BKE The Beat Thang 1.3.0 Portable Production Studio Review
The Beat Thang Mobile Production Studio by Beat Kangz is a portable music-creation device which allows users to arrange and manipulate the pre-loaded samples, drum kits, and instruments to create beats in the studio as well as on-the-go. The Beat Thang is advertised as the “worlds first fully portable mobile production studio”, allowing producers to craft beats without the need for a computer or external power. This review will focus on the new Beat Thang 1.3.0 update which provides a hardware and software with a nice refresh that makes the Beat Thang even more powerful by leveraging more processing efficiencies for a smoother operation.
Review Video & Demo
Setup & First Impressions
The Beat Thang has been out on the market for a few years now and we reviewed the original setup here. The 1.3.0 update also comes with a thousand more sounds to add to the 3,000 sounds and samples that are already on-board. Users can also purchase additional sound packs from BKE by well-known producers and audio engineers to further expand their sound library.
The first impressions of the Beat Thang was a welcomed surprise. After seeing all the publications and videos of the device, I thought that the Beat Thang would be made of plastic and a quite large machine. I was very happy to find that the Beat Thang was made of a completely metal chassis and was compact enough to fit inside of any small bag or carry case. It’s only 11 inches wide, 9 inches long, and 2 inches thick making the Beat Thang a truly mobile production studio that you can take with you anywhere to start making beats.
This small machine is built like a tank. It’s pretty heavy and definitely built to last. The heaviness of The Beat Thang is expected as there is an internal battery which allows it to be used without being connected to a wall socket for power. When using The Beat Thang in Battery Mode, the outputs were all still the same in terms of volume and the user has the option to adjust the button and screen light-levels to get maximum play-time between charges. I was able to get almost four full hours of use out of the Beat Thang while using adequate light levels. There’s also a Blue LED light in the front of the Beat Thang that really looks cool when in use.
All of the buttons on the Beat Thang have a cool Blue LED illumination to them and they are all rubberized in feel. There are 13 oversized pad buttons that are situated in a Piano-Key style layout that are used for drumming and triggering samples and sounds. These buttons are velocity sensitive and they feel really good to the touch. They always register a “hit” no matter where the pad is pressed and the sensitivity can be adjusted in the setup menu so that the pad reacts just right to the touch. The only minor gripe I could find with the pads is that they are not situated in the traditional four-by-four Pad layout that some producers and beat-makers may be familiar with.
On the left side of the Beat Thang is the Pitch control and on the right side is the MOD control. There’s a Tempo button in between pads three and six which allow the user to TAP the BPM of the track. There’s the Play/Stop/Record buttons, track cue buttons, navigation buttons and Menu buttons to easily set the different modes and properties. Towards the top of the machine is the color screen which can be used to navigate through the thousands of sounds, record/playback track view, setting parameters, and even waveform editing. The screen is nice and bright and everything is easily legible. There are four hard white buttons directly underneath the screen which change function dependent upon which mode the Beat Thang is in. To the left of the screen there are buttons to call up Instrument Kits, Drum Kits, Patterns, or songs. On the right side of the screen are the on-board effects which include Freak, Delay, Verb, Bang, and Blang.
There are two oversized knobs on either side of the screen with have a nice feel to them which are perfect for navigating through the many options on the screen. Each knob has two hard plastic navigation arrow buttons underneath them to change other on-screen parameters.
Around the back there are the inputs and outputs along with USB connections for various uses. There’s two SD card slots and a USB hard-drive connection for importing and exporting songs and sounds. There’s also a USB connection to connect the Beat Thang to a computer so that you can use it as a MIDI controller for any production software. Next there is a MIDI IN and MIDI OUT along with a TRS footswitch port. There are two ¼-inch Headphone outputs which is a cool feature for collaborative work. There’s also another set of ¼-inch L/R outputs and a single TRS/XLR combo input with a volume control knob. I’m a bit disappointed in the overall number of inputs and outputs as some other competitive machines on the market often have more input and output options to connect many more devices. The small number of connections, however, also aid in the portability of the Beat Thang overall.
