Review - Arturia Spark Dubstep

French software + English Samples = Killer beats for EDM and dubstep

Introducing the latest Anglo-French pioneering collaboration: Arturia Spark Dubstep

Arturia, the French company responsible for some ground-breaking analogue synth emulations (notably the Moog Modular and Prophet V) are following up their ‘Spark’ series with the Arturia Spark Dubstep, a dedicated virtual drum machine, modelled on the software interface of the Spark Vintage Drum Machine. This product is aimed squarely, in Arturia’s own words, at “discerning dubstep producers”. With a name like ‘Spark Dubstep’ who’d have guessed!

At the cutting edge of analogue emulation, the company has teamed up with London-based pro-audio sample creators Sample Magic, to create a product that includes 30 kits, 480 instruments, a 16 channel mixer and 14 effects, for less than 100 Euros.

Used as a stand-alone rhythm creator or as a DAW plug-in (RTAS, AU, VST3) it’s relatively straightforward to start creating loops ‘straight out of the box’ with a set of 960 factory MIDI patterns ready to play. More than being simply a pre-programmed toy with a bunch of sampled loops, this piece of virtual kit enables you to develop your own rhythms and loops intuitively in a fairly short space of time.

The Arturia Spark Dubstep is essentially comprised of three key sections: the central section containing drum pads and sequencer controls, the upper section containing the pattern/song step-sequence elements and the lower section enabling access to the mixer, library and kit/instrument manipulation.

Once you’ve done playing around with software for a while, you’re likely to start wanting to create your own rhythms from scratch. Having said that the factory presets can provide an excellent starting point for some inspired dubstep or EDM beats! The main section is the go-to for creating your own loops and saving them as patterns.

The central section as well as containing the pads and sequencer section, has a nifty set of loop and FX tools, so you play along to an existing beat, set on-the-fly loops, slice and filter your loops real-time. This means that the Arturia Spark Dubstep is well-kitted out for live performances as well as studio work. Using either midi or tap tempo, you can get to work constructing rhythms, then mashing, slicing and mangling them all ‘on the beat’.

What about changing the sounds? Arturia Spark Dubstep feels like a really flexible and intuitive bit of kit that makes changes and tweaks easy. If you like a loop you’ve got going but feel that you need, say, a different snare sound; scrolling down to the instrument/kit lower section lets you access the mute/solo section for each piece of kit as well as change the volume, pan or even load a different piece of kit/instrument.

An easy-to-use, fun and engaging bit of virtual kit has emerged from an Anglo-French collaboration for less than the cost of a Eurostar trip to Paris! Those already familiar with the Spark interface and associated hardware will yearn to have this for their existing Spark Vintage Drum Machine and Arturia are promising just such an expansion pack in the near future.

  • Review by Andy Smith. Andy is a multi-instrumentalist and producer of electronic and film music, whose work includes beat creation.