As one of the most respected names in electronic music, Dave Smith has been responsible for some of the industry’s most iconic products. The Tempest is his latest creation, quickly becoming one of the most popular classic drum machines on the market. This article will look closely at the Tempest and see what makes it unique.
The Tempest is a 16-step, polyphonic drum machine that uses analog synthesis to create its sounds. It has six-voice cards, each of which can generate two sounds; This means that the Tempest can produce up to 12 different sounds at once. The machine also features a built-in sequencer, allowing you to create complex drum patterns easily.
One thing that makes the Tempest so unique is its sound quality. The analog synthesis engine provides a rich, warm sound that is perfect for various genres. From techno to hip-hop, the Tempest sounds great no matter what style of music you’re making.
The Tempest is also one of the best user-friendly drum machines on the market. The intuitive interface makes it easy to create complex patterns, and the machine’s small size makes it perfect for traveling producers.
- A drum machine with a giant synth engine.
- It has analog and digital waveforms, including many actual percussion samples.
- It can double as a six-voice polyphonic synthesizer.
- A tool for hands-on performance and sonic exploration.
- Not much in the way of sequencing features.
- Not for the impoverished or uncommitted.
- An analog signal path means no echo or (actual) delay.
Dave Smith Tempest’s Tempting Sound
How does the Tempest sound and feel? Imagine a bloated MPC3000 or 60 sequencers hooked up to a Mopho/Evolver DSI with real-time controls/effects, and you get the idea. It has that coveted human-but-tight groove that Linn does brilliantly, although you can’t currently turn off the quantize.
Sonically, it hits hard with a bright but not super clean high end, a friendly midrange presence, and a tight but extended low end. The filters sound great – raw but controlled – and the result is that you can drop the Tempest straight into a mix without too much editing, and the built-in compression, distortion, MIDI delay, and filtering add a lot of latitudes. In terms of alternatives, we refer to NI’s Maschine and Elektron’s Machinedrum, but no digital DAW can come close to the sound/feel of the Tempest when pressed.
Tempest filters don’t break, drive and saturate, and no digital system sounds this smooth. The bottom line is the analog engine and the way it interacts with the sequencer is unique and much easier to use than the Machinedrum – the retail price won’t be much more (around £ 1,400) – and it’s more flexible than the Jomox or a real 808, 909, etc.
Although the Tempest is marketed as a drum machine, it is a six-voice DSI analog pole with a sequencer. There is also a handy built-in mixer with panning, level, delay sends, and mute/solo. Notably, most of the functions work great without having to stop the sequencer, which is excellent. We only wish that reverb and EQ like the Linndrum II prototype were on board.
Recording beats is easy – press record while the sequencer is playing, the beat will loop, and you can layer/remove sounds at will (like an MPC) or enter each sound manually using the 16 steps of Event mode.
A big plus is that you can record effects strip data in real-time in the sequencer and edit it in Event mode. Event editing is very similar to a DAW’s piano roll editor, allowing you to fine-tune each beat step for pitch, volume, time offset, speed, ambiance, and FX tape data. Anyone who switches from a DAW to hardware will feel comfortable in this mode.
The Tempest as a Synth Duties
The Tempest is a serious six-note poly synth in its own right (once enabled Poly mode in an OS update), so be sure to add it to your list if you’re looking for a great-sounding analog/digital synthesizer in your looking studio.
It has all the necessary parameters you’re looking for in a keyboard-heavy poly synth, but remember that if your rhythm uses five voices, you can only run a monophonic synth.
There’s oscillator sync, multiple glide modes (perfect for emulating 303 basslines), fine-tuning, key tracking, sawtooth, saw/tri triangle and variable pulse waves, five envelopes, Prophet VS waves, and a discrete high pass filter too.
Then, of course, amp feedback comes back a bit like feeding the output back into its input (a famous Minimoog trick), significant sounding distortion, and a compressor with a single knob, which also sounds very musical when acting on one of the sounds of the storm.
As you’ve probably gathered, this is a highly in-depth machine, and we can’t cover every aspect here. Although the operating system is still incomplete, we admire DSI for making it available to the public, and overall it works very well. Yes, it is expensive, but it is also unique, and there is a lot on board.
The Tempest can easily be used in the studio for your entire drum kit, replacing the old poly and mono synths. It’s all in one box, and he’ll soon be able to sequence external gears with his super-stylish watch that’s far more rugged than the one on Logic. No other drum machine on the market is capable of practical synthesis. Yes, the machine is much cheaper, can sample, and has unlimited sounds, but the Tempest is a long-term investment, and it’s all about quality, not quantity. Plus, like all hardware, we’re confident the Tempest will retain its value.
