Review of Audio Damage Tattoo, Audiorealism ADM and Sonic Charge Microtonic. This review compares three software drum machines and how they stand against each other. Three audioguns, twenty one sonic bullets. Two swedes and one american. Drum roll, please...
While there are a whole bunch of drum synthesizers on the market and many of them are very competent - my selection ended up with Audio Damage Tattoo, Audiorealism ADM and Sonic Charge Microtonic. My primary criteria was that they should be available for both PC and Mac - and they should be able to create more than one type of overall sound. I chose not to include any of the drum machines from the polish developer D16, as each and every drum machine is locked to a specific model and besides - I don't own licenses for any of them.
Waldorf Attack is a classic that I seriously considered to include, but decided against as it doesn't contain a sequencer. Also, three products against each other is clear as a german sausage soup. But the Waldorf Attack is a fantastic drum synthesizer, especially for creating weird electronic percussion noises.
One last thing. All audio examples are clean and have not been mashed with compressors or stylized with equalizers in any way. If you feel the drums are weak or even wimpy, keep this in mind. They are just a compressor away from The Big Sound.
The good, the bad, the ugly
These three drum boxes are all drum synthesizers with built in sequencers and they all are aimed for electronic music. It's from this point of view I will try to describe their strong points and quirks for you. Sound-wise, you could say that the Microtonic and ADM are the two extremes. ADM faithfully reproduces the classic Roland drums of TR-909, TR-808 and TR-606 - while Microtonic doesn't emulate anything at all: it's a generic drum synthesizer. Tattoo places itself somewhere in between the two. Although its sounds are generally modeled after the X0X machines - it's not striving to be a careful reproduction, merely as an inspiration.
Let's do a quick summary of the three before moving on.
Audio Damage Tattoo
Audio Damage Tattoo
In contrary of what most people believe – myself included – Tattoo is not a reference to permanent skin painting – but rather a signal on a drum. While Tattoo indeed is a love child of the Roland generation, it's an inspired one, rather than a closely emulated one. Built around a 32 step sequencer, Tattoo has a total of twelve sound generators, all fixed and set to a specific type of drum sound. As with the majority of plugs from Audio Damage, the interface is extremely clean and functional, although the manual will teach you a few tricks and also give you a few laughs, you practically never need to open it. Each sound generator has its own set of parameters and at the end of the signal chain there is also a simple, but powerful compressor.
Price: 79 dollars.
ADM is an acronym for Audiorealism Drum Machine and is closely designed from Roland TR-909/808/606 drum machines both in terms of sound, but also in usage. The graphical form doesn't resemble any of the original machines - but in function it does. There are eleven channels in the ADM, each capable of producing one drum sound. The sounds are fixed in that respect that you cannot have two kick drums running at the same time - but you can change which sound model it should be based on. In other words, the user can freely put together a drum set mixed up with 909/808/606 sounds. The ADM also capable of using samples - which is a very nice feature, and you can mix your drum kits with samples and synthesized drums. Smart. Each channel has its own unique parameters corresponding to sound.
Price: 95 euros (+VAT)
Sonic Charge Microtonic
Sonic Charge Microtonic
The Microtonic has eight channels, but in contrast to Tattoo and ADM each channel is not fixed with a special type of synthesis. Each channel in Microtonic is generic and can be used to create anything to your hearts perversions. Kicks, snares, crashes to weird bleeps and odd squeals. One might argue that a generic engine might not be as effective as a special synth model designed for one thing only - and that is quite correct. Compared with Microtonic, ADM and Tattoo are like brothers. Different - but the same. Microtonic, on the other hand, is like that distant relative who migrated to a different continent a couple of generations ago.
In an interview I made its creator some years ago, I was told that Microtonic initially was intended as a taster for the real drum machine - Tonic - that would be released some time after the Micro. Sometimes life proves that what you already have is good enough, so the development was focused on improving the Microtonic instead of expanding it into a new drum machine. But as far as I know, Magnus Lidström haven't written off the idea of making a bigger brother to Microtonic, so it might appear in the future if enough people nudge him in the right place (nudge the man).
