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TECH REVIEW: ARTURIA SPARK

Arturia Sparkles Once Again

Arturia is a name well known in the studio community as a company that makes some of the most authentic and widely used software versions of classic synthesisers as well as hardware that has a habit of combining classic old school sounds along with sounds that are bang up to date with today’s cutting edge genres.

When Arturia released their hybrid plug-in & hardware Spark drum machine it piqued more than a little interest amongst those in the know and for good reason because this drum machine not only sounded awesome but also managed to do things in its own unique way that inspired creativity by merging the tried and trusted old skool way of doing things with the benefits of modern technology (as is the Arturia way of doing things) to create a killer drum machine that was a real contender to Maschine’s crown but did things in such a different way that the two could easily sit side by side in a studio and be perfectly useful in their own right.

The latest incarnation of Spark is the Spark LE or Sparkle as it is surely destined to become known as and is a compact version of the Spark which could very well tempt potential Maschine Mikro owners to take this box of tricks home instead.

Spark LE is essentially a compact version of Spark that uses the same sound engine and sound set as the original version but has a streamlined user interface and a hardware controller with a much smaller footprint. The design and build quality of the hardware controller are stunning and have combined to create a work of art which manages to balance aesthetic beauty and functionality perfectly looking like something that would have been created if Lexicon and Euphonix’s designers had got together to work on a product.

The size of the Spark LE is very compact but the control surface manages to be extremely functional without being cramped and the layout of the control surface is so intuitive that the fun and creativity start the second it is turned on with hardly a moment lost to head scratching.

Being so well known for their old-skool synth emulations it is no surprise that Arturia have included more than a few classic touches to the Spark LE. The layout and programming style is unashamedly Roland TR style and those old classic Roland drum sounds can also be found very quickly when browsing through the sound banks but there are also a lot of more modern sounds that can be found amongst the more than 1500 instruments and 100 kits that come ready to go once the Spark LE software has been installed.

The sound quality is of the same top notch level that we have come to expect from Arturia and the range of sounds available makes Spark LE a very versatile drum machine that will work well across a wide variety of genres.

As the Spark LE is a hybrid software/hardware device the hardware controller is used to drive either a standalone version of the Spark software or a plug-in used in conjunction with a DAW such as Cubase, Live or Logic with sixteen individual outputs available. The software is a direct representation of the hardware controller on-screen with every button, knob and control shown in the user interface screen along with the current setting, the only difference is that the on-screen version of Spark LE has an LCD display that is sadly absent from the hardware controller.

Arturia have managed to create an extremely useful user interface that manages to make programming and experimentation very easy and fun and really does inspire creativity. Features like the touch pad controller that can be assigned to control filters as well as slicer and roller effects give the Spark LE a unique appeal and encourages interesting excursions from the normal step-by-step drum programming that can easily become the norm.

With the release of the Spark LE Arturia have manage to create yet another winning product to add to their enviable line-up of mouth watering studio enhancers by applying their trademark mix of the best of old and new at every level of this product’s concept, design and manufacture. The Spark LE is a device that captures the creative feel of a Roland 909 with all the added advantages that come with software synthesisers such as deep integration into DAWs and instant saving and recall of parameters. This drum machine also manages to do things in its own unique way which gives more choice to musicians and producers giving them another tool at their disposal when finding the device that compliments their workflow best and will allow them to bring out the most amount of creativity in music. Everyone who is making music right now should check out what the Spark LE could offer their tracks even if they don’t think they need another drum machine right now, it really is that good.

VERDICT

Build quality9.0
Ease of use9.0
Features9.0
Value for money9.0
Sound Quality9.0

HYPE

Hybrid hardware/software drum machine that manages to find the exact right balance between old-skool and new-skool design and functionality as well as sounding amazing.

GRIPE

The hardware controller lacks an LCD screen like its on-screen counterpart.

Spark LE is a streamlined version of Arturia’s rather wonderful Spark drum machine with the same sound engine as the original but with a more compact hardware and on-screen user interface.

9.0/10 

 

 

 

 

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