Modern technology allows us to remain virtual in many aspects of music, particularly in terms of DAW software, drum machines, and similar tools that have a lot in common with electronic music genres.
In most cases, there is no need for physical devices and that is where drum machine software really shine. They are cheaper and far more versatile compared to classic drum machines. Moreover, a decent PC or laptop is pretty much everything you need. They are usually super intuitive and easy to use. The Xfer Nerve is a perfect example.
This is a typical drum machine plugin, which stands out for many reasons. It offers a quite big library of sounds, which covers pretty much everything you’ll ever need, including numerous drum shots, kits, and loops
Do not be fooled with its super-basic-looking GUI, this is an amazing product, which definitely worths the money. After all, many huge names stand behind this software, including SampleMagic, Dom Kane, SampleSquad, PowerFX, Richard Devine, etc.
As I’ve already mentioned, one of the things that characterize this plugin is its GUI, which looks pretty rudimental. I’m not sure what was the main intention of designers, but it definitely emphasizes the plugin’s simplicity. Everything looks like it comes from two decades ago, but a great thing is that such a design doesn’t affect the overall functionality.
Speaking of the functionality, such simple GUI layout allows instant and super-easy saves and loads. Still, impressions on this matter are mixed. On one side, it is great that you can save pretty much everything. By everything, I mean patterns, single hits, kits, MIDI mapping, step sequencer and much more. On the other side, a big complaint goes fo “load” part. This mainly refers to naming, because each pattern comes with a name that won’t give you any clue on how it actually sounds. Of course, you can load tons of sounds from the Nerve library, but once again, naming policy is strange, while you also don’t have any previews of sounds. It can be extremely frustrating if you’re looking for something specific. Of course, you can also load your own sounds and a great thing is that Nerve is a pretty capable software when it comes to sampling editing. Another complaint goes for MIDI implementation. It definitely isn’t bad, as it includes all the essentials. However, there is no MIDI Learn button, which is a quite big drawback.
Three Main Sections
Practically, there are three main sections in this plugin – Pattern Editor, Pads and Waveform section, and Mixing section. Everything is very transparent and you won’t find any trouble to locate any of the desired functions.
The Pattern Editor section is designed in accordance with the plugin’s overall simplicity. It is very intuitive and simple to use. You can choose between two views, called “1” and “16”. The “1” allows you to program just one parameter and offers you access to things like Velocity, Cutoff, Pitch and Late. On the other side, the “16” mode resembles a typical piano roll-style programmer. A great thing is that there are keyboard shortcuts for various functions, which would definitely have a good impact on your workflow.
Pads and Waveform
This section is probably the strongest point of the Xfer Nerve. There’s a lot of options and everything is in its place. The design is pretty straightforward. There are 16 pads, with samples or loops, and you can adjust each one pretty quickly. Just click on a pad and its waveform will appear, so you can easily do all the tweaks you need.
Also, you have instant access to effects. First of all, it is important to mention that all effects are preprogrammed. This is bad because you won’t be able to set up parameters of a certain effect. On the other side, a good thing is such effects won’t slow you or your computer down in any situation.
The list of available effects is great. Some of them are pretty typical, like pitch shifting, standard pitching, ring modulation, etc. On the other side, there is also a fine number of pretty uncommon effects, like sine/square/saw/triangle synthesis.
This section looks pretty typical. All essentials are included, but there are some extras as well. Of course, you can count on various kinds of channel-style controls, things like filter type, resonance, and cutoff, set output routings, etc. Also, there is a Repeater section. You may not able to control it via sequencer, but this tool would work for you in live performances pretty well. The Chain function is included as well.
This plugin works great with loops. Everything is pretty simple and intuitive. Just upload a REX or REX2 file you want and this software will automatically recognize all hit points and place them over 16 pads. Probably the most amazing thing is that you can re-arrange these pads, which usually isn’t the case with other plugins of this kind.
Another great thing is that you can save these loops as preset files and use them in other loops as well. Definitely a great feature if you want to expand and combine your patterns in future jams and sessions.
The Xfer Nerve is definitely a great plugin. Although it costs more than most of its competitors, it worths the money. Don’t be fooled by its awkward-looking GUI, it is a very functional tool, which comes with plenty of features.
Some of these features work great, while others could be better. Main complaints go to import functions and MIDI implementation, but even these things work quite okay. If you use a lot of samples and loops, this plugin would be a great tool, something that works great not just for producers, but for living performances as well.
Don’t forget to check some other software as well. The market is full of great plugins and here are some of my picks. If you want to read more then check out our article on the best drum vsts.
Arturia Spark 2
If old-school electronic genres are your main preoccupation, this is the perfect choice for you. Arturia Spark 2 offers a spectacular library of vintage sounds, and that is the main reason why it is one of the most popular tools of many producers
It comes either in physical form or as a software. The latter one comes with pretty impressive GUI, while functions are pretty easy and straightforward. The main complaint goes for looping sections but, generally, this is a great tool, whether you’re going to use it on live performances, or in the studio.
Wave Alchemy Evolution
This is also a pretty impressive plugin, which has a lot of things to offer. The first thing you’ll notice about it is an impressive GUI. It looks great and it is even more functional. There are so many options and functions, and access to all of them is super-easy, as they are all onboard. This will certainly have a positive impact on your workflow and things are even more impressive once you realize that there are more than 25.000 drum samples in the library. The price is high but you get plenty of quality in return.
Image-Line Groove Machine
5 hybrid synthesizer channels, 8 flexible sampler channels, each with 4 sample layers and 10 DJ-style effects are just some of the features that make this plugin great for both live performances and studio sessions. It looks impressive and works pretty smooth as well. Its intuitive engine makes it super-fun to use and allows you to express in so many ways. Large library, decent drum samples, amazing sequencer and lots of options are some of its strongest points.