Now we know what Akai’s drum machine plus simple bass synth sounds like. And no surprises – it’s a simple, classic-inspired analog drum machine with a basic synth. And yeah, you’re probably going to want to consider one, certainly at this price. (We’ll just be pitting it against the KORG volca beats, which we know we love.)
Akai has posted an official, if preliminary and unlisted, video to their account, and made the presence known to readers of their forum. So, this is the real thing – just not quite up to the usual marketing video material, though that’s fine by me. Akai reps I’ve talked to have been just as impatient to get a working unit as readers have. (It’s still not clear what happened at Musikmesse even to people in the booth; it seems some of the Akai folks did indeed think that the one demo unit they had was damaged by using an improper power supply. Booths at trade shows get chaotic.)
It seems that what’s happened is that someone at Akai has decided to “leak” an internal video from the company showing what the unit sounds like. It’s a bit rough, but you get a good idea of the basic character of the synth.
That leak appears intentional, as it was announced on the community forum and the YouTube video, while unlisted, has all the links to the Akai community. See the discussion with Akai’s Dan on a thread this week. Anyway, it’s out now, and it is definitely a video shot by Akai. Akai told me at least one previous “leak” of the Rhythm Wolf on SoundCloud was a fake.
That one-oscillator synth and filter sounds okay, but thin enough that it probably isn’t going to replace other synths. That’s expected, given the synth’s architecture. (I’m imagining carrying a KORG volca and, of course, MeeBlip anode with it.) Also, even with headphones, I’m very curious how the bass drum stacks up against the massive bass drum on the volca beats.
But as I noted in the spring, the interface design of this unit is fantastic from a workflow perspective. And it seems they’ve put together a really balanced sound as far as the drum parts. It shares plenty of Roland TR character, but it’s also already sounding distinct. You just can’t quite tell from this video. (That is, it sounds like… a drum machine. We’ll know more when we can hear it properly.)
In other words, this is more or less what we expected and hoped for even looking at the non-sounding unit in Frankfurt earlier this year. And that’s good news.
That said, it’s worth observing that the video is preliminary. Firmware changes can have a big impact on sound, even on an analog synth, by changing the ranges of knobs and whatnot. But I’m pleased: the Rhythm Wolf looks like a contender. Can’t wait to get the real unit. And having these fun, little machines that are more idiosyncratic, like the volca beats, Rhythm Wolf, and so on, to me is really creatively inspiring. It’s not just that these machines are more affordable. It’s that the challenge of making them smaller, simpler, and cheaper can often produce something with a lot of character. And they can be a lot of fun.