Punch from Rob Papen
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by David Gamson
Edited by Barry Rudolph
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Punch is a drum machine and the latest from Rob Papen Synths. Usually virtual drum machines are either based around sample/loop/beat slicing technology or analog-style drum synthesis such as the Roland TR series or the Simmons drums from the 80's. Uniquely, Punch combines both these techniques and throws in a step sequencer too. My whole initial attraction to Punch was because you can 'mix n' match' synthesized drum sounds with samples all in one plug-in.
Punch (ver 1.0.2) downloads and installs easily and has the option to store its samples on an external hard drive instead of your system drive. I ran it as a 64-bit VST plug-in in Nuendo and it showed up in two flavors: a stereo version with two outputs and a multi-channel with eight stereo outs. Its three main components are: a drum synthesizer/sampler, a step sequencer, and a mixer with effects.
|Punch Main Page|
The drum synthesizer has different modules each optimized for certain kinds of sounds that are assigned to different virtual drum pads. There are 24 drum pads divided into: two kick drum pads, two snare pads, two claps, four hi-hats, three toms, three user pads with a collection of percussion instruments, and finally, eight user sample slots that you can populate with either Punch's own collection of samples or your own samples from an external hard drive. The onboard sample collection is very good--you could go for a long time tweaking all the available options before you'd get tired of all the sounds included.
For one of my latest tracks, I had a kick drum sample with good midrange punch but no real sub-sonic low-end weight and size. I loaded the kick into a sample slot and then used one of the synthesized kick drum slots to precisely dial in the exact low frequency component the kick drum needed.
The same process worked well for a snare drum sound where I started with one of Punch's synthesized snare models (A TR-808 style snare) and then I added additional 'beef' from one my own snare samples.
Punch was great for a mix of many snare samples that still needed more high frequency splatter. So I loaded up an instance of Punch, dialed in a bit of noise from one of the snare slots and ended up getting a snare drum sound as if it had reverb added--but better.
|Punch Easy Page|
Editing the many parameters for each drum pad's sound within Punch is entirely dependent upon which preset/model you've selected. For example, the kick drum has four synthesis models each with their own slightly different set of adjustable parameters. There is a large collection of "Classic/ Punch" presets that use Papen's own sample library as a sound source instead of the drum synthesizer.
There are "quick" controls in each module that allow for fast tweaking of the most important parameters, as well as an "easy" page which takes you to the core, most important parameters in all the modules at once.
Each module has it's own set of 19 very useful distortion algorithms. There are the utilitarian gentle and soft limit and bit reduction effects and then it gets really interesting with Gapper--a granular type effect and Octave, an octave down frequency shifter. I liked that most of these sound manglers have controls to set, independently, both the amount of distortion and the dry/distorted ratio.
The Mixer has four onboard FX units each with 26 different effects. They run parallel or serially and also in a few other useful configurations like combining the first three effects and then passing that on to effect four. There are a wide range of delays and reverbs, LoFi, amp type distortions, and many modulation effects that range from simple choruses and ensembles to a 16-step gate sequencer.
The routing options within Punch are very flexible. Modules have a variable send knob to send to effects--à la parallel processing style or opt to route a modules output directly to the effect.
|Punch Sample Pad|
You can save and load presets for each module or the entire punch configuration including all the modules and mixer settings. There is a separate Manager page that gives you a central place to manage all your various punch presets--from sound presets to sequencer patterns.
With such a vast amount of sounds available, I found I could have used about twice as many outputs and I miss the ability to select single channel outputs (mono) for sounds like kicks and snares. I also wouldn't mind being able to change the output naming convention from "dry, FX 1, 2, 3, stereo 6, 7, or 8" with more descriptive titles that fit the song/style/genre I happen to be working on.
The onboard sequencer is a four-track, 16-step sequencer that can hold four patterns and four breaks. It can also be saved and recalled and exported as MIDI files for further tweaking in your DAW.
Punch is available for both MACs and PCs, in AU, VST, and RTAS formats. It sells for $179 MSRP. Much more at: www.robpapen.com/punch.html.
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