Never afraid to be different, Korg have combined analogue and digital in a unique drum machine.
The ’logues started out as Korg’s next‑generation analogue synth line, but the Prologue polysynth added a digital oscillator to the mix which now also features on the Minilogue XD and NTS‑1 kit synth. The Drumlogue continues this hybrid approach, teaming up four analogue drum voices with six sample‑based channels and a variation of the same digital module found in the synths. It’s an appealing concept: if you’re trying to decide between, say, a digital Roland Aira drum machine and a modern analogue like Arturia’s DrumBrute Impact, perhaps this offers a middle way?
The Drumlogue is compact but chunky, with a metal wrap‑around top sheet on a plastic chassis, sandwiched between wooden end‑cheeks. Its wedge shape presents a pleasingly raked control panel. Fifteen knobs are divided among choice sound parameters from the 10 drum channels. The ‘Multi’ synth occupies an 11th channel with no dedicated controls. Instead this is controlled from the four data encoders and screen, which are also used for most other settings.
The row of tiny pots at the top of the panel make up a channel mixer. Along the bottom is the standard‑issue strip of 16 step keys, which in this case are clicky buttons rather than pads, with no velocity detection. Basic operation is intuitive and based around modes. In Live mode the main buttons become manual sound triggers for finger drumming or recording. In Step mode, the buttons turn into a step sequencer for the focused Part. Program Select mode provides pattern recall from the strip, with bank selection from the screen/encoders. Slightly annoyingly, the Drumlogue doesn’t remember where you were after booting.
Special mention goes to Loop mode: a step repeater that loops the held steps at your selected rate. I always think this is the most useful performance feature a drum machine can have, letting you create off‑the‑cuff little fills, builds and glitches. I love how this one lets you hold and cycle a non‑contiguous set of steps like on Korg’s SQ‑1 sequencer.
The Drumlogue has analogue synthesis circuits for kick, snare and two toms. These follow tried and trusted synthesis schemes familiar to any analogue drum aficionado, but with an added twist: three of the channels can blend in a sample‑based transient. The kick channel has dedicated knobs for Decay, Tuning and Drive. Further sound parameters accessed via the screen include pitch sweep amount and speed, envelope hold time and filter cutoff/resonance. Leaving the sample layer off you get a fat dusty kick with a satisfying low‑end shake and an icing of noise. The main tone is quite saturated even before you bring in the Drive control. One issue is that Drive cranks up the noise floor and this doesn’t follow the main Decay contour. So for shorter kicks, you get a period of noise following the main sound.
The kick has its own character, but can emulate the classics up to a point. With maxed‑out sweep set to a very short time you can get that punchy 909 bounce, although it’s a noticeably noisier version. The noise component of the tone can’t be adjusted separately but the filter can be used to roll it off. This noise can add a hard transient, but you also have a choice of 16 Attack samples. These include various clicks, acoustic‑like hits and classic sample‑based drum machine flavours.
The snare is a conventional blend of a tuned body tone and a noise‑based layer that borrows Roland’s ‘Snappy’ nomenclature. The Snappy knob controls the decay of the noise, with level being controlled from the screen pages. The snare is all analogue, with the Snappy synth component replacing the PCM layer found on the kick and toms. There are eight different Snappy types, including 808 and 909, several colours of noise and three degrees of lo‑fi bit reduction.
The two toms are the same but with different pitch ranges, and are synthesised with a pair of detuned tones. Ten sample layer sounds are provided, some of which help build more realistic tom sounds, and some of which can create other types of percussion like blocks and zaps. The Slap option effectively provides an alternative snare synth. As with two of the sample tracks, the toms share panel controls, with the second of the pair accessed via Shift. This is quite a pain if you’re triggering the second tom (or sample 2) manually from the buttons, as the buttons also have Shift functions. If you are holding Shift and hit the High Tom (and you will) trigger, you will actually clear the part settings.
Despite the track naming (CH, OH, RS, CP, SP1, SP2), the six digital channels are more or less interchangeable, but have different controls on the panel. The nominal hi‑hat (CH/OH) and clap (CP) tracks get a dedicated Decay knob each, while the two sample tracks (SP1, SP2) have a full complement of Attack, Decay and Tune, albeit shared via Shift. The hats and clap do get an Attack control via screen diving, but the rimshot (RS) track does not and has no physical controls.
All the tracks access the same pool of sounds, which is divided into banks as per the track naming. There are 16 of each primary type, then a bank of 64 Misc sounds that collates percussion sounds, cymbals, tonal stabs and textures and some vocal samples. There’s then a currently empty Expansion bank and a User folder. User samples are loaded on by connecting the unit to your computer in external storage mode. The scope is rather limited here: you can only have 128 user samples on the drum machine at a time, and there’s only a tiny 32MB of available storage. You also have to name every sample file to be numbered from 001 upwards, which is super fun.
The sample tracks have an always‑on attack‑decay envelope with no hold or sustain and a maximum time of about two seconds for each stage. So the longest you could play back a sample is about four seconds with full attack and decay. Longer samples can be loaded in and you can reach different parts of them with the Start Time parameter. Other controls accessed from the screen are the filter, drive, bit reduction and mix/effects send settings.
Track 11 is the synth track and offers a choice of two built‑in engines, or User modules that can be downloaded and added to the Drumlogue. The fixed options are a filtered noise generator and VPM (Variable Phase Modulation), which is Korg’s Casio‑like implementation of FM. The VPM engine is versatile and useful, and ticks a box if you’re weighing up the Drumlogue vs Roland’s TR‑8S.
