I have been a fan of FXpansion’s Dr008 drum sampler/synthesizer plug-in for years. Dr008 combined with Musiclab’s Drumtools: Slicy&Fillin-Drummer plugins made my initial forays into computer music making fun and productive. I then invested in BFD and my world of drum sounds expanded exponentially. BFD’s huge multilayer kits with microphone placement variations, bleed-through mixing and unprecedented hithat control allow production of drum tracks that I bet even Omar Hakim couldn’t distinguish as being sampled. BFD put me in drum heaven. The only thing I was missing was a brush kit of comparable quality to the deep, spacious kits supplied with BFD. Along came BFD Jazz and Funk. Brush kits as well as mallet, stick, rod and hand struck Jazz kits. Recorded by John Emrich on Gretsch, Yamaha, Slingerland toms and kicks. The snares: let’s see : Ludwig Super Sensitive, Pearl Free-Floating, Greg McDonald 6x14 inch and an incredible sounding 60’s era Rogers Powertone snare. The latter alone is worth the price of admission. Kit pieces (except the kicks of course) are all available as brush and stick wth sekected rod, mallet and hand hits. I won’t go into the cymbals except to say – Thank you for filling every hihat and cymbal possibility I can think of! Installation was easy but be prepared to patient as there are five (5) DVDs to load. There is, thankfully, the option to install in three formats, 20, 48 or 128 velocity-dependent multilayers. This permits those of us with less than bleeding-edge machines to load kits playable at reasonable latencies. My main DAW PC has a dedicated hard drive for BFD that is rather tiny at 80 GB, so I opted for the intermediate multilayer kits. With the stock BFD plus 48 layer J&F compltet kits this drive is nearly maxed out at 75% though it plays smoothly at 3-6 ms through my RME Multiface II. One thing I should mention is that users can install selected kit pieces and can choose to deselect kit piece they may not use or do not have HD space to install. This came in handy on my laptop system drive (80 GB) where I only installed the brush kits. Even though it is a 5400 rpm Seagate drive with an 8MB buffer I can play BFD at less than 10 ms.
Did you think that Battery or DR008 have been the answer to your question for a good drum sampler? Well guess what - you asked the wrong question! This VST/RTAS/AU/ReWire/DXi/Standalone instrument from fxpansion takes Steinberg’s concept of a virtual drummer (groove agent) to a professional level. The superb sounding 9 GB big, sample content was recorded by Steve Duda (engineer/producer for e.g. NIN & A Perfect Circle) and includes 7 drum kits (from DW, Ayotte, Lucite, Ludwig, Slingerland, Pearl & Leedy) and additional kit pieces (from e.g. Premier, Radio King, Porkpie, Tama, Noble/Cooley & even stuff from unknown manufacturers) with up to 46 velocity layers per hit. Every hit was recorded simultaneously through eleven high class microphones.
Now to have full access to this sample library fxpansion created BFD which is able to adjust the volume of direct-, overhead-, room- & pcm-mics separately. The first sample library to offer control over the room sound was Toontrack's 'Drum kit from hell' (with direct and room mics), but BFD goes way beyond that. You can even move the stereo ambient mics around and spread them. Furthermore you're able to adjust the balance between the snares' top or bottom mic, or the bass drums' inside and outside mic (only the DW bass drum has no second mic - but Steve promised to look into this and maybe add this if possible).
With BFD it's very easy to (re)compile new kits - you just need to click the button corresponding to the kit piece you want to change and choose from a variety of drums or cymbals. While it's not possible, and due to BFD's paradigm of multimiced drums senseless to load your own samples, fxpansion will release expansion packs for BFD in the near future. So, this way even kit pieces that are still missing, like drums played with brushes or mallets, or simply more drum kits to choose from will be available soon.
A feature unique to the BFD is the ability to change the velocity correspondence of each kit piece, so even if you simply create your rhythm tracks in your host's piano roll (midi editor) you can decide at which velocity 'the drum is hit' without changing the velocity of each drawn note. BFD is even smart enough to handle humanization in both timing and velocity, while a relaxed, French looking guy and some kind of robot dude will help you to achieve your aims.
When you're host supports multiple outs you can either use the BFD Stereo (Stereo Master output only), BFD Groups (four stereo outputs - Direct Master, Overhead, Room and PZM) or BFD All (mono out for every kit piece and stereo outs for Overhead, Room and PZM). The last one gives you the freedom to process every kit piece separately, which may become very handy during the mix.
