The MicroTonic (or μTonic) is a VST drum and percussion synthesizer plug-in for Windows (98 or later) or Mac OS X (10.2 or later) that works with any host application compatible with VSTi 2.0 plug-ins. It features a fully-synthetic sound module (using no samples or pre- rendered waveforms) and a pattern-based drum machine (which can be used to play the patterns you build within the plug-in, sync'ed to the host sequencer). The sound module can also be played via MIDI-any simple MIDI interface could be used to bang out drum patterns, or you can build patterns within your host app's MIDI sequencer.

The sound module/synthesizer is divided into eight mono channels-more than enough to build a healthy "kit." The MicroTonic has four individual audio outputs grouped into two busses. You choose the output buss for each of the eight drum patches/channels, and you can pan the individual sounds within each buss. Pretty flexible, but it'd be great to have the ability to output each patch individually. (Sonic Charge has indicated that this functionality will be available in future upgrades.)

I tested the MicroTonic within Ableton Live 4.1, and first off, it sounds crazy-amazing and totally unique. Definitely unlike any standard drum machine sounds you'll find elsewhere. If you wanna build an insane kit of Kraftwerk-like 808-ish percussion, married to dirty Kid 606-ish glitch, plus throw in some Stereolab-style filter sweeps, and have it all sync'ed and parameter- automatable, well, here you go. The "over-sampled" oscillator features pitch modulation and is rich, deep, and very true-sounding. Not too many software synths are focused on just drum and percussion sounds like the MicroTonic, and after being inspired to build a few songs from the drum track up, it made me really appreciate what it offers.

I found myself using MicroTonic primarily as a sound module for unique drum and percussion sounds, but with a little creativity, one could build pitched tones as well (like with a standard software synth). I love making weird sounds, but I also like a workable and clear architecture in which to build them. MicroTonic provides that with a simple interface-you have the drum channels, a mixing section (with sweepable EQ), the oscillator, a noise generator, and a velocity sensitivity section that controls how MIDI velocities affect the sound-all in one compact window. The plug-in also comes with a bundle of presets, patches, and patterns-plus a "randomize" feature to really screw things up if you're getting bored with your sounds. All in all, this is the best drum machine/synth plug-in I've ever used. And it's only $69! Download the demo! ($69 direct;

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