland, please, please add this to the TR-8S, too! And … yeah, I can imagine the TR and Twisted Electrons would make a wonderfully psycho combo.)

Features:

USB-MIDI
Hardware MIDI
SYNC IN
SYNC OUT
16 patterns of 1-16 steps each
Chain up to 16 patterns in a row to make a song
8 Voices (Kick, Snare, Metal (hats), Clap, Can (tinny sounds), Tom, Nut (woody sounds), SYNTH (NES inspired triangle wavetable synthesizer, with arp that can be shaped to a square).
Two modes: Loop Mode (for breaks and melodic content, decay and tune is global) & Kit mode (individual tuning and decay per part)
Pitch and decay modulation per step on every voice
8 hands on Stutter modes: Beat repeat (with variable rate), Forward granular, Reverse granular, Pendulum granular (scratch), buzz/texture , random granular (noise generation), spin up, spin down
Forward & Reverse sample playback per track
Delay with variable delay time and pitch decay (upwards and downwards)
Ring mod effect with variable frequency
Global pitch shift
Copy/Paste patterns
Real time pattern recording with optional metronome
Tap tempo
Swing
Mute/Solo a track
Drive any voice into distortion
Sound variation knob for Kick (add sub), Snare (add noise/snappy), Hats (change texture) and Synth (arpeggiate)
Pump aka sidechain compression emulation (any track can “duck” the others for the pumping/breathing effect)
Pattern clean and randomize for accidental magical beats

It sounds like we should see a review unit in April. See you then.

Promo video for some more sounds:

https://twisted-electrons.com/product/deton8/

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KORG volca modular and volca drum are real – and now we’ve got details

Some things are too good, or too improbable, to be true. Apparently that doesn’t apply to KORG’s volca series. Because if the ultra-compact, affordable modular and drum were exactly what you wished for, well – they’re here.

These will look familiar, because images of the top panels of these two pieces of kit hit the Internet in December. The funny thing was, a lot of people responded with “oh there’s no way that modular could be real.” Guess again.

The newest volcas are a modeled drum/percussion unit and a compact modular with tiny header pins for patching.

volca drum

This isn’t the volca series’ first take on percussion. It’s had a full drum machine with analog circuitry (volca beats), a bass drum synth piece built around the classic MS-20 filter (volca kick), and a digital sampling machine (volca sample).

But volca drum could turn out to be the most interesting yet, if they’ve nailed its sound source. volca drum is a percussion synth, with diffeent DSP-based models for sounds.

The WAVE GUIDE controls in the middle are the most interesting. And of course, having KORG’s sequencer with motion controls attached to a parameterized percussion synth seems really tasty – as with the volca kick, this could be interesting for all kinds of different parts, not just the obvious ones. But we’ll have to wait to hear more about it.

KORG for their part promise “standard percussive sounds” and “eccentric drum styles.”

Price: US$169.99

Availability: early 2019

volca modular

The volca drum has been so far overshadowed, though, by the curiosity of the volca modular.

There are eight independent functional modules in this unit. They’re pre-wired for patchless operation, but you can also reconfigure them with a whopping 50 patch points. Tiny jumper wires are included for connecting to the onboard pins. The volca modular is like a tiny toybox of sound design – a Buchla Easel for cash strapped millennials. (Okay, all of us older folks, too.)

Okay, but then – is it a modular? Well, even KORG cautiously dub it “semi-modular,” but while there’s no clear line, I’d say even modular is a reasonable term. While modular is now taken by some to mean something with interchangeable modules, especially in this age of Eurorack, I’d say anything with discrete functional modules that be interconnected in different ways ought to qualify.

And yeah, while this will work without patching, so too did the ARP 2500, and no one called that semi-modular.

Enough of semantics, though: it’s cool, as you’ll see in today’s hands-on review from Francis Preve.

The price is a little higher for a volca, but … no matter. This is a spectacular amount of modular patching in a single unit, and I think it’ll be really popular.

Price: US$199.99

Availability: early 2019

Side note: KORG are hardly the first to suggest this kind of modular patching. Phillip Stearns and Peter Edwards envisioned a modular system you’d build entirely on a breadboard – hyper-modular, if you will:

Edwards went to work for Bastl Instruments, who not coincidentally employed these jumper wires on their own instruments (like Kastle).

And if you feel volca modular isn’t quite what you’d want in a volca modular – like you’d rather have interchangeable, separate modules – that’s been done, too, in the form of the AE Modular Synth:

But the volca modular is unique in focusing on West Coast style synths – an oscillator source you make more complex with modulation and wavefolding, and which even gets fed into Buchla-style modules like the LPG (low pass gate).

And let’s be clear: it’s also unique and cool. Hope I get to play with one, too, soon.

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