When Nathaniel of Tonebuilder released his Driven Machine Drums electronic drum sample library – back in November 2009 if I’m not mistaken – it came at a time when exciting things were happening in sample library land. Wave Alchemy had just released its Drum Machine 01 library, Goldbaby was putting out top class libraries, one after the other.

Possibly not the easiest time to introduce yet another collection of drum samples. However, Nathaniel was confident about the quality of his work. So much even that he offered a 30-day money back guarantee on a purchase. Being a limited edition library – with only 997 copies available for sale, ever – DMD’s exclusiveness introduced additional perceived value. This slightly unconventional approach to marketing something digital (and thus basically inexhaustible) raised many an eyebrow.

All said and done, in the end DMD is what it says on the package: “… an electronic drums sample library, created from an unique blend of 14 drum machines/synthesizers and 9 analog coloration devices.” and eventually demand outgrew supply and all 997 copies sold out.

With Driven Machine Drums: Strikes Back! Nathaniel takes the original idea one step further.

The goal was to present you with something simultaneously familiar and yet completely fresh. But creating new sounds, IMHO, wasn’t enough. There had to be an improvement in the methodology because I wanted you to feel like you owned these “newly-discovered” instruments.

I also wanted you to be able to spend even more time writing, being creative, and performing (aka fun stuff) and less time EQing and controlling dynamics to get a reasonably loud master.

To achieve this goal, the samples in DMD Strikes Back were created using various analog & digital sound sources and outboard gear, resulting in 2,072 new drum sounds in 7 categories:

  • 121 Claps
  • 163 Hats
  • 327 Kicks
  • 365 Percussion
  • 522 Snares
  • 241 Toms
  • 333 Unknown Electronic sounds

Each of these has a bunch of subfolders sorting similar sounds by texture type. Most folder descriptions are self-explanatory (e.g. low short perc, dub toms, digi electro snares), others perhaps a bit vague (e.g. white elephant, doubleplus unhats), but the bottom line is – after auditioning the samples once or twice – it’s real easy to find sounds in this folder structure.

The list of gear used to create the sounds is quite massive and includes lots of modular units (Harvestman, Cwejman Modular, Wiard, and more).


If you suffer from gear lust you should probably not click above to see the larger image…

The DMD 1.5 update already showed an increased focus on modular sound sources, and I was happy to see this continued and reinforced in DMD Strikes Back.

Many of the samples were created from the ground up using these modular devices, routing the sounds through envelopes, transformators, tubes, filters, reverbs, etc. during the synthesis and design stages.

Nathaniel speaks with great passion about the sound design, and what exactly went into creating this new library. Minimizing transients, adding harmonic content, capturing textural changes within samples, etc. Things that may not be something you consider when looking for that perfect snare for your tune, but these things make a difference. It took 13 months of work to complete DMD Strikes Back; now that’s some serious commitment to creating something special IMHO.

The sounds are suitable for a wide range of electronic music styles, including minimal, techno, house, glitch, hip hop, dubstep, and whatnot. From soft analog to rough digital, dusty hip hop snares to chest hitting kicks, glitchy blips and clicks… Every single category includes tons of sounds I had never heard before. The amount of new, unique material is simply staggering.

Right, I know I’m sounding like a fanboy – which obviously I am. But the sounds speak for themselves. The DMD website has a few demo mp3’s, but better yet, just download the free 60 samples demo pack at no cost and see how you like them.

Driven Machine Drums Stikes Back is available in two editions:

  • Standard, includes all 2,072 sample in 24-Bit/96kHz WAV and 24-Bit/96kHz AIF, 16-Bit/44.1kHz WAV for use with classic samplers + 22 kits for FXpansion Geist/Guru.
  • Deluxe, Standard edition + EXS24 and Kontakt patches mapping similar sounds closely together on the keyboard.

So what do I think?

Product: Driven Machine Drums Strikes Back by Tonebuilder
Format: 24-bit/96kHz WAV & AIFF, Geist/Guru kits, and EXS24 + Kontakt (Deluxe only)
(intro) Price: $69 USD – Standard / $77 USD – Deluxe
Like: Unique, usable sounds, top quality and good variety
Don’t like: —
Verdict: 10/10

I am not sure I really need to write something here. You know the verdict. This is an essential sample pack for electronic music producers. To be honest, I am already feeling bad for those who will read this review after all 966 copies have been sold.

Driven Machine Drums Strikes Back raises the bar for electronic drum sample libraries. This top quality content is fresh, exceptionally well crafted, and most of all, extremely usable musically.

If the 60 free sounds in the demo pack aren’t enough to convince you, the 30-day trial policy is still in effect. If you are serious about your electronic drum sounds you owe it to yourself to check out this library.

DMD Strikes Back is available at an introductory price through October 31, so let me +1 the tongue-in-cheek (but not really!) copy on the website:

P.S. Buy this library.
P.S.S. Seriously.

Update: DMD Strikes Back is no longer available but you can get these sounds and lots more in the DMD3 + MD bundle for just $47 USD, available from ShareIt.