Passionate about Plugins

Review: Drum Designer from UVI

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UVI don’t tend to do things by halves. Quite the opposite. Drum Designer is no exception to this rule. There’s no prizes for guessing what this plugin is for… so let’s look at how it helps us design them drums.

Drum Designer combines the best of synthesis and sample-based drum techniques, breaking down drum hits to the component level and allowing users to rapidly create, edit and combine sounds with the flexibility of a synthesizer and the polish and impact of high-quality sample libraries.

– UVI

Kitchen Sink Included

In most of our plugin reviews we try to cover every function that the plugin offers… in this case we will have to summarise or we would end up with a very very long article. Much like their all-encompassing delay plugin, Relayer (which we reviewed already), UVI have decided to give us ultimate control over every available parameter in Drum Designer.

That said, the concept is simple enough. It’s a drum machine builder that consists of kick, snare, clap and cymbal designers with a sequencer and selection of effects for each instrument and the mixbus. Each instrument can be loaded as an individual plugin or you create your kit in the sequencer by combining one kick, two snares, one clap and four cymbals.

It’s when we begin to edit the individual sounds that things quickly start to get deep…

The Kicker

Let’s start with the foundation of most beats, the bass drum. The kick. The part that gets you in the chest, shakes your speakers and drags you onto the dance floor.

Drum Designer’s kick section has three main tabs; global, edit and FX.

The global tab has controls for the overall pitch, decay, colour and loudness as well as an extra gate envelope and velocity/key tracking switches.

The edit tab has loads more fun stuff. Your kick is built from two layers, a sample and a tone. If you’ve designed drums before this will be a familiar setup. Generally the tone will define the pitch and subs whilst the sample adds body and character. There is a large selection of body samples available, grouped by type, but unfortunately you cannot load in your own.

Moving along, we begin to find tabs within tabs… in this section we can also look at body, tone amp, tone pitch and tone wave settings. These all allow you to further fine tune your kick layers down to the finest detail. I am currently at a loss as to what exactly the tone wave section does, but I’ll come back and update this review when I work it out!

Finally (for the kick section… still more parts to go!), we have the effects tab. It’s almost a relief that there isn’t too much going on here. Just a transient controller, soft clipper, stereo widener, EQ and convolution reverb. But rest assured, there’s a dial for every parameter!

The Snare-er

Moving onto the snare section we feel we’re on familiar ground. The main page has exactly the same overarching controls as the kick (see above) and we already think we know what to expect next.

But we think wrong! Well, a bit wrong… yes, the snare also has body and tone layers like the kick but we also have two more layers, noise 1 and noise 2. The extra noise layers can be used to add more frequency ranges to your snare and come with their own additional envelope controls.

The snare section ends with the same FX options as the kick.

The Clapper

Our third essential drumkit instrument is the clap, of course. We definitely know the drill by now and have the same main controls as the other parts. This time the edit tab comes with four layers, shot 1, shot 2, shot 3 and noise and some interesting new sub-tabs.

If you’ve ever attempted to make clap samples sound anything like real clapping then you’ll know that it’s no simple task. For some reason we recognise the inauthenticity of a clap more than any other sound. Probably something to do with evolution or something.

Anyway, UVI’s Drum Designer attempts to bring realism back to your sampled and synthesised claps with the ability to modulate and randomise the time, gain, pan and pitch. This part is not really obvious how to use when first looking at the interface… but bear with it and you’ll see how magical it can be.

To bring us back to the familiar again, the FX section is once again the same as before. We’ll save you the surprise and tell you now that it’s gonna be the same for the last part of the kit too.

The Cymballer

Yup. Last but not least we have a cymbal section. It’s a familiarity sandwich with the usual main controls on the top and the same old effects on the bottom. In between we have a new variation on the edit screen, this time with just two noise layers. The novel part of the cymbal controls is the ability to utilise three filters. There a low-pass, a high-pass and a high-shelf that can have their depth controlled by ADSR filters. This allows you to have great control over the shape of your hat, crash or splash.

Come Together

Each of these instruments can be loaded as a single instance and played via MIDI directly in your DAW of choice… or you can use the provided sequencer to take even more advantage of UVI’s obsessions with functionality.

To avoid doubling the length of this review, I’m not going to go into too much detail. Let’s just say it’s a fully functional eight-part, multi-layer, grid-based sequencer with eight bars, where each hit can have various parameters defined. Once you’ve refined your eight bar loop you can export it to a MIDI file, or drag and drop onto a piano roll, and make the next one. There’s also a mix page that allows you to set the overall time offset, volume, pan, pitch, delay and reverb for each kit piece.

All in all, a very complete beat creation system which allows for a microscopic attention to detail. If you just want to craft your perfect kick, snare, clap or hat the ability to use individual instances is really handy and on a par with one of our old faves, Stacker. The only thing missing is the ability to load in your own samples as layers.

Definitely one for the control freaks among us.
Get more info on Drum Designer from UVI now!

AGP Score
  • Sound quality
  • Ease of use
  • Interface
  • Presets
  • Value for money
  • Control Freakery
4.58

Summary

UVI have made every effort to create the ultimate drum designing tool and I think they’ve done a pretty good job. You’ll certainly find everything you need in Drum Designer to lay down a solid beat foundation for any track. If you prefer to craft your kit, rather than just use samples or presets, then check it out.

Pros

Microscopic levels of detail

Huge range of base samples and tones

Fully functional sequencer

Quality on-board effects

Light on CPU

Great sounding

Cons

Can’t load your own samples into layers

 

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