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A hands-on look at the BeatBuddy Drum Machine

Post Written by Mark T for Strings Direct Strings Direct is delighted to bring you a number of BeatBuddy products to assist you in achieving your musical nirvana. Follow the link to browse our official BeatBuddy range including the Drum Pedal, Dual Footswitch and Midi sync cable. I first started using drum machines back in the day when I found a used Yamaha QY10 in a second hand shop. This was a great backing tool, it had bass and keys and you could program chords into it, but the sounds were really cheesy, plus the screen was a tiny affair which made it a real headache to use. I then moved on to an Alesis SR 16, which they still sell today, it was quite good, but again the sounds and functionality are dated. The first guitarist focused drum machine I found was a boss Dr 500, this also had bass and chords and the input notes were laid out like the strings on a guitar. This was cool, but again the sounds were cheesy and so it was useless as a recording tool or live work. In the search for functionality and up to date sounds I moved onto samplers, the Roland Sp808 and Akai s01 where funky, but a total brain-ache to program and use, I then moved onto to the techno workstation Rs7000 by Yamaha then Roland Mc808. These had amazing customisable sounds, but were fiddly to program, plus all the sounds and presets were techno dance based, which is a bad thing if you're also an old rocker like me. My last two drum machines were integrated in my recording gear. My boss Br800 has a drum machine built into it and is also a bit of a pain to program and has no customisable kits. Lastly a VST drum program called EZ drummer, which is excellent, but useless live unless you don’t mind fiddly laptop at a gig. The footswitch functionality of all these units I’ve owned have been very limited to non-existent, this made theses units very stiff and robotic with no live or creative outlet to them at all. The beat buddy has changed the game when it comes to jamming and creating along with a drum machine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKpMVNQMnkI

Out of the box into the fire

Now I’ve only had this little unit a few days to test and already I can see the benefits of this new and innovative little unit. There are 200 songs preloaded on the supplied SD card and there’s extra storage for editing more songs so the options are unlimited. Older machines are stuck with the loops that are in the machine so expansion is a great benefit to this compact guitarist friendly machine. Out of the box, this is a really great drum machine with a twist; the sounds in this beast are great, usable, sampled loops as well as providing you with controllable song pattern playback at your feet.

 Tap dancing fun times galore

Having the ability to change patterns or transition to fills, on the fly, is absolutely wicked, plus there’s also optional footswitch inputs for more assignable tap-dancing fun. The 2 footswitches can be assigned separate functions when running and when stopped. This means, when its running, footswitch 1 can be assigned as a fill and when it’s stopped the same footswitch 1 can be advanced to the next song. This means if you add the 2 extra switches to the main switch you get 6 functions that can be assigned at your feet. I like the fact you don’t need to buy and use BB’s low priced dedicated footswitch, so you can use any double footswitch which can be calibrated in the system menu.

What makes Beat Buddy really stand out?

The BB has MIDI, USB and SD card flexibility for editing song pattern steps on a PC to create new songs and is simple to do, The fact that midi beats can be imported from anywhere online or made by yourself, makes BB a massive tool for live work and very useful for recording those ideas to take to the band rehearsals.

 Complex like a woman or as simple as a man?

Songs can be made into long complex arrangements; you can stack a ton of loops and fills into each song and add “shuffle” function to the fills to add variation.

 Time for time?

Now, having complex time signatures and mixing different time signatures into one song arrangement is fantastic and very easy to do, this feature really knocks other units out of the park. If you have a sequencer to edit or make a new odd time pattern loop you can then just import them into the BB via its SD card. The BB will play midi loops in the time signature that you made them, for example a 4/4 intro and 5/4 loop to 15/16 fill to a 9/4 loop etc. this is pretty damn cool.

Can there be even more to make the Beat Buddy outstanding?

You can build your own kits from any sound source .wav files to a very high standard. Kit sounds can be made with 3 layers that can be dynamically edited to create a very lifelike kit. To the layman, this means that you can hit the drum harder and it sounds different or can even can have a totally different instrument like an added cymbal with the snare, velocity sensitivity = real drummer sounding

 She’s easy on the eyes

The screen is laid out nice and easy to use with no tricky menu finding annoyances. The beats in the bar are highlighted on the colour screen by changing colours in the beat grids, this is great so you know where you’re supposed to come back in the fills.

 Massive Beat Buddy potential or a handy tool?

I can see a lot of potential with this BB like just jamming along, practice, playing along with a separate looper that has no beat or just using it as an easy flexible way to lay down ideas onto disk for future recording. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4vm6OiXXpk

 Funky functionality

The BB is divided into set list folders, so you can easily have the BB follow onto the next song via the footswitch input to save bending down to change the next song. You can also control more functions via a midi control pedal or sync it’s tempo with another unit via its mini midi port. (You’ll need a little midi adaptor, which are cheap)

 Recreational use and recording tool?

As a full recording tool I think that the BB out of the box will almost meet up to the level of dedicated sampled drum software program powered by a midi-sequencing recorder (DAW). But remember the BB can import your own wav files into kits, which EZ drummer can’t do, making it a super cool sample player. Remember this, software midi drums can be creatively limiting as your forever programming fills and breaks, that’s what makes BB a uniquely creative tool.

 Live from the bedroom to the stage?

The BB’s live application is where it is best compared. The fact you can play the fills into alternating loops, add the fills and breaks exactly you want them while you’re still playing makes the BB one outstanding little gadget and a really handy tool to have right on your pedal-board. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1hLem6OZek

 By the power of Greyskull

It requires any good 9v adapter (supplied) that powers your pedal-board and it’s just a little bigger than an average distortion or delay pedal so this won’t take up much room.

 Input the venom

The BB has stereo inputs and outputs, but I personally would not want to run my guitar signal into it though it does boast not to colour your tone nor would I have the drums playing through my amp. To get the best out of the BB I would run it into another amp that’s more suitable for drum sounds like a PA or even a loud stereo, a guitar amp degrades audio quality of the drums.

Grumbles time

I wish it had bass lines and a looper built into it I wished the BB software had a dedicated loop editor, but, they are updating it constantly, so could be on the way. It would have been nice if the loop to a fill transition played out all the way to the end of the loop before switching to the next one. But this could be seen as a good thing as it adds flexibility and you’re not restricted to the whole fills. Being able to switch half way into a loop cycle avoids predictability, promotes more creativity and this also means you can have super long fills that can be cut short or played out. The price is a tiny bit on the high side, but can you put a price on a unique, expandable, creative tool like this? Actually, yes £249, which isn’t a lot if you compare to some other machines.


 You can’t get this kind flexibility anywhere else, so I think perhaps saving up for it is well worth it. To wrap up, we’re going to offer our thoughts in a concise bullet-point format.  Easy to use, small and compact 10 high quality drum kits plus make your own kits from wav files Fully customisable pattern and song forms Easy to read screen with highlighted beats to keep time Great up to date realistic sampled drum sounds PC-editable and imports midi drum loops and complex song-forms Extra optional footswitch ports Alternate patterns, accents and fills at will while you play Ever expanding user community (material downloadable) Battery or most 9v pedal adaptors will power it up USB- Midi and SD card friendly (card included with 200 songs and loops)

 Get in touch with us

 We’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on BeatBuddy, or drum machines in general. Do you have any favourite set-ups that you use regularly, or configure for students? Leave a comment below or let us know on Facebook or StringsDirect. As always, we guarantee that orders over £50 will be shipped to you without charge, just one of the many ways in which StringsDirect represents the absolute best value for money around.
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