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Page 2: Sonic Potions/Erica Synths LXR-02

Drum Machine By Rory Dow
Published April 2022

Outputs & Effects

Each voice can be routed to any of the four outputs or a digital effects processor. The audio outputs can be used in stereo pairs, mono, or a combination if required. If configured in stereo, each voice has a panner that can be manually set or automated using LFOs, velocity or sequencer automation.

There are four digital effects too: Drive, Ring Modulator, Compressor and Delay, although only one can be active. Any voice sent to the effects bus will be processed then sent to an output of your choice.

Drive offers three different algorithms: tube, wave‑folding and clipping, all with adjustable drive strength, wet/dry ratio, tone, and make‑up volume. The Ring Modulator offers robot beatboxing by multiplying the input signal with an oscillator capable of various waveforms and an adjustable frequency. The Compressor provides simple compression with ratio, threshold, attack, decay, and make‑up gain.

The Delay effect, I suspect, will be the most used. Mono and stereo ping‑pong modes are available, and the delay times are set in two ranges: Low for modulation effects like chorus and flanger (1ms to 20ms) or High for more traditional delays (20ms to 0.7s).

I particularly enjoyed the Drive and Delay effects — the only pity being they can’t be used together. The Clip mode on the Drive effect can introduce delicious feedback that interacts with the input signal in lovely ways. And the Delay effect has a very analogue sound, especially when the delay time is automated using LFOs or sequencing.

Sequencing

The LXR‑02 has everything you need to make sophisticated sequences. Each project can contain 64 patterns and 64 songs. Each pattern can have up to 64 steps and its own kit (optionally loaded when switching patterns).

Every pattern step can contain pitch information, velocity, trigger probability, a flam multiplier, time shift and two automation values. The automation values can be any parameter from the synthesis algorithm of any voice. You can program these individually (if you want different parameters for each step) or record tweaks as the sequencer plays.

Every voice track within a pattern can have a different length. And for quick inspiration, there’s a Euclidean pattern generator. Just enter the length, number of steps and rotations value, and the pattern will be auto‑generated for the current voice. You can even use the pattern generator in a live context, reverting to the saved pattern whenever things stray too far.

The LXR‑02 can transmit MIDI so that you can layer up other sounds from an external sound module. There are no dedicated sequencer lanes for this, so you have to use one of the voice lanes. The LXR‑02 will also send program changes when you change patterns (and respond to them if required). All of this is optional, of course. You can turn off transmission of MIDI notes, control changes, program changes and clock individually in the settings.

In terms of sync, there are MIDI and analogue clock options, and the LXR‑02 can act as clock source or destination. The resolution of the analogue clock is adjustable, so it should work with just about any configuration.

Song mode allows you to build a playlist of patterns. It’s a simple list. You can insert more patterns anywhere in the list, and there are a couple of ‘special’ pattern types: End, for the end of the song, and Loop, to loop back to the beginning. I cannot imagine anyone seriously writing a song with it, but combining a few patterns into a longer chain is a valuable function.

External Control

For those who prefer to sequence externally, the LXR‑02 has a comprehensive MIDI implementation. Each voice could have a MIDI note on MIDI channel 10. Or, if you choose, each voice can have a separate MIDI channel that can play chromatically. For those who want to use an external MIDI keyboard to program the LXR‑02’s internal sequencer, you can set up a global MIDI channel to control whichever voice is currently selected.

A detailed MIDI CC chart offers external control over almost every synthesis parameter. MIDI CCs are received on the global MIDI channel, which does present a problem if you want to sequence externally because you have to send your note triggers and MIDI CCs on different channels.

The LXR‑02 can also route MIDI between its USB and MIDI DIN ports, turning any port output port into a thru port. For example, you can route USB input to MIDI DIN output. Or MIDI DIN input to MIDI DIN output. Or even merge both the USB and MIDI DIN inputs and pass them to the MIDI DIN out. This flexibility is a nice touch that allows you to fit the LXR‑02 into just about any setup.

I haven’t been this excited by a drum machine for years, and I can’t recommend the LXR‑02 enough.

Conclusion

I like the LXR‑02 a lot. Its physical size hides a monster drum machine capable of tearing your productions a metaphorical new one — if you’ll pardon the expression. As a purely digital device, it manages to avoid the analogue clichés that are so common whilst still managing to sound full and fat.

FM synthesis, in particular, is brilliantly suited to electronic percussion generation. The synthesis algorithms are complex enough to offer a broad palette of sounds, but the LXR‑02 still has a unique signature. It’s a ‘highly electronic’ sound, by which I mean that you won’t be synthesizing any realistic drum sounds here. Overall, the sounds are dynamic and transient. It’s crisp and clear when you want it to be, or filthy and muddy and swimming in feedback. I’d recommend the LXR‑02 to any electronic musician who embraces pure synthesis. There are no samples to hide behind, but it simply doesn’t need them.

The internal sequencer is impressively feature‑packed. Probability, flams, different track lengths, automation per step — these are things you might not expect to find on a machine of this size and price point. Having four outputs configurable in any way is also fantastic. There are drum machines at twice the price with only a single pair of outputs (shame on them!). The MIDI implementation is equally impressive, with USB, MIDI DIN and enough config options to satisfy almost any situation.

Of course, nothing is perfect. The compact front panel squeezes a lot of buttons into a small space, and I found myself pressing the wrong button too often. The larger round buttons also have a clacky feel, which I wasn’t fond of. But, these minor imperfections don’t matter. I haven’t been this excited by a drum machine for years, and I can’t recommend the LXR‑02 enough. If you make any genre of music that benefits from synthesized drum sounds — whether it be techno, electro, electronica, ambient, or a billion others I’ve yet to discover — then you should give the LXR‑02 some thorough consideration. It’s a beast!

Round The Back

Back panel of the Sonic Potions/Erica Synths LXR-02 drum machine.Back panel of the Sonic Potions/Erica Synths LXR-02 drum machine.

Despite its small size, the LXR‑02 is packed with connectivity. There’s a 12V DC power input (adaptor is included) with on/off switch, analogue clock input, reset and output, Micro SD card slot (for saving Projects etc), MIDI in and out on USB and DIN, four unbalanced quarter‑inch TS outputs, and a 3.5mm stereo headphone output.

Alternatives

For digital FM drum synthesis, there isn’t a massive number of options. Roland’s TR‑8S got an FM synth engine in an update back in mid‑2020. The Twisted Electrons Blast Beats is a six‑voice drum machine based on the OPL3 FM chip used in old Soundblaster cards, which looks fun. The Sonicware Liven XFM is a four‑track FM groovebox with interesting morphing features. Lastly, the Nord Drum 3P might be worth a look as it has many synthesis types, including FM, but no sequencer.

Pros

  • Four robust and flexible FM/subtractive drum synthesis engines.
  • A capable little sequencer.
  • Four outputs (configurable as two stereo, four mono or a combo).
  • Good MIDI spec.
  • Solid construction.

Cons

  • Some buttons are a bit ‘clacky’.

Summary

The LXR‑02 is a pure synthesis drum machine with a massive personality. It combines FM synthesis with clever sequencing and well‑designed features to create a compelling package. It can go shoulder to shoulder with any of the big boys and stand proud.

Information

£485 including VAT.

www.ericasynths.lv

$589 including VAT.

www.ericasynths.lv