In the steady stream of drum machines coming to market, a few are truly innovative. Maxx Cluster''s Drumaxx (Mac/Win, $99) is one of them. (Drumaxx is available as a downloadable FL Studio, VST, and AU plug-in from Image Line.) Its drum sounds are physically modeled from the characteristics of a vibrating membrane and a mallet, but those terms should be interpreted loosely. You can model drums, cymbals, and all manner of ethnic percussion and electronic sounds, along with different kinds of strikes and beaters, and there are plenty of presets in each category to keep you busy.
The front-panel drum-modeling sections at the center of the GUI are straightforward. Mallet affects the beater force, speed, and noise characteristics (think brushes). Membrane controls the tension, material, shape, and impact point of the struck object (drum head, cymbal, car hood, and the like). A 3-band EQ with a decay envelope on the middle band, along with three output settings—sustain, bit reduction, and pitch—shape the modeled sound. You can route velocity to modulate any four of those controls and thereby mitigate the machine-gun effect. For example, you might slightly modulate a drum''s pitch and mallet force (see Web Clip 1).
Drumaxx has 16 note-triggered pads. You can load pads individually or as part of a kit and tweak their settings as needed. You''ll also find a 64-step, 16th-note pattern sequencer with 16-pattern memory. Individual steps have on/off buttons and velocity sliders, and each pattern has a MIDI trigger note for real-time pattern triggering. You can load and save patterns separately, and you can copy and paste individual tracks or whole patterns. The output section offers brick-wall limiting and an 8-band EQ, and pads can be spread across 10 output buses (99 in the FL Studio version) and assigned to any of three cut groups. In short, MPC-style sequencing is full-featured and easy.