Bitmi USB MIDI Drum Pad by Arthur Stone
Introducing...the Bitmi MIDI Drum Pad: This is a 7" single drumpad that acts as a controller (note, gate, velocity) for VSTi instruments/apps via MIDI>USB. The drumpad is set into a laquered wooden base (black, red, or green) with embedded push-button +/- controls for MIDI note.
The Bitmi connects to a computer or iOS device (Apple Camera Connection Kit required). No app (thankfully!). Basically, class-compliant, plug and play, with no extra drivers required. The Bitmi has no onboard sounds; these are generated in your device's VST instrument or mobile drum app.
Each Bitmi is hand-finished and calibrated by Diego Leroux in Buenos Aries, Argentina: it is well-designed and built from quality materials and the review unit was presented in a very nice padded waterproof case with 6ft USB cable.
Order direct from Bitmi's online shop.
Price: $129 Bitmi $149 Bitmi + Deluxe waterproof case
Everything is Rhythm: From the moment we are born we encounter rhythm...even before, in the womb. Primary rhythm cycles are sleep and awakeness, later day and night. The rhythm of social contact; the parents attention. Feeding. Later the seasons, the days, weeks, months and years.
There are natural environmental cycles: the sun, moon, and stars; and cultural/social cycles: events, rituals, gatherings.
Everything has periodicity. Rhythm.
In Use: I'm not a drummer; don't have a drum kit. I don't have the experience or natural talent required to play professionally. I do recognise a good beat though and anything that can enable me to achieve that is welcome.
Despite the single pad surface zone I was able to exploit the velocity (0-127) via the DAW drum VST: for example, round-robin closed hi-hat (0-40) with an open hi-hat when the pad is hit hard (41-80); or round-robin snare hits with a rim hit at higher velocity (81-127).
With practice I was able to work with 3 or 4 separate triggers based on splitting the 0-127 velocity signal.
Another technique is to use the +/- buttons to switch MIDI note e.g. closed hi-hat then a button push to the open hi-hat and back for the next closed hit.
After a couple of hours I managed to get a convincing feel on snare, hi-hat and ride cymbals; the Bitmi workflow produced VST drums more akin to live acoustic drums than other pad controllers I'd previously used.
With hardware: I decided to hook the Bitmi up as a controller for my beloved Moog SubPhatty; as a tweakable analogue monosynth with snappy envelopes it is well-suited to tuned synth percussion.
The Bitmi cannot directly control a synth or drum module like a drum trigger: it's gate, note and velocity data are converted onboard to MIDI.
I connected the Bitmi's MIDI output to the DAW via USB cable and then connected the SubPhatty to the DAW via USB for MIDI input; the audio out was sent into a Warm 76 compressor and a Lexicon MPX110 fx unit, and then routed into a stereo DAW track. I connected a Roland EV-5 controller pedal to the SubPhatty's CV Filter input (and alternatively, the CV Note input).
Soon I was riffing in the style of Didgeridoo by Aphex Twin: the tuned drum (the note selected on the Bitmi) with the filter (or note) on the pedal. The velocity layers of the Bitmi worked well with the Moog's filter and resonance, and snappy envelopes, and quite nuanced tones could be achieved.
Hand drumming worked well and often I could just use the left hand freeing the right to tweak the SubPhatty's console in realtime.
With imagination, Bitmi can become a unique performance tool. I honestly had a lot of fun with the hardware synth connected but the same methods can apply to VST synths too and of course ITB there are many advanced connection tools available.
With ITB VST synth: With the input velocity controlling oscillator pitch in Propellerhead's Thor synth I was able to play tuned hand drums based on how hard I hit the pad and where I hit the pad (the pad edge requiring more pressure to trigger than the centre).
Most synth drum presets have interesting velocity layers if you don't have time to create your own but with imagination the Bitmi allows for unique possibilities with complex synths.
From the Gearslutz review perspective the Bitmi should be of as much interest to synthesists as drummers and percussionists.
