If you are a gearhead like some of us, then you just love to try out new equipment. While we have done a fair amount of that, it’s safe to say we’ve never tested a product that is as innovative as BeatBuddy.
BeatBuddy is the world’s first guitar pedal drum machine. It’s shape is similar to other popular stomp boxes that you might see on a pedal board, and the inline capabilities will allow this pedal-shaped gem to become an integral part of anyone’s setup. Let’s say your drummer is late for band practice, but you like to warm up with a drummer. Most of us wouldn’t normally bring a drum machine to practice, and they can be cumbersome — especially when you compare one to BeatBuddy, nestled comfortably in it’s place on your board. That’s where this powerful little pedal comes into play. Just step on it and you have a realistic sounding drummer to play along with. Bonus: it won’t drink all of your beer at practice.
But don’t get the wrong idea, because this stomp box is not just for guitarists or bassists. It will be a great recording or practice tool for vocalists and horn players as well.
Just stomp on it and you’ll have many, many songs at the tip of your feet. The BeatBuddy comes with over ten drum sets and more than two hundred songs, with the promise of more becoming available for download soon. The BeatBuddy is intuitive and easy to use right out of the box. If you do know how to program beats, you can easily load your onto the BeatBuddy as MIDI files. It’s simple and user-friendly.
We were easily able to switch to between several drumbeats, from jazz and blues shuffles to rock and metal and several stops in between. One of the great features is the “fills” capability; after the song is playing you simply step on the pedal to trigger any one of a number of pre-programmable fills to match the song you’ll be playing. Another cool and essential feature is the transition function: Hold the pedal down during the song and you’ll go into a transition that makes for a solid turnaround. The BeatBuddy keeps perfect time, so even if you step on the pedal a bit early, it won’t go into the transition until it’s supposed to.
There is also a secondary footswitch that allows you additional control of the beat by a quick step on the button. One tap on the right button will give you the option to either pause or un-pause the song. If no song is playing at the time, a tap on the right button advances to the next song. A tap on the left button on the footswitch will allow you to add any sound such as a cymbal, handclap or cowbell and it can be programmed to be different for each part of the song.
The ease of operation of the footswitch is a fundamental positive, placing everything a musician needs right in front of them. Any guitarist that’s familiar with operating a simple A/B switch should have no problem utilizing this added feature. We’d also add that same comment about the entire unit, as is operates like most guitar pedals but you won’t need to be a guitar player to quickly master the footswitch.
Visually speaking, the BeatBuddy has a sleek design with the tap button and knobs placed in optimal locations for easy access. The digital display conveniently shows the player what’s going on with the beat, which will allow the user to improve their rhythm and/or learn new time signatures.
The BeatBuddy probably sounds best when played through a high quality sound system in-stereo, but we found plugging straight into the amp gave us the desired quality of sound for practice. It did not cause feedback at higher volumes. One of the most interesting and exciting things about the BeatBuddy that sets it apart from a standard drum machine: the beats sound just like they would as if they were played live on a kit. This is not the hollow and artificial sounds that most drums machines produce.
The BeatBuddy can be plugged into an amp, PA system, home stereo, computer, headphones, or anything that can accept either 1/4″ (6.35 mm) or 1/8″ (3.5 mm) input cables. While some amplifiers do not produce full-range sound and clip the higher frequencies, we didn’t experience any major loss of sound quality at higher levels. That said, when plugged into the home stereo system, it did increase the quality, so we’d recommend doing that if you have that resource. A line out to a PA system would also likely sound powerful as well.
Obviously, this is a piece of equipment that is going to be quite popular. In fact, it already is. The buzz created by the IndieGoGo campaign made it the highest grossing campaign ever for a musical accessory, bringing in a whopping $349,256 of the initial $75,000 goal. For those of you that like math, BeatBuddy raised 466% of their goal, which means the company was able to create a powerful, exciting, durable product. When it debuted at NAMM, the fan fair surrounding this little gizmo had drummers worldwide wondering if they’ll be out of job. Well-known instrumentalist, songwriter and record producer Todd Rundgren came to see the Beat Buddy at NAMM after having read the online buzz. “I love that thing!” said Rundgren. “I should have invented it!”
The BeatBuddy is not just some random piece of equipment that was slightly improved upon; rather it is a brilliant stand alone unit and a soon-to-be vital part of any pedal board set-up or practice space. All the technical details aside, this is an extremely fun gadget to play with, although the word “gadget” most certainly does not do it justice.
The BeatBuddy will sell for $349 in retail outlets worldwide starting in August 2014. Currently, the BeatBuddy is available for pre-order, and the first 2500 pre-orders will receive a $100 discount off the retail price. BeatBuddy will ship pre-ordered pedals before they ship to stores.