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This article was originally published in issue #46
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So what's the full BeatBuddy like? It's like the Mini version but much, much more versatile. Like the Mini, it's presented just like a regular guitar pedal.
Tons of high quality drums
Lots of output/input options
Solid construction/Great Screen
Superb practice tool
We reviewed the BeatBuddy Mini in GI 41 and were impressed. A very versatile 'drummer in a pedal' it won a lot of friends here at GI. But pay an extra $200 and you can have the full BeatBuddy, not just the Mini version. Is it worth the extra? We asked Sam Bell to find out.
There are lots of drum software products and drum machines on the market which are used in recording studios and live on stage for performances, however Singular Sounds' Beatbuddy has addressed something that I never really thought about before setting eyes on it - a quality dedicated drum machine in a foot pedal…it makes total sense! Why has no one thought of it before?
Actually, some readers of GI might imagine that we have thought of it before, because my colleague Lewis Turner reviewed a BeatBuddy in issue 41 – but that was the Mini version, considerably less expensive and comparatively less well specified, but no mean beast in its own right, as Lewis reported.
So what's the full BeatBuddy like? It's like the Mini version but much, much more versatile. Like the Mini, it's presented just like a regular guitar pedal. It has one nice big footswitch for easy activation and deactivation of certain functions. It has a bright, easy to navigate screen so you can scroll through various options that I will go into detail about in a moment and it has many different input and output options. To top it all of it can take battery or regular power from your pedal board's power supply.
The BeatBuddy requires no programming (unlike some drum machines) and comes with 24 genres of music loaded onto the included 4 GB SD card which slots into the top of the pedal. Within these genres there are over 220 styles, 10 different drum kits and a nice mix of time signatures to get started with. If you do somehow get through all of this and want more, Singular Sound offers up to 300 additional drum kits, three million different songs and the ability to create your own with the free software that comes with the pedal! You can also download more beats from the premium library and there are many different styles packages to suit what music you want to play. What the pedal comes with, though, is already a stunning start to get stuck into! You can simply load content onto the pedal via the SD card or via the USB input of the pedal. The drum loops are studio grade 24-bit quality, you can use the stereo outs or the headphone outs to get a true stereo sound. All of the beats are recorded by professional drummers and you can change the tempo for each loop. One really admirable and cool feature of the loops is that they aren’t perfectly quantised (mechanically in-time with a grid) - you have real drum performances on this pedal, no cold robotic sounding sample loops! This creates a much more live and natural feel to complement your performances. Each loop can be set so you can start or end your loop with a fill and you can see the beats moving by on the screen to visually see where you are in the bar, which is super helpful especially if you are combining this pedal with any looping or other time based effects.
So what do I think of it? Well one thing I should point out about the video demo is that I plugged it right into the FX loop of the amp, this gives a cleaner sound to the pedal. For the best results Singular Sound recommends plugging this pedal into a flat response speaker (unlike a guitar speaker) which will gives a higher sound quality and that is sensible advice, given the very high quality of the sounds inside this box.
Let's cut straight to the verdict - I loved this pedal! It’s the pedal I didn’t think I needed but now I've tried it, I would love one! It was very easy to use without even picking up the manual, I was jamming within a minute of plugging it in. The styles are authentic and inspiring to jam to and the natural feel of the drum loops means they don’t get too jarring on the ears, unlike the way like some programmed loops can get after the first few repetitions.
I don't personally have much use for this pedal for a live context, but as a practising musician I think one of the most important and best things you can do for your playing is play in time with something and the best something is a drummer! The Beatbuddy gives you lots of drummers with different styles and time signatures to practice to, which is priceless practice that will make you stand out from the crowd of home metronome widdlers! If you have never experienced the difference this might sound like an exaggeration, but it really isn't. Nothing equals the feel of working with a live drummer and in the absence of the real thing, the BeatBuddy is as close as you are going to get.
Could you use it live? I know that a lot of my solo artist friends who perform with loop pedals or similar would absolutely love something like this for their performances. It doesn’t sound cheesy, the drum loops are flexible and the pedal is so well built its perfect for live use.
All in all I think the Beatbuddy should be the guitarist's best friend, you owe it to your musicianship to check one out! Oh, and yes. It is definitely worth getting the full blown BeatBuddy if you can possibly afford it – it does everything the Mini will do, as you'd expect, but an awful lot more, too!