Dave Smith Instruments Tempest Projects & Beats
On power-up, Tempest immediately loads the last project you worked on into RAM. Only one project is directly accessible, but there’s built-in flash memory for more and individual sounds and rhythms. DSI estimates there is room for at least 50-60 projects, although loading a new one currently involves too many buttons pressing and turning the encoder for my liking. One feature being considered for a future update is the background loading of projects, which should help.
One project contains 16 different rhythms – drum patterns – which isn’t much to have on tap; He’s pretty stingy! The user can assign each beat its tempo or link the entire project to a standard BPM. There is no concept of a project-level kit; instead, there is a selection of individual sounds to get you started, or you can take sounds from other rhythms and projects. Selecting a new sound is one of the few actions that will stop the music, but once you’ve hit your first beat, little else will stop you. When writing, a measure can be one to four measures long and is limited to 4/4 time.
Running the Tempest speed means instantly training your fingers to switch between the different modes. The main targets are the pad’s four function keys; These let you swap out traditional finger drumming for rhythm triggering, allow pad muting, or even old-school step-based programming. Additional modes are accessed by holding the buttons down simultaneously. Most interesting is 16 tunings, in which the pads are tuned to a selection of predefined scales.
That’s good news: with a Dave Smith synth at the ready, it would have been criminal if there wasn’t a way to weave melodies around those percussive patterns or produce melodic beats when the occasion demanded it. If you connect a MIDI keyboard, you can play the sound of a remote pad. Press “Record,” and the sequencer will even record this performance in mono for now. This aspect of the operating system is still incomplete, but it already offers a tempting glimpse of the other identity of the Tempest: that of a six-voice polyphonic synthesizer!
First, switch to “16 sounds” mode to create a new rhythm. Here the pads trigger – yes, you guessed it – 16 different sounds. You might not expect six rumors to spread so well across so many pads, but the Tempest is very fluid at juggling its assets. They stretch a bit, and I suppose it’s rare for drummers to have more than four limbs anyway. However, it is often desirable to allow a lengthy note to fade away naturally or to make sure the kick or hi-hat doesn’t get interrupted in a busy pattern. You can explicitly reserve votes for such occasions. Another way to save resources is to cut one pad out from the others, as you usually would with open and closed hi-hats.
Editing a sound is as easy as tapping the pad and then going to the controls. Assuming the sequencer is running, you can just hit “record” and start playing. If you make a mistake, you can clear the contents of any pad with the appropriate Clear button. Simple, straightforward, and exactly what you need.
Dave Smith Instruments: Drumbox Evolution
It’s worth taking a closer look at the synthesizer lurking under the panel to get an idea of the kind of sounds to be expected.
Tonally, the DCO-based oscillators sound great and offer stability when needed but loosen well when some “analog slope” is applied. Oscillator sync is as rich as in Dave’s other synths, but there’s no FM or Evolver-style ring modulation among the digital oscillators, which would have added some grime.
It is the two digital oscillators that offer instant percussive gratification. While analog synthesis can provide crazy electronic blips, zap, and thwack, sometimes a groove needs the harsh reality of samples as a backbone. With over 400 included 16-bit samples and digital waveforms, it’s up to you to balance harsh reality and analog malleability.
The selection of kicks, snare drums, hi-hats, and so on is more than enough to create countless standard kits. Some samples come from classic Linn drum machines; others have a decidedly Roland sound (the 808 and 909 are well represented).
They are not all percussion, either. Unsurprisingly, some digital waves come from the Prophet VS. Still. There is a small but welcome selection of others that, when combined with analog oscillators, are capable of creating monstrously bloated synth sounds.
The two- or four-pole resonant filter is a fixture in the latest generation of DSI synthesizers and is equally at home for processing single voices or an entire beat, as the high-pass filter can further refine it. Audio-level filter modulation adds some much-needed bite, and since digital oscillators can bypass filters entirely, it provides exciting exclusions to spice up those beat-scale filter sweeps.
With a modulation matrix, five envelopes, and two LFOs (ranging from around 30 seconds to audio frequencies above 500 Hz), the Tempest can produce sounds that respond very well to velocity, aftertouch, and damper. Other performance controls. After the howling VCA feedback stage, there’s a final layer of analog processing in the form of a stereo compressor and distortion processor. For more weight and dirt (always right ingredients for grooves), these can be set on a beat basis or remain project scale.
Although they are pretty loud, these are the controls you reach for when you need to cut during live performances. There’s also a MIDI-based delay, which puts even more strain on the six voices, but it’s all effects: no reverb or actual delay.
The Tempest is an excellent choice for those who need solid drum sounds and enough synth firepower to keep things interesting. The build quality is top-notch, the feature set is complete, and the price is fair. It is highly recommended.