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Jon Johnson

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Drum Machine Reviews posted by Jon Johnson


  1. Depending on how you view and perhaps use the Rhythm Wolf from Akai, you either hate it or love it. Or like me somewhere in between. Initially I liked it when playing with it at the music store. It sounded interesting going through the powered speaker setup and the bass synth sounded everything like it was described to be in the early reviews. I figured out some of the ways to get around the instrument without much knowledge of how to use it but the intuition factor with this unit is on the lower side of learning when finding certain functions with the "Shift" button.

    A couple of weeks later and I decided to part with some hard earned dough since it was not that expensive of a machine to begin with. (Note: After two years there are plenty of used Rhythm Wolfs going for as low as $70 or so at the usual used places.) Once home with the unit the first thing I regretted in buying was the drum sounds. They just don't sound that great but can be tweaked to something acceptable...err sorta but its such a unique kit that it makes up for it by being different.  It would have really helped to have separate outputs for each drum voice for external processing which the bass synthesizer does offer. The Howl knob, which is global to the unit, beefs up the drums by adding some type of distortion/compression. It can make it sound better or more crappy at the same time. Never the less I find it useful in the middle of jams to boost the signal of the unit with the Howl function. Follow this link to see a user modded Rhythm Wolf with separate outputs for each voice as well as other tweaks. http://karg-music.blogspot.com/2015/07/rhythm-wolf-individual-drums-outs.html

    The bass Synthesizer has good tone in the 303 genre and can be tweaked with it's simple envelope of attack and decay. The signal of the oscillator (triangle and square wave only) is strong and can be beefed up with the global Howl knob or run through it's separate output. When run through this output the Howl function is disabled from the bass synthesizer. The filter is good at some tweaking but the problem start when you increase the resonance. The signal practically disappears from the mix. Its a shame because its a lost opportunity for self oscillation. Better to approach it in a non traditional way. The bass synth can be tuned and is best to let warm up for about 10 minutes before it becomes stable. Akai also offers a tuning app and procedure should you have drift problems which I've noticed but it makes it more authentically analog that way. Something to be reckoned with. 

    The best part about this unit is not it's sound but it's 16-32 step sequencer which is MIDI. When used this way it's really flexible for making on the go jam sequences. Everything can be "On The Fly". each of the 16 sequences can be saved, Each has two sequences plus two fill sequences which can also act as two more sequences if desired. The Fill sequences can also be set to move between each other in a looped fashion. No drum or synth settings are saved which takes a little to get used to and if there is something you want to keep in the instrument section you either have to rely on memory or write it down. Even so sometimes its hard to get back what you had the day before with some sounds.

    The unit has MIDI IN/Out and the Out can be set as Thru in a larger setup.  which you'll need for inputting more complicated bass synth sequences but the 16 malfunction buttons used for inputting drum and bass sequences is easy to use and covers a lot of the main functions. You can definitely cover a lot of "Berlin" school EM sequencing with the MIDI output as well as anything your imagination can come up with. 

    Over all the Rhythm Wolf is something I keep around for jamming and for a simple hardware MIDI sequencer for outside the loop of the DAW but it can play nice with it if you decide to integrate it with larger hardware setup or computer(s). It does have some major limitations and criticism deservedly so but its also rewarding once you see how you can use. Again MIDI wise it shines but there's plenty of software and hardware that can toss it into the trash heep but hardware wise the cost is higher than a used Rhythm Wolf. As of this writting there are many users who have modded their Rhythm Wolfs to make it a much better instrument. Just do a search. You can hear me using the Rhythm Wolf on my track Imperfect Tense for the recent Raymond Scott tribute  album from Aural Films at https://auralfilms.bandcamp.com/track/imperfect-tense

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