It’s only a couple of months since Bram Bos launched his Ruismaker iOS drum app. Ruismaker was interesting not because it featured some uber-complex and sophisticated drum programming options but perhaps because it was designed to be the opposite of that; a drum synth that was easy to program, had modest demands on the iOS hardware host and very easy to get to grips with.
Oh, and it also came in an Audio Units format only. If anything, this last point was perhaps just as important as whether the drum machine itself was up to the task (although it most certainly was) because, for the previous 9 months or so, many iOS musicians have been keeping their fingers crossed that Apple’s Audio Units plugin format – already well established in the desktop-based music production environment – was going to gain a grip under iOS9. However, for a variety of reasons (and some key ones down to Apple’s initial implementation of AU under iOS), developers were somewhat cautious in their adoption of the AU format….
Thankfully, with AUv.3 now available, this does appear to be changing and Ruismaker was a very clear sign of that change. And, as if do confirm the point, Bram is now back with what he describes as Ruismaker’s ‘crazy twin sister’; Ruismaker FM. Like the original, this is an AU-only, compact drum synth. As can be seen from the various screenshots shown below, the format is similar enough to the original the Ruismaker users will instantly feel at home with the new ‘FM’ option. So, if the original Ruismaker appealed, should you also be interested in the new Ruismaker FM?
As with Rusimaker, Ruismaker FM users can download a short, but very well written, PDF manual for the app via Bram’s website. This is well worth a read and it does offer a good description of the differences between the two app. While there are some obvious visual differences, these are down to the underlying engines within the two app. While Ruismaker is based on an analog-style (well, virtual analog style) synth engine, in Ruismaker FM the engine is based upon a digital modelling approach which is, apparently, better for FM synth emulation. As you would perhaps expect, while both apps are therefore capable of creating a range of electronic drum sounds (and with areas of sonic overlap), they also each offer their own unique possibilities.
At a practical level, Ruismaker FM is an AU-only plugin and does, therefore, require a suitable variant of iOS (v.9.0 or later is listed), suitable iOS hardware plus a suitable AU host. The app is, however, universal and, at just 5MB, it should be possible to squeeze it in almost anywhere. Like Ruismaker, ‘FM’ is priced at a very modest UK£3.99/US$4.99.
Also as with Ruismaker, Ruismaker FM is a streamlined app. The controls you see on the main screen are pretty much it. You can tweak the six available sounds (6 as opposed to Ruismaker’s 8) individually and use the trigger buttons to select a sound for editing and to audition it. There are both similarities to the Ruismaker controls (for example, both include compression, reverb and drive/saturation options) but also differences because of their respective sound engines.
In Ruismaker FM that means that for each of the six channels, you can select an oscillator type (from six available) and set its pitch…. You can add a modulator (from eight available) that can also have its speed and depth (amount) adjusted. You can also tweak the attack and decay of the sound….
That said, you can coax a decent range of sounds from what is quite a simple control set and, as well as configuring each sound individually, you also get the reverb effect, compressor effect that can be dialled between ‘punchy’ and ‘phat’ and both high pass filter and peaking filters.The app does feature a decent MIDI spec though and you can get all the information required to explore this from that very helpful PDF manual. The spec include options for MIDI automation of pretty much every parameter available.
But, to repeat, the control set is intentionally streamlined. If you need greater flexibility in your drum synth, and perhaps a wider range of sounds, then apps such as Elastic Drums, DM2 or Attack are still going to hold sway. However, it you want a simplified interface and some classic sounding FM-based electronic drum sounds with a minimum of fuss, Ruismaker FM will be just the thing.
The app ships with a very good selection of preset drum kits and, while you can trigger the sounds from the front panel buttons, it does, of course, respond to MIDI note data for sequencing, using black notes in the C2 to F3 range to trigger sounds. Again, given the streamlined nature of the app, that sequencing is done in your familiar AU host and/or DAW/sequencer; Ruismaker FM does not include any form of pattern or song construction tools.
The included preset provide a decent selection of sounds, from ‘minimal’ kits through to electro, EDM and, because the synth engine can do it, also some more left-field kits such as ‘Wizz’ or ‘Wowow’. The latter features a standard electronic kick/snare and then four ‘wow-wow’ sounds on the other channels at different pitches. If you like your drum and percussive sounds to get to more experimental locations, then Ruismaker FM can take you there.
Auditioned alongside the three more fully-featured drum synth apps mentioned maybe you can tell the difference. When, for example, DM2’s kick drums or snares are set of OTT, then they can be bigger and bolder than Ruismaker FM… but what the latter offers are solid, very useable and, if you don’t need your drums to fill up every inch of the the sonic space, actually quite easy to sit in a mix. And, if you add an extra effect or two from whatever iOS audio processing options you have in your collection, then there is plenty of potential here.
As with Ruismaker, I tried Ruismaker FM in a number of AU hosts and, while I spent most of my time within Cubasis, it seemed to work well within MultitrackStudio, AUM and Garageband without any difficulty. I had no issue getting at the presets in Cubasis (or AUM) or in using an external MIDI controller to trigger sounds or tweak the app’s settings.
MIDI sequencing and automation also worked without too many dramas. While lots of drum apps include their own pattern editing environments, the absence of such a system in Ruismaker just means I had to use the very familiar Cubasis MIDI editing tools to create my drum parts. Providing you are happy to work in this fashion – sequencing drum parts from outside of Ruismaker itself – then that’s absolutely fine.
Got the right kit?
If you already own apps such as Elastic Drums or DM2, you might find either Ruismaker or Ruismaker FM to be a little ‘lightweight’ by comparison. The synth engine is designed for simplicity or use and to allows a user interface that fits the AUi format with a minimum of fuss. In that context, I think Bram Bos has done an excellent job with both apps.
If, however, a more lightweight drum synth is exactly what you need – perhaps Elastic Drums or DM2 or Attack are just a bit to much for you? – then Rusimaker FM might be just what’s required. If you are new to the whole world of drum synths, then there is little to be intimidated by here and a perfectly useable collection of classic-style electronic drum sounds available to exploit. Indeed, any iOS musician who uses electronic drums could, I’m sure, find some use for the app, even if only because the modest control set means you get to sounds fast (and therefore get on with making music) rather than getting sidelined by sound tweaking.
Given the very modest asking price, Ruismaker FM falls into the casual purchase bracket for many iOS music app addicts. Equally, I can see lots of folks snapping it up as a novelty just because of the AUi format. It is great to see AU gradually begin to expand its presence…. and hats off to Bram Bos for taking the plunge with the format…. he deserves success for taking it on.
Ruismaker FM is a neat, unfussy, and efficient source of electronic drum sounds. It complements the sounds within the original Ruismaker; there is overlap sonically but also very clear blue water so if you own one, the other will still be undoubtedly useful. OK, so neither app is perhaps in the same league as the established ‘big hitters’ within this category of the app store but then I’m not sure that’s actually the design intention. Small, compact and easy to use, Ruismaker FM is both inexpensive and a perfectly credible choice if you are after some solid electronic drum synth sounds. As with Ruismaker, provided you are buying into it for exactly what it is – a solid, compact, source of cool electronic drum, percussion and more experimental bleeps, bloops and blats – Ruismaker FM comes highly recommended…. and if you have not yet checked out the original Ruismaker, then you can find the review here.