LinPlug's most recent software drum module is an easy-to-use, 32-note plug-in that supports VST 2.0 and Audio Units (AU) on the Mac and VST 2.0 in Windows. RM IV gives you the best of both worlds — in the drum-machine sense — offering synthesized drums and sampled drum playback. It supplies no drum patterns of its own, however; it's strictly a sound source.
RM IV, the souped-up successor to LinPlug's RM III, comes with a nice selection of high-quality sampled drum kits, both acoustic and electric. It can load kits from other LinPlug drum modules such as the RM 2, RM III, and CM-505, as well as kits in Steinberg's LM4 format and individual WAV or AIFF samples.
RM WITH A VIEW
I received version 4.05 of RM IV (the first release of the product was v. 4.0) and ran the AU and VST installers on my dual G5/2 GHz Mac. RM IV comes with a printed manual that is well written and quite thorough, and installation is relatively straightforward.
I tested RM IV as an AU plug-in in MOTU Digital Performer 4.11, Emagic Logic Pro 6.4, and Apple GarageBand 1.01. I tested it as a VST plug-in for Raw Materials Software Tracktion 22.214.171.124. The VST and AU versions of RM IV seem to be identical.
Linplug's software engineers designed RM IV with a retroindustrial look that includes a gray metallic front panel and a faux wood frame. The front panel features 18 virtual polyphonic drum pads, each with volume and tuning knobs, a pan slider, mute and solo switches, an output selector, and a choke control for setting up cutoffs of open hi-hats and crashes (see Fig. 1).
The left side of the front panel, opposite the pads, contains effects and filters. Six of these modules — Compressor, Filter, Filter Env., FX, Mod Matrix, and Varizer — are always available and can be used to modify sampled and synthesized sounds. The window in the top-left section of the main screen changes to different specific controls depending on the type of sound generation selected.
The Sampler is a sample-playback module that offers plenty of features and options. Although it's optimized for drum and percussion samples, you can also load up the pads with loops and use it as a phrase sampler. You can even use RM IV to play back bass samples or pitched percussion, but you're better off using a conventional sampler or sampler plug-in for those applications.
When you click on one of the drum pads in the Sampler Module, RM IV shows you the pertinent data for that pad's sample (or samples — up to 24 individual samples can be loaded on a single pad) in a window called the Sample Display (see Fig. 2). The same window lets you adjust various parameters such as trigger key, sample volume, minimum and maximum Velocities, offset, whether the sample will start on a zero crossing, whether to play the sample back in reverse, and whether to view the sample's waveform display. You also get sliders to control the sample's pitch envelope (two Pitch and two Time sliders) and amplitude envelope (attack, hold, decay, sustain, release). Waveform editing is not available; you have to edit audio in an external editor.
RM IV comes with more than 1 GB of sampled kits and individual samples, including many from third-party sound designers. You get a wide selection of acoustic drums (including sampled Yamaha, Pearl, DW, Tama, and Sonor kits); acoustic percussion; Roland TR-707, TR-808 (see Web Clip 1), and TR-909 kits; hip-hop and electronic kits; and more. A large bank of synthesized kits, which are synth patches that use RM IV's internal synthesis engine, is also included.
The included sounds range from good to excellent. There's a nice variety of ringy snares (see Web Clip 2), punchy kicks, realistic cymbals, whooshy toms, and bass-heavy 808 kicks. Many of the sampled kits feature Velocity-switched multisamples with four or more samples for each drum, cymbal, or percussion instrument.
When you open the plug-in for the first time in a project, the pads are empty. You can load kits with the Directory button, which lets you browse to the directory on your hard drive where the kits are located, and then click on the one you want. Two arrow-shaped buttons — Browse Forward and Browse Back — allow you to scroll through the kits (within one folder). That makes it a snap to audition sounds as your sequence is playing. Similar arrows are available in the Sample Display for stepping through individual samples.
RM IV's 11 synthesis algorithms correspond to various drum-kit elements such as kicks, snares, hi-hats, toms, and cymbals. There are also algorithms for Claps, and a boinky sound called Plop.
Switching a pad to a particular synth algorithm is as easy as selecting the pad and then choosing the algorithm from the pull-down Module menu that sits above Pad number one. Using the same menu, you can also switch a pad from a synth algorithm to the Sampler Module. The Module menu makes it possible to, say, put a synth snare in a sampled kit, put a sampled kick drum in a synth kit, and so forth (see Fig. 3).
Each synth algorithm has different parameters. For example, the Tom algorithm offers controls for Depth and Shape of the Pitch Envelope; Shape, Frequency, Depth, and Decay of the Oscillator; and Noise Volume. The Cymbal 2 algorithm lets you adjust Density, Tone, and Decay of the Timbre; and the Release and Shape of the Envelope. The parameters are straightforward and easy to figure out, even if you are not experienced at synth programming.
