HomeForumsEquipmentMy review of Beat Buddy drum machine pedal by Singular Sound

This topic contains 13 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  PaulWolfe 2 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #13323

    superblonde
    Keymaster

    Beat Buddy came today, here’s the first things I’m noticing. Rather than post a single long premeditated review I’ll add stuff as I go along.

    Must use 9v to run it (not usb power). Adapter is rated 9V 500mA, that’s not much power but still more than USB can provide so maybe that’s why. Would have been nice to be able to use a USB battery pack. 9v batteries were only intended for 1950’s tiny transistor radios (true!).. not for real electronic gear. “The Beatbuddy has a 600 MHz ARM Cortex A8 processor at its heart, and 1 GB of DDR2 system memory.” Ok, well, those can run off 3.3V (or 1.8V common now) so obviously the 9v is not for the system itself. To be forward looking it should be powered via 5v USB (as well as 9v wall wart). Modern audio amp circuits can do line-out if only powered by 5V just fine.

    No power button, so it boots up when powered and shuts off when unplugged. This means if the guitar is plugged into it, then better have it 9v powered!

    Not a portable piece of gear in this case.. either need a 9v battery brick or AC power. My Korg metronome also does not allow using USB power (even tho it has USB for PC communication) and this really bugs me, if it’s two AAA’s go low then I’m stuck. Meanwhile everyone has USB backup batteries for cell phones, tablets, etc, or USB wall warts, already in their packs and all over the place..

    The very short quickstart manual in the box details the placement of the pedal in a pedal chain etc.

    Quickstart manual recommends the output go thru a stereo or PA, not a guitar amp, or worst case, thru the guitar’s aux-in. A little different than the marketing which shows it as an inline pedal to the guitar amp instrument input. They have a valid point, guitar amps have limited range, compared to PA or stereo. But this means extra gear to bring and/or connect up if using it during group practice (so everyone can hear.. not just one person with headphones). Might also mean needing at least a small mixer..

    Noise floor thru headphone jack seems very high. When headphones turned up to 100%, I can hear microprocessor circuit noise (little ‘periodic yet randomized’ audio glitches). This means circuit design internally was not as high quality as it could have been. (Shielding, ground planes, etc). Compare to my Korg tuner/metronome/drum pattern tuner, which has zero hiss and zero noise when headphones turned up max vol, Beat Buddy is less good (caveat: the Korg is not very loud so maybe they under-drive their internal headphone amp). Beat Buddy has two Line outs, L/Mono and R, noise may be different on these, if I plug cheapie headphones into Line Out, sounds quiet and audio level is loud, so, maybe noise floor is only a thing on the headphone out. Early conclusion- don’t plan on recording or mixing via the headphone out. I guess the headphone amp uses extra power which is deemed nice to save when unused because there is a headphone volume adjust wheel on the side of the pedal and it has an “off” clickable position. So, the headphones can be turned off. I would prefer that the pedal get rid of the headphone volume wheel (that sticks out of the side anyway, and cuts an additional slot in the case) and make it a software setting via some combo button presses, including, lowering to zero simply turns it off via software. (It seems like the headphone off position on the wheel is a software button anyway, not mechanical disconnect.) The plus side is that the headphone-out power is REALLY LOUD, it is blowing thru my practice amp’s aux-in with the pedal set at only 40% volume.

    Pedal is made of brushed metal, and it’s heavy. 2 lbs! That’s like a heavy textbook and/or heavy metal steel toe boots. In comparison my korg metronome is 8 ounces (tho, it can’t be stomped, hah).

    Screws on bottom. These don’t look too quality, maybe easy to strip the heads if not careful. Ok, I thought there was supposed to be a battery to go inside, but there’s no battery connector. Maybe that’s why the user guide doesn’t mention a battery (doh, besides, 500 mA would last about 1 hr if using a 9v battery). The weight is definitely from the pedal body. The circuitry inside is basically nothin.

    Inside the unit, the foot switch is a small separate circuit board, so presumably it’s possible to replace just the foot switch, if eventually it goes out.

