The Beat Thang audio workstation from BKE Technology was unexpectedly one of my favorite pieces of equipment showcased at NAMM 2013, and recently I was afforded the privilege to spend some quality time with one of these incredible drum machines. To call it just a drum machine isn’t quite fair; it’s more of a DAW-in-a-box, providing a compelling and beautiful competitor for Akai’s MPC series and other all-in-one production stations like it.
What originally drew me to the Beat Thang at NAMM was the look of this machine. From its build quality to its aesthetics and ergonomics, this device is just built perfectly. The casing is all metal and thus the device feels very sturdy. The Beat Thang also has a very unique shape and is a pleasure to hold and operate. The blue LED’s look fantastic on the black device, making the buttons and pads really stand out. The pads also feel incredible, which always serves for me as a pretty good indicator of overall build quality. The pads are arranged roughly in the shape of a chromatic keyboard, which really helps for laying down basslines and is also evocative of the TB-303. I also really like the side-mounted pitch and modulation levers – it’s a unique design choice, but it works really well, and I actually prefer this system to the standard top-mounted pitch and modulation wheels!
The Beat Thang comes pre-loaded with over 3,000 samples loaded into hundreds of kits, meaning that you can spend hours, days, or weeks learning and making music with the included sounds. Genres include house, jungle, hip-hop, tech, pop, and many more – though you can make custom kits from any sounds you choose, creating different genres entirely. I was also very impressed by the amount of synth samples stuffed into this machine. You can even flip through up to sixteen layers using the same set of keys – that’s a lot of sound with little effort! Within 15 minutes of opening the box, I already had a custom-designed 4-bar loop going! That said, the menus and interfaces do take some getting used to, so expect to spend some time actually learning how to use the device before you can expect to hear your greatest creations emerge. A number of pre-loaded complete songs also help give you a feel of what this device can do.
The Beat Thang is also incredibly open to absorbing new sounds, whether that be through sampling or by importing audio clips from your computer. BKE has released a LOT of expansion content to help with that, but any wav or aiff file you have on hand will do! All of this means you can get as creative as possible without ever having to worry about running out of sounds.
Now get ready for the insane part – the Beat Thang has an internal battery, which means it is completely portable. Plug in your headphones, pick up your Beat Thang, and you are ready to produce on the plane, on the metro, or on your living room sofa, no strings attached. Never in my life have I seen a device so robust and with so much computing power able to go completely wireless.
The moment I passed by the Beat Thang at NAMM, my life was changed. This audio workstation is a masterpiece in both the auditory and visual arts, and I could easily see this device fitting into my studio workflow. The amount of samples contained within is just incredible, and the high-quality expansion content released by BKE allows for endless creative possibilities that just aren’t as easy to pull off in software with a stack of sample CD’s. Like me, once you see, feel, and experience the BKE Beat Thang, you’ll know you just have to have one.
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