Price: 99 dollars + VAT.
808 skin from an entusiastic user.
ADM has taken lots of its inspiration from the original X0X drum machines – but only where it makes sense. Although Audiorealism have worked hard to create a sound that comes close to the originals, they haven't followed the original design just for the sake of it.
More than half of the interface is dedicated to the controls of the sounds. There are eleven columns of drum hits, each with its own dedicated controllers. At the top of each channel you can select which drum model you want to use – or which sample. At the bottom there are general controls for the sequencer and at the very bottom there is one row of 16 buttons where you program your beats. That Audiorealism have chosen to create a hardware look-a-like is not just for the looks, there is some logic behind it as well. For example, at the very top there are a row of output connectors, which allows you to route specific drum sounds to individual output channels, and by clicking on the main outputs let's you activate a limiter – extremely basic, but still.
Another user skin for ADM.
Just like its famous cousin, the ABL Bassline synthesizer, there are two different skins/graphic appearances you can choose. If you are skilled in graphic design you can even design your own skins, and there are a few enthusiastic users who created designs heavily inspired by the TR-909 and TR-808.
Of the three drum machines ADM by far looks most slick with its hardware-esque design – while the Microtonic looks like something left over from the Mac OS 9 days. Ugly – but in a retro kind of way.
At the top there are eight buttons where you select sound source, the middle is dedicated for the sound parameters and at the bottom there is a 16 step sequencer that can be chained to create longer patterns. Although the clunky interface, Microtonic is easy to understand and work with. There are not too many knobs and sliders and you can pretty much learn to use it quite well without opening the manual – but if you have the time, the manual can enlighten you about a couple of hidden functions that speeds up the workflow. To edit the sounds starts off by selecting the sound source. One click selects the sound, another click previews the sound. The sound buttons also light up when played via midi or from the sequencer, so although you don't have access to all the parameters at the same time, it's still easy to find the right sound and to edit it.
While ADM have the realistic look and Microtonic for the retro-futuristic look – Audio Damage Tattoo places itself somewhere in between. The design is clear – almost strict – without any trace of the usual visual playfulness we are used to see from Audio Damage. Of the three Tattoo is the most easy to use. It doesn't take more than a few moments before you are clicking in your own rhythms and applying modulation. I don't know what it is with Audio Damage, but these guys are seriously talented when it comes to interface design. Their philosophy is easy and effective: reduce the amount of controls to the bare essentials.
The interface of Tattoo is divided up into four parts: the sequencer and the global controls at the bottom, a modulation section in the middle and at the top is where you adjust the sounds. Just as with Microtonic, only one set of parameters for the sound generators are visible at a time. This is not a bad thing – but being able to change all sounds without clicking around such as with ADM gives you a feeling of directness that you don't have with Tattoo and Microtonic. I am most definitely splitting hairs now as we're talking about one extra click to switch over to the desired generator.
ROUND 1 – Working with sounds
Direct control in ADM.
Time for round one. The interface. To make things clear I have separated the sound generating section from the sequencer – and by doing so ADM directly takes home the victory straight away. ADM is the only drum machine where you have access to all sound generating parameters at a time – without having to change channel. Although you might not get wiser by visually seeing the settings of the parameters – but it's most definitely convenient to be able to do all your settings without flipping pages.
Although both Microtonic and Tattoo have the parameters for each channel on different pages – Tattoo comes out as a good second because of its fixed structure. The channel for the kick is always the same – in opposite of Microtonic, due to its generic structure, the kick can appear in any of the eight channels, or in all of them.
ADM: 3 points. Total: 3 points.
TATTOO: 2 points. Total: 2 points.
MICROTONIC: 1 point. Total: 1 point.
