(I buy to many drum machines / groove boxes. I’m in love with the concept. I need to get rid of some. Lets think out loud to figure out which).
Synthstrom Audio Deluge
In a technical sense, I have not yet bought the Deluge. I have it on loan from Atomic Shadow on a try-to-buy deal. As such, I’ve got the least level of experience with it of any of the gear I am presenting here. These opinions may change radically as I use it, as my opinions on gear often evolve.
When I first heard of the Deluge, I was intrigued by its concept (of course). Its a sampler, synthesizer and sequencer all in one box that runs on batteries. Its from a new company, crowed funded, and is an example of the good things that can happen when developers work very closely with their customers. The unit is in very active development from the manufacturer and new operating systems with bug and features additions are being released regularly. There is a very active Facebook group dedicated to the product where you can ask questions and get good support. They also are on twitter, which is where I’ve had a few of my angry rants quite calmly addressed.
This Is all very good because the written manual, frankly, sucks. Its written in a very conversational sort of way but seems to take for granted that you already know how to use the device. They don’t publish it as PDF but rather a google doc and forgo having an index because you can just ‘ctrl f’. This all sounds very good and clever, but in practice its terrible for finding what you want. They excuse this by putting out training videos you can watch on YouTube. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I HATE this. When I’m working with a piece of hardware, I generally DON’T have my computer screen where I can be staring at it. Also, the videos aren’t redone every time functionality or features change, so you often stumble across outdated information. This has created a greater learning curve for the device than I think it deserves (I have started taking notes on all the functions with the intention of creating my own ‘quick start’ guide. I’ll post it up here when it’s done).
All of that said, I still the deluge is pretty awesome. With it’s 8×16 grid, it is very easy to get a multitrack pattern going. Because of it’s lack of a display, I have not done any sampling on it, but loading samples in is easy enough and once you do great things can happen. I could seriously see this as the bedrock background machine for a live set. As a test, I loaded the stems to one of my new tracks onto it and I was up and running with simple backing tracks within a few minutes. No laptop required!
If I could fault it in anyway, I’d say the display is my only complaint. Yes, I get that all those buttons mean you don’t need to display so much, but a proper OLED would have given it so much more potential with regard to sample editing and other utilities. As is, it’s like learning a new language with all the indicator lights being used to inform you of state. Hopefully, some day there will be a Rev II.
Another area of disappointment are the FX. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t very good either. It would be nice to be able to have FX blocks you could select and edit like you can on the Octatrack or MPC. This is particularly important because the Deluge only has one stereo output. That is, more than anything, a problem for a unit of this type. Moving work done on it into the DAW for mixing is going to be….laborious.
I guess the final question is if I will buy it. I am 90% sure that I will. I think it’s workflow will be very welcome along side the Analogue Keys and Octatrack. Its small and light which makes it ideal for live use ( and battery powered!). Once I get past this learning curve, I expect years of productivity out of it.