Bang the Gong: I used Vic Firth American Classic 2B Hickory sticks - naked and also with pads on. Fingertips and palm strikes/slaps worked well (the pad surface feels good to the touch) but less success with Meinl nylon brushes.
Underneath the unit is a small recessed screw that adjusts the sensitivity of the pad (in relation to velocity or how hard the pad is hit); this was simple to adjust with around one turn either way from mid and it is a useful range: I turned the screw a quarter to the left and the brushes could now be used although not to their full potential in terms of expressivity. Finger drumming benefitted from the increased sensitivity of the pad e.g. with tuned drums.
The tipper or beater - normally used with a bodhran drum worked very well. This type of beater is short (around half the size of a drum stick and is double-headed and can produce fast beats by swivelling the beater from the central axis. This worked superbly and I ended up using two beaters (left and right hands) which suited the pad size better than the full-sized sticks. The Bitmi also kept up with the speed playing.
The beaters worked well with gongs and tuned percussion: with some imagination it's possible to create breathtaking soundscapes with a lot of nuance and control.
The pad seemed more reactive in the middle which worked well with the velocity e.g. rim hit sample at low-velocity with high-velocity clean hits in the middle.
Whilst the Bitmi hardware itself has no sound or a neutral sound, equally it doesn't sound offensive or clunky or rattle; even with high-velocity use it is remarkably robust, stable and supported by the design and component/material quality. The Bitmi feels good to hold and feel.
The wooden base is in 2 sections: the hexagonal base and circular pad surround. No sharp edges or snags. The (red) laquered finish is high-quality and available in a range of colours or natural wood and the finish is smooth and tough. The laquer allows some of the underlying wood's character to come through.
Bitmi in action: The Bitmi is capably demonstrated in the video below:
More examples at the Bitmi Youtube channel.
Some audio examples of the Bitmi with a Moog SubPhatty:
Bitmi whales vs krill
Bitmi Future Sound of Cars
Bitmi crow vs gull
Pro's: A reactive, plausible drum controller. Pad is quiet under duress; no rattles or plastic tubiness. Allows the user to approximate traditional acoustic and electronic drum performances; also a gateway to new methods of sound creation and performance.
Con's: None. There must be some latency (system-dependent) but I never noticed any.
Conclusion: The Bitmi connects the user to the rhythm of life: at the desktop; on sofa, or on a proper drum rig or percussion set. On the bus (powered), at the beach, or anywhere connected to a computer device. Small, portable, comfortable, effective.
The obvious limitation of one physical hit zone turns out to be less significant given the wide capability and nuance the Bitmi is capable of. Once I got going I never thought: 'wish it had another pad' - another Bitmi? Yes - but I liked the single focus the Bitmi allowed. Using the Bitmi as a creative and performance tool I discovered new ways to use existing instruments and create unique sounds from familiar instruments.
The Bitmi is the product of craftsmanship in the modern age; hand-assembled and calibrated by a drummer with passion and experience. A drum controller made by a drummer...
For my part, with the Bitmi I felt a bit more like a drummer...more authentic...and that translated into the drum track and mix too.
Sound Quality: 5/5 I judged this on how well the Bitmi triggered the instruments and the level of detail and nuance that could be extracted. Physically, the pad and frame is relatively silent but it is a 'good silence' rather than an annoying environmental sound in the room...like a typewriter or knitting needles clacking. Silent enough for live tracking scenarios.
Features: 5/5 Simple, effective feature set; stress-free operation. Good ergonomics. The pad and frame feel solid even when stand-mounted. The pad accepts a variety of beaters and sticks or hands. The sensitivity is adjustable.
Ease of use: 5/5 Super-quick set-up and install. Allows user to focus on performance. Not distracting. Tactile. Feels good in the hand. Suitable for classic drum styles or experimentation: any VST instruments can be triggered e.g. synths.
Bang-for-buck: 5/5 Price-wise, Bitmi sits between noisy, cheap tat and high-end, alarmingly-expensive multi-zone pads. If Bitmi didn't have a first-class build quality and materials (and such a good vibe) then it could be considered too costly - but the clincher is the playability.