ROUND 2 - The Kick
Whether we like it or not – the heritage from the early Roland drum machines are the fundament of most electronic music styles. When techno came the 909 was King. Then came a period when the massive overuse of the 909 triggered an anti-reaction and people moved away from the Roland brand. Now the 909 is back in fashion but this time with a more healthy approach. Although there are 909-Talibans Who Worship The True Nature Of The Kick, most dance producers process it hard and by eq:ing and layering, turns it into something else.
Moving back to the comparison, I personally think that Audio Damage and Audiorealism both missed an opportunity to create heavy kick-creating machines. Layering two or even up to three layers of kick drums is not an uncommon technique. The only way to really fatten up your kicks is to layer it with the toms instead – which to be fair isn't a bad substitute at all.
With Microtonic it is very easy to layer kicks or any other sounds for that matter. Thanks to the open structure you can easily copy one channel to another and change the sound – such as lowering the pitch a few semitones or make a higher, snappier pitch envelope. Or you just load a different kick into a different sound generator and copy the pattern. This works great and is one of the most lovely things about the lil Tonic.
On the Analog Industries blog Chris Randall wrote that in a kick shootout between Microtonic and Tattoo – Microtonic would go down in flames. And well – it pretty much does.
Whenever I try to describe the sound of Microtonic, my thoughts directly go to the synthetic feeling and the percussion sounds and not the kick. Although the kicks made by Microtonic – naturally – goes well with the rest of its sounds, but if you are after that stone hard club kick that will finally make you let go of your Vengeance libraries – then here's a fact for you: Microtonic is not your baby.
The sound of the Microtonic kicks are practically all over the place, and as there is a built-in equalizer and distortion unit in the sound generators of Microtonic. If I say that the distortion unit is synthetic and brutal when pushed, you probably get the idea. All. Over The. Place. One very cool function with editing sounds in Microtonic is that all parameters show their true value. The equalizer for example doesn't just show the set frequency, but also it's corresponding note value. If you thought that was smart, then consider the fact that it works the same when tuning the frequency of the oscillator. Hertz and note value. If you constantly are fighting with keeping the kick and your bass not crashing against each other, this is a valuable function. However, I must say that I didn't found this feature to be 100 percent reliable. Due to the pitch envelope, the frequency your ears perceive is somewhat different than the set base frequency. Sometimes you need to adjust the frequency a little to get it perfect.
In contrast to Microtonic, the kicks from ADM are very well polished. They are true to the original and although you can tweak the sounds in many areas, you can't make ADM go mental. It's quite clear that the emulation was done for the connoisseur in mind, rather than the gourmand. If the 909 kick drum is the worlds most famous for dance music, the 808 comes very high up on that list. Therefore it's nice to see the inclusion of the TR-606 which makes a very welcome addition to the sound of ADM. Just as with Microtonic, when tuning the fundamental frequency of the oscillator you get informed about the exact frequency and note, but here the it works perfectly. A long booming kick in low C are in perfect harmony with a bass sound in low C.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with Tattoo. In fact almost none of the available parameters show any values at all. While this is nothing new to Audio Damage – many of their plugs doesn't inform you about frequency, volume or exact pan position – here I felt Audio Damage missed out on something quite clever. I asked Chris Randall about this, and he thought it served little purpose as the pitch envelope alters the frequency in any case. Obviously he has a point. But still.
The sound and the flexibility of the Tattoo kick lies somewhere in the middle of ADM and Microtonic. As there is a built-in saturator in the Tattoo kick generator, you can quite early add some edge to the tone, and although you can push the distortion quite hard, it still keeps a safe distance to madness. My description of the Tattoo kick would be 'Polished but with character'.
For me, my final choice would stand between ADM and Tattoo, and it is not an easy one. Tattoo wins by being more flexible and having one generic model of a kick drum you can move seamlessly from one setting into another and that one of my personal music projects right now has been waiting for a drum machine just like Tattoo – it's just perfect. But looking broadly, I would choose ADM over Tattoo. The models of the 909, 808 and 606 isn't exactly innovative stuff, but is proven and serves as great foundation for further processing.
