NUSofting’s Broken Drum Machine (BDM) is a “Circuit Bent Drum Synthesizer”.

Circuit bending? Here’s what the product page reads:

Broken Drum Machine is an audio plugin for musicians who love the chaos and unpredictable behavior of bent circuits, and the potentials of digital manipulations of sound. Inspired by a combination of old school beat boxes and the circuit-bending culture that revolves around cheap, and old, hardware musical instruments (such as the “toy” Casio and Yamaha keyboards of the 80s), Broken Drum Machine brings circuit-bent drum machine sounds to your DAW.

Let’s take a look at what BDM has to offer.

NUSofting Broken Drum Machine

NUSofting Broken Drum Machine — even the interface looks a bit broken

The GUI centers around 4 drum pads (bass drum, snare drum, hihat and creative percussion) which all offer some individual controls:

  • Tone, Decay, Pitch, Pan and Gain (+Noise Snap for the snare and Cricket control for the percussion pad).
  • Mix slider for PCM (sample) and VCO (analog modeled osc).
  • On/Off, Phase and Keytrack buttons.
  • Chaos — Controls various “noise” modulations in each oscillator. Moreover, the modulations are customized for each VCO, meaning that you will obtain different effects for BD, SD, HH and CP. The chaos parameter is “double ranged”, meaning that at more than half the value of the slider, more variables are introduced to the sound. Play around to get a feel for how the chaos slider works and the various “sweet spots” it has for signal deconstruction.
  • Chance — Sets the probability amount for each chaos generator. With chance set to maximum (far right), the chaos parameter will affect every note played; when set to zero (far left), the chaos parameter will not affect the sound at all.

Besides these pad specific parameters, you also get some controls for global parameters. The PCM section has pitch controls for each of the PCM sounds (independent from the osc pitch) and a unique PCM reverse. This control sets the size of the reverse loop for all PCM playback to create some interesting reverse roll sounds. The probability amount per note for PCM Reverse can be controlled as well.

Check this screencast for a short overview of BDM’s PCM features.

Furthermore you’ll find a few master controls:

  • Master Chance, sets the relative amount of all the other chaos controls.
  • Vel>Amp, enable MIDI velocity information (when off BDM plays at full velocity).
  • Power, turns the stereo output on and off (the 4 mono outputs are unaffected).
  • Volume and pitch.
  • 4x Attack and Decay, for all voices.
  • Keymap, displays a map of the BDM key mapping.

Here’s a little sound clip of me playing around with BDM’s parameters. All percussion you hear is from BDM.

Broken Drum Machine demo

BDM comes with only a few PCM samples, but you can create your own Modpaks to expand the sonic range of this drum machine (and even change its looks if you want). It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but if you just want to use your own PCM sounds it’s a pretty straightforward procedure. For the adventurous ones who want to fully customize the looks as well, BDM comes with a Modpak so you can see how it’s done.

BDM is available for Windows and Mac for $55.95 USD / 35.90 EUR. A free demo version can be downloaded.

So what do I think?

I like “broken” sounds and I love a good amount of random in any instrument or effect, so it’s no surprise BDM scores well in my book.

The instrument is easy to control, yet you will never fully control its sound (unless you set the chaos and chance zero I guess), and that is exactly it’s appeal.

BDM has MIDI Learn so if you have a MIDI keyboard you can control all the parameters with knobs and sliders, which to me is 10 times more exciting than clicking on the screen.

You can tell from the various presets that this thing is really versatile in sound, even though it only comes with a few samples. I’m looking forward to using my own samples. Some things are meant to be broken!

More information: NUSofting