    User interface. I figured out how it works in about 4-5 mins for different drum settings and patterns. The scroll knobs are also pushbuttons. There’s a 4-way cursor pad like a Nintendo controller that goes thru the menus, very simple to navigate. The screen blinking on the beats is very intuitive.

    Changing patterns takes several seconds to “load”. If kit is changed while a beat is running, it seems to make an effort to continue the beat as seamlessly as possible. For example hi-hat continued while kick drum was absent then hit on the next “1”. Or maybe the change I selected didn’t have to reload the hi-hat so it was able to reuse the existing sample in memory. Either way it seems there’s some effort to make kits or genres switchable while running, and the tempo will continue, but the samples may not sound until a few seconds after the load is done.

    Tempo goes 40 BPM to 300 BPM. Sometimes during my practice I use a metronome 30 BPM click (yes painful) so I want Beat Buddy to go lower, even down to 10 BPM, why not, it’s just software. (I know I could use a faster tempo and only play on the 1 etc, but, why not just offer lower tempo’s too..)

    Comes with 4 gig SD card, loaded with default pattern and sounds. There’s downloadable genre packs ($5-$10 range?). Default includes genres and ‘metronome’. The default ‘metronome’ set does not include 12/8 which I need for a metal song (it has 6/8 but..). So it looks like I will be getting a pack or customizing for my needs soon.

    SD card fits into slot in the back. Slot is spring loaded push type. When inserted, card sticks out the back several mm’s. The case around the slot is not perfect, the slot in the metal is cut wider than it needs to be. Or, I’m too used to perfect Apple products where everything fits together perfectly. Needless to say there’s going to be part of a fragile SD card sticking out the back of the unit. I guess it’s OK but doesn’t seem too road safe.

    Initial impression is that it is a good song writing jam tool. It seems to make it easy to create backing on the fly, at least for standard song patterns. Like: one of the tracks has part 1 & part 2. It has 3 fills. 1 outro. and a transition. Starts off on drum pattern part 1. On any beat, simply stomp, it goes into a fill #1 immediately, and resumes part 1 on the next “1”, and next time it will use fill #2 for variety, etc. Hold the stop on any beat and transition starts, let up and the pattern switches to #2 (or #1 if already on #2). Stomp twice on any beat and outro starts and finishes on the “4&”. So, it’s not as robotic as I thought. Because the timing of the foot immediately starts whatever, it means fills or transitions can start any place, not just on “3” or “1” etc. In the patterns I tried they always seem to end on the “4&” so the next ‘1’ is the next song part. Based on this, a generic verse-chorus-bridge song drum part is easy to generate (I believe.. not that I have much knowledge about songwriting).

    Sound packs.. well, plenty of online vids demonstrate that. Sounds good to me, very rich and long decay.

    I'm an intermediate student of Metal Method. I play seitannic heavy metal. All Kale Seitan! The glutens will be eaten with relish!
    And on the Seventh Day, Mustaine said: ∇ ⨯ E = - ∂B / ∂t ; and there was Thrash; and it had a ♭3; and it was good.

  • #13324

    superblonde
    Keymaster

    Just to add, my intention is to ultimately get this pedal to work in a live situation and practicing. Human Drummers will simply lose out on the fun if they don’t adapt (live e-drums, hint hint ;-D )

    here’s a snip from the beat buddy forum on this same theme. Tho this doesn’t put it into context respective to a genre (and “duo”, to me, screams folk/acoustic).

    Gigging with the Beat Buddy!!! I have been playing in bands now for a few years. I decided to get the Beat Buddy as a rehearsal tool to help me work out songs when I was on my own and not with the band. I have my Beat Buddy since November 2014. A little over a year now. I started a new band (a duo) with another guy around the same time. We were both in different bands and decided to collaborate together to form a new group. We started rehearsing a set shortly after that and played our first gig in March last year. From the outset, we used the Beat Buddy not only as a rehearsal tool but as our live drum track. We find it invaluable. We love the pedal so much that we bought a second one, in case catastrophe strikes at a gig. So we will always have a contingency plan in place. We use the pedal for the whole gig. Every song has a beat. and all the setlists are carefully planned and set out in the pedal’s SD card before every show if there has been changes made.

