The story o f the BeatBuddy ($349 direct) is one indication why I am not trusted with investment portfolios, foretelling the future, or becoming a mini Richard Branson. I saw the BeatBuddy demo at the January 2014 NAMM show, and I thought, “Cute. A drum machine in a stompbox. Fun. Sounds good. Nice.” And then I was off and running to other exhibit booths—not dismissive, but not super jazzed, either. After all, many guitar multi-effects pedals have included basic drum machines for years.
Well, I completely missed the fact that the devil is always in the details, and new and better ways to do the same-old things are usually celebrated.
In the case of the BeatBuddy, a massive number of musicians lusted after it in a musicworld- changing way. Just before NAMM, on December 16, 2013, Singular Sound posted a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo, hoping to raise $75,000. The company hit the goal in one day, and ultimately went on to collect $349,037, becoming the most successful crowd-funding campaign for a musical accessory ever.
And then there’s the actual sales impact...
The first BeatBuddys sold out. Gone. The next production run had, at press time, sold 4,948 units out of an available 5,000. It’s possible that when this issue hits the newsstands around November 25, 2014, you won’t be able to get a BeatBuddy until 2015.
The BeatBuddy is the monster smash hit that I never saw coming. Don’t ever ask me if your song is a “sure thing,” or if your favorite sports team will go on to wear championship rings.
But let’s jettison the marketing stats and look at the form and function. As a musical device, the BeatBuddy is still pretty monstrous. The stompbox configuration is genius for anyone wanting a compact drum machine on their pedalboard, and the chassis and treadle are gig tough. I stomped all over that sucker and never had a fail. The pedal, control knobs, and rubber selector switches are very robust, but the SD card—where all the drum patches are stored—is somewhat exposed and vulnerable. Removing the card and storing it in a safe place before transport could be a show saver.
Operation is very simple and intuitive—well, once you read the Quick Start Guide. The display is large enough to be seen from the floor during performance, unless (like me) you need reading glasses. All the information you need is readily at hand: song name, song style, time signature, the part being played, the current drum set, volume, and tempo, and a moving bar shows where the beat is in the measure. For spontaneous types, changes on the fly are a breeze— just tap in a tempo, twist a knob for Volume, Drum Set, or Tempo, or push a button (to scroll through menus). An optional footswitch can take some of the punishment away from the pedal itself and also expand your parameter options. The included BeatBuddy Manager software gives you access to updates and user content, and lets you create your own songs using MIDI files, as well as your own drum kits utilizing WAV files. A headphone jack (and dedicated Volume knob) is great for auditioning songs and drum kits before you hit the stage.
All of this is for naught, of course, if the core reason for the BeatBuddy—the drum kits— suck as bad as the drummer in your first garage band. They don’t. You get ten different kits created by Goran Grooves (including hand drum!), and every single one of them sounds as good as a hit record—they are realistic, dimensional, and impactful. And most musicians won’t find a need to go beyond the BeatBuddy’s 200 preloaded songs, as they accommodate practically every song arrangement imaginable.
Man, I so missed the boat on this one. The BeatBuddy is an awesome groove tool for all musicians. And it fits into a coat pocket. How did I not get this?
Kudos Easy to operate. Good drum sounds. Versatile. Updatable.