FXpansion Horsepower expansion for BFD3
The long overdue Gretsch kit we’ve all been waiting for has arrived!
Words by Ian V Jones
It’s been long known by us drumming types that Gretsch drum kits are “that” drum sound on thousands of recordings. It doesn’t matter what the drummer plays on stage or what they pose next to in their press shots, you know that there’s a good chance that their next studio session will involve a classic set of Gretsch drums.
Take the Red Hot Chilli Peppers for example. Chad plays Pearl but in the studio, it’s Gretsch all day!! And closer to home (NZ That is) we have the local legends of Ross Burge and Wayne Bell whose Gretschs can be heard on hundreds of classic New Zealand songs! These are in my opinion the drums that most people of a certain age will associate with the sound of a great studio drum sound.
That being said my first question to FXpansion would be, “Why so long!?”
I’ve been a BFD user since the very first release (Somewhere in the early 2000s) but before that I was always trying to create my own layered multi-samples of acoustic drums, using the various samplers I had at the time using various sample CDs, with varying degrees of success. So when FXpansion came along with BFD I thought all my prayers were answered!
And for the most part, they were.
Ok so in all fairness there were always Gretsch drums in the previous BFD libraries the Deluxe Libraries have 2 great kits for example, actually, there may have even been 3!! But I always found that they were just thrown in with the Vistalite kits and the goofy boutique drum sets of all shapes and sizes and weren’t really given their own platform. Personally, I think this is part of a problem I’ve always had with the BFD concept.
BFD is designed by engineers who hire drummers to come in and play these great drums at differing velocities with different sticks, mallets, and brushes, and then use them to put together this amazingly authentic and live-sounding drum performance VST – which is amazing! The thing is, most people; and by people, I mean drummers, engineers and songwriters really only ever wanted one amazing-sounding symphonious set of drums! Or at least a few, rather than a whole drum shop.
I’ve been on numerous writing sessions where we’ve spent hours trying to create the perfect drum setup using the myriad of choices that BFD had on offer when in reality we just wanted that one excellent-sounding kit that would work for just about anything. This is exactly what FXpansion has done with the release of “Horsepower”.
This is the kind of sample library that replicates the sensation of having a drummer turn up to your studio with one really great set of drums, something you could use on a whole record, or if you had the budget for a studio with a real drum room this would definitely be the kit you would head out to buy to fill up said space. Thankfully, BFD has saved you and your bank balance the trouble.
What you get in the Horsepower expansion is a Gretsch 14 x5 ½ snare, a high, mid tom, and floor tom and what looks like a 22” kick Drum (now I’m assuming they’re 10”, 12” and 16” Toms, But they’ve opted for a more vague description obviously) Personally I would have liked more information about the drums, but then I am a bit of a trainspotter when it comes to drumming stuff. They have described this as an “Americana” style kit focusing on a “Country Rock” sound as it were, but don’t let that sway your options too heavily, this is a universally great sounding kit.
In the BFD blurb, they mentioned that everything was recorded through classic microphones and equipment, using ribbon mics for capturing the room ambience and classic recording consoles for that authentic saturated sound. All of which helps to make this kit sound incredible! There are essentially 6 variations on the kit including brushes, and processed and non-processed versions of the drums, all of which sound pretty darn good. There are also cymbals in this pack, Sabian Hi Hats and Zildjian rides and crashes which for the most part match well with the drums, but in reality, they are very much the supporting cast in this ensemble. Included are plenty of choices from the BFD3 content library if these don’t do it for you. Also, accompanying this kit are a number of excellently played midi files to get you in the mood of where this kit originates from.
One thing that I must commend FXxpansion for since the beginning of BFD is its dedication to supporting electronic drum kits. I did a session using a Roland TD20 V-Drum set up the other day triggering the Horsepower sounds and I have to say the results were staggering. As you all probably know the Hi-Hat protocol that Roland uses on its kits is great for triggering their own Hi-Hat sounds in the module but was notoriously bad when triggering an external source. FXpansion has done a great job in working out all the tricky calculations behind this, and the difference in articulation between the onboard Roland HiHat and the BFD hats was negligible.
Horsepower sounded amazing in the tracks, and the translation between performance dynamics and the BFD software played a major part in that. So as an aside, if you have an E-Drum kit but the overly gated, reverbed and generally butchered factory sounds are driving you bonkers then using BFD as an alternate sound source will be a breeze for you.
So although this is by and large a positive review of Horsepower for BFD, I do have a few gripes – and I just want to point out that these gripes are very “Me” centric.
I am a massive fan of the session drummer who turns up to the studio with his or her main drums plus a few options for cymbals and maybe 3 or 4 snares of different sizes and tunings. And no matter what is required for the song, they have that extra component ready to add to the kit, each one different, but still completely matched to the main drum set. I would have liked to have seen a similar mindset with the Horsepower package.
I mean the snare is fine, but rather than having the same snare just tuned differently on each of these kits, how about having a few different snares to choose from in a “Real” studio situation? I really am nitpicking here though, because if you already own BFD then the stock library that accompanies it will have many snares and cymbals for you to mix and match. I just think having a few of my snares and cymbals recorded in the same space as the Horsepower drums would have been a nice touch.
You may have noticed that I have deliberately avoided making any comments about the core BFD3 software. The reason for this is that I’d be here all day harping on about how bloated and over-complicated it is compared to its rivals. I could always use the BFD ECO as I’ve been told this is a more immediately usable stripped-down version of the BFD3 software.
Nonetheless, FXpansion has made what I believe to be their best Add-on pack to date, and I for one will be making this my “Go To” kit for the foreseeable future.
That is of course until they release their next pack with all my personal ideas implemented. I’m ready when you are FXpansion!
for full details, check out the FXpansion website