Arturia Spark Beat Production Center
Priced to compete with Native Instrument's Maschine, the Arturia Spark (MSRP: $599) is also a hybrid software/hardware package designed particularly with beat production in mind. In the sound department, Arturia partners its considerable synthesis muscles with third parties like Sonic Reality and Uberschall to compile an impressive synthesized and sample-based instrument library. All told, Spark features no less than 480 instruments and 30 acoustic and electronic kits. Spark is housed in a slick white-and-grey aluminium case with a hefty bunch of knobs, pads, and buttons. Controller functions include eight velocity-sensitive MPC-style pads, an X/Y pad, a 16-track mixer, and something like 30 dedicated and assignable knobs. Direct access to shuffle and shift modes and a 16-key, 64-step sequencer all add up to a pretty impressive piece of gear and one more contender in what could someday become an MPC-killing genre.