    Now to give you some idea of how hard the BB works for us. I went through our diary for last year and counted up the amount of gigs that we played since we started on the 15th March 2015. Since that date we played 47 gigs up to and including New Years Eve. We even played a festival in the summer in front of 3000 people. all with the Beat Buddy pounding away.

    Our usual set is about 2.5 to 3 hours and we also rehearse about once a week to work on new additions to the set (as it always seems to evolve). So I think that the Beat Buddy is worth it’s weight in Gold. It works hard and makes us sound good. We certainly would not be the same band without it. We were very busy last year and part of that credit goes to the Beat Buddy and it’s creators. You have helped us mould a product that we can sell to Bars and Clubs. We have a small following in our area and are very thankful that people come out regularly to see us and enjoy their night with us. http://mybeatbuddy.com/forum/index.php?threads/gigging-with-the-beat-buddy.5209/

    I'm an intermediate student of Metal Method. I play seitannic heavy metal. All Kale Seitan! The glutens will be eaten with relish!
    And on the Seventh Day, Mustaine said: ∇ ⨯ E = - ∂B / ∂t ; and there was Thrash; and it had a ♭3; and it was good.

  • #13499

    superblonde
    Keymaster

    I used the pedal during practice jam with my fellow guitarist yesterday. It rocked in the way that a backing track can’t ever rock. It’s fair to say that it’s going to revolutionize the way we practice our setlist. I set up a mic and we variously jammed vocals while playing. Since it’s hard to synchronize drum backing and vocals and guitars in a practice session (like: “when do we come in ahh missed it ok lets start again” or “oops forgot the words to verse 2 hows it go ahh okay start again” type stuff), the pedal makes it so easy, it just keeps looping along, allowing free measures, and stomp to transition etc.

    I am not coordinated using a pedal (yet). Especially when trying to sing. So it took some effort to focus on when to stomp it, tho this is probably something I’ll get better at relatively quickly, the timing aspect and knowing where I’m at and what I should be doing with my feet.

    The computer software is the biggest downside to the pedal. The pedal requires that the PC software must be used in order to program beats. (It is not “drag a midi file to the USB” at all!) The software is still kind of not mature according to comments. I can’t even run it because it isn’t supported well on the Mac. (Lots of criticisms on their support forum about not supporting Mac when Mac is a big percentage of musician friendly gear.) So I will have to wait until I can program the setlist songs into the pedal for performance-type rendition. It almost seems like the best thing that could happen to the pedal is for Yamaha or Roland to buy them out and put a bigger engineering team into the product to really make it pro support level.

    I'm an intermediate student of Metal Method. I play seitannic heavy metal. All Kale Seitan! The glutens will be eaten with relish!
    And on the Seventh Day, Mustaine said: ∇ ⨯ E = - ∂B / ∂t ; and there was Thrash; and it had a ♭3; and it was good.

  • #15328

    superblonde
    Keymaster

    I used this pedal the first time live last week at a solo open mic. It was cool. The performer before me was playing guitar only and vocal only. With people talking at the bar etc (and the place did not have good audio gear, its a new setup for them), it was simply just hard to pay attention to guitar and vocals. More like background music. When I started with the drums I think it had the effect of livening things up. Suddenly there is a beat.

    This is the first pedal I’ve ever had, of any kind, so I am still not coordinated on pressing things with feet. And as a drum machine the first time using something like that too. I dont have coordination to press it to change beats between verse and chorus (as lame as that sounds). I just let it run with a constant drum pattern.

    I used headphone-out which even in practice, sounds a bit flat (compressed). It would be better to use it’s 1/4″ line out’s (also allows for stereo).

    One song the ending was funny because I didn’t stomp it correctly so it interpretted it as a pattern change, rather than outro-fill-end. The drums kept going after I ended the song on guitar. Then I was furiously stomping it to get it to end properly but those weren’t timed well either so it still didn’t end, it kept adding fills. Ha, imagine me stomping it repeatedly while laughing “end! end! end already!” The neat thing is that the drum outro is a good fill to the end of the measure, regardless of when it is started. So even though I had bad timing it still sounded OK when I finally stomped it correctly (not like: suddenly cut off). By listening to the recording of my own performance it isn’t apparent that I was having any particular trouble at all 😀 Which is good. However the timing of “double stomp to end” vs “hold to fill” is a bit tricky and I havent gotten it down (I guess my difficulty with this depends on song tempo because the end vs fill is trickier for me relative to the timing measures which are flying by).