ADM: 3 points. Total: 6 points.
TATTOO: 2 points. Total: 4 points.
MICROTONIC: 1 point. Total: 2 points.
ROUND 3 – The Snare
As with the kick, most of dance producers have been brought up in the Gospel of Roland, which makes it sort of coming home. From this point of view ADM scores full jackpot. The snares are as we know, love and are bored of. What I like most about the ADM snares is their snappiness, especially the 808, but all the way up to the vulgar 909 snare: the spirit of Roland is here, oh sing papaya coconut. But from another point of view – compared with the kick, the snare grabs the attention of the listener in a whole different way than the kick. To put it clearly: the Roland snares are so played that they today almost render themselves invisible. While this actually can be a good thing - there is a reason why 8 out 10 chooses Uncle Bens rice and not Mr Mings Magical Favored Supreme Rice-thingies. For standard the standard dancefloor track that sells by the kilo – the Rolands are the kings. For anything more experimental – the Rolands are the guaranteed sleeping pill.
On the scene comes Tattoo, which doesn't emulate the Rolands perfectly, but comes close. Both in terms of snappiness and character. What I like about Tattoo is that its range is broad. While it's perfectly doable to dial up a classic TR-ish snare in Tattoo you can also make it sound quite obscure and almost like when you're trying to set up an old analog synth to produce a snare. It's wrong in a good way. Interestingly enough Tattoo can play two different snares at the same time, which means you can either layer them or use them to work against each other.
It's difficult to give out points on this one, as it all depends on your perspective. But for me the winner here is Tattoo as it sound-wise covers more ground than ADM but still remains very easy to operate. Sound-wise Microtonic is more versatile, but setting up the snare in MT is a whole different job than in Tattoo, therefore: point Tattoo.
TATTOO: 3 points. Total: 7 points.
ADM: 2 points. Total: 8 points.
MICROTONIC: 1 point. 3 points.
ROUND 4 – The Clap
Compared with the snares, the clap situation is a sad joke. ADM offers only two different claps: the 808 and the 909 and the only available parameter to adjust is the volume. Tattoo is marginally better and offers two additional controls: tone and reverb. The reverb control adds a small amount of decaying noise to the sound which gives an illusion of ambience. Sound-wise I prefer Tattoo over ADM even though the 909 ADM clap is very nice. Due to its generic synth engine, it's no surprise that Microtonic dominates in this area. Although it cannot perfectly emulate the classic 808 and 909 claps – it can come very close and also take the claps to a different level. King of Claps: Microtonic.
MICROTONIC: 3 points. Total 6 points.
TATTOO: 2 points. Total: 9 points.
ADM: 1 points. Total: 9 points.
ROUND 5 – The Hats
Although the usage of hihats can either be hearable or feel-able, I personally, generally, most of the time, think that hihats should more or less be sonically invisible but just add to the swing. I'll settle for an audible open hihat but apart from that it should just exist without interfering with other elements. From this point of view ADM is the King – and not just from that perspective. Tattoo can produce a quite cool range of electro hihats (in fact, very cool) but all in all, compared with ADM and its classic range of hihats, well. We're talking about very close reproductions of the 808, 909 and 606 hihats here. Lots of ground is covered.
While you most certainly can dial up decent hihats with Microtonic – I feel it doesn't come close to ADM or Tattoo. It lacks the mojo and as soon as I start dealing with hats in MT I feel I want to do something else. Winner: ADM.
ADM: 3 points. Total: 12 points.
TATTOO: 2 points. Total: 11 points.
MICROTONIC: 1 point. Total 7 points.