Last but not least BFD offers you an integrated Drummer (the Groove Librarian) who's capable of almost every style you could imagine (again - even if you might find a groove the BFD is not [yet] capable of you can go to the fxpansion forum on www.kvr-vst.com and request it). You can either tell the drummer, by pressing the corresponding key on your midi keyboard, what to play or when; or simply set some guidelines (e.g. a break every fourth bar) and let BFD do the rest. You're of course still able to play it like any other drum sampler via midi notes.
Since BFD uses disk streaming technology you should have a fast computer with enough RAM and an even faster hard drive to benefit from all the features it has to offer. But still it's possible to tweak it that it runs on Laptops with slower hard drives, when using the 'RAM only' option. This way you'll only hear the first seconds of each hit (depending on how much RAM you're able to assign to BFD). I've tested BFD on a Dell Latitude with 1,6 GHz pentium m, 512MB of RAM and a 5.600rpm hard drive - and while composing I used the 'RAM only' function and whenever I was ready to render the track, I just clicked on the 'bounce' button and had a wonderful sounding drum track. Still I think that an option to listen to the Direct Out only, or to reduce the amount of velocity layers in order to lower the disk load while composing, would have been very cool.
All in all this is the best acoustic drum module I've seen. I'm blown away by the sound and the possibilities this monster has to offer. Sadly you can't test it, for its sample library is simply too big to make a downloadable demo possible. But if this got you interested you can go to www.fxpansion.com and download some of the audio demos and maybe take a look at the shockwave demonstration, or you can go to fxpansion's forum on www.kvr-vst.com in order to ask some users about their opinion or maybe listen to songs they've made using the BFD. I am a user and I am addicted. BFD ROCKS !!!
great plugin! it basically comes down to two things:
1. detailed sampling of drums. its not like BFD invented that, but the sampling is *really* detailed and makes the drum sounds come alive in a way i havent heard in a while.
2. the much more important point: it splits the samples into direct signal and crosstalk on the other microphones. i have done this myself with a few drumkits and it is *the* key to realistic drum sampling, but its such a lot of work, oh my...
...fxpansion has done all that work for us, and it shows. pressing the solo button on the basedrum channel and hearing the crosstalk from the other instruments is not only a cool jawdropper (in the traditional "look what this thing does" way) but helps the sound enourmously. being able to process only the overheads, or using an overcompressed basedrum mic as sole sound source for some fun lofi stuff, thats the way its gotta be.
so far so good. i dont know any other sampleset that does this, so that leaves BFD without any competition (asides from my own samplesets as competition for me personally ;-)
things i would like to see in the future:
1. random changing of samples. sample a full velocity hit on the snare drum 8 times and make them randomly chance. that makes it even more realistic and would be a very logical addition for the whole BFD concept
2. even though its hard on RAM: include the crosstalk on tom mics in future samplesets. let the user choose to load them or not load them. it might seem unimportant at first, but i.e. the low tom mic usually is one of the coolest SFX or pseudo-drumloop sources of them all :-)
3. make the bell samples of the ride cymbal accessible also via the keyboard (just put them on some other key) and not just switching. allthough maybe i just havent found that or my version is outdated.
4. some onboard effects, especially compression. it would be nice to have some good compression settings load as part of the instrument
5. on a somewhat similar note, it would be great if one had a way to rise the level of the "soft" samples with a knob somewhere in the UI. that may go against the ultra-relalism approach of BFD, but in todays ultra-stylized low-dynamic pop world it would be very helpful. right now i find myself mostly using the high velocity samples or adding another instance of BFD for the softer samples (thus killing my RAM of course ;-)
that may seem like a lot of complaints for an instrument i recommend, but thats only because its so inspiring and goes new ways. its the best plugin ive bought in a long time and outside of the KVR rating system i would give it a 10 out of 10, with my remarks being understood as BFD having the potential to go to eleven :-)
all in all, its the best in its category. its the only one in its category. the quality and detail of sampling are awesome, the UI is very clever (and beatiful! love the pictures in the panel to load drum sounds...not only eye candy but also useful to remember which drum was which).
a true masterpiece. i look forward for many more drum libraries. theres no such thing as a too big library of realistic real drum sounds.
BFD is the cumulation of what a sample based drum VST instruments can be.
fxpansion has created an organic drum machine that can be played/programmed, and is the first serious drum synth to address programmed grooves that aren't hackneyed.
