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Tempest is no longer in production, but you can still access this page for information and support.

The Beat of a Different Drum

Tempest is the brainchild of legendary instrument designers, Dave Smith and Roger Linn. It’s a professional drum machine that generates its sounds using six powerful analog synthesis voices, and uses an innovative, performance-oriented operating system that permits an extraordinary level of control to create, edit, arrange, and manipulate beats in real time without ever stopping.

The performance-oriented operating system, ninety panel controls, and bright 256 x 64 dot OLED display work together to provide a tightly integrated, non-stop workflow.

  • Record a drumbeat in real-time
  • Switch to another drumbeat and use the lit pads to record it using step programming
  • Switch to another drumbeat and record tuned keyboard parts
  • Use the two touch controllers to record real-time note sound animations or perform beat-wide sound changes
  • Use the generous sound controls to edit any of the drum sounds
  • Tweak the analog effects or drum mix
  • Arrange beats in real time and record the live arrangement into a song
  • And all of the above without ever stopping play

Each of the six analog voices has two analog oscillators plus two digital oscillators (with a large bank of included samples), the classic Curtis analog lowpass filter with audio-rate modulation, an additional highpass filter, analog VCA with feedback, five envelopes, two LFOs, an extraordinary variety of analog modulation routings, and stunning sonic quality, warmth, and punch. Although optimized for drum sounds, it excels at tuned sounds as well, and even doubles as a six-voice analog keyboard synth.

Sixteen pressure- and velocity-sensitive lit pads are arranged in a 2 x 8 configuration, providing intuitive access to all your fingers and the ideal compromise between the popular 4 x 4 pad arrangement (popular for real-time programming ) and 1 x 16 arrangement (popular for step programming) because Tempest does both. The pads can be used to play thirty-two drum sounds (two banks), mute/unmute the thirty-two sounds on playback, play and arrange sixteen beats in real time, play one sound at sixteen tunings (in a variety of scales) or sixteen velocities, or as sixteen time steps for step programming. The ROLL button permits creating drum rolls or repeated groove patterns by varying pad pressure as the beat records, and doubles as a momentary “stutter” effect when the pads are assigned to play beats.

In addition to the six stereo direct voice outputs, there are stereo mix outputs and phones outputs, plus two inputs for foot switches or expression pedals, MIDI in/out and USB.

Two pressure- and position-sensitive Note FX slide controllers permit real-time recording of note or beat-wide sound parameter changes into the drumbeat as you play. For example, record simultaneous filter frequency, tuning, envelope decay, and pan changes for each note. The Playback key permits using the slider to override these parameters on playback, which can be recorded back into the beat. Plus, the sliders can be used in performance to alter beat-wide sound parameters like low-pass frequency or resonance, high-pass frequency, envelope attack or decay, and more.

A variety of unique effects are provided while maintaining a pure analog signal path:

  • Stereo analog compressor and distortion circuits affect the stereo output mix
  • Beat-synced delay is achieved by generating additional delayed note events within the sequencer
  • A beat-synced “stutter” effect is created entirely within the sequencer by looping short portions of the drumbeat on demand

The degree of swing timing can be adjusted in real time during playback. Roger used his entire bag of tricks to make the swing sound very human and natural.

In short, Tempest is a well-considered professional design that could only come from Roger and Dave, with a sonic quality and natural human rhythmic feel that are second to none, all in a compact, portable unit that measures a mere 15.4″ wide by 9″ deep by 2.5″ high


Tempest Specifications

  • Two analog oscillators per voice capable of producing sawtooth, triangle, saw/triangle, and variable pulse width square waves, with hard sync
  • Two digital oscillators per voice loaded with over 450 drum samples and waveforms
  • One sub-octave generator per voice (one octave below oscillator 1)
  • Glide (portamento): separate rates per oscillator
  • One classic Curtis analog low-pass filter per voice (switchable 2- or 4-pole) with audio rate modulation, self-oscillating in 4-pole mode
  • One analog high-pass filter per voice
  • Analog VCAs with programmable feedback level
  • Five envelope generators per voice (ADSR plus hold)
  • 2 LFOs per voice
  • 8 x 8 modulation matrix
  • 16 pressure and velocity sensitive lit pads
  • Two pressure and position sensitive touch sliders
  • Stunning OLED 256 x 64 display
  • Analog compressor and distortion (available on Main audio outputs)
  • Sophisticated realtime sequencer
  • Roger Linn Designed Swing modes
  • Hardware MIDI delay per voice
  • 650 Sound Program locations
  • USB type B receptacle
  • MIDI In, Out
  • Main audio outputs: 1/4″ phone jack (unbalanced)
  • 6 individual voice audio outputs: 1/4″ stereo phone jack (unbalanced)
  • Two pedal/control voltage (3.3 VDC max.) input (1/4″ TRS phone jack)
  • Headphone output: 1/4″ TRS stereo phone jack
Physical Specs
  • Mahogany end panels
  • Dimensions: approximately 15.4″ L x 9″ W x 2.5″ H (39.1 cm x 22.8 cm x 6.4 cm)
  • Weight: 6.5 lb. (2.95 kg)
  • Power supply for 100V – 240V AC operation
  • Operation manual
Can I load my own samples?

