In the ever-evolving world of music production, having access to high-quality virtual instruments and sound libraries is crucial. Drum programming, in particular, plays a fundamental role in shaping the rhythm and feel of a song.
Enter BFD Player by BFD, a remarkable piece of free software that offers an impressive array of features and customisation options for drum enthusiasts.
This VST plugin, whilst basic in its core form, delivers a surprising amount of versatility and functionality, making it a valuable addition to any music-maker or producer’s toolkit.
In this comprehensive review, I will delve into the world of BFD Player, exploring its features, sound quality, and overall usability.
What is BFD?
BFD, short for “Big F***ing Drums,” is a company that has been a driving force in the world of drum programming software since its formation in 2003.
With nearly two decades of experience under its belt, BFD has continuously provided innovative drum programming solutions that have significantly shaped the music production landscape.
The company’s unwavering commitment to delivering high-quality drum sounds and virtual instruments has earned it a solid reputation among musicians, producers, and audio engineers worldwide.
Who is This Plugin For?
You might be wondering who this plugin is best suited for, and the answer is that it can be used in a number of different ways.
Drummers Looking to Upgrade Their E-Kit Sounds
If you’re a drummer who frequently uses e-kits to practise their parts, BFD Player can seamlessly integrate into your setup and can improve the sounds produced from your electronic drum set.
Simply connect your e-kit to your preferred digital audio workstation (DAW) and use BFD Player to trigger any sounds from the available presets.
Producers Looking for a Variety of Drum Sounds
Additionally, if like me you are a music producer and songwriter, this plugin is a great tool to add to your arsenal, with a variety of sounds available allowing for a large variety of styles.
It has an intuitive interface, diverse range of presets, and powerful mixing capabilities make it an excellent choice for musicians, producers, and beat makers looking to get creative quickly.
How Does the BFD Player Work?
BFD Player serves as the foundational version of the BFD Drums product line. It operates with a Core Pack, and users can expand their sound library by purchasing additional packs tailored to their preferences and needs.
For now, the “London 70’s” and “Dark Mahogany” expansions are available, and I envision more on the horizon. These expansions sound fantastic and I’ll explore these in greater depth later on in the review.
One of the standout features of BFD Player is the diverse range of presets available.
With 14 presets in total, you’re able to explore a multitude of sonic possibilities spanning different genres and eras.
The plugin interface is thoughtfully organised into three main sections, each offering a unique set of functionalities:
Drum Visualization Window
This section provides a visually immersive experience, displaying an image of the entire drum kit. When using this window, I found that I was able to easily trigger individual drum sounds, such as the kick, snare, cymbals, and more, allowing for quick and easy sampling of the available tones.
In addition to the functionality of this window, I also found that I liked the aesthetic of the drum-kit housed in a lush studio, which made the whole experience feel more immersive.
Often when programming drums, it can be easy to feel detached from the idea of a drummer physically performing on a kit – as that is often what I want to replicate, this visualization helps a ton and for someone who’s creative juices are set off by visuals as well as sounds, it is the perfect way to get me in the mood for creating solid drum parts.
The mixing window allowed me to fine-tune the drum sounds of my chosen preset by adjusting the levels of individual kit pieces and applying various effects.
I was able to individually solo and mute individual pieces of the kit, which is useful if perhaps you just want to use the particular snare sound or reverb send of a kit in your production.
Additionally, I really enjoyed using the sliding knobs situated directly above the mix window, with parameters directly correlated to the chosen preset including Attack, Compression, Delay Time etc.
I found this section to be valuable in helping me fine tune my drum sound and for tailoring the drums to suit whatever production I was working on..
The groove window is well-organized and user-friendly, making it effortless to browse and audition the available MIDI patterns.
In the groove window, I was able to access and trigger different MIDI grooves. These grooves are conveniently categorised, making it effortless to find the right rhythm for your musical project. This feature enhances creativity and streamlines the beat-making process.
In addition to the above 3 main sections, on the left-hand side of the interface, I was able access a variety of presets, each labelled with names indicative of their sound characteristics.
These presets not only impact the sound but also affect the underlying mixing parameters and the reverb and effects settings in the mixing window, which can be further adjusted to taste.
This feature is particularly handy when exploring different kits, as I was able to quickly sample the sounds of different presets in a variety of tempos and rhythms.
How Does it Sound?
“80’s Lover“, the first preset listed, lives up to its name by delivering a Phil Collins-esque drum sound reminiscent of the 1980s. I felt that it captured the essence of the era perfectly, and if you wanted to write something in this vein, it would be an easy choice for me in reaching for this preset.
In contrast, “Dry Pop” offers a raw and unprocessed drum sound. This preset is perfect for those seeking a more low-fi and natural drum sound, making it a versatile choice.
It’s clear how much painstaking attention to detail and effort has gone into capturing the tones included with these kits.
