DM1 The Drum Machine for iPad from Fingerlab on Vimeo.

In a studio, very often it isn’t about endless racks of gear so much as the handful of items you most love. So, amidst a sometimes overwhelming flood of iOS apps – and, frankly, some of them quite disposable – a few stand out.

The DM1 drum machine seems especially deserving of the coveted Apple Design Award it won this month at WWDC. The UI design by Jonas Eriksson is textured and detailed without being overly slavish to hardware. The app itself makes a great argument for turning to the iPad for your drum machine rather than dedicated hardware. Before you start throwing tomatoes: I can think of any number of terrific used drum machines that now will set you back US$100-200. But unless you have a big budget for something like a Tempest, software is a pretty compelling alternative to the newer boxes. The iPad restores some of the appeal of standalone hardware, getting you away from your computer screen with something that you can relax with in an armchair or on a bus, but that still integrates with your studio – including other hardware and that computer.

Feature highlights:

  • Integrated step sequencer, plus a song composer that turns those patterns into full song structures.
  • Drum pad performance with a merciful automatic quantize feature (in case you aren’t Jeremy Ellis).
  • Mixing and loads of effects, complete with extensive automation.
  • Wide range of samples, with 64 kits.
  • Pitch bend ribbon is a nice performance twist, ideal for a touchscreen.
  • X/Y pad effects modulation.
  • Get your files anywhere: export to email, iTunes.
  • Integrate with software: Audio background mode, AudioCopy, Korg WIST sync support (for working with another iPad or iPhone).
  • Integrate with hardware: MIDI in.

A recent upgrade added still more features:

  • 3 new FXs (Reverb, Formant, and Dalek filter)
  • Facebook & SoundCloud exports
  • Retina Display

Those integration features really make the difference between a “toy” and a “tool” for a lot of our readers, based on copious feedback we’re getting.

Congratulations to the developers on the recognition from Apple. For iPhone or iPad, though I find the iPad the most drum machine-like form factor.

By the way, speaking of iOS music making and what it means in practical terms for musicians, we’ll be covering the upcoming CDR Berlin episode, which is dedicated to iOS performance. Performances and talks by Robert Lippok, Henrik Schwarz, and Mike Huckaby should be a real highlight. Stay tuned.

  • Tom D

    It is an awesome fun app and really easy to come up with some great sounds. Needs MIDI sync and the ability to create your own kits, which I believe are coming, but I’d recommend it as is anyway as some of the onboard sounds are great.

    Off-topic a little but are there any other comparable iPad drum machines which support synthesis as well as samples, and have a UI as good as DM-1’s? Seems like a gap in the market from what I can tell!

    • Sven

      Maybe not quite what you’re looking for, but Nanoloop has sampler (very basic but OK for drums) and synth. The sequencer is rhythm-centric with 16 or 64 steps length and shuffle, but there are no pads for playing live, it’s really just a sequencer. Also, it is iPhone-only and the UI is very minimalistic. It comes without a sample library, there is just a handful of presets and examples, including percussion, mainly using the synth and re-sampling.

    • substrain

       Molten (by One Red Dog) is an excellent iPad drum synth that has MIDI clock sync and can do tuplets and polyrhythms.

  • George Lopez Dispenser

    Hey Peter, speaking of iOS, do you know any details about the promised “inter-app audio” and “multi route audio” in iOS 6? They were listed on the features slide during the keynote but as far as I know no details have leaked out from the sessions.

    DM1 is a great app by theway, and definitely one of only a handful of music creation apps i find myself stepping away from my mac to play with.

    • Peter Kirn

      I’ve heard some nice-sounding rumors, but unfortunately, Apple has some pretty strict policies on secrecy on this stuff. Now… there are videos, however, on the dev site. Those may also be covered by some sort of NDA, but even if so, I’ll have to find some time to watch them so that whenever I can talk about this, I’m prepared!

    • George Lopez Dispenser

      I didn’t realize the session videos were already up! They ARE covered by NDA, so I won’t explain here, but anyone interested with a developer account, the session with multi-route audio is called “Audio Session and Multi-Route Audio in iOS” and the session for inter-app audio is…? I can’t find it. Perhaps it was covered in a lab or something?

    • Peter Kirn

      Titles of the sessions are publicly disclosed, so you’ve just worked out how to point people to information without breaking NDA. 😉

      I’m guessing there wasn’t a separate inter-app session. 

  • Vladimir Sedykh

    The best ios drum machine I ever used

  • Todd Fletcher

    Not only the best iOS drum machine, one of the best touch apps I’ve used, period. It realizes the potential of the touch interface, nice to see it’s being used to set a standard.

  • ugh

    god dammit now I need an ipad

  • Starving student

    PLEASE tell me that you can import your own samples into this please please please ????

  • Starving student

    Peter / anyone what is the closest app to this that allows you to use your own samples?

    • Peter Kirn

      Yes, was wondering that myself… iMaschine does, for one, though it’s a lot simpler. I have to hit the books and work this out!

    • a_w_young

      This is an ancient post, I know, but I was just wondering the same thing now that I have such a toy. I’d love this with custom sample support. Know anything?

  • Phil Viana

    I love this!

    Though I think the one thing i wish more software like this had (and almost none of them do) is an editable loop brace.  I want to be able to loop the last 4 steps of a 16 step sequence so i can quickly nail that little fill instead of listening to the whole bar every time.  Should be easy to program, no?
    That’s my main/only problem with classic step sequencers really!

    • Substrain

       A lot of iOS sequencers already work that way. Nanostudio does this and the step sequencer in Beatmaker1 does it as well.

  • Pablo

    @a93226effb5743a2c8511c118e3abefd:disqus   i like electrify a lot, ELECTRIFY: the virtual Groovebox for your iPad

    • Starving student

      thanks for the tip pablo will check it out, does it have randomizing features?

  • Piscione

    I recently picked up a gen 2 iPad from the Apple refurb website specifically for music.  So far, the apps I’m enjoying the most are Animoog, Phaedra and DM1.  DM1 is great, the drums are not too bad but the app is really fun to use.  The only downside is the inability to backup your patterns and songs.  I have a demo of Phaedra and the iPad on YouTube but since this a thread about DM1 I won’t link to it.  I really should do something for DM1 too.

  • perpetualmotionmachine

    happy kanada day! 

  • day

    my favorite drum machine app for sounds but the fact that it can’t midi sync to ANYTHING makes it almost useless. it cant receive clock, or send it. it does sync through WIST but that is useless unless you have 2 ipads. Almost every app out there syncs through something but this one can’t. i does receive start and stop but it doesn’t keep up with other apps or external equipment.

  • Alberto

    hello there, I’ve bought this app for iphone, is it possible to use it with MIDI in any way? for Ipad it is…

  • Alberto

    help please

  • Adam James

    I love this drum machine, but I just upgraded to iOS 7 and my DM1 app is not working properly, which is ridiculous because I have all these songs saved that keep messing up. Anyone else having this problem?