Samples cannot be downloaded into Tempest. This is an analog drum machine that happens to come with a few hundred samples, so the emphasis of the instrument is not sample playback. There are many sample-based instruments out there that come with loads of samples. We wanted to offer something different.

Can I save a kit of sounds separately?

With OS version 1.1 and above, the sounds and mixer settings of a beat can be loaded without loading the sequence. In essence, every beat is potentially a kit.

Can I load MIDI patterns into Tempest?

No. It’s under consideration as a possible feature in the future.

Can I play Tempest's sounds from a MIDI keyboard or sequencer/DAW?

With OS version 1.1 and above, specific MIDI notes are mapped to Tempest’s pads. This mapping works for received MIDI notes and also transmits those notes when Tempest’s pads are played. See the Tempest manual addendum for more information.

Can I record a melodic part, bass line, or chords into Tempest from a MIDI keyboard or sequencer/DAW?

With OS version 1.1 or above, Tempest’s Sounds can be played from an external MIDI keyboard or other MIDI controller, or a MIDI sequencer. Used strictly as a MIDI sound module, Tempest behaves as a six-voice analog poly synth. It responds to note messages and the “standard” controllers (pitch bend, mod wheel, aftertouch, channel pressure, etc.), provided that the Sound has those modulation sources routed to some destination.

When used to record notes to Tempest’s sequencer, the external keyboard or controller controls the note’s pitch, but otherwise acts much the same as recording from a pad: only one note can be recorded at a time. Velocity and duration are also recorded. Timing is subject to the current Quantize setting. Because the sequencer is event-based, continuous controllers such as pitch bend, mod wheel, and aftertouch are ignored. See the Tempest manual addendum for more information.

Note that you can currently record chords. To do so, each note of the chord must be recorded using a different sound pad. For example, to record chords of three notes you must copy the same sound to three different sound pads, then record each note of the chord one at a time.

How can I quickly preview a sound? Loading them one at a time is slow.

In OS version 1.1, we added the ability to change a pad’s assigned sound quickly from the Pads screen by turning a soft knob called “Load Sound.” This is much faster than using the Save/Load screens. However, a bug was found: if you change a pad’s assigned sound using this method, then change to a different beat, then when you recall the original beat the changed sound will no longer sound the same. This bug was fixed in OS version 1.2 and the Load Sound feature now works correctly.

Will I be able to load additional projects or beats in the background without having to stop playback?

This is on our list; we hope to have it available in the near future.

Any plans to add MTC (MIDI Time Code)?

We currently have no plans to add MIDI Time Code, which is SMPTE time code sent over MIDI. This is primarily used with tape recording. For those who want this feature, there are a variety of devices that will convert MTC into standard MIDI Clock.

How do I clear out a sequence so I can start from scratch? How do I erase a beat?

With OS version 1.1 and above, use Erase All Notes to clear all the notes from a beat. See the Tempest manual addendum for details.

How many individual Sounds/Beats/Projects can I save in Tempest?

There is no set number of Sounds, Beats, and Projects you can save in Tempest; the only limitation is the available memory. Tempest has 4 MB of internal flash memory to hold Sounds, Beats, Projects, and system settings. This is broken down into two sections internally, one small 128 KB section formatted to hold Sounds, and a larger 3.7 MB section to hold Beats, Projects, and system.

The Sounds section can hold around 650 Sounds. Note that this does not include Sounds that are saved within Beats and Beats within Projects; those are always embedded and saved independently.

The larger section is shared, so how much it holds is dependent on the types of files saved. For example, if you only saved Projects, you would be able to save roughly 60. (The average Project size is around 65 kB.) The number is dependent on how large the sequences are in each Beat, since they vary in size. This is quite a lot when you consider that each Project contains 16 Beats, each of which contains a sequence and up to 32 Sounds! If you were only saving Beats, you can save at least 500. When shipped, there are 15 Projects in memory, and 2.7 MB of available space. You may want to delete any factory Project that you don’t need to make room for your own files. You can always download the factory files again from our Web site.