The mixing window plays a pivotal role in shaping the sound of the preset. As previously mentioned, one standout feature is the ability to adjust various preset-dependent parameters such as attack, compression etc., allowing for further fine-tuning of the drum’s dynamics.
I would have liked to have seen these parameters universal across all presets, but my guess is BFD have endeavoured to tailor this plugin to those who want quick and easy access to read-made sounds, and one way of doing that is under-the-hood mixing so that chosen presets are already tailored for ease of use.
When it comes to the individual tracks below, it also would have been beneficial to have the option to add reverb separately, rather than it being integrated into the presets.
Having said that, considering that BFD Player is free software designed for ease of use, it’s no surprise that there would be some streamlining of usability, and compromises are to be expected.
I also found the groove window to be particularly useful in combating any kind of writer’s block I and many others are likely to suffer from, allowing me to easily try different ready made grooves in my production, seeing what would work and sometimes spurring on new ideas as well.
BFD Player Expansion Packs
Right now the BFD player has two expansion packs on offer, which are both awesome sounding and exceptionally good value at around $30 each. These two expansion packs are called “London 70’s” and ‘Dark Mahogany’.
London 70’s contains 2.8GB of samples and Dark Mahogany is close to 10GB, and both expansions sound fantastic in their own right.
While I enjoy both expansions, I think I prefer the tones of the Dark Mahogany kit. The drums in this pack exude a rich and warm tonality that’s perfect for rock and a variety of other genres.
I’m thrilled to share my experience with the BFD Dark Mahogany expansion. This Q Drums Mahogany drum set sounds phenomenal and brings an incredible presence and warmth to your music.
This expansion brings a beautifully resonant, warm sound that perfectly suits a wide range of genres, from rock and blues to more radio-friendly pop.
Also included with this expansion you receive 348 individual grooves which you can use for creative inspiration and songwriting.
This kit has a dark and distinctive character, with deep and woody tones that pack a huge punch and are totally suitable for modern rock, pop, metal, grunge, and hardcore.
The drums were superbly recorded at Middle Farm Studios in South Devon, England, and this is a studio I’m personally familiar with as I’ve recorded there before. They have top tier microphones and preamps, and the room itself sounds incredible.
The Q-Mahogany kit of the BFD Dark Mahogany expansion includes the following shells:
- 24”x18” Mahogany Kick Drum
- 18”x16” Mahogany Floor Tom
- 16”x16” Mahogany Floor Tom
- 13”x10” Mahogany Rack Tom
- 14”x7” Aluminium Snare
- 14”x6.5” Ludwig 402 Snare
The kick and toms sound thunderous and huge, and one of the highlights for me are the Zildjian K Sweet cymbals included, which totally complement the drum shells, adding a superb dynamic quality to the overall sound.
Whether you’re producing rock, metal, or any genre that demands powerful, expressive and punchy drums, the BFD Dark Mahogany expansion pack delivers a truly authentic and professional sound that will elevate your music production.
The London 70’s kit has an unmistakable John Bonham vibe, as it’s recorded with his Led Zeppelin cymbal set up and drum kit, with Paiste 2002 series cymbals and a Ludwig Vistalite kit to match.
The drums have a brighter and snappier sound compared to the Dark Mahogany expansion. These drums would fit right in for any classic rock song, or also for progressive rock and hard rock.
The Ludwig kit of the BFD London 70’s expansion includes the following shells:
- Ludwig Vistalite Kick Of Doom
- Ludwig Black Oyster Snare 402 Supraphonic
- Ludwig Vistalite Mid Tom
- Ludwig Vistalite Floor Tom
- Ludwig Vistalite Floor Tom 2
There are six main kit presets to choose from which all sound quite varied. For example, ‘Do Not Fear’ has a very crispy and snappy sound, while ‘Explosive’ has a warmer and punchier sound.
My favorite is the ‘Original Mix’ kit, which totally embodies the classic 70’s Bonham sound with pounding, resonant drums that are big and roomy. I also really enjoy the ‘When The Zeppo Breaks’ which is similar, but even more cavernous and huge sounding!
In conclusion, BFD Player by BFD is a remarkable piece of software that offers an impressive array of features and customization options, especially considering it’s available for free.
I also loved both the Dark Mahogany and London 70’s expansions, and I’d definitely recommend investing in these, especially at their extremely affordable price point.
For those seeking a versatile and easy-to-use drum VST without breaking the bank, BFD Player is a top recommendation. It provides a solid foundation for drum programming and opens up a world of possibilities for music production.
BFD’s long-standing reputation for excellence in the world of drum programming software is upheld by BFD Player.
Download it today and explore the vast potential of BFD Player by BFD Drums. Whether you’re a seasoned producer or just starting your musical journey, BFD Player has something to offer, and it’s ready to help you bring your drum tracks to life.