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FXPANSION BFD Percussion

June 1, 2007
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FXpansion's BFD is a software drum module that relies on extensively layered samples to provide hyperrealistic, extremely expressive drum kits and performances. Until recently, BFD expansion packs contained sampled pieces of drum kits (called Kit-Pieces) almost exclusively, but fortunately, the company has turned its attention toward percussion instruments. With the release of BFD Percussion ($249), the results are impressive.

To host the samples in BFD Percussion, you'll need BFD 1.5.45 (a free update) or later. An advantage of version 1.5 is the addition of a slot in which you can load a traditional kit, additional percussion, or any combination, up to a total of 18 Kit-Pieces. Although BFD is not a drum machine in the strictest sense, it hosts MIDI files that you can sequence and trigger with notes as you would with sampled loops. (For more details on BFD's inner workings, see the May 2004 issue of EM, available online at www .emusician.com.)

BFD Percussion's two DVDs furnish 26 GB of beautifully sampled 24-bit, 44.1 kHz instruments ranging from conventional hand percussion to found objects and appliances. All the samples were recorded at Maryland's Omega Studios under the production guidance of John Emrich, who played all the instruments. Instruments comprise multiple key assignments, each with Velocity-switched sample maps as many as 46 layers deep, offering excellent control over dynamics and performances that sound startlingly organic. Samples recorded with room and PZM microphones add to the realism, and you can vary the degree of ambience for each Kit-Piece.

You can elect to install either the entire 26 GB sound set or medium or small installations, which supply as many as 24 and 16 Velocity layers, respectively. I auditioned all three sizes on my dual-processor 1.42 GHz Power Mac G4 with Mac OS X 10.4.8. Installation was simple, requiring only my administrator's password and the serial number provided with the package. You can easily install a smaller or larger set as your system resources warrant.

Percs of the Job

BFD Percussion gives you an exceedingly rich menu of traditional instruments, including Latin percussion such as bongos, congas, timbales, and guiro; Turkish instruments such as tar; African djembe, shekere, and udu; Balinese nipple gong; Arabian darbuka and riq; and Pakistani tambourine. Although I found no instruments from India, I hope that means FXpansion has more expansion packs in the wings.

The sounds are consistently well recorded, and the programming — especially the Velocity layering — is smooth and articulate. Once installed, preset kits often mingle percussion from different parts of the globe with nontraditional instruments. For example, ChaCha_118 adds a Rubbermaid trash can with bongos and other Latin percussion, and Mambo2_200 offers a percussive stew of djembe, bongos, temple block, guiro, cowbell, and other typical instruments with a saw blade and coffee can. Other sounds include shoe taps, wooden and cardboard boxes, frying pans, and the kitchen sink (literally), sampled with multiple strike zones and playing techniques, including striking with mallets.

Accompanying MIDI files stored in BFD's built-in Groove Librarian pair with the kits, providing a wealth of terrific grooves. For example, GTron grooves like crazy, merging a busy, second-line drumming feel with djembe, tar, goatherder bells on a stick, and a box of unknown origin (see Web Clip 1). The most startling aspect of the groove-and-sample pairing is their organic nature; to my ear, they are often indistinguishable from high-quality sampled grooves. Other MIDI files have no associated percussion kits, but matching kits and grooves at random proved quite effective (see Web Clip 2). You can also create custom kits and import your own MIDI grooves into the librarian.

The excellent booklet that comes with BFD Percussion furnishes information on each Kit-Piece, revealing its global origin, material, model, and the articulations provided. It also lists file sizes, making it easy to calculate the amount of RAM required (BFD can also stream from disk).

BFD Percussion is not inexpensive, and you'll need to buy the BFD application if you don't already own it. In its richness of sound and expressive capability, however, BFD Percussion is head and shoulders above any percussion or drum module (hardware or software) I have heard. I recommend it highly to anyone searching for a great-sounding set of percussive tools to fuel their creativity.


Value (1 through 5): 5
FXpansion
www.fxpansion.com

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