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DSI Tempest Drum Machine

Dave Smith Instruments Tempest

3.85 3.85 out of 5, based on 3 Reviews

Drum machine that does a lot more than sequence drums.

12th February 2012

Dave Smith Instruments Tempest by incurablebeatlus

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
DSI Tempest Drum Machine

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.

Sound Quality-9
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.

18th March 2012

Dave Smith Instruments Tempest by zion15

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
DSI Tempest Drum Machine

Disclaimer: I personally judge instruments and tools almost totally by gut feeling, and I'm still grinning wide when programming sounds and playing patterns with Tempest. Please take this with a grain of salt.


The core of Tempest consists of six voices of analog-digital hybrid synthesis. Each voice has two digitally controlled analog oscillators and two digital oscillators with a selection of more than 400 samples from a huge variety of one shot drum sounds to a complete set of Prophet VS waveforms. A 2/4 pole VCF, simple highpass filter, five switchable AD/ADSR envelopes, two LFOs and a sizeable amount of modulation routing options per voice complete the package. Feature-wise the synth side of the unit falls somewhere between DSI's Evolver hybrid synth and Mopho analogue synthesizer. The voice architecture is deep and flexible and the envelopes are fast enough, so the unit works fine for both drum/percussion duties (for which it's mainly designed for), classic analog patches and vintage sounding digital synth sounds.

I will echo the sentiments of the previous reviewer: if you think the Tempest sounds thin and boring, you aren't trying very hard - or have a completely different definition of those adjectives than I do. The basic sound is really pleasant, and the combination of two rather modern sounding analog oscillators, two digital sample sources, a good sounding VCF and plethora of modulation options means it is really easy to get this box to sound great and "fat" if you know what you are doing. Beware though - the machine is capable of doing some really snappy percussive sounds so you may occasionally want to have some dynamics processing in hand to tame the transients.

The only things I feel would benefit from rethinking in the sound department are the one-knob analog distortion and compression. There is nothing wrong with their sound, but their use is quite limited for me. The distortion is quite heavy even on minimal settings (and you obviously lose all the bottom end), and the compressor has quite a lot faster attack than what I would use for drum buss duties. I think a simple addition of dry/wet knob for these would have made them great tools for shaping the sound of the mix outputs. Now they're nice when multitracking individual parts, but a bit too drastic to use on everything.

Ease of use

The user interface of Tempest lives in the happy land between a menu-driven "a screen and a bunch of encoders" and analog synth style "one knob per function" UIs. The choice has its good and bad sides. The footprint of the unit is compact (a big plus for my cramped workspace) and it's very fast to edit sounds and sequences, especially considering the depth of the voice architecture. However, it is also easy to lose context of what you're working on since same controls may have different functions in different modes and the screen doesn't always follow what you are doing. I still often find myself reaching for the same wrong knobs on same situations - otherwise you could probably learn to operate the unit with your eyes closed since the layout is so logical.

This is not to say the unit is hard or confusing to use: compared to pretty much any similar desktop box (whether drum machine, sampler or generic groovebox) I have used, Tempest is a joy to work with. However, in its current state it's still less intuitive to use than my personal benchmark of awesome "groovebox" UIs - the Elektron Machinedrum.


At the time of writing this review, the Tempest OS is not feature-complete, even up to the initial promised specifications. Some of the missing bigger things include a playlist function for chaining patterns (there is a button for it, it just does nothing yet), ability to load 32 (instead of 16) different sounds to a single pattern, and MIDI out sequencer tracks for controlling external gear (the pads already send MIDI but no MIDI sequencing).

I personally bought the unit after extensive demoing based on what it does now, not what it's promised to do in the future, so it does what I need it to do. However, I would advise any potential buyer to check out the current limitations and future developments carefully. For me, the focus is on getting the essential things (the sound of the base voices, sequencer, usability) right and everything else after that. In case I want to have everything and the kitchen sink and control my whole studio setup with one machine, I'm perfectly able to open my DAW of choice, thank you.

Bang for buck

Tempest is not cheap but in this case you do get what you pay for: an awesome 6 voice hybrid analog/digital synthesizer and a sequencer, capable of filling both drum and other synth duties. The Tempest does not feel like a mass produced tool but a truly inspiring instrument with professional build quality, great usability and lovely sound.

21st February 2017

Dave Smith Instruments Tempest by Chromalord

  • Sound Quality 3 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 2 out of 5
  • Overall: 3
DSI Tempest Drum Machine

I just purchased a Tempest analog drum machine 10 days ago, have spent a lot of time with it, the manual and several youtube videos, the latter hosted by the man himself Roger Lynn and an employee of Dave Smith Instruments, the manufacturer.

I will not review features and parameters here, please go to their website.
This is more of a practical users review and impressions.

Let us start with the good.

The Unit.
It's an attractive unit, a bit on the small size but well made. The feet grip the surface well, it has attractive wood ends. The pads are velocity/pressure sensitive and they feel very good to the touch. The layout is mostly logical and it has two unique ribbon-type controllers which are also pressure sensitive. There are plenty of knobs and buttons which are easy to navigate, unless you have hands like Shaq. The quality of those are not top-notch but they are still sturdy and confident.

The sounds:
There are plenty of both PCM samples and analog sources, but the emphasis on the machine is for you to edit and create and on that front you can do to lengthy degrees. There is full synth on board as well as analog percussion sounds galore. A lot of the cliche kits are here too.
There are indigenous quirks, but they are not too many or too confusing but you DO need to get to know them before you will have any success on the unit. Id say the unit is 80% intuitive, the rest you will have to learn, including how they categorize things, the general architecture, load and saving, via the manual, website, or the videos. A knowledge of subtractive synthesis is advised and a general way how drum machines behave is suggested too.

Sequencing/Creating a beat
It's fairly easy, yet sometimes tedious (obviously depending on what you want to do) but its cool. Its the kinds machine you are going to get out of it what you put into it, its not a "happy-accident" machine. But in my book, that's a good thing. Real time or step; its easy to get around edit, o'dub, revert.
I give the unit a fun factor of an 8 ( 1-10 scale)

The Bad

I find the sound to be on the lo-fi side, a bit anemic for my taste. They dont pop much with presence. The PCM sounds are all in mono. If your goal is to recreate a real drum-kit performance, this is not the unit for you (volunteering that's not the intent here, so that's not really a criticism). On the good side of that is that analog responds well to outboard processing; so with some good EQs and compression you can greatly enhance the fidelity.

The unit has unbalanced outputs, and is noisy. The distortion and compression FX, located in the master-out section should have been digital modelers because these are noisy as hell and don't really help out the sound. To be fair, if you are looking for that kind of noise and grit, then go for it, but do know there are not any adjustments (even for the compressor) simple a level knob for each.
The screen is a tad on the small side, its well lit but the fonts are small. There are many pages to scroll thru. Lastly, the unit makes a horrendous "POP" when turning off/on.
There is no USB hosting for memory, only thru MIDI Sysex (via MIDI or USB instrument) can works be saved.

The Tempest is a boutique item, seemingly targeting techno-genre guys. Its not that hip-hop or pop friendly. Its power is its editing and on the fly-editing, virtually everything can be done during playback. In the studio I find it a bit lackluster and wished for more intense sounds and ones in stereo, or at least some stereo ambience instead of the sub-par distortion and compression features. It's overall feel is semi-pro to ME, and maybe that's what they wanted: higher-yield unit sales at a cheaper price, but these days when you consider the Korg and Roland products, the Akai gear, and whats used on the market, the Tempest is not that sweet of a deal.

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