23 January 2008

the $100 drum machine from zoom

Zoom offers the Micro RhythmTrak (MRT) 3, a sample-based drum machine featuring 199 sounds, 7 velocity-sensitive pads (with two banks to provide up to 14 sounds per drum kit), 50 factory drum kits, 20 user drum kits, MIDI in for sync and trigger, and 1/4" outputs. This drum machine has been available since 2002, according to sonicstate.com. The MRT-3 has a silver enclosure, while the MRT-3B has a black enclosure.

The top and side enclosures are made from plastic, and there's a metal base on the bottom. This device feels a bit heavier than it looks. It is very sturdy, and the buttons and the output knob feel very durable.

Power for this drum box can come from a 9-volt DC adapter or four AA batteries.

I purchased an MRT-3B because I was fascinated by the idea of a miniature drum machine with velocity-sensitive pads costing US$100. It's small enough that it fits in a backpack with plenty of room to spare.

Factory kit 08 sounds like Roland TR-808 samples, and factory kit 09 sounds like Roland TR-909 samples. So musicians that favor those sounds have something to look forward to in this product. At the tail end of the factory kits, kit 49 and kit 50 have a collection of bizarre sound effects. Flipping through the factory sets, I hear a lot of range in these sounds in terms of styles. Anyone working with styles such as rock, pop, jazz, hip-hop, reggae/dub, house, and techno will find something to like here.

With only seven instrument pads per bank, this device is centered around creating sequences with the built-in sequence recorder as opposed to live performance.

At higher velocity levels, some samples incorporate reverb in order to provide a bigger sound. I wish there was a way to only use dry samples. The use of reverb on some samples makes post-processing more difficult, as reverb will enter the whole effect chain, and could cause undesirable results if additional reverb is applied.

So, what kind of applications are appropriate for this device? I use this as a headphone drum machine, which means I plug in headphones and bang out some beats when I just feel like playing as opposed to recording or sequencing. I would definitely take my MRT-3B to a rehearsal session or for any just-for-fun situation where larger, more capable, more expensive gear isn't needed. If I were to use this machine to produce percussion sounds for a track, I would imagine that the sounds or sequences would be recorded, then processed afterwards. However, as mentioned earlier, the reverb applied to some of the built-in samples presents a challenge for routing the MRT-3's output through additional effects.

1 comment:

Allen said...

I did hear abut this previously but your blog is more informative.