    There was a drum instructor in the audience and he didn’t complain. Altho he didn’t congratulate me on my great beat-making abilities either. For a musician it is probably very dull listening to the same programmed beat thru an entire song, even tho the pedal does vary it a little bit. The typical audience tho won’t really be concerned with that. It’s still better than no drums at all. The only thing more boring than a performer without drums and only strumming guitar is someone doing acapella without any instruments, or more boring than that, someone reading poetry and not even singing (not that there’s anything wrong with those.. but a typical cafe/bar audience will not be enticed to pay attention, without some rhythm accompaniment).

    One downfall is that the controls (and the screen) are in the pedal. Between songs that means kneeling down to twist the knobs to change tempo or change beat pattern. I havent looked into what the extension pedal can do to help with this. Kneeling down is not very seamless. I think on their product gear forum at least 1 player mentioned modifying the pedal: mount it on the mic stand so controls are reachable, physically rewire the pedal’s switch to use the extension pedal instead of the pedal’s switch, and use extension pedal as the song-part-control switch. This seems a much better way to do things. The metal frame of the pedal works against this modification because it is a very heavy case. Might be better to go the extra step if modifying the internal wiring anyway, and just remove all the electronics from the pedal, to mount on a mic-stand-friendly light plastic case or something. I played 4 songs and had to kneel down at the start and in between each one.

    Ok So I hope I just described that, even in the most basic setup (using headphone out, and not stomping it at all between song parts), it is still neat to use live. Definitely, it is very neat to use in practice to liven up rehearsals.

    I'm an intermediate student of Metal Method. I play seitannic heavy metal. All Kale Seitan! The glutens will be eaten with relish!
    And on the Seventh Day, Mustaine said: ∇ ⨯ E = - ∂B / ∂t ; and there was Thrash; and it had a ♭3; and it was good.

  • #15340

    rorygfan
    Participant

    I just let it run with a constant drum pattern.

    This human interface stuff with all pedals suck. I just think minimize versatility of all things to all people versus application specific design would be the way to tackle it.
    Your review is why i believe the midi file approach with sound module drums would be better. I wonder if the design people are just EE’s and not musicians. I have spent my career on specialized instrumentation and so few designers are experts at the application or good and human interfaces.

  • #15382

    joaopazguitar
    Participant

    I just let it run with a constant drum pattern.

    This human interface stuff with all pedals suck..

    Got to agree with this… I always felt “conscious” about my pedals. Not all “click” in and out the same way, same pressure, etc. When I’m driving, I never think about the pedals, even when switching cars, I may spend one minute adjusting but then it’s life as usual.

    Pedals do look great, though … ;D

     

  • #20691

    superblonde
    Keymaster

    So it seems things are getting somewhere with the beat buddy in terms of midi.


    Voicelive 3 Extreme and BeatBuddy setup for Looping via MIDI control.

    BOSS RC loop stations are said to be very limited in MIDI slave capability therefore have trouble with beat buddy as slave. supposedly BOSS RC can be master with beat buddy as slave (seems backwards though) Theres some videos around demoing this setup.. does not seem to be the best setup.


    BeatBuddy drum machine with Infinity Looper

    Theres some posts that beat buddy firmware needs to be upgraded to latest.

    This guy is using a Ditto and no midi just recording the drum audio. Seems like this would be tough to sync up and limits ability of using beat buddy’s song forms and fills.


    Using the BeatBuddy with a loop pedal

    It seems to me the beat buddy should be the midi master and a looper should be the slave. Then stomping on the drum pedal will go thru the loop on/off and loop layers.

    This guy built his own midi electronics master circuit to control the beat buddy with the new beat buddy firmware.


