The Spark VDM is the software only version of their Creative Drum Machine and offers all the same great features in either stand-alone or as a DAW plug-in. The VDM offers emulation of more than 30 classic drum boxes including models from Lynn, Roland and Yamaha.
The emulations are based on a combination of audio synthesis methods including Arturia’s own TAE®, True Analog Emulation engine which recreates the Roland CR-78, Roland TR-808, Roland TR-606, Korg Mini Pops 7, Korg KPR-77, Ace Tone Rhythm Ace FR-2L, Yamaha MR-10, Maestro Rhythm King MKII, Boss DR-55, Casio VL Tone and SK-1, Simmons SDS V, Phatwerk, Micromatix; and sample based and hybrid engines covering theEMU SP 12, Roland TR-909, Roland TR-707, Roland TR-727, Roland TR-626, Roland R8, EMU Drumulator, Oberheim DMX, Sequencial Circuits Drumtrax, Kawai R-100, LinnDrum, Linn 9000, Casio RZ1, Yamaha RX5, Pulsator, Dirty-909.
Downloading and installing the software was straightforward and I started by launching the stand-alone version which presents an initial soft control screen very similar to the hardware version, but with the addition of two additional control panels for more sophisticated control of the step sequencer and the individual drum elements.
On the main control panel there’s a choice of 16 patterns in 4 banks which can be assembled into songs. You can also record live sequences either from the screen pads (which emulate touch sensitivity : the higher up the pad you touch then the louder the sound) or from an external keyboard. Each of the sixteen drum elements has additional controls for level, pan, pitch, filter cut off frequency, resonance and decay (where appropriate to the drum element) and in addition level sends to two auxes offering a further selection of effects.
There’s a very nice live effects pad so for example you can adjust cut-off and resonance in real time which is really great and there’s also a range of slicer effects including strobe, bit crusher, reverse and pan and a roll (drum roll) effects where you can select the number of hits per step. All effects can be automated into your DAW.
The upper screen provides control for both the 64 step pattern generator and the song composer. The top toolbar allows you to select the pattern time signature, step resolution, number of bars and steps. It’s easy to compose and edit sequences from this panel and in addition you have a second method of controlling individual drum element parameters but this time on a beat by beat basis.
Song composition is equally simply acomplished by drag and drop of any pattern into each of the 64 time slots within the song composer screen.The Bottom panel features the Studio, the Mixer and the Library.
The studio panel allows you to load drum elements and assign them to channels within the assembled kit. You can freely mix and match elements from both the analogue and sampled drum machine emulations and then fine tune the default element parameters such as level, pan, attack and decay, again with controls appropriate to the type of drum element.
The mixer provides a traditional sixteen channel layout with fader, pan, cut and solo plus access to the two auxes and in addition to effects inserts which can be selected from a wide range of EQ, Dynamics, Flanging, Chorus, Delay, Reverb, Distortion etc. The aux buses get their own effects selection and return level controls and the whole ensemble mixes down a stereo master fader again with two effects inserts.
Finally the libray tab enables projects and project elements such as drum elements and sequencies to be loaded and saved, so for example you can load any of the factory projects and kits as a starting point and then modify and save as a new project. MIDI files can also be imported and exported from the library screen and patterns can be exported as either MIDI or WAV files.
This is an incredibly flexible drum machine with a great choice of classic drum boxes and enough user control to keep you happy for a very long time. It’s also great value.