ROUND 6 – The Percussion
The return of Microtonic. Of the previous five rounds Microtonic have been placed last four times, but now the strength of the lil Tonic is showing for real. To say that electro percussion is what Microtonic is all about is obviously not true, but percussive electronic noises is something that Microtonic is very good with. Thanks to the generic engine, the line between being a percussive synthesizer and a normal synthesizer is with Microtonic very thin. If you are into minimalistic styles, Microtonic might actually be the only thing you need.
Although the ADM toms, congas, rimshot and cowbell all are a little too polished for my own personal taste, AMD feels like the overall better choice over Tattoo, simply because you get a wider selection of sounds. Tattoo has one sound generator for the toms that's built up by four specialized oscillators (two tone, one click and one noise). While the toms have a nice analogue character and you can do quite a lot only by adjusting the two volume envelopes, we're still talking about one type of sound generator. ADM has three.
MICROTONIC: 3 points. Total: 10 points.
ADM: 2 points. Total: 14 points.
TATTOO: 1 point. Total: 12 points.
ADM, Tattoo and Microtonic are all plugs that lacks in the effect department. Personally, I don't see this as anything negative. In theory it's always cool to have a bunch of effects with built-in preset lists and all that, but I found that I more often than not, rely on my external effects any way. A built-in compressor is cool but won't probably match any of the compressors you already have on your hard drive. Even with the cunning of Andrew Simper of Cytomic/Fxpansion fame – I rarely touch any of the effects in Guru, but rather process and automate them in Live.
Getting the sounds out from the plugs is easy. All are equipped with individual outputs. ADM has eleven separate outputs – each for every drum channel. A very cool feature is that the drum channels can be grouped into prefixed groups such as bass and snare drums in one group, all hihats in one and all the toms in one groups.
Microtonic has a similar structure but requires a little more work. The plugin comes in two favors. One with two outputs and one with eight outputs and they work a little different. While the eight-output version automatically outputs each channel on a different output – the two output-version have a convenient button in the middle of the interface where you can choose which output pair you want to route the audio. While it's not a big thing, it would have been easier if there were just one plugin.
Tattoo is the only plug that doesn't have a separate output for each voice. Instead it has six pairs of stereo outputs, marked from A to F. While not having to route the individual voices manually is nice and all, six outputs is enough for many situations.
Let's go back to the actual built-in effects.
Tattoo has only one effect and that's a two-parameter compressor which is effective to transform a wimpy beat into something with more attitude. The compressor only works on the output from the first (master) output, so if you want clean signals while using the compressor you simply route the desired outputs to a different exit. Although I am not a compressor connoisseur in any way – my personal preferences go towards ultra-hard processors such as the Sonalksis TBK3 – this compressor is as joyful for me as Audio Damages Rough Rider. Specialized and with attitude, in other words. A keeper.
Microtonic is equipped with digital distorter and an equalizer. The distortion is quite brutal and can be used to alter the signal quite radically. The equalizer is simple but cool. It's just one band, but you can add/subtract up to 40 decibels for a given frequency. 'Microtonic, I am ready for destruction whenever you are'.
The main effect in ADM is a filter section that lets you filter out selected channels. The filter can be set to either low- or band pass, with settings for attack and decay. There is also a knob called Mangle which basically is digital distortion. What's quite nifty about this effect is that it can – like all other parts of ADM be automated right within the plug itself. It's therefore possible to create quite dynamic beats.
At the end of the internal signal chain is an extremely simplified limiter with three settings: soft, hard or off. Hardly an effect, but there are a few output models that changes the sound character of the whole output. The models are called clean, crisp, 909 and low boost. The different settings are subtle, but hearable.
ROUND 7 – The Sequencer
The largest difference between the three sequencers is that Tattoo shows the entire pattern while ADM and Microtonic only shows one line at a time. While seeing the whole pattern visually may or may not be of any real benefit when trying to come up with clever beats - some schools are in favor of the dark room-approach – i.e. use your ears and not your eyes. But for me the visuality of Tattoo gives me a more direct approach. I simply love being able to click in my drums without changing pages all the time. This is one of the reasons why Guru has become one of my favorite tools for making drums. Availability and ease of use are always two very important features, and Tattoo have both.