The Setup of the Beat Thang is really easy. All one has to do to start making beats is simply turn it on… Once a user knows the sound module they want to use, then they can select the sound module while in the pattern menu to start sequencing a beat from scratch using the available tracks. The Beat Thang also comes with a download slip with a key to download the additional 1000 sounds and the desktop software which mimics the Beat Thang on-board layout perfectly.
The Beat Thang comes with over three thousand different sounds and samples along with hundreds of beats, patterns, and loops already pre-installed. With the new 1.3.0 update, users will get an Additional 1,000 sounds when the device is registered online. Users can also purchase additional sound modules from BKE if a user needs more than what are already there. The on-board sampler is great and allows you to waveform edit right on the screen. The Real-time Sequencer can be used to create patterns on the fly using quantize, swing, and individual bar lengths that can all be connected later to make a complete song. The Beat Thang has 16 tracks to record and playback at one time and they are all easily accessible using the small eight track buttons and the 9/16 button which changes them to the next eight tracks. Each of these 16 tracks can be individually exported to the software/DAW of choice using the USB cable or an SD card or USB drive. You can also import new sounds and kits from your computer, SD card slot, or USB drive as well. The Beat Thang also has an on-board Mixer with built in FX, Change track controls, drum pads, and pan levels.
The Beat Thang has excellent sound quality. All of the instruments and drum kits really sound almost perfect to my ears. You can really hear the instrument as if it was playing in the room with you. I’m not an audiophile by any means, but everything running through the Beat Thang just sounds like real studio-grade quality all around. It’s also great to see the mod and pitch wheels on either side of the Beat Thang. These allow you to tweek the sound output as you are tapping on the pads. This makes it great for live jam sessions.
The Beat Thang also comes with a great program that allows you to craft beats on the computer. The Beat Thang has a MIDI mode that works perfectly with the software so that a user can use all of the pads and functions of the Beat Thang while using the computer screen for easy file navigation and track views. The layout of this program is EXACTLY like what is found on the Beat Thang except there is a lot more screen real estate which makes it a bit easier to locate the sounds and synths we were looking for. This makes it very easy to bounce back and forth from the portable Beat Thang back over to the computer for finishing touches.
We found the installation to be simple and the program ran fast and never crashed on a relatively new computer. The only notable difference we found is from within the software you can choose what patterns, kits, sounds, and songs using a folder-style set up at the left side of your screen. For people like me who are accustomed to this organization, it is helpful to select my sounds in this familiar format rather than cycle through them using a knob on the device.
Conclusion / Recommended For
In Conclusion, The Beat Kangz Beat Thang Portable Production Studio is a very formidable beat machine for anyone who is interested in making Hip-Hop or EDM style music in a full studio setup while also being able to take their work with them on the go. The Beat Thang has a very sturdy build quality and definitely feels like it is built to last. The Beat Thang is the only serious beat machine that is completely portable, battery-operation, and wireless in operation. The Beat Thang comes with over 4000 sounds and samples to get you started and it was very easy to start making beats quickly. The one-button operation makes it a breeze to import/export beats to and from other programs and the companion Beat Thang computer software works great.
On the downside, there are a limited number of inputs and outputs on the back which may limit the number of additional devices the user can connect at one time, and the 13-performance drum pads are situated in a non-standard layout where many users are used to the 16-pad four-by-four layout instead.
If these minor issues don’t affect your beat-making process, then the Beat Thang Portable Production Studio is highly recommended by the DJbooth.net team and with the recent price-drop from $1500 to $800 makes the Beat Thang an even more competitive and attractive offer than ever before.
Pros & Cons
- Sturdy & Solid Metal Build Quality
- Completely Portable, Battery Operated, & Wireless Operation
- Comes with over 4000 Sounds & Samples
- Very Easy To Start Making Beats Quickly
- Easy to Import/Export to and from your Favorite DAW Program
- Companion Beat Thang Computer Software Works Great
- Non-Standard Performance Pad Layout
- Limited Input & Output Options