First a big thank you to FXpansion for providing BFD2 for this Review.
Today I get a chance to check out one of the best Acoustic Drum programs I have seen to date. I have in the past had a chance to see several other drum programs and none of them even come close to the sound quality or the flexibility that BFD2 provides.
Before I get too far into this Review I should mention the specifications for BFD2 and also the system requirements and they are the following.
-Totally redesigned intuitive interface
-Quick and easy configuration
-Improved kit and preset management
-Reworked engine resulting in better performance and startup speed
-User import of stereo multi-velocity layer samples
-Built-in studio-grade mixing, routing, EQ, dynamics and effects processing
-Diverse range of mix and kit presets tweaked for you by experienced engineers
-Route audio from 8 stereo and 16 mono outputs into VST, RTAS and AU hosts
-Advanced Groove authoring, editing and performance environment for realistic drum parts
-Over 5000 Grooves: a huge library of instant drum patterns covering many styles
-Synced Groove previews
-Comprehensive keymapping and automation support
-Easy setup for electronic drum trigger systems, including support for snare positional sensing
-Built-in multi-channel audio export
-A massive range of other new features and workflow enhancements improve on FXpansion's best-selling BFD software to make BFD2 the most advanced acoustic drum workstation yet
SOUND LIBRARY HIGHLIGHTS
-Recorded with premium mics and a warm, refined signal path in a room with stunning clarity and definition of ambience
-Mid/Side room mic set for anything from true mono to incredible sounding expanded stereo room sounds
-Thunderous, punchy kicks featuring inside and outside mics
-Versatile snare mic mixing: two top mics and a bottom mic
-Incredibly detailed hihats featuring 11 articulations, snares include hits at the centre and halfway towards the edge
-Lush, complex cymbals with bell and edge hits
-55GB of multi-channel, 24-bit 44.1 kHz audio
Minimum system requirements:
-Windows XP SP1 or higher, Vista 32, P4 or better CPU (Windows)
-OSX 10.4, G5 or Intel CPU (Mac)
-1 GB of RAM
-60 gig HD, 7200 rpm
-Internet connection for product authorization
Recommended system requirements for best results
-2 GB of RAM or more
-Fast, multi-core modern Intel or AMD CPU
-Dedicated hard drive
-VST, RTAS or AU compatible plugin host
-Low latency audio interface
So after finally getting my hands on the BFD2 DVD’s it was finally time to install them. I put the first DVD into the drive and ran the installer. After waiting for a while the first DVD was installed but it never asked for another DVD after the first one was installed. I had selected FULL install on the installer program so I figured it would ask for the other DVD’s when it needed them.
After the first DVD installed the installer asked me if I wanted to check for program updates and I said yes and it found some updates for BFD2. At this point in time I was prompted to make an account on the FXpansion web site before it would let me get the program updates. I’m not a huge fan of making accounts on web sites and so I wasn’t too impressed with being forced to do that before I could get the updates. Despite not being too impressed I made the account and then was allowed to download the update for BFD2.
After getting the update installed I decided to run the BFD2 and see what it looked like. It was at this time the license manager loaded up and before I could run BFD2 I now had to give the license manager my login details for the FXpansion web site so it could validate my copy of the program. Finally once the validation was done I was able to finally run the program.
As you can see from the Interface in the screen shot above the interface designers really did a nice job on the look of BFD2. While on the FXpansion web site I noticed a video on there that shows version 1 of BFD and that doesn’t look anywhere near as good as version 2 so my hats off to the guys who made BFD2 look as good as it does.
Once I was in the program and messing around with it I noticed most of the kits were missing and when I tried to load a kit I was getting error messages like the following..
“[ERROR] Slot 1 failed to load because it refers to an unknown kit piece (Usually, this is caused by authorization failures)”
What puzzled me about the error message was the Authorization Failure part. I was starting to wonder if something was screwed up after registering the software. Despite the error I still kept checking the program out but that error was still on my mind. After seeing the above error message a few more times I decided it was time to send the FXpansion guys some e-mail and see what’s going on.
After talking to the FXpansion guys in e-mail I learned that you have to install every single DVD manually one after the other. As it turns out every BFD2 DVD has its own installer. I would like to see their installer tell you insert the next DVD after it’s done installing the first one especially after selecting the full install option on the installer.
So after installing the other 4 DVD’s I figured the program would be ready to go however, I was still getting the above error. While investigating the error some more I noticed on the preferences page there was an option to delete the preferences and also an option to delete the data base which stores all the drum kit information. After doing those two deletes I was finally able to load all of the drum kits up and I haven’t seen any more of those error messages showing up.
