BlastBeats Explained: Blast off with Twisted-Electrons FM Groovebox

What is the Twisted-Electrons BlastBeats?

BlastBeats is a 10 voice groovebox from boutique music hardware developer Twisted-Electrons. At the heart of the BlastBeats groovebox is the OPL3 (YMF262) FM chip which featured in vintage sound blaster cards of the 1990s/MS-DOS era.

BlastBeats 10 voices are divided between 6 drum voices and 4 synth instruments. 

The BlastBeats sequencer features per-step automation, “wiggle” fader movements function and 3 “Tricks” (pitch bend, freeze and stutter) with step sequencing of all tricks).

BlastBeats drum voices:

BlastBeats features 6 independent drum voices covering bass drum, snare drum, tom, closed & open hat and cymbal.

BlastBeats’s 4 synth voices explained:

Synths 1 and 2 are monophonic. Synth voice 3 has two voices that can overlap for duophonic parts. Synth 4 triggers two voices at once which you can detune to create epic chords and lead sounds.

What is BlastBeats good for?

Twisted-Electrons BlastBeats groovebox is an inspiring FM chip based hardware synth suitable for any genre of electronic music including electro, techno, ambient. The BlastBeats’s FM sound palette lends itself to instant computer music nostalgia and vintage vibes so it’s a great machine for emulating the sounds of early 1990s era dance music.

Listen to the BlastBeats in action:

BlastBeats Sound Demo

Automation with BlastBeats:

The BlastBeats faders offer full control over the parameters of the instruments and they can be automated and modulated per step. Fader wiggling can be activated with the ‘Wiggle’ button for randomization with adjustable depth, of the 56 faders.

How many kits can BlastBeats store?

100 kits and 160 songs (16 patterns x 64 steps per song). Kits and patterns are stored on SD card.

Can you play BlastBeats with a MIDI keyboard?

All instruments can be played via MIDI in effect turning BlastBeats into a 4-operator, 8-waveform polytimbral MIDI synthesizer. MIDI input and output is on DIN5 ports and there’s also customizable MIDI input channels.

Can BlastBeats be powered by battery?

BlastBeats is powered by a 9V DC power supply (included).

Does BlastBeats have individual outs?

BlastBeats features 4x audio outputs with custom instrument routing plus Mix (mono) and Phones (dual mono) outs with volume controls.

Does BlastBeats have built-in speakers?

BlastBeats does not have speakers.

Can the BlastBeats play samples?

The Blastbeats can not play or import samples.

How to use BlastBeats:

Watch he official BlastBeats walkthrough below and get up to speed with the core BlastBeats functions.
BlastBeats Tutorial.

0:03 – Overview of the BlastBeats controls
0:38 – Selecting drum instruments
0:44 – Editing Steps
0:57 – Realtime drum sequencing
1:08 – Bottom row of faders overview
1:10 – Synths overview
1:30 – Punch in some notes
1:40 – Transpose notes up and down
1:50 – Step record mode
2:12 – Kits and patterns
2:33 – Assign kit to current pattern
2:47 – Copy and paste kits and patterns
3:00 – Chaining patterns
3:19 – Tempo tapping and BPM setting
3:30 – Song mode
4:12 – The Clear button
4:28 – Wiggle button and Wiggle mode
4:56 – Setting swing
5:03 – Mute and unmute instruments
5:10 – Solo instruments
5:13 – Probability mode
5:29 – BlastBeats ‘Tricks’
5:56 – Sequencing ‘Tricks’
6:05 – Tremolo mode
6:10 – Vibrato mode
6:20 – Setting headphone and mix levels
6:23 – Route function
6:44 – Activating special settings on startup

BlastBeats vs MEGAfm

BlastBeats is a 10 voice drum machine/groovebox based around the OPL3 (YMF262) FM chip while the Twisted Electron’s MEGAfm is a 12 voice FM Synth based around Dual YM2612 FM chips as found in the SEGA Genesis.
The MEGAfm is roughly $100 cheaper than the BlastBeats.

If you’re looking for a machine with a focus on percussive drum sounds and drum beat creation then opt for the BlastBeats but consider the MEGAfm if you’re looking to explore FM synthesis.

Best Alternatives to the Twisted Electrons BlastBeats:

  1. Elektron’s Model:Cycles: Elektron’s affordable and beginner friendly six track FM based groovebox is capable of both percussive and melodic sounds.
  2. Elektron Digitone: A serious step up from the Model:Cycles, the Digitone’s higher price means more voices (8) and more power. It’s an incredible FM synth with full Overbridge integration, parameter locking and so much more. The Digitone excels at vintage 1990s computer sounds but it’s also more than capable of new sounds and timbres
  3. Korg Volca FM: While not geared towards drum sounds specifically, this is one of the cheapest FM synths on the market and a great way to explore FM synthesis without breaking the bank. The Volca FM is a three-voice digital FM synthesizer with chorus effect and 16-step sequencer. The Volca FM makes FM sound editing accessible thanks to MODULATOR/CARRIER super-easy edit knobs which are mapped to multiple parameters for sound changes that are easy to understand. Hardcore FM enthusiasts, meanwhile, can get deeper with full parameter edits.
  4. MEGAfm: Also from Twisted Electron’s, the MEGAfm gives you 12 voices of vintage SEGA Genesis chiptune synthesis to explore.

For more information on the BlastBeats including latest RRP, check the Twisted Electron website.

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