Wave Machine Labs Drumagog 5

Why this relates to beats: Not all recorded drum sounds are wonderful, what with problems from bad tuning, to bad miking, to bad timing.
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Why this relates to beats: Not all recorded drum sounds are wonderful, what with problems from bad tuning, to bad miking, to bad timing. Drumagog is a drum-replacement plug-in (AU, VST, RTAS; 32/64-bit operating systems; 64-bit hosts require a 32-bit bridge) that analyzes a track, identifies drum hits, then lets you replace those hits with other drum samples. However, it’s not just about fixing bad drum parts. For example, for dance music, you can take a drum part played by a human drummer and replace the drums with samples from a drum machine or the internal drum synthesizer—get the “politically correct drum sound” for dance music, but the human playing of a real drummer.

Drumagog works on individual drum tracks; don’t expect to pull a tom out of a mixed drum track, although with some of the program’s onboard trigger filtering options, and depending on how the drums are mixed, you may be able to do something like pull out a kick or snare drum sound.

First contact: There are three different versions—Basic, Pro, and Platinum. Pro will handle most people’s needs, but Platinum’s hi-hat tracking, morphing effects engine, built-in convolution reverb, and plug-in hosting are very useful features. The Basic version is indeed basic, but does fundamental replacement at a reasonable price. Copy protection is your choice of iLok or challenge/response.

If you’ve worked with Drumagog, you might be shocked by the new user interface; it’s a big visual improvement, but also gives a more “pro” vibe. When inserted on drum tracks, the default settings worked perfectly for me—within minutes I was replacing parts from the Discrete Drums library with TR- 909 samples.

Digging deeper: Some of the new features are highly compelling. Platinum’s hi-hat detection algorithm is surprisingly effective, as it recognizes different hi-hat articulations (e.g., closed, open, half-open) and triggers appropriate samples if you load a suitable hi-hat Gog file. The second-gen Auto-Align function is also improved to the point of sample-accurate drum alignment. This was easy to confirm by using the blend control to mix the original and replaced sounds together: Even with tough replacement situations, I didn’t hear flamming or other issues due to misaligned attacks. I also really like the Synth option, which allows replacing or augmenting drums with analog drum machine-type sounds. This is welcome for dance and hip-hop tracks.

Platinum’s VSTi hosting means you can load a program like Kontakt with drum sounds, then trigger them directly from within the program. While not essential, this is an important convenience feature. On the other hand, the Morphing Engine effects processor is unlike anything I’ve ever heard—it adds an electronic overlay to drum sounds that varies with the drum dynamics, and while I wouldn’t expect to use it with rock music, for electronica I feel this feature alone justifies the extra bucks for Platinum.

The bottom line: Although Drumagog always had a well-deserved reputation for excellence in drum replacement, Version 5 ups the ante considerably. But also remember that Drumagog does drum enhancement as well as replacement—sometimes adding a drum sample to an existing drum sample gives exactly the sound you need, especially when you toss in the Morphing option. I’ve also used Drumagog to lock bass guitar samples to drums. And while we can’t go into all the features due to space considerations (besides, you can try it out for yourself), all the outstanding features from previous versions (like “Stealth” mode for isolating one part from a track with more than one sound, the tight dynamic tracking, and clever triggering of multi-sample replacements) remain in equal or better form.

Drumagog 5 gets a major thumbs-up—not just because it does what it says it does, but because it does considerably more.

Price: Basic $149, Pro $289, Platinum $379

Availability: Download from www.drumagog.com; also available from retail stores.