BONG comes as a zip file (3,28MB ~ 3.444.167 Bytes) and contains the dll & a pdf. No keyfile, no ilok. Demo is fully functional but contains bird sounds as a « protection » (nice).
Specs & Installation
32-bit & windows only. Unzip in your VST directory and you are done.
After loading an instance of BONG into your DAW you will be prompted to choose between a simple 2 channel stereo (1 x 2) or a 12 channel (6 x 2) setup. I recommend choosing the latter one and route all of them through an additional drumbus channel. You can find dedicated outputs on each drum module on the right side in the AMP section (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6).
If you have worked with a drum machine before you will already recognize most of the parameters available to alter the timbre and shape of your sound. Inside the manual you will find a "map" that guides you through the basic layout of BONG.
On the left you will find the "PITCHANDTONEPLACELAND" aka part one of the oscillator section with such ususal suspects like PITCH, RATE, AMT, TONE etc. Each section has it's own number of parameters. While SNARE2 only comes with one parameter the HATS module has nine of them.
Next we have "DECAY LAND AND STUFF LAND" (part two of osc section) where you will find the envelopes. Pretty simple and no traditonell ADSR concept but with it's own twist. While the DECAY parameter does exactly what some of us expect from it the RELEASE parameter works a little bit different. It feels more like a shape option for the decay parameter.
Next comes « PIRATE HOLE TREASUE » (part three). Only 2 x OSC AMP and either on SNARE1 or SNARE2. No other module comes with it.
Next on the map lies « LAND OF THE SECOND SOURCE ». Here you will find some additional (shaping) options to add frequency content like noise or snap to the according base sound that you have created in the oscillator section. Not every module comes with them though.
The last three areas are "STEREOLAND", "PANLANDIA" and "AMPIA aka THINGS THAT DO NOT EXIST". Here you can adjust the output gain of a sound and it's position in the stereo field (plus a mono/stereo knob on some of them).
Or making a long story short: oscillators & noise to the left, amp on the right and extra stuff in between.
Sound & Performance
This device sits pretty lightweight on my CPU (DUALCORE 2.5gHz) and performs without a flaw. The sound of BONG is top notch and comes with 41 different drum models. The KICKS have an unbelievabe amount of lowend and sound pristine, the SNARES sound snappy as they can (one of the snare modules even comes with a BRUSH mode) and the CLAPS sound so wet…I have not heard something similar on any other algo VSTs. HIHATS are either pure noise or with some sinewave backup which gives them a very sweet metallic timbre and comes in three playmodes: two closed and the usual open one plus a CYMBAL. Then we have TOMS which can also act as CONGAS or as a LASER. The SHAKER has a TAMBOURINE mode and can be played forward & backward. The RIMSHOT comes with an optional CLAVE model. Most of the modules have the option to use VARIABLE noise which sounds way more organic and less static. This is one of the benefits if you are using a drum machine with dedicated algorithms instead of relying on post-processed samples (even a shitload of round robin one hits won't come close to this). Even smallest variations are noticeable for our brain and let things sound live. Most of the parameters have an additional VELOCITY amount knob. Use this if you need some variatons via different velocity levels. Sometimes only a slight bump here let's your drums sound more organic and fat.
I am not a preset user but the developer did a great job on this. 33 patches until now that should keep you busy for a while and/or act as a great starting point for own sounds.
You won't get more bang for the buck. For only 25$ as a new customer (15$ as a pre-customer) you will get 41 different drum models. That's roughly 0,61$ (0,37$) for each. Even if they are inspired by some of the great units from the past like the ROLAND TR-606, TR-808, TR-909 or BOSS DR110 (circuit-bended..yeah!!!) I won't compare them to this one. It's not that I can't but I think the developer put so much passion and experience in this unit it should be mentioned on it's own and therefore "stands it's man on it own". It sounds really great to my ears. Lots of characters and it's hard to get something worse out of it. If you like 80's & 90's signature drum sounds don't look even further. You won't regret it. This one is one of the best drum machines you will find and I think THE BEST when you take a closer look at the price. Simply plug and play. Instant results.
It sounds highly reminiscent of (but not exactly like) those old drum machines that everyone knows and loves, such as the Roland TR series (I guess the name is a play on that - 80n9; took me a while to get)
From what I can gather, Xoxos has been analysing classic drum machine sounds and creating algorhythms to match or approximate them, and I have to say, the results sounds great. Bong booms, clicks, ticks, and pops in all the right places.
You can make it do 808ish sounds, and you can make it do 909ish sounds (there's no PCM samples though, so don't expect 909 style hats etc.) You can make it do things that sound like no particular classic drum machine, but that sound as though they are from a classic drum machine. It's a vibe thing.
If you've used drum synths before, It's very easy to use, very intuitive, and it's very quick to dial in a sound you like. Each section seems to have been thought through very well, with each sound offering individual parameters that give direct access to the stuff you really want to tweak, without any clutter.
Bong is priced very low (too low), and Xoxos offers a discount for previous customers, making it even cheaper.
Bong is for everyone who is interested in useful, quality drum machine sounds. Go get the demo.