BFD Eco is a lighter version of BFD, which set the standard for a huge drum library of multisampled hits. But, considering how heavyweight BFD is, it’s not surprising that by “light,” they mean a smaller Sumo wrestler—you still get multiple kits (all acoustic drums), a drum mixer, grooves, and processing.
Installation/authorization: The program is 58MB and the content 793MB, which install separately. You can install one of three 16-bit libraries: Full (1,978MB, kits with up to 24 velocity layers), Medium (1,357MB/16 velocity layers), and Small (600MB/12 velocity layers). Given sufficient RAM and hard drive space, go for full.
Authorization is done online. As to licensing, you can install BFD Eco in up to three computers as long as only one is running at a time, and you cannot use the sounds in a sound or loop library without permission.
BFD Eco runs on an Intel Mac with OS X 10.5.7 or higher, or 32-bit Windows XP SP3/Vista/7 (it should also run as a 32-bit app in 64-bit systems, but is not officially supported). Options are VST/AU/RTAS plug-in, or standalone. Drum sounds don’t stream from your hard drive, so you’ll need at least 1GB of RAM.
Fig. 4. The main screen, showing the Mixer and global control strip in the lower half, and the Kit page in the upper half.
User interface: The window’s lower half is static, and contains the 16-channel mixer (12 for drums, 2 for aux effects, 1 aux for overhead mic sound, and 1 aux for room mic sound) along with a global controls strip—FX bypass, MIDI learn, bleed amount, master tuning, etc. The mixer includes faders, pans, solos, mutes, output assign, etc.—all the expected features—and individual channel outputs, although I found the instrument mixer itself more than sufficient. The mixer faders and some drum controls are VST-automatable, but not FX parameters or sends; however, almost all parameters can tie to MIDI control through a “Learn” function.
Meanwhile, the interface’s top half shows one of three pages at any given time (Figure 4).
Kit page: Select from 61 individual kits, 61 mixes, or 86 presets that contain a specific kit, mix, and set of grooves (more on this later). It also has a spiffy drum set graphic; clicking on a drum triggers the corresponding sound (no mouse velocity, though—you need a real controller for that). The drum sounds come from BFD2: 5 kicks, 6 snares, 12 toms, 3 hi-hats, and 11 cymbals, with percussion instruments from the BFD Percussion expansion pack. You can’t load your own samples, nor can you load drums not associated with a particular drum slot type (e.g., you can’t load a kick into a tom slot). However, you can load individual drum sounds—though not presets or kits, due to the difference in basic architecture—from BFD expansion packs.
Fig. 5. The Channel page offers a wonderful array of sound-shaping options, from EQ to two different effects.
Channel page: Here you can warp each drum sound subtly, or beyond all recognition (Figure 5). Select a drum, and it shows controls for dynamics, damping, tuning, two aux send levels, and send to the overhead and room channels (some drums have an additional control, like blend, tighten, etc.). Next up: four-band EQ, with two parametric mids and shelf/bell options for high and low frequencies. Two additional effects slots offer 15 options, including fun weirdo stuff like ring modulation and lo-fi.
Did I say “acoustic drums only”? Play with the channel FX, and you can change them into extremely electronic sounds— check out the audio example at www.eqmag.com
Fig. 6. The Grooves page is filled with MIDI grooves; you can search based on multiple criteria.
The Grooves page: There are plenty of MIDI grooves to kick-start your creativity (Figure 6). Filter them by genre (13 different types), BPM range, library, author, and type (fill or groove). Play individual loops if you want something hipper than a metronome, drop grooves into the host MIDI track that drives BFD Eco, or drag-and-drop multiple loops serially into BFD Eco’s “drum track,” which syncs to the host. You can set loop points, start time, quantization, swing, and humanization. Also useful: a “simplify” algorithm for making parts more basic, and if you come up with a really good loop you’d like to add to your personal loop library, export the track as an audio file.
Conclusions: You can treat BFD Eco as pure plug-and-play: Call up a kit, if needed call up a groove, and go. Done. Or, you can tweak a kit within an inch of its life, and completely change the sound. There are three loops at www.eqmag.com—one with straight ahead rock drums and some BFD grooves, another with an acoustic set that has a ton of dynamics, and the other with a custom drum kit and groove I did to create a totally electronic drum sound—which give just a taste of what Eco can do (note that FXpansion has given permission for us to post these loops as examples of BFD Eco, and you’re free to use them in your own music).
Yes, the resolution is limited to 16 bits, but I didn’t find that a deal-breaker; and despite being “light,” the full version does require some computer resources.
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