One of the amazing things about BFD2 is the kit sizes you have to play with. When you first load the program up it defaults to the 10 piece kit but you also have options to use an 18 and 32 piece kit as well. One thing to keep in mind here is the bigger the kit the more ram you’re going to be eating up when you get different drum samples in each kit piece. As a test I tried to put a different drum and symbol in each of the 32 kit pieces and before I got to 32 I ran out of ram. I managed to get 29 of the 32 piece kit loaded before BFD2 come back with an error message saying it didn’t have enough ram.
To be fair to BFD2 I also had a few programs running taking the screen shots for this review but it underscores a point that if you plan on using the 32 piece kit you better have a lot of ram. On this computer I have 8 gigs of ram, of the 8 gigs windows XP 32 bit only sees 3 of that. Even with 3 gigs ram BFD2 was chewing up 1.6 gigs of that with the 29 piece kit loaded up.
The reason why BFD2 eats so much ram is due to the quality of the samples. All the samples that BFD2 uses are sampled at 24 bit 44.1 khz and on top of that each drum sample has many velocity layers and they to eat up ram. For me the sound that BFD2 can produce with the various kits is really mind blowing. The fact you have so much you can choose from in terms of drums and cymbals at your finger tips puts this software in a league of its own.
Another interesting aspect of BFD2 is the fact that you can tweak so much of each drum sound via the mixer. For example a snare drum can have up to three mics, two mics on top of the snare and one under it. The cool thing about these three mics on the snare drum is that you can adjust each ones volume and how they are panned. On top of being able to adjust the levels and panning you can also add effects to each channel such as compressors or EQ along with many other effects. If you look to the right of the mixer in the screenshot below you see a little room with drums and mic stands in it and that’s to give you an indicator of how close the mics are to the drum set when adjusting the mic distance. The amount of different ways you can change the drum sounds in BFD2 is really stunning.
The really cool thing about having this mixer page is the fact that BFD2 can either run as a standalone application or a VST instrument. The fact you don’t need any other software at all to run BFD2 makes it good for when you just want to load up one program and go and not have to mess around with a host application. The BFD2 guys also made BFD2 so that it can export your drum track audio at 32 bit or lower bit rates and save that in a wav file.
The next interesting part of BFD2 is the grooves page. The grooves page is where you load up different grooves and assemble them into a drum track, and you do that by loading a palette. These palettes contain the different grooves such as intros and fill ins for certain types of music (like funk for example) and once they are loaded in you just click on the groove you like and drag that to the drum track. Once a groove is on a drum track you add more grooves and as you keep doing this you slowly build up a final drum track.
BFD2 comes with thousands of different grooves and you can mix and match to your heart’s content and get some pretty interesting drum tracks. For those of you who don’t like the included grooves or palettes you’re free to build your own with the pattern editor that’s on the grooves page.
The last thing here to look at is the Keymapping / Automation page. This is the page you would be using if you had a Zendrum or Midi Drum set connected up to a midi interface and had that piped into BFD2. The whole idea of this page is to make it really painless to sync up what midi drum or pad activates any BFD2 drum. When you hit your midi drum or pad BFD2 will tell you what note number that is and then you just assign that to the preferred BFD2 drum sound via dragging the drum you want and dropping it on the keyboard key you wish to activate the drum. You can even have multiple drums assigned to a single keyboard key which is pretty cool. I can’t think of how they could have made working with a midi drum kit any easier, they really did a good job here.
While I was using BFD2 three things came to mind that I would like to see changed and they are the following. First of all there is no printed manual and that’s a really annoying thing when you have to keep flipping back and forth between a 188 page PDF file and the program itself. I would have liked to have had a 188 page spiral bound manual come with this software so you could read the manual and operate the program at the same time. You could opt to print the 188 page PDF file out but considering the money you’re spending on software like this I think it should have been included with it.
The second thing I would like to see done is more videos on the FXpansion web site on how to use the Grooves page in BFD2. I seen some videos on the web site that covered the mixer in BFD2 but for whatever reason there is no videos on how to make really cool grooves / drum tracks and that’s a shame.
The last thing I would like to see changed is the Grooves / Pattern editor page. The way BFD2 works right now is if you’re using the pattern editor in the Grooves page you have to use the scrolls bars to move the pattern editor around and that can get on your nerves. I have a big 24 inch monitor here and it would have been nice for the pattern editor to be able to go full screen so I wouldn’t have to keep using the scrolls bars on such a tiny work space.
One last thing to touch on here is the fact you’re not stuck with stock sounds of BFD2. With a trip over to the FXpansions web site you can view several expansion packs for BFD2 that add yet even more variety to the already existing drums.
In conclusion this is a great drum program, I have messed around with a few drum programs and none of them come close to the sound quality or the features that BFD2 has. At the time of this Review you could purchase the full version of BFD2 for around $400.00 Canadian or $200.00 Canadian if you have a previous version and want to upgrade to version 2.