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An innovative drum sample player buried under a frustrating interface

There are countless virtual drum kits on the App Store, so we’re always up for anything that tries to do something new with the tired old ‘zoned screen’ formula that dominates. Drum Space makes a decent fist of attempting to change things up with its novel approach to kit construction and triggering, but demands too much patience on the part of the user in putting up with its interface to qualify as a success. This is a shame, because the app’s 170+ sampled drum and percussion sounds are – by and large – solid, including your standard array of drum kit elements (kick, snare, hi-hats, toms, etc), plus tabla, djembe, congas and more. 

Here’s a drum kit laid out in the main 2-D Dimension. The intensity of the colored blocks indicates the volume of the sound

Here’s a drum kit laid out in the main 2-D Dimension. The intensity of the colored blocks indicates the volume of the sound

The concept behind Drum Space is one of arranging sample triggers in a range of 16×10 spatial environments that govern the way they’re mixed. The main one (2-D) lets you define the outward ‘range’ of each positioned sound, with the volume dropping the further away you get from its center point, and sounds blending as zones cross into each other. Other ‘spaces’ include Linear, Anular, Radial and Lexographic, each presenting a very different positional triggering system. 

At first, it’s all quite fun, but then the nightmarish reality of the interface soon becomes apparent. Changing drum sounds involves repeatedly tapping the Bank button to get to the sound category you want, then repeatedly tapping the Item button to toggle through the sounds in that category, with no way to step through them backwards, maddeningly. Meanwhile, the Save function saves all 32 stored setups, rather than just the one you’re working on, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to recall the factory defaults if you accidentally overwrite them – somehow, during the review period, all of our presets got wiped completely. Twice. In more general terms, the buttons are unresponsive, the dragging is erratic and everything just feels imprecise and clunky.

The automatic panning function is also problematic. The whole app is built around placing sounds within a 2D space in order to control their relative mixes and volumes, but panning is hardwired to left/right positioning, so as a consequence of setting up a complex mix, you’ll inevitably end up forced – through lack of vertical space – to pan certain sounds left or right, which may well not be appropriate. Panning is an important mixing consideration, and Drum Space’s connection of left/ right in the interface to left/right in the stereo spectrum doesn’t actually make sense – discrete per-sample pan controls are called for.

In the Annular space, the mapping of each sample is determined by its distance from the center of the grid

In the Annular space, the mapping of each sample is determined by its distance from the center of the grid

Drumming up support

Finally, the documentation is decidedly lacking, comprising a small collection of bashed-out YouTube videos on a 90s-style website that basically fail to give any real insight into how to use the app. And some of the help texts that appear at the bottom of the screen (and can’t be removed!) don’t even fit properly, which is just feeble. Oh, and it doesn’t multitask properly, either, often requiring a quit and relaunch to bring the audio back online.

Ultimately, Drum Space is a nice idea presented really, really badly. It’s not expensive, but in this day and age, even a $1.99/£1.49 app should be properly tested prior to release.

Price: $2.99/£1.99

Size: 18.2 MB

Version: 1.6

Platform: iOS Universal

Developer: Mark Carlotto

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Drum Space Review: Innovative but lacking
With its awkward, buggy interface and inflexible panning setup, Drum Space punches its own good ideas in the face. It’s a real shame, because there’s clearly potential here
Pluses
  • Badly orchestrated and illogical interface
  • Ridiculously clunky and time consuming to get to grips with
  • Bizarre sound panning choices
Minuses
  • Large variety of sounds and fairly cheap
2.0Overall Score