Dave Smith Instruments Tempest by incurablebeatlus
The Tempest is an expensive but very versatile production tool. It certainly has its limitations, and some features haven't been implemented in the current OS yet, but this box means business. In the day of DAWs and seemingly endless plug-ins the Tempest (and the new wave of analog, namm2012) is a really refreshing product.
I think the sound quality of this machine is really quite good. Does it sound like over proccessed sample pack one-shots straight out of the box? No, it doesn't. The presets, of which I haven't checked all, are borderline horrendous. That however doesn't really mean squat to me and presumably many others as isn't the point of this machine to create your own sounds? The 909/808 kick presets are disappointing. There, I said it. Move on... Once you get over that and go about making your own drums this box opens up. It is a DSI product so dont expect it to sound like a moog, roland tr-xxx, or whatever synth/drum box holy-grail-of-sound you are looking for. With that said, this thing BANGS. HARD. The filter has some creaminess to it that easily gets a raw, modern, cutting analog edge to it when pushed. The env's are crucial for creating the drum sounds that don't seem to exist in the presets. Without trying to be a troll I'm tempted to say that anyone who finds this box thin isn't trying very hard. If you are brand new to synthesis and you want a 909 sound, don't buy the tempest. If you can get around on an analog synth (or digital for that matter) and know basics of EQ and compression this box can sound great. I have heard the machine described as more snappy than punchy and I think that is true, however it has thump and can definately get that bass punch in the chest even on little 5'' budget monitors. When using the voice(s) as a synth it sounds great and has some interesting sample waveforms in the digital oscillator section, noise, sine, vs waves etc...
Onboard distortion is ok, probably more useful if tracking out specific parts, I don't think I would ever use it across the whole set of voices at once. The compressor is more of an effect than a bona fide compression sound and seems to have a surprisingly fast attack for a drum box. I would have expected a little slower attack to let the inital drum 'pop' through...
Ease of use-10
Coming from using the mpc series, in particular my favorites the 60, 60mkii, and 3000 this thing feels very familar. This does all the things I wished the mpc3k would do within reason. A simple 'shift' key opens up the buttons/knobs to a second set of features that becomes really natural to use quickly. I have much more to learn about Tempest without a doubt but this is amazingly intutitive to use. Roger Linn did a fantastic job with the UI on this box. It is an instrument in the sense that after some minimal practice a user could tweak this box without needing to look at the machine, it is remarkably tactile. Any niggles about ease of use are related to features that haven't been implemented yet...
The Tempest doesn't really have me asking for more features. I think it does what it does and does it well. If you are totally into your DAW/ITB way of working where you can call up a squillion different reverbs chain them together and put a different compressor on each then the tempest may disappoint you. If you take it for what it is intended to be, a drum machine, then you will get a lot more in the bargain. Essentially it is a 2 osc (with sub) analog poly synth with a great sequencer AND drum module. Some of my favorite features so far are the mod paths, 16 tunings that can be set to different tuning scales (!!), the oled sceen is sharp, and the pads feel better than even my trusty ol' gal, mpc3000. I would like to use this to sequence external poly synths via midi and have the mid features expanded in general but only time will tell what the OS updates will bring.
The downside, it is more of a performace tool than studio piece ONLY due to the lack of certain midi controls and linking patterns together (playlist??) which would make arrangement in a midi based daw difficult. Im waaayy more of an OTB guy so Im goin to let someone else expound on that aspect... Also this is (as I understand) expected to be fixed in OS update.
Bang for the buck-8
I find it to be a great value. Look at it in a few different ways... It can act as a 6 voice analog poly, a drum module, a sequencer, and a performance tool that blows other 'groovebox' machines out of the proverbial water. Compare the prices of 4 or 6 voice analogs with similar feature-sets and see how Tempest stacks up. Build quality on this is very strong. I certainly am treating it with care, but the Tempest invokes a certain degree of confidence that it will hold-up to use, at least in regard to the physical/tactile aspect of the machine.
I'm not a very slutty Gearslut so I had to sell a good bit of my modest set-up to grab a Tempest. Having liquidated my gear down to the Tempest, two compressors, and a mackie 1604 I definately have some serious gearlust for a poly synth (or two), e-mu ultra sampler, another flavor of mono-analog (or three), and I sold off my DP4 (DOH!) so I need some effects... I say that to say this, I DO NOT regret my decision. I have seriously upgraded my workflow, sound and even pleasure with music with this little box.