MD as a synth vs MM as a drummachine

I’ve recently bought a small drum synthesizer (volca drum) that I’m having fun with modulating parameters via OTs midi channel. as I’d like to noodle away drum rhythms that transform into glitchy soundspheres I’ve asked myself which machine would be the better upgrade — MD or MM?

This thread isn’t about a comparison of MD vs MM in general but to discuss the abuse of the machines in terms of sculpting sound that they aren’t supposed to focus on primarily.

Let me know what you think or experiences you’ve made, thanks!

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Oh, this is an interesting topic. I have both MM and MD and have explored this a little bit.

What I’ve found is that it depends what you want and what you expect to be able to achieve. The MM as a synthesizer and sound processor definitely has more range. But there are certain things that are not that easy for it to do that are trivial on the MD. For example: to synthesise a classic analogue / TR-type cymbal you need to use multiple high pitched square waves at various detuned pitches. This is not so easy to do on the MM whereas on the MD you just dial it up as a synthesis type. Similar thing with a snare - you’d probably need three or four tracks to synthesise one convincingly on the MM (using a noise machine and a couple of sine machines). Having said that - there’s always the BBOX machine if the sounds in that suit what you’re doing.

Conversely, the MD can do a very wide range of really interesting pitched/melodic things but you sort of go with what comes out of the various machines. It’s a case of what the parameters are designed to do and what the upper and lower limits of their ranges are.

If you could internally resample into the MM…


MD can’t be perfectly tuned chromatically, except for samples, with a limited range, up to +/- 51 values IIRC (+/- 1 octave and a half, maybe more). 3 values = 1 semitone.

There is a pitch chart for several machines (not all).
Machinedrum TRX, EFM & SMP Pitch Chart for printing

I used it matching midi control changes with a midi processor. Pretty complicated, not personally satisfied.

Chromatic Machinedrum

Maybe @defenestration may want talk about it too. :wink:


I own both but if I could only keep one the MnM is the one for me. I use as a drum machine all the time, although I wouldn’t synthesize a hat or snare as described by @finalform. The BBOX is plenty for me and you’ll have access to the entire drum kit on one track, granted each track is mono. Another kool thing about the BBOX is the retrig effect. Plenty to explore there, not to mention all the other synth engines that come with it. You’ll find a lot of similarities with the MnM and the OT with the lfos and input machines. I absolutely love the MnM!!!

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Sure. I tried it recently with Octatrack. Not easy, using 8 tracks for only 1 kind of “cymbal” sound! Square wave modulated by a fast square lfo helped…

I’ve made an entire track just using the MD’s GND machines- including musical parts(ie using the MD as a synth)

It’s rewarding, like climbing a mountain- you presented yourself with a challenge and then you overcame it.

I can’t imagine there’s a legitimate pragmatic purpose for doing this, though.

But the sentimental accomplishment is top notch- making an entire track(or even just the musical parts) from a drum machine?! That’s crazy, man! Cheers.

As far as using a synth as a drum machine- that’s a little less convoluted and more inviting to do so


@sezare56 wow, doesn’t feel that long ago I made that, but it’s been almost a year now. . . :sweat_smile:

the EFM and TRX machines are basically equal-tempered A440ish, while the sine wave machines are quite different tuning, presumably some sort of arbitrary mathematical logic? I remember reading an old post on the old forum about this but I don’t recall the details.

For the Jingle Bells sine waves I used the sine pitch ramp set to full decay to gain slightly more tuning resolution on the sine wave machines, but my understanding is that the ‘static LFO trick’ could also be used to gain even finer control over the pitch; perhaps enough to achieve a close approximation of equal-tempered A440? I enjoyed having the tuning be quite dodgy in general though - iirc most of my pitches were in a range of 10-40 cents flat from their intended A440 values. My Jingle Bells MD snapshot is freely available if anyone wants to load it up and poke around.

I think it’s very interesting to have access to a ‘tuned’ kit of sounds that have their own kind of temperament as it’s conceptually similar to sampling something like a kalimba or toy piano. Straight-up equal-tempered A440 usually isn’t the kind of thing I’m into so I’m often smooshing tuning around a bit, or I will start with sounds that have a distinct but arbitrary pitch center

but this discussion of MD tuning is a bit tangential to the OP’s stated desire of

I think my experiences have been fairly similar to @finalform’s - both MD and MNM are great at this but in very different ways. To me it’s mainly a matter of whether you want to approach things starting from a tonal/pitched perspective (MNM) or more from a raw sound/texture angle (MD)

with no other gear involved I think MD is a bit more ‘playable’ for this kind of use-case, as it has more individual sounds that can be muted/unmuted, the trig keys can function as a completely customizable keyboard, and it also has control-all/CTR-8P, whereas MNM would benefit greatly from being used with an external controller

Overall the MD feels more like a ‘complete device’ to me, whereas MNM was designed specifically to complement MD and address some of its weaker aspects. MNM is a great drum machine, but so far I’ve gotten more satisfying results using MD as a synth than MNM as a drum machine. MNM voices offer more features and possibilities for detailed sound design, but I think it’s because MD has so much more opportunities for layering - is not a big deal to make a single sound out of 3 tracks on MD, you’ll still have 13 tracks left, but if you use 3 tracks on MNM you’ve already used up half of the voices available :anguished:


MM FM machines are an invitation to percussion.
I really love to synthesize such sounds on MM.
You can even play with the retrig on sample-based BBOX drumkit.

THE limitation indeed.