BAG OF TRICKS
Whether you're using the Sampler module or one of the synthesis algorithms, RM IV gives you access to a suite of effects and filter modules (aka Sections), enabling everything from minor tweaks to radical sound alterations.
The FX section has two effects: Crush (a bit crusher) and Dist (a distortion algorithm). Crush does its dirty work quite well, reducing quality and adding harshness. Dist is handy for tasks such as dialing-in a subtle tinge of grit on a snare drum or changing the character of a synthesized tom. Controlling these effects is easy, because each effect has only one knob. When you turn one of them or change any other control, the parameter value is shown in the selected pad's display area (see Fig. 4).
You can assign a compressor to any of the pads; however, you might not want to after you've actually listened to it. To my ears, the Compressor is the least impressive feature that the RM IV has. It lacks that characteristic crunch that you expect to hear with compression.
I'm more enthusiastic about the Varizer effect, which adds random variations in level, pitch, and timbre to RM IV's output, and is designed to add a human feel to programmed drum parts. When I first tried the Varizer, it seemed as though it had no effect on the sound. But upon listening more closely, I realized that it was subtly adding variation, and thus realism, to the programmed parts. If you're trying to simulate the sound of a real drummer, it's quite handy.
The Modulation Matrix allows you to set up to six custom-modulation routings, each using 1 of 15 sources. The sources include Breath Controller, Mod Wheel, Pitch Bend, Velocity, two randomly generated sources (Random Bipolar and Random Unipolar), and more. Mod destinations include Amplitude, Distortion, Filter Attack, Filter Resonance, Pan, Pitch, and 16 others. The Modulation Matrix makes it possible to automatically change the character of sounds over time. One of the many things you can do with it is set up an auto pan. I tried this with a hi-hat sound, modulating its pan with the Random Bipolar generator.
The last of the effects modules is the multimode Filter section, which consists of the Filter and the Filter Envelope. The Filter has controls for cutoff, resonance, and envelope depth. You can choose between eight variations including 12-dB-per-octave and 24-dB-per-octave versions of lowpass, highpass, bandpass, and band-reject filters. The Filter Envelope gives you sliders for attack, hold, decay, sustain, and release. The Inv button lets you switch between positive and negative envelope shapes.
The Easy Controller Setup (ECS) function makes it simple to manipulate any RM IV parameters using MIDI controller messages. First, you pull down the menu next to the ECS button and select Learn. Then you choose a parameter by moving its knob or slider and send some data from your external controller (see Web Clip 3). After that, the parameter will respond to that controller. There's no limit to how many such links you can set up, and if you wish, you can save them and reload them at a later date.
'ROUND THE BACK
Clicking on the LinPlug logo on the main screen switches the display to RM IV's rear panel (see Fig. 5), which offers a selection of preference choices. Switch between Constant-Power and Constant-Voltage panning (these options affect a sound's volume as it's panned and its mono compatibility); turn on or turn off the Velocity sensitivity of the pads; set the controls for Linear Dial Operation (the dials will respond to vertical cursor movement) or Circular Operation (the dials respond to circular cursor movements); or select whether notes are displayed by name or note number. There's also a slider that lets you choose between ten Velocity Curves.
The rear panel is also home to the audio output selector section. RM IV defaults to one stereo output, but if you have a host program that can handle multiple plug-in outputs (such as Logic Pro), you can set any combination of stereo and mono outputs adding up to 18.
Finally, the Rear Panel contains the Settings display, which allows you to change trigger notes, MIDI channels, root notes, and the number of voices per note.
EVERYTHING YOU WANT
If you're looking for a VST or an AU drum-sound plug-in, RM IV will not disappoint. It's easy to use, it comes with a huge variety of excellent samples, and it offers a range of drum-synthesis options. My only quibble was with the sound of the compressor. But overall, RM IV offers a winning combination of features and performance at a very reasonable price.
Mike Levineis a senior editor at EM.
Minimum System Requirements
RM IV 4.05
MAC: G3/400; 512 MB RAM; Mac OS X 10.2; 1 GB free disk space; Audio Units or VST-2.0 compatible host
PC: Pentium/400; 512 MB RAM; Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP; 1 GB free disk space; VST-2.0 compatible host
drum machine plug-in
FEATURES4.0EASE OF USE4.0QUALITY OF SOUNDS4.0VALUE4.0RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Offers sampled and synthesized drum sounds. More than 1 GB of highly useful drum samples included. Wide range of sound-shaping options. Easy-to-use user interface. Multiple output support.
CONS: Below-average compressor.