A drum kit is pictured in the upper middle part of the interface. Click on it and you see the kit outline you will design. You have choices, tons of them. The easiest is to load one of 7 preset 'kits'. These kits contain a typical studio drum setup with layered, ultra-high quality drum samples. You can make your own kits by selecting each drum/cymbal. When loaded, the included kit samples are astonishingly detailed with hundreds of samples. Each drum has enormous sound potential with samples cross layered using velocity maps. Any given drum can contain four or five musical techniques. This provides for extreme realism. BFD offers total control with stero, all drum tracks and all mikes for each drum. Nothing comes close to BFD's attention to detail.
There is a section for microphone settings including direct, overhead, room, pzm and master sliders. These settings enhance realism and sound shaping. On each side of the interface there are icon buttons. The left has icons of various drums such as hi-hat, snare, bass, toms, cymbals (3 including either ride or crash). It's important to emphasize BFD's character demonstrated in these individual drums. You can play selected drum to hear it's timbral changes. Pan, pitch, dynamics, trim and tune controlss are available per drum.
To the right are many options for control of drum kits including key mapping, system options, play options, quantizing and humanizing for velocity and timing. The options are stylishly graphic and at times fun (a beatnick turns into an alien as you change velocity/timing). And for automated use you can select grooves, fills and shuffle...and this is just setting up the drum kit and how it will play. If you have drum pads or a kit like V-Drums you get an even better feel for the quality of BFD's multisamples. Playing live, the articulations have a 'real' feel to them. Add that you can save your own kits and we've covered only half of what BFD does.
There are hundreds of grooves and fills in all kinds of musical styles. You drag and drop, program or edit grooves too. While pre-programmed grooves may sound like the cheesy drum machines of old, BFD is vastly different. You can use these grooves as is or create your own gooves and fills which save as midi files.
CONCLUSION The drum kits are beautifully sampled with many noted drummers playing or programming the grooves. Think of a style/kit and you'll find it. There are several ways to create performances. Play them, use grooves or a mix of both. Even if you are rhythm challenged BFD delivers with great sounding drums and styles that work better than any drum solution available. It is a must have if you take you drum tracks seriously. BFD offers many features found nowhere else.
Friends, this one's going to be short, because I just can't find the time to write a long review. I'm sure there will be many more though, as this is one killer instrument. First of all, installation was pretty painless, but only because I read the OS-X-related posts on FXpansion's forum. If you're on OS-X, do take the time to read them. I did have a few minor problems at first in Logic, but Angus, always the consumate pro, replied within... 10 minutes! The manual is clear, the interface as well.
The sound is fantastic. This is THE drum machine to beat, as it has 7 very-multi-layered drums to offer. They all have their particular characteristics (some are dark and woody, others bright and more metallic), and it's easy to load up different ones with the same groove to compare them. Auditioning individual kit parts is very user-friendly, as you can click on different parts of the images of the parts and hear the individual velocity layers. Sophisticated, I tell you. Keep in mind, though, that it does not have any percussion other than the standard drum set. You'll have to add your own tambourine or John Bonham gong!
Speaking of grooves, BFD offers a good variety, from rock to progressive funk to latin, and even throws in some 3/4 for good measure. You can have BFD randomly shuffle through related grooves, and have it add fills from a very useful collection. Of course, quantization is offered, as is a very interesting control over the 'humanization' of the playing. The drums are layed out in General MIDI format, allowing you to use other popular grooves as well. The exciting news is that FXpansion will be offering kit and groove updates in the near future.
My favourite part, however, is playing around with the mix of dry and the miced sound. It's a breeze to add room, overhead, and PZM mics (for extra body), and believe me, once you start playing with this kind of mixing, it's hard to go back to using drum loops and other drum machines. Oh, and these and other parameters are also fully automate-able, at least in Logic.
There are lots of easy-to-get-to controls over things like pitch, trim, panning, etc. The layout of the interface is really well thought out.
I did not experience any streaming problems with the audio, but I'm using a dual G5 with 2 gigs of RAM.
This is one fantastic virtual instrument, that comes with great support. Yes, it's a little pricy, but it comes on 2 dvds; that should tell you all about the amount of wonderfully recorded content. This, IMV, is a perfect complement to Stylus (which is grittier, more street-level) or Groove Agent (which has more of a wide-ranging/period groove set).
... and I said I was going to keep this short...