All three can either play the sequencer based on straight notes or triplets and they all have a knob to swing up the beat. Both ADM and Microtonic has the ability to freely copy and paste sequence information from one drum lane into another as well as shifting notes left or right. Although the value of being able to copy the hihat pattern to the rimshot pattern isn't that essential, but shifting notes is a classic way to come up with interesting ideas and it's sad that Tattoo doesn't have this feature.
As with most step sequencers all three have functions for randomizing the pattern. Microtonic and ADM have the usual randomize pattern type of function which in both cases gives more or less unusable results. Microtonic has however a slightly more usable additional function called Alter Pattern. Alter Pattern does not create any new events, but shuffles around the existing events to new positions, which can if you're lucky and the stars are aligned in the right way, create some interesting results.
To be fair – pattern randomizers with some form of intelligence are obviously difficult to program and so far I've only encountered two that can produce useful results: the pattern randomizer in Audiorealism semi modular synthesizer ASM (formerly known as ABL Pro) and the randomizing function in the hardware step sequencer Octopus. Both of them let you specify how the randomization should be carried out.
Tattoo on the other hand adds the element of chance in a different way – and in my opinion much more useful. Firstly you can randomize events in selected tracks but also add and take away beats in a random fashion, very similar to the randomizing function found in the Audio Damage repeating plugin Replicant. The way Tattoo handles randomization is way more useful than in either ADM or Microtonic.
There are a few other quite neat features in the sequencers. Microtonic has a very clever roll/stutter function that when activated triggers extra hits on that event. Besides that it is a formidable tool for creating über-sterile drum rolls, when pushed it can be used to create tonal sounds from sounds such as hihats, kicks, snares etc. Very very cool. ADM doesn't support drum rolls á la Microtonic but can use so called flams, or In English: double hits. ADM also understand TR-909 Sysex files and can also use Rebirth patterns, which is practical if you want to dust off your old acid-house tracks from the early Propellerhead-days. Another thing worth mentioning is that ADM have built-in automation, which basically lets you turn and mess around with your settings and record the changes live into ADM. Although you can use the function to add more sounds – the its real value is when you automate the tuning of the drums and also the filter.
While the automation in ADM is cool, the automation in Tattoo is the bomb. Just above the pattern sequencer is an area that reminds of a velocity lane in sequencers – which it practically is. But for more than just velocity. You can automate any dedicated parameter available for editing. Bass drum tune? Go for it. Saturation? Yes. Waveform? Mais oui. Amplitude decay? Da. And the coolest thing is that you can not just automate one parameter – you can add automation for each an every parameter for every individual drum hit. Let this sink in for a moment. What this in practice means is that Tattoo is a seriously dynamic drum machine.
TATTOO: 3 points. Total: 15.
MICROTONIC: 2 points. Total 12 points.
ADM: 1 points. Total: 15 points.
While none of the three plugins are particularly difficult to use – ADM was the only one I felt obliged to read the manual for. In contrast to Microtonic and Tattoo, ADM has menus in lots of places and contains quite a few settings that's almost hidden away. Such as the built-in limiter and the dirtiness of the outputs.
Tattoo and Microtonic on the other hand are more friendly in the sense that you instantly know what's going on, and the manual isn't really needful unless you want to understand their inner workings.
With Tattoo and ADM you can control the volume of the individual hits from the main page – with Microtonic the volumes are set in each corresponding page for the channel.
As we already discussed in the effects section – all three can output the drums to separate channels. With ADM it's just a matter of activating the outputs which is done in a couple of clicks. With Microtonic you have two different plugins – one with two channels and one with eight and Tattoo can output six separate channels. All three can output midi, so they can be used to drive other plugs or external equipment.
Using samples in ADM.
