Arturia SparkLE is a hybrid drum machine.
Arturia introduced its first drum machine SPARK Creative Drum Machine back in 2011. Traditionally, the manufacturer calls such tools hybrid, since the hardware devices themselves are only controllers for program management. In our case, the SPARK Creative Drum Machine consists of a MIDI controller and the SPARK Creative program. In fact, the controller is an integral part of the program drum machine. And although it can be used to control any other program via standard MIDI messages, the main task of the controller is to work together with the proprietary software SPARK.
It is important to understand that the SPARK Creative Drum Machine was created primarily for live performance. Therefore, emphasis was placed on simplicity, ease of management and easy access to many adjustable parameters. As for the content, most of the complete sets did not stand out in any special way, so the use of SPARK in the studio did not look interesting. Nevertheless, the SPARK program can be purchased separately and quietly used in studio work as a stand-alone application or plug-in in the sequencer.
Arturia SparkLE – price. Where is the best place to buy?
The recommended retail price of the Arturia SparkLE in the US is $ 199. At this cost, you can order it on Amazon. I would not recommend ordering anywhere else except on Amazon. Since you are less likely to find cheaper, and if you do not take into account the fact that Amazon is probably the most reliable online store, it still very often provides free shipping.
In 2013, the manufacturer continued to develop this field of activity and released a mobile version of the SparkLE controller. The new Arturia SparkLE controller is also designed to work with the SPARK program and almost completely repeats the capabilities of the early model. However, the controller has a more ergonomic arrangement of controls, is devoid of a whole series of rotary controls and is equipped with only a mini USB connector for connection.
In 2014, the software part of SPARK received a major update. The new version of the SPARK 2 application has a lot of additional interesting features, including a redesigned interface, an improved sequencer, an updated Song mode, and the ability to create a unique sound with the help of modular synthesis. All these new features significantly expand the capabilities of SPARK 2 and allow you to not limit yourself to using a drum machine exclusively in live.
This version of SPARK 2.0 is up-to-date. Paid libraries with new sounds regularly come out as add-ons, combined in kits, with already ready projects from the patrons. We will tell you in more detail about the most interesting changes in the program.
The program Spark 2 can work as a stand-alone application, and as a VST, AAX and AU plug-in in any well-known musical DAW software. When using SPARK 2 in the sequencer, you can use multi-channel mode in addition to the traditional stereo mode. It will be interesting in studio work, as it allows you to output each sound to a separate channel of the sequencer mixer. Thus, it becomes possible to use more advanced channel processing – DAW. In offline mode, you will have to settle for only the means of built-in processing.
In the new version of SPARK 2, the interface of the program was completely redesigned. There are no additional leaving panels from above and from below. The entire program is conveniently located in one window, and various modes and settings are on the tabs.
The interface of the main window of the Spark 2 program almost completely repeats the appearance of the Arturia SparkLE controller. The exception is only two sets of pads, allowing you to see on the monitor screen all 16 used in the project pads. When the application works with another Spark Creative controller, the main window will look exactly like the device used, that is, as in the first version of the Spark plugin.
The built-in sequencer replaced the patron panel. His work resembles the “Piano Roll” mode in traditional sequencers, only on the left side instead of the keyboard are all 16 pads. In the note field, it is convenient to display the batches of each of them. The note field is scaled and simultaneously displays only 32 bits.
It is important to note the ability to set individual values for Velocity, volume, pan, pitch, cutoff, resonance, repeat, atack, decay for each of the bits. This is a kind of automation of these parameters. For convenience, even different cursor editing tools are provided.
Also, it is necessary to note the possibility of instant export of the current pattern to a third-party editor. It’s enough just to drag the red icon with the waveform when exporting to an audio file and the green one to the midi pattern for later use.
The SONG mode is now more convenient and logical thanks to the new composition scheme. Now blocks consist of 8 patterns, and the total duration of the project has increased to 128 patterns. As before, the composition is created by quickly dragging the required pattern from the top field to the composition slots.
In addition, SONG mode allows you to see the entire project and play back blocks with patterns in any sequence directly from the controller.
The STUDIO mode has also undergone only minor changes. This tab now accommodates all 16 pads. In the edit field, there is an additional ability to adjust the effects used. In general, many of the settings that appear on the STUDIO tab are simply duplicated from the mixer tab, which, in general, is very convenient. Now there is no need to switch between tabs to slightly change one of the parameters. As before, up to two individual effects can be used for each pad. However, now the list of available effects has increased to 18.
The MIXER section remained virtually unchanged. Perhaps the only difference is the graphic icons under each channel and the ability to direct the signal to different outputs when using SPARK 2 in multi-channel mode.
The most important and most interesting innovation of the new version of the SPARK 2 drum machine is the MODULAR mode.
The fact is that all the sounds used in SPARK 2 are presented in the form of a modular system. Regardless of whether this sound is completely synthesized, or made on the basis of some sample, in a drum machine it will be displayed as a tool assembled from virtual modules. If earlier there were minimal changes in the sound of used kits, then in SPARK 2 the situation changed radically. In order not to frighten an unprepared user with a large number of incomprehensible blocks and at the same time give the opportunity to rotate the knobs, for each of the timbres, 6 most interesting parameters of the individual MACRO controls are provided. For both sound designers and more advanced users who want to experiment with sound and find their unique timbre, MODULAR mode will be a godsend. Despite the fact that the potential of modular synthesis in SPARK 2 is not unlimited, there will be ample opportunities for experiments.
As for the capabilities of the built-in library, the second version of the software SPARK added 50 new kits, including more than 800 new sounds. All new kits come complete with their unique patterns, which can be used alone or as a basis for your projects.
Undoubtedly, the update of SPARK 2 has breathed new life into the software. More convenient updated and modern interface is what really lacked the first version of software. Do not forget that modular synthesis is currently experiencing a rebirth, so the increased interest from the music community to SPARK 2 is guaranteed.
In our opinion, the drum machine SPARK 2 remains, first of all, a tool for live performance with a minimum of various processing to reduce the delay when playing music. The sound quality of the complete sets leaves an ambiguous impression. However, examples of sound can be found on the manufacturer’s website, or even better to download a fully-functional demo that is limited in time of use.
The second version of the program did not bring anything essentially new to the controller, except for controlling blocks of patterns in SONG mode and more convenient interaction with the software. However, this in no way detracts from the merits of the Arturia SparkLE itself. The controller is made in the best traditions of the Arturia tools and is a high-end device that is guaranteed to last a long time.
The purchase of SPARK 2 separately from the controller is not advisable, since the cost of the program is $149. And the cost of the Arturia SparkLE controller together with the SPARK 2 program in the kit is only $199.