Ten unique drum models, each with their own custom parameters. Intuitive X0X-style grid programming. Song arranging tools include custom mixes for each pattern. Lots of integrated effects.
Pop and dance producers will have to create their own patterns, as factory presets and demo sequences lean heavily toward experimental genres.
An extremely flexible beatbox app with tons of character.
Drum machines for iOS are so plentiful that it's easy to become cynical and overlook some true gems. We’ve reviewed everything from ReBirth to MPC Pro, so it’s easy to kick back and say, “It’s all been done.” Fortunately for iPad-based producers, that’s not the case thanks to new apps like Elastic Drums.
The majority of iOS drum machines are sample-based, which is the main reason that Elastic Drums stands apart. Each of its drums is generated via one of ten distinct synthesis techniques. For example, the kick drum generator includes parameters for the main tone, a second pitch-swept tone for adding impact to the attack, a “square” parameter that adds waveshaping, overdrive, lowpass filter, a noise transient, and a few other options.
Then there are models for snare, hi-hat/cymbals, tom, and clap. While the main models are extremely impressive, the claps are a real standout here, with tools that deliver everything from TR-808-style claps to noise bursts.
In addition to classic drums, five synths rely on more exotic approaches to electronic percussion, including two types of FM, a pitch-swept square, a “grain” model that manipulates a swarm of clicks, and a “wobble” synth that’s great for dubstep bass lines. These additional synths are fantastic resources for extreme sound design, going far beyond what we usually expect from percussion apps.
Elastic Drums’ synth engines alone are worth the $10 price of admission, so the inclusion of a deep and capable sequencer really kicks things up a notch. At first glance, the sequencing tools look like classic Roland fare, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the velocity for each drum event can be modified by dragging around inside each step block. You can record automation for every available synth parameter by toggling a switch and adjusting the relevant knobs. While there’s no way to edit the automation after you record it, it’s extremely easy to overdub new sweeps until everything is just right. Once you have a few patterns that hit the spot, you can switch to the “Arrange Pattern” mode, assign the patterns to one of 20 slots, and either perform them on the fly or chain them into a longer sequence.
Elastic Drums includes additional effects that you can apply to your drums, with options that go far beyond the usual chorus-delay-reverb fare. I’ll be candid here, the effects aren’t as immediately intuitive as the synthesis and sequencing, but after spending a few minutes with the manual, the essentials become obvious. Basically, there are four effects sends for each of the six drum channels. Each of these sends can have its own processor—with options that include basic delays and reverbs, along with some really original algorithms optimized for experimental electronic music. Once you’ve assigned your percussion to the desired sends, you then switch to the effects window for Kaoss-style control of the four effects.
After spending a weekend with Elastic Drums, I was thoroughly impressed with its features, both as a drum machine and as a resource for creating experimental audio soundscapes. Sure, you can make dance grooves with it, but that’s barely scratching the surface. It’s an extremely worthwhile addition to any iPad-based production rig.