Some products make our lives easier simply by doing one thing and doing it right. Wavemachine Labs' Drumagog 3.0 ($269) is just such a product. It's a deceivingly simple drum-replacement DirectX plug-in that makes nearly obsolete the grueling task of replacing drum tracks by triggering external samplers.
Drumagog can be a total no-brainer if that's what you want. Pull it up in an effects slot and assign it to a drum track, and it will trigger a drum sample when the incoming audio exceeds a predetermined threshold. It's quick and easy to use and practically does the job for you, right out of the box.
If you're a tweaker at heart, you'll love Drumagog even more. Delving into its interface is like peeling back the layers of an onion, with new little surprises everywhere. Much thought has been given to the needs of both engineer and drummer, and the result is as powerful as it is easy to use.
By far the most common issue in replacing problematic drum parts is unwanted leakage, where sounds from one or more elements of the drum kit leak from one track onto another. Drumagog offers a number of clever ways to correct this. Triggering levels can be adjusted not only relative to sensitivity (amplitude), but also by duration (what the program refers to as Resolution); that is, how long it will wait after triggering a sample before triggering another. This can come in handy on a track with lots of bleed by allowing you to set retriggering according to tempo. For example, if the tempo is 100 bpm and you know the drummer only hits the snare on the second and fourth beats, Drumagog can be set to ignore any signal occurring between those beats, even if it exceeds the programmed amplitude threshold.
You can run audio through Drumagog's bandpass filter to remove unwanted frequencies prior to triggering. Using Stealth mode, audio passes through unchanged until a specified amplitude threshold is reached; then the plug-in crossfades smoothly between the triggered sample and the original track. The trigger level and crossfade time are adjustable. This worked nicely for me on a snare track that had lots of hi-hat leakage.
Auto-ducking mode functions much like a sidechain on a compressor and can also be used to remove unwanted bleed from a track. For example, if you've got too much snare drum in the overheads, simply plug Drumagog in to that track and trigger it with the snare track: it ducks the level on the overheads when the snare track sounds.
Drumagog supports three multisample modes. The Dynamic and Random modes trigger different samples based on input level or at random, respectively. The third option, Positional, will analyze incoming audio and trigger one of several samples — for example, samples of a drum played at various positions on the head. This allows you to create realistic replacement tracks, especially when all three modes are employed simultaneously.
One particularly nice feature is Drumagog's Visual Triggering. In this window, a scrolling waveform is displayed on a grid with sensitivity and resolution controls. Visual “hits” are shown each time the audio exceeds the threshold, making it easy to set levels quickly.
Sample management in Drumagog is also easy and intuitive. Samples can be dragged and dropped to different positions in a graphical matrix, loaded from files, or sampled directly from any existing audio track or external source. Entire setups can be saved for later recall. Drumagog supports GIG files, as well as WAV, SND, and AIFF formats, and it offers MIDI output to trigger external devices or software samplers such as Tascam's GigaStudio or Steinberg's HALion.
Drumagog features a number of other interesting features, such as sampling-rate conversion, ghost notes (adding extra drum hits to an existing pattern), and multiple polyphony modes (256 voices for shorter samples or 16 voices for longer sounds). There's also a Choke mode, where a sound is “choked” when the next sound is played. That is very useful for creating realistic hi-hat parts. Plugging Drumagog in to a less conventional audio source can create some pretty interesting results as well. I tried it on bass and clavinet tracks and was able to add a nice “tuned” element to a kick-drum track.
But where Drumagog really shines is in doing exactly what it was designed to do. It's so much easier and more efficient than the time-honored drum-replacement rituals. It may not be particularly flashy or exciting, but in its own way, Drumagog is quietly revolutionary.