For some time, FXpansion’s BFD was the de facto standard in ultra-realistic drum ROMplers. It wrote the rules and was augmented with some wonderful and absurdly large kit libraries.
But things have moved on, and the plug-in itself was beginning to buckle under the weight of all that bling. Users were being drawn towards newer options such as XLN Audio’s Addictive Drums and Digidesign’s Strike. With fighting spirit, though, FXpansion is back with a sequel.
Just like its predecessor, BFD2’s sounds were sampled from real kits using a variety of mics to capture both the ‘direct’ sounds of the drums and room ambiences, with articulations varying from simple hits to flams, rimshots, sidesticks and edge hits.
Couple that with detailed multisampling of many velocity layers, and the result is something that’s far beyond what you get from a traditional drum machine.
Visually, BFD2 is totally different to BFD. With so many new features – including a new ‘proper’ audio mixer, analogue-modelled effects and a new groove page and palette system – there’s clearly been more than a little tinkering.
Add to this the brand new ten-kit, 55GB library (all recorded at George Martin’s famous AIR Lyndhurst studio), and backwards compatibility with the previous version (including the expansions), and things are looking very promising.
As you’d expect, BFD2 has a much-improved workflow. With five main pages (Kit, Mixer, Grooves, Mapping and Preferences) accessible from the top bar, even the advanced features aren’t buried.
As you’d expect, whole kits and individual pieces can be loaded, edited and auditioned from the main Kit page – you can even load and map your own multisamples, should you wish. Kit size is now variable, with 10-, 18- or even 32-piece options. There are extensive bleed controls and piece-specific feed levels split into Overheads, Room and Ambience 3 sections, while new kits include two Ludwig classics (Ringo Starr’s Blue Oyster and John Bonham’s Vistalite) as well as contributions from Gretsch, DW, Pearl and Pork Pie. You’ll also find bonus snares, such as Ludwig’s Black Beauty.
FXpansion’s purist approach to recording, using unprocessed signals, has resulted in a flexible library that sounds both clean and consistent. You may have to process the sounds in the same way you would with a live kit, but the great thing is that you have the added benefit of the ambience from AIR Lyndhurst’s recording room.
The mixer page includes up to four inserts and sends per channel and a flexible bus routing system, so creating processed sub-mixes is easy. Factor in the option to render all audio channels to individual files and you’re much more in control. In essence, you can use BFD2 in whatever way suits you.
Groove Engine and FX
If you’re not a drummer and don’t fancy bluffing your way through, BFD2’s new Groove Engine should be of major interest. Now sporting a drum grid editor with features including velocity, quantise, snap, swing and audition, operation will be instantly familiar to many users.
You can load multiple key-mapped grooves in the form of ‘Palettes’, or load individual grooves direct from the library of over 5000. These can be edited, mixed and matched to the point where you can even build new patterns by cherry-picking elements such as kick and snare parts from different grooves (full auditioning within the browser really helps with this).
Full drum tracks can be built from grooves either using BFD2’s dedicated drum track or by dragging parts into your host arrangement. You can also import and export as MIDI.
If you’re after realism, BFD2’s Groove FX feature can help. This includes a non-destructive set of tools, including Quantise, Q swing, Simplify, Compress, Weight, Humanise velocity and Humanise timing. Each lets you apply a percentage value to the existing groove parameters, affecting the tightness, complexity, variation and delivery of rhythms.
Still on a realism tip, there’s also a similar set of features for kit sounds. These range from simple ‘detail’ preferences that affect how many sample velocity layers get loaded, to variation preferences, such as the anti-‘machine gun effect’ mode. Plus, on the main kit page are Master Dynamics and Humanise parameters.
BFD2 is bigger, better and more professional than v1.5. But even so, there are a few things to consider.
If you opt for the full 55GB install (you’re given three size options), the number of available velocity layers means that kit patches can be very large, which means you need lots of RAM and a bit of patience when loading. If you don’t like this, consider curtailing the velocity layers in the preferences.
Furthermore, although FXpansion has done some good work with the mixer and effects, we found the interface to be a little fiddly
At well over £200, BFD2 certainly isn’t cheap, but if you’re upgrading from v1.5, just over £100 effectively gets you a completely new library as well as the updated plug-in, which is a very good deal indeed.