Whenever you hit the Save/Load switch, the amount of free memory is displayed for the larger section, so you always know how much room you have available. When saving a file, you will get error messages if you do not have enough available memory. In this case, you will have to delete files to make room. Remember that you can always back up files over MIDI if you want to save your work or make room for more files. It’s highly recommended to back up your files regularly either way!

Can I adjust the sensitivity of the pads?

In OS version 1.1 and above, there are four available velocity curves in System settings.

Can the distortion and compression be automated, recorded into the sequence?

Initial distortion and compression settings are saved with each beat, but continuous changes to the settings cannot be automated or recorded. When you change from one beat to another, the newly-selected beat’s distortion and compression settings will immediately become active. If you wish these settings to always remain the same even when you change beats, you can change the Distortion Source and Compression Source settings in the System menu.

Can distortion and compression be set separately for each voice/sound?

Distortion and compression are on the overall mix output of the instrument. We would have had to include six separate compressors and distortions to process each voice separately!

Voices/sounds can be removed from the main outputs and processed separately with outboard gear by using the individual outputs.

Does Tempest have reverb (or any other effects besides distortion and compression)?

The signal path in Tempest is 100% analog except, of course, for the samples that can be used as sound sources. The stereo distortion and compressor are both analog. So, no digital effects are available in the instrument.

Can you give me more details about Tempest's sequencer?

Tempest holds sixteen beats in RAM memory at one time. (Currently, they must be in 4/4 time and between 1 and 4 measures in length. We will be adding other time signatures in a future software update.) The sequencer is designed to permit switching between these sixteen beats, entering and exiting recording at any time and performing most editing functions, all without ever stopping play. For example, you could start recording in real time on beat 1, then switch to beat 2 and record it in step time using the 16 Time Steps feature, then use the Copy key to copy beat 2 to beat 3, switch to beat 3 and record more notes in real time, then select the 16 Beats key and press the pads in real time to arrange these three beats, all without stopping.

The sequencer has a resolution of 96 ppqn (parts per quarter note) but always uses quantize during real time recording, with quantize rates from 8th notes to 32nd triplets. In the next software update, a “Time Shift” parameter will be added to the Beat Events screen, permitting each note to be manually shifted forward or backward in time to one of four 96 ppqn positions, which at 120 BPM represents a time shift of about 5 milliseconds each.

The sequencer only holds note events and cannot record continuous control changes. For example, when recording sound parameter changes with the Note FX sliders, the slider position is sampled as each note is recorded and that slider value is stored in the Note FX 1-4 settings within the note.

For each sound pad, only one note can be recorded at any given time location. For example, if you record a snare drum note at location 1.3.1, then later record another snare drum at the same location, it will replace the earlier snare drum note. If recording tuned notes using the 16 Tunings key, the same rule applies: you can only record one note of a given sound pad at each location within the sequence. To record chords, each note of the chord must be recorded using a different sound pad. For example, to record chords of three notes you must copy the same sound to three different sound pads, then record each note of the chord on a different sound pad, one at a time.

Each note contains the following settings, which can be edited in the Beat Events screen:

  • Velocity (1-127)
  • Tuning (-60 to +60). This is normally set to 0 but filled with other values when recording notes with the 16 Tunings feature.
  • Duration (1 to 192, in increments of 24 ppqn with 24 representing a quarter note and 192 representing 2 measures of 4/4)
  • Note FX1, 2, 3 and 4 (-64 to +63). Normally set to 0, these are filled when you record new notes using the Note FX sliders FX 1 and 2 and their 2 alternate assignments, FX 3 and 4.
  • TimeShift (values to be determined). As explained above, this is coming in the next software update and will permit notes to be individually shifted forward or backward in time in increments of 96 ppqn.
Sometimes I hear a faint click when I turn the distortion on. Is this normal?

Yes. When the Distortion knob is turned up just past Off, the distortion circuit is enabled, which can occasionally cause a small click. It’s usually not noticeable, particularly if a beat is playing.

Will there be a rack-mount kit available?

We currently have no plans for a rackmount kit, though there are rack shelves and other solutions available.

Will there be a software editor/librarian?

We don’t write desktop computer applications. Our other products have editors available from third-party vendors, so it’s possible one of them may develop a Tempest editor.

15-Volt Power Supply

15-volt power supply for legacy products including Prophet ’08 keyboard and desktop, Tetra, Mopho series and Evolver series. Also Tempest.

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