    Arduino & Beatbuddy Midi In Command Set

    I'm an intermediate student of Metal Method. I play seitannic heavy metal. All Kale Seitan! The glutens will be eaten with relish!
    And on the Seventh Day, Mustaine said: ∇ ⨯ E = - ∂B / ∂t ; and there was Thrash; and it had a ♭3; and it was good.

  • #20699

    PaulWolfe
    Participant

    This is fascinating! I’ve got a ditto looper and a beat buddy mini (with the addition foot controller)… time to experiment!

  • #20710

    safetyblitz
    Spectator

    Early looper: Les Paul and his “black box”:

  • #20730

    PaulWolfe
    Participant

    SafetyBlitz. that as SO cool… thanks for posting that.

  • #21065

    superblonde
    Keymaster

    Some new things here. There’s new firmware which allows full midi in/out and midi note generation too in real time. That means I believe that the pedal can act as a drum brain.

    Supposedly it adds an update so that the second external footswitch can act as outro/end instead of having to double-stomp. Which is still one of my problems, getting the timing of the double-stomp (vs short stomp vs stomp-and-hold).

    Their web page has a match list of popular songs to beats. That was always my struggle, trying to find the appropriate beat to go with a song I wanted to try playing. It includes the MINI pedal beats too. Looks to me like it is a spreadsheet via google docs or something. “Beat Matching Tool” https://singularsound.com/beatbuddy-tools/beatbuddy-beats/

    For example
    All Along The Watchtower Jimi Hendrix Oldies 2
    Paranoid Black Sabbath Metal 9

    I finally got the latest beat buddy manager computer software working on my mac. Even without owning the pedal, it could be very useful for generating songs, because the stock beat sounds are free to download, and the manager allows creating songs with drum sections from these, including a virtual pedal for playback mode. So, using the mouse instead the pedal itself, it’s possible to record a drum track to wav for a full song by using this.

    The one feature still missing is some way to allow the pedal to just play a song in full (without having to stomp it to go section-by-section and then outro). This is supposedly promised on a future update.. It would be great to program many songs into the pedal and then just stomp “go” and play/practice along to a complete setlist without having to stomp on anything.

    Here are two very interesting screen shots.
    I bought the “Led Zep song pack” from them and have been looking over their programming of the songs. Absolutely amazing. One of the Zep songs, they programmed in 17 drum sections!

    So here are 2 comparison screenshots. First is the stock “Blues” drum pattern, it has 2 parts (light verse/heavy chorus) and some fills and outro. Second is one of the Zep songs. OMG it’s a good thing I didn’t try transcribing drums like this, I would have gone mad. Most of the Zep songs have 9 or even 13 sections!

    beatbuddy-blues2

    beatbudy-zep-allmylove

    I'm an intermediate student of Metal Method. I play seitannic heavy metal. All Kale Seitan! The glutens will be eaten with relish!
    And on the Seventh Day, Mustaine said: ∇ ⨯ E = - ∂B / ∂t ; and there was Thrash; and it had a ♭3; and it was good.

    Attachments:
    1. beatbuddy-blues2.png

    2. beatbudy-zep-allmylove.jpg

    • #21152

      PaulWolfe
      Participant

      Thanks for posting this! I’m having a MUCH easier time working on lead fills when I have drums that fit the song…

  • #21154

    superblonde
    Keymaster

    Paul does the MINI pedal allow programming? Or is it all fixed beats?

    I agree with the drums making it so much more interesting and groovy to play, better feel.. (I think MAB agrees 😀 in one interview he said he always practiced in earlier years with a drum machine)

    There are some user created drum parts which modify the drum notes to play bass, somehow, maybe with a separate compatible drum soundbank. I havent tried these but they are labelled “drums + bass” so I guess the pedal is hitting bass tones as well.

    I'm an intermediate student of Metal Method. I play seitannic heavy metal. All Kale Seitan! The glutens will be eaten with relish!
    And on the Seventh Day, Mustaine said: ∇ ⨯ E = - ∂B / ∂t ; and there was Thrash; and it had a ♭3; and it was good.

    • #21169

      PaulWolfe
      Participant

      The mini only does fixed beats… but they can get you close enough when practicing alone.

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