Pre‑installed in the User section — and currently the only available module — is Nano, a synth created by the excellent Ukrainian plug‑in developer Sinevibes. Nano is a two‑oscillator synth, with multiple detunable waveform pairings, filters, a multi‑mode envelope and LFO.
It’s not just the User synth that can be extended with third‑party add‑ons; you can also download and install additional effects modules to add to the built‑in reverb, delay and master effects. These ‘Units’ are made using an SDK available from Korg. Many have already been created (most sold commercially) for the other ’logue synths and NTS‑1, but unfortunately these are not directly compatible with the Drumlogue. Korg say they are similar and should be easy to port, but none were available to try yet.
The Drumlogue employs a familiar structure of banks and patterns, which can be recalled from the screen or main button strip. The default is for instant pattern triggering in step — always my preferred choice — but you can also choose to queue pattern launches, and can also chain patterns. Patterns store the kit (including the analogue sounds) as well as the sequence, a clear differentiator from the DrumBrutes, which don’t store sound settings. This does mean that sounds and panel controls are not always in sync.
Patterns can be recorded in real time (quantised or unquantised) while in Live mode, or entered track‑by‑track in the usual grid fashion in Step mode. Patterns can be adjusted up to 64 steps using the Grow and Shrink buttons next to the page indicators, and individual tracks can run with different speeds and lengths. A system pref chooses whether Growing a pattern duplicates the existing sequence.
The Drumlogue keeps up with modern conventions by providing per‑step trigger conditions, including probability, bar skipping and repeats (ratchets). For all the digital tracks you can also dial in notes chromatically per step to create melodic sequences. It would have been cool if you could do this for the kick track too, for those analogue 808 bass lines — you can automate the unquantised pitch but it’s not easy. Live motion sequencing is available as well as per‑step parameter control, with a maximum of eight lanes. This automation is displayed as bar graphs similar to the lane graphics in the ’logue synths.
This looks, feels and operates like a classic drum machine. But don’t be fooled, the Drumlogue has all the mod cons in its sequencer, effects and digital synthesis.
Something a little different that I love on the Drumlogue is groove quantising. As well as more traditional Swing, you can choose from a list of different groove styles that suit particular styles or percussion instruments. Both velocity and timing can be humanised to these grooves by degrees, and can be applied globally or per track. It’s a real secret weapon!
Alongside the power features for programming, the Drumlogue performs well as a hands‑on instrument. Having those direct controls of analogue channels is great, and just playing with the Decay and Drive on the kick can turn a basic beat into a dynamic performance. I did wish you could change some of the assignments, especially on the digital channels. Things like the filters and the synth tracks can only ever be tweaked from screen pages. Maybe a Macro page could be added in a future update?
There’s no specific Fill function, but with instant take‑over launching this is easily replaced by hot‑swapping pattern variations. And as I mentioned right at the start, there’s the Loop function for momentarily auto‑repeating or shuffling sequence steps.
Supporting both live performance and recording are four individual sound outputs in addition to the main stereo mix. You can choose which track routes to each output, and whether they are excluded from the mix bus. Unfortunately you can’t mix more than one track to an individual output, which would be the obvious thing to do with the two hat channels, for example. You also can’t isolate the effects returns, which I would want to do for recording. Drumlogue doesn’t provide for audio over USB like its Roland and Elektron peers.
As well as the reverb and delay sends, a handful of master effects are available to refine, boost or grunge up your mix outputs. The compressor option comes with a pretty sophisticated side‑chaining implementation, with the option to set levels from each track to feed the ducking input, and the chance to bypass channels individually from the master effect.
I came to the Drumlogue straight from a month with Polyend’s convention‑busting Play groovebox, and it felt like putting on a pair of comfortable old slippers. This looks, feels and operates like a classic drum machine. But don’t be fooled, the Drumlogue has all the mod cons in its sequencer, effects and digital synthesis.
If you judged it purely on the sampler side, the Drumlogue is not as feature rich as the competition (although it does support stereo samples, unlike most comparable devices). There are a lot of excellent drum machines in this price range, but the Drumlogue is unique among them in combining analogue and digital voices, as well as supporting user‑installable custom synths and effects. It’s old school, it’s new school, it’s... middle school? However you categorise it, it’s lots of fun, has potential for continued development and will likely hit the sweet spot for many.
The Drumlogue scores highly on the connectivity front. As well as conventional MIDI I/O there are two USB connections: one for connecting the Drumlogue as a client device, and a host port for directly connecting a USB MIDI keyboard or controller. Connected controllers can operate in multi‑ or single‑channel mode. Multi lets you play all channels at once (ideal for finger drumming from a pad controller) and control multiple parameters across the unit. In Single mode, each track is controlled from a different MIDI channel, allowing melodic play of the sample and synth channels. Clock can be sent and received over MIDI, USB, or via the analogue sync ports.
Alongside the main stereo and headphone outs are a further four assignable audio outputs — very useful for isolating sounds, although it would be nice if you could assign more than one track per output. The mini‑jack audio input can bring in sound from another instrument, but you can’t sample into the Drumlogue.
- Best‑of‑both approach with analogue and digital voices.
- Open synth and effect slots.
- Modern, nimble sequencing.
- Split outs and USB controller hosting.
- Groove control.
- Stingy sample memory.
- Fussy file‑naming convention for samples.
- Only one track per direct out.
- Buttons not great for real‑time triggering.
An intriguing mash‑up of analogue, sample‑based and digital synth approaches in a familiar and approachable drum machine.