Rob Papen Punch BD – The Knockout Punch
Rob Papen Punch-BD VSTi Review
Hello again, and welcome to our review of Rob Papen’s latest virtual instrument, Punch-BD. For those living under a rock, Rob Papen is one of the high-end virtual synth designers well known for creating fully featured and contemporary products. Punch-BD is no exception to the rule, he has taken what might be a very simple instrument and turned it into a monster with wide bloodshot eyes and drooling fangs.
Punch-BD is purely a bass drum, or kick drum synthesiser. There are no strings or pads here, just kick. Immediately I’ve lost probably 80% of my audience, but please hang in here – you’ll see, it will be worth it.
Punch-BD is the single-instrument version of Punch, their fully featured drum machine. Where Punch-BD works is Rob presumes everyone has a drum machine of some description and offers this focused version for the most important aspect, the kick. Anybody creating EDM will tell you the kick is the most important element in your beat, getting it right will either make or break your song. Punch-BD gives you all the tools to really hone in and make incredibly powerful and even interesting kick drums and effects – but it’s no walk in the park. There is a lot to learn here, especially if you are new to synthesis you might spend most of your time browsing presets, which would be a shame as Punch-BD is begging to have its knobs and sliders twiddled with.
At $80 NZD this represents good value (Punch is $240), especially compared to the main competition like EZDrummer or Maschine for instance.
Ok sure, it does all your typical 808 and 909 kicks, you can get all the electronic goodies you will ever need for creating pop, hip hop or club bangers. But where I immediately gravitated with Pucnh-BD was the film score and SFX side. The ability to layer multiple samples, each with FX, filters and LFO really got my creative juices flowing. I’ve never been able to find a timpani sound for instance that cut as well as this does. Even laying up Punch-BD with my old version of EastWest Orchestra Gold I got some absolute jaw-dropping, Hans Zimmer film score style orchestral percussion that took epic to a whole new level.
Punch-BD is clearly designed to be used in conjunction with other instruments, and this approach works well in the Reason environment. As for the VST domain, it’s a little more trouble to run multiple instruments. We tested it syncing up with Toontrack EZD2 and EastWest Ministry of Rock, and absolutely no problems – though there is the inevitable CPU performance hit, so if your PC is already pushing the boundaries you might struggle. The ability to stack bass drums is unique to Punch-BD and definitely the reason you would want to look at it, as a stand-alone single kick drum machine this doesn’t make much sense.
Punch-BD could be criticised for turning a fairly simple job of selecting a kick drum into a mammoth task of programming up yet another synth, if this is your first thought then Punch-BD is not for you. If however, your eyes widen at all the creative possibilities being unleashed before you, Punch-BD is a veritable sonic Candyland. If you have ever struggled to get a tight and cutting bass drum sound or spent hours trudging through sample CD libraries looking for the right sound, your prayers have been answered.
There are other alternatives out there, such as Sonic Academy’s ‘Kick’, but nothing we have seen has the level of depth and power of Punch-BD. The layering feature is the party trick, and it’s a good one. Don’t discount this as simply an EDM tool, it works equally well in the film scoring, pop and rock domains. For $80, its a steal, though you will need more if you don’t already have other drum machine software (in which case, you should probably check out Rob’s full Punch, which comes with Punch-BD included).