Loading patterns in all three are fairly standard, but the load preview function in Microtonic is amazing and really shows Magnus Lidströms capabilities as a programmer. In the load dialog of Microtonic, you can preview the whole loop – correctly set to the tempo you are working in. Same thing goes for loading sounds for the individual channels. As with ADM, Tattoo doesn't have separate preset lists for the individual drums. With ADM this is totally understandable – dialing up a drum doesn't take more than a few seconds – but I found myself a few times annoyed that Tattoo couldn't give me any way to copy the sounds from one pattern to another. You can copy patterns from one place to another, but not sounds.
When looking at the presets – Microtonic wins hands down. There are some 400 pre-made rhythms that comes with Microtonic and many of them are frighteningly inspirational and cool. Some of them are even so complex they are almost small songs by themselves. Although the sound is very synthetic, the presets confidently moves between trance, techno and minimal bleeps to hip-hop and even rock-ish kind of loops.
Every time I use Microtonic I tell myself that one day I have to make an album with no other sound generators than Microtonic – and every time it feels like a highly enjoyable project.
ADM and Tattoo also come with a respectable number of prefab rhythms. ADM comes with around 80 presets, and if you have a penchant for classic house, old-school techno and hip-hop, ADM is like a sun-balm for aching skin. Straight out of the box. Although ADM is the most defined by the Roland tradition – you're not limited to its X0X emulations as it also handles samples. Each channel can be assigned an individual sample – which in practice makes ADM a quite versatile drumbox. Simply assign the samples you want, save it as a pattern and you'll have an additional drum set to use next time you'll be creating beats.
Microtonic scores an extra point because of its drumroll/fill function that can be used to create tonal sounds out of drums. Although some people might argue that Microtonic never can compete with dedicated synthesizers and therefore this function is pointless. Personally, I find this function to be one of the secrets of Microtonics coolness and as I said before, the synth engine might not blast down the Fxpansion Synth Squad from the sky – but it doesn't have to. It has its own sound/quirkiness and that is in my book the definition of a good synth.
The lesson I've learned from comparing these three drum machines is that the perfect drum machine is yet to come. Before the Tattoo was released I was hoping that it would be the drum machine that would end my search. But it wasn't. While ADM is the smart and well-behaved academic in the classroom, Microtonic is the punk and Tattoo is the rocker. Although they all share the basic fundamental ideas, they are as different as they can be.
Choosing a drum machine from these three is difficult and the only answer is by trying them out with your own style of music. If I would have to choose one I would go for ADM but it would hurt a lot to leave MT and Tattoo behind. I would choose ADM because it totally nails three of the most influential drum machines ever and the doors are wide open for further processing if you feel the sound has been done to death. Tattoo is almost an organic drum machine, it's only when you start to use the modulation when you realize how damn hot it is. Microtonic is like jumping on a random bus, you have no clue where you might end up, and if you have the time to fully enjoy that – Microtonic is such an inspirational tool to work with. The only real negative thing about Microtonic is that due to its generic structure, it is noticeably harder to program than ADM and Tattoo.
Price: 95 Euros + VAT.
Good: Excellent emulations of TR-909/808/606. Handles samples. All parameters available on one page.
Bad: The sequencer only shows event for one drum sound at a time.
Review copy: personal purchase.
Audio Damage Tattoo
Price: 79 dollars
Good: Extremely user friendly. Has a unique sound. Good built-in compressor. Sequencer shows the whole pattern. The modulation capabilities are very flexible.
Bad: Minor annoyances such as no way of copying sounds and no function to nudge events left or right.
Review copy: personal purchase.
Sonic Charge Microtonic
Price: 99 dollars + VAT
Good: Very flexible - can create anything from drum sounds to simpler synthesizer sounds (that can be played tonally via midi). Very inspiring presets.
Bad: Due to its generic structure, it's not as easy to program as the other two.
Review copy: personal purchase.