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One of the most amazing things about the App Store's offerings is the fact that you get so much punch for relatively few bucks; so when a drum app shows up that costs a whopping $49.99, it’s hard to think that it’s truly better than 10 existing $4.99 drum apps combined. While Different Drummer does indeed offer a unique take on the process of laying down a beat, it’s a bit rich at the current price, which is a pity – there's some real innovation to be found here.
Different Drummer really lives up to its name: It’s a drummer, alright, but it’s radically different from any other iOS beat machine – or most plugins we’ve ever run into on the desktop. This is not the kind of instrument that’s going to be of much use in recreating a realistic acoustic drum kit, nor is it the type of thing that’s designed to let you quickly get from the beat in your head to something that everyone else can hear. This is about experimentation, knob spinning, and sonic exploration. And in this sense, it's a lot of fun.
You start by choosing from one of eight different instrument tracks – think of each one as part of a drum kit – and turning each one on, which creates a visual track reference in the realtime grid display that dominates the top portion of the screen. There's a decent selection of sampled sounds for each drum part, from snares and cymbals to bass drums and tablas, and you can also paste in your own sounds to create custom drums.
Unlike a typical grid-based drum machine, the actual drum “hits” are programmed by a somewhat complex and dynamic set of modulators, and this is where Different Drummer becomes a bit hard to tame. It’s fun for whipping up wild, bizarre rhythms and drones, with some really deep programming options, but it’s an approach that makes it tough to design a beat with the results already in mind. That said, there is also nothing quite like it in the iOS world, but the price is a real sticking point – and it started out at the rather outrageous $300! Considering the price decline to date, maybe waiting a bit longer isn't such a bad idea.
The bottom line. Different Drummer would be an amazing addition to your iPad music rack at a more accessible price, but at $50, it's simply too steep.
iPad running iOS 5.1 or later
Unique beat-making approach. Highly programmable. Lots of interesting sounds.
Despite distinct approach, it's simply too expensive.