Softube Heartbeat is an analog modeled drum machine that is inspired by the past greats in drum machine history but it does not emulate or seek to recreate any of them.
Let’s take a look at the interface. Initially it puts me in the mind of a vintage mix console of sorts with lunchbox 500 series modules above. At closer look you can see that this is indeed the heart of the Heartbeat drum machine.
On the right side, there are 8 tracks. Each with “ping-pong (auto panning), EQ (adapted specifically for each instrument)” Pan, Reverb and Echo. As typical with fader levels on mix consoles there is the obvious fader for controlling the volume along with Mute and Solo buttons. Above the sound modules that make up the heart of the drum machine are the controls that serve more of a utility purpose Learn, Key / note, and the drop down menu that houses the Presets or various sounds for each instrument (i.e. Kicks, Snares, hats etc.).
You’ll notice that there are 8 instruments, one per track (sort of). There are Bass Drum 1, Bass Drum 2, Snare / Rim Shot, Snare / Clap, HiHats, Percussion 1 , Percussion 2 and Cymbal.
Below it all are the more surgical sound design tools such as Velocity, To Pitch, To Attack, To Decay and Time Gate. Things can get really fun there as you sculpt the overall sound.
On the left side is where things get fun. This is where the tricks in the bag reside. For instance, Softube “adapted versions of TSAR-1 Reverb and Valley People Dyna-mite included, as well as Filter Echo and output saturation”. Each of the effects have their own presets which is a great place to start with adjusting effects to your liking.
On the Master out section there is Mono Cut, and Width. Take it a bit further by tweaking the Low Gain, Low Cut, Mid Gain,Mid Freq, High Gain and High Cut. As for the Master channel’s output saturation, this is one of my favorite features because this is where you can saturate the overall sound with a rather analog sounding sweetness that will fool even the most discerning hardware enthusiast. As described by Softube “output saturation can go from juicy to gritty and is not taken from any existing Softube product.”
In addition to the effects there is the Auto Layer Machine. As described by Softube, “The Auto Layer Machine has four channels that can each be used to layer sounds or trigger a chain of events.” If you want to add a bit of randomness and chaos the Auto Layer Machine is where you can make it happen. Each of the 4 tracks are triggered by a key or pad depending on your controller type. This means that Heartbeat is really a 12 track drum machine with the final four tracks having multiple layers and the chaos factor. That’s right… Auto Layer Machine has 4 different layers for each of the four tracks. There can indeed be a different sound each layer. The sounds available to be assigned to the layers are the sounds that are in use on the initial 8 tracks.
Then there is the Chaos slider. As described by Softube “Chaos slider adds randomness to the behavior of Auto Layer Machine”
Also a great inclusion, feature and selling point is support for the Native Instrument’s Native Kontrol Standard. This basically gives you the integration and ease of use of a NI instrument when used with Komplete Kontrol and Maschine. As per Softube…
“Heartbeat supports Native Instrument’s Native Kontrol Standard, which will be released October 27, 2015. This means you can use it with Komplete Kontrol keyboards and Maschine units and get the same intuitive hands-on control of Heartbeat’s functions as with any of Native Instruments’ own products—all automatically laid out on the hardware’s knobs, buttons and keys, and with no additional setting up needed.”
Lets take a look at our video where I explore Heartbeat a bit more closely.
Overall, I was pretty pleased with this drum machine. I can’t say that I have traditionally been fan of software drum machine instruments in particular. However, this is one that can keep me from reaching for my massive drum library of analog and sampled drums. Heartbeat can get as gritty and analog-ish as you would wish for but it also can be as typically 808/909 feeling as you like. The range of sound sculpting capabilities is pretty awesome with Heartbeat and that is only trumped by its seemingly analog hardware soul. The random / chaos features and stellar effects make it stand way out from the crowd. In terms of software Drum Machines Heartbeat is a self-contained powerhouse. On the downside, I only wish there were more preset sounds for each track / instrument and $219 could be considered a bit steep in price for a drum machine. That is if you aren’t aware of the quality in sound that lies within. Still in all Heartbeat has found a place in my Default MPC template with a choice few soft-synths that parade around pretty well as hardware synths.
Softube is available now at http://www.softube.com/index.php?id=heartbeat
- Eight channels of drum sounds, mostly based on modeled analog synthesis
- Mixer with volume, EQ, effect sends and panning for each channel
- Four channel Auto Layer Machine for layering sounds or triggering beat patterns
- Chaos slider adds randomness to the behavior of Auto Layer Machine
- Adapted versions of TSAR-1 Reverb and Valley People Dyna-mite included, as well as Filter Echo and output saturation
- No iLok USB dongle required.