Stepping up to the plate in the midst of this exciting Analog and hardware revolution is none other than Akai, the legendary company responsible for iconic machines such as the MPC2000, having spent some time re-inventing itself as a "Controller" company, and here once again it is original domain. Presenting the "Rhythm Wolf", an Analog Drum and Bass machine (not the genre-drums, and bass synthesizer), packed full of features, and providing rich sounds that are built from scratch, and with nice rounded lows, and crisp highs. At times sounding like the legendary Linn-Drum (designed by old Akai partner Roger Linn), but capable of reaching into any realms, the drums are present and have depth, while the bass tones rattle your neighbors into submission.
Let's start this time with the drums, stars of the show on this one, and where the fun really happens here. 5 parts are provided which each include a dedicated custom-calibrated MPC-style pad for finger drumming, all allowing for tweaking of tuning, decay, volume, and even "noise" (available on the snare and hi-hats-which also include high and low tune for extra tuning), so there is plenty of control in making sure that your percussion comes out well balanced and refined to a "T". There is also an adjustable accent percussion, which can be modulated to create some very interesting and abstract effects out of things like the hi-hats or snare. Add the "Howl" knob, and you've got yourself some very over the top options to go further than what may lie at face value. The machine also features "Mute/Solo", "Intro/Fill in", and an A/B variation switch, allowing for more control over your groove.
The Bass synthesizer on this machine, also 100% analog, is quite a treat, and stands true to this type of circuitry with a warm and well rounded low-end, while the highs can be made to "bite back" as the company claims, thanks to the "Howl" knob, not to mention the cool filter inside. Envelope controls are a bit like on the Korg EMX/ESX series, with only a single knob that can be tweaked in either negative or positive polarity. Filter cutoff and resonance knobs are available, as are Decay and Tune, also providing 2 selectable waveforms in the form of Square, and Saw. Both of these waves are always found on exclusive bass synthesizers, including the infamous TB-303, or its counterpart the Bass Bot TT-303, and for good reason: this is where you find the menacing character that can leave you hooked for hours sometimes simply sweeping the envelope or cutoff and resonance knobs.
The Akai Rhythm Wolf as expected is fitted with all the necessary components to integrate this gem into any studio environment, including Gate Trigger (for syncing to external hardware), USB MIDI, and 5-pin MIDI allowing you to get started on your personal DAW right out of the box. The Rhythm Wolf also features a 1/4 Individual Out for the Bass Synth, which makes it much nicer for getting some recording done without having to mute the beats out. Take all that, wrap it up in a nice metal box with classy wood egdes, and you have yourself a true analog beast ready to join the pack with plenty of tenacity and versatility. Don't sleep on the Rhythm Wolf, its an essential piece of hardware, and for a mere $200 you would be foolish not to at least give it a try.
Let this (almost surreal) revolution in hardware continue. What is happening right before our very eyes is pure magic, and almost of divine proportions. Seems the tide is truly changing, and people are beginning to wake up to the importance of being original about sound design and composition, and letting the music be guided by its own sense of wonder, as we, the students of this craft diligently follow along with constant intrigue as to where it will all take us. The Rhythm Wolf for one is ready, and will have no problem being the alpha of your pack.
Written by: Santino Fernandez