Dave Smith Instruments Tempest

Tempest, Drum Machine from Dave Smith Instruments.

Tom97531 10/27/2014

Dave Smith Instruments Tempest : Tom97531's user review

« Disappointing »

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You can read the full specs at the manufacturer's official website.


Using it demands some time to get familiar with it, it's a complex and powerful synth, as well as a sequencer.
Editing sounds is rather pleasant, you rarely have to push 4 buttons at the same time to do things.
However, the sequencer is really limited. I have more often screamed in rage than in joy because I have managed to pull an impossible trick with Maschine... There are no undos on the Tempest, so there you are 20 minutes tweaking a pattern, make a bad turn and you can kiss your pattern bye-bye...


This is its only strength. On the model I had, one of the voices always produced sound (a triangle, I think) even if all the oscillators were muted. No calibration ever helped resolve the problem.
As usual, I was not dazzled by the factory preset.
It has a polyphonic mode, in theory, because in practice the story looks completely different.... The internal sequencer doesn't record several notes at the same time. Envelopes reset to 0 every time you trigger a note. Try to make a nice pad with that...


I know I won't be making any new friends for this, but I think this unit is awful.
And I don't say that just because it obviously doesn't fit in my workflow, I don't judge it for that.

But I'll give you a warning: If you are used to the versatility of software programs (like I am to Maschine), you'll have a hard time, it's like going 20 years back in terms of usability. Maybe that's what you want, but I have found myself more often handicapped than stimulated by its limitations.

When I say that this unit is awful it's because it's full of bugs. It's been three years since it came out and there is still no stable OS version. So you find yourself having to choose a version that offers the best compromise in terms of possibilities and bugs. Indeed, not all functionalities mentioned are available on the synth, maybe with the next update (the free-running LFO, for instance)...
But worst of all is that when I tried to use it with my DAW, using the Tempest as a slave with MIDI clock, it wouldn't even sync to time. Sometimes I'd get variations of up to 10bpm. A drum machine that can't play in time... For $2000, that's stretching it way too far.
In my view, it's a product that isn't finished and I don't know how anybody would dare bring out a thing like this... They probably thought that, since all the problems are software-related, it's not that bad and they can always make up for them with updates... The problem is that the updates never come. Although I've heard rumors that development has resumed work... The same old never-ending story.

I can already hear fans of the Tempest telling me I didn't use it enough, I don't know how to use it right, it's a unit that has a steep learning curve, blablablabla.... I don't have anything against learning a new product or new concepts. But learning not to do certain things because the product might blow up in your hands... It's like using Windows 95. It's not learning, it's a waste of time.