Beat Thang Review

Mobile production has evolved quite a lot over the years – we’ve certainly come a long way since the first portable multitracks. Even the classic laptop-and-audio interface setup seems dated: today you can use tablet devices and even phones to compose on the move. But when you want tactile interaction, nothing beats a compact device with physical drum pads for triggering samples and getting a groove going. Beat Thang, then, is a sample-based device that falls neatly into this category, and it can be powered from either the mains or its onboard battery.






Small And Bright

Beat Thang has eight sequencing tracks for internal drum kits or instruments; another eight tracks are available for external sequencing via its USB and MIDI ports. On opening the box, the first thing that struck us were its slick, American-muscle-car looks, which are complemented in operation by neon, Tron-like blue lighting (you can set the brightness or switch it off completely if you prefer). Its footprint is about the same as that of an average notebook laptop, but the weight will come as something of a surprise – it’s just under 2.8kg, so relatively heavy. While all this bulk certainly helps to make it feel very solid, you may soon tire of carrying it around.

Beat It

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Getting started was quite easy, and the 3.5-inch TFT screen is utilised well, keeping navigation visually clear. Waveform editing is simple thanks to its DAW-like waveform display. Sample-editing options include reverse, normalise, pitch-shift, time-stretch and auto-chop functionality, so there’s plenty to fix or transform your samples.

Thirteen velocity-sensitive drum pads are arranged in a keyboard-like octave. This makes it easy to play in melodies, but we had to be careful when recording rhythm parts as they’re quite close to each other and very sensitive to the touch.

Around the back is an XLR/line input combi connector. This supplies phantom power for condenser microphones, so vocal work is possible. It’s also a stereo mic input, so with the right lead you could plug in two mics, but there is only one gain control. We recorded in some foley sounds and vocals and the input seems clean and clear enough for professional sample work. A stereo pair of jack outputs will satisfy your monitoring needs, and two headphone outputs are provided – a well thought-out feature that will no doubt encourage collaboration work.

Nearly all processes and pages have a dedicated function button, making it easy to see what options are available. However, a volume dial is omitted; instead, hit a volume button then set the master and headphone outputs. This feels a little clunky given that it’s such an important parameter.

Groove Machine

The unit ships with more than 3,000 samples covering drums, bass, melodies and various other instruments, both acoustic and synthetic. The production quality is quite good and every newcomer will find hours of fun. But many of the presets have amp release times that are way too short, often causing a clicking sound. This can be manually adjusted, but you’d expect more care to have been paid to the preset packs. Similarly, the envelopes are hard to fine-tune for precise sound-shaping. On the plus side, the onboard effects enable you to create a more believable mix of your work and the unit ships with the previously released Beat Thang Virtual, so you can move projects across to a plug-in version in your DAW and vice versa.

Verdict
+ Includes Beat Thang software
+ Onboard effects
+ Dedicated button navigation
+ Video tuition online

– Long boot-up time
– Low accuracy for shaping with amp envelopes

A well-featured mobile production device with attractive looks. Easy to use for sample-based production at home or on the move.

7/10

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