Audio / Hands-on Review

The Unapologetically Proud Beat Thang


If you take a look at the available groove production sampling workstations, you’ll find a range of instruments that either borrow heavily from classic designs that are more than twenty years old, or you find products that seem like they were made solely for cyborgs. Neither of these approaches has a direct connection with the kind of person who’s interested in making beats for today’s music—none of them, that is, except for the unapologetically proud Beat Thang.

The nomenclature behind Beat Thang reeks of Southern drawl Hip-Hop lingo. It’s manufactured by Beat Kangz Electronics, and there’s a backlit button on its face simply labeled “Blang.” While this approach may be off-putting to some, think of it as a statement of defiance. This machine has thrown out the cold and overly technical terminology associated with electronic music making, and replaced it with casual jargon that successfully makes the product easier to use and understand.

It’s always refreshing when someone goes through the trouble of reimagining a product from scratch, and that’s exactly what Beat Kangz have done with the Beat Thang. For example, the Beat Thang has illuminated pitch and modulation wheels on either side of it. These are totally unusual features for this kind of workstation to have, but they make it a more interactive, performance-oriented instrument. What’s more, there are 13 pentagonal shaped drum pads that are laid out chromatically (like piano keys). This horizontal orientation makes them useful for playing beats, and they give it a natural and intuitive feel for playing melodic instrument sounds.

If you’re wondering if this is a drum machine with built-in sounds or a controller that you hook up to a computer, the Beat Thang is both. It enables you to write music with more than 3,000 built-in sounds, and it lets you create, tweak and sequence your own samples as well. It features USB ports so you can attach it to a Mac or Windows computer to take advantage of the Beat Thang Virtual software (which is included with the purchase of the hardware). All of the sounds are royalty free and ready to be used in your compositions. The built-in sounds are up to date and designed to provide you with the unmistakable feel of today’s popular music.

Having built-in sounds is a great plus, because it means that you can continue to jam when you’re away from a computer. However, the Beat Thang lets you take mobility to the extreme because it also features a built-in rechargeable battery. You can rock beats while in transit, at the beach and keep the music going during a power outage. If there’s a blackout in the middle of a session, you’ll still be able to see your surroundings because the Beat Thang is adorned with LED lights on all sides.

The act of writing and arranging sequences is inherently complicated. It isn’t likely that this process will be simplified to the point where there is no learning curve involved whatsoever, but the designers of the Beat Thang have done an admirable job of boiling it down to the fundamentals, and laying the machine out in such a way that operating it is relatively painless.   

Backlit buttons to the left of the 3.5-inch color display let you call up either Kits or Instruments. Kits can each have up to 96 sounds, and the instruments are typically a single sound that’s spread across the pads by pitch. Users can also record and create their own Kits and Instruments with an external microphone, or line-level sources, through the combo XLR input (which features phantom power). You can then play with the sounds, and when you have something you like, you can record it as a pattern. You can then add more sounds into the pattern with additional instruments and kits, and you can layer up to 16 tracks.

The idea is to create and save enough patterns in order to build up entire songs. Once you have more than one pattern that you think can work together, the Beat Thang makes it easy to arrange and play them back as a song. It’s a straight-forward approach to electronic music composition, packaged in an eye catching, loud-and-proud design. The chassis of the Beat Thang is an all-metal construction, so it’s prepared to travel with you everywhere, rechargeable battery and all.

While the overall operation of the Beat Thang is easy to get the hang of, you can also go deep and really create elaborate soundscapes. It’s possible to layer up to 16 different sounds onto a single pad for ultimate density. The screen can clearly display waveform views, so you can visually adjust the start and end points for samples, as well as normalize, reverse and resample new sounds. An Auto Chop tool will automatically cut a sample up and assign the parts to the pads, so you can quickly remix and remash songs. The Beat Thang can also quantize in real time, apply swing and it offers tap-tempo controls. A step sequencer is also included, a there is a range of onboard effects that are really easy to use.

Two SD card slots on the rear panel each accept cards up to 32GB, which can be utilized for sampling and recording. A dedicated USB port is also available for attaching a USB drive for additional memory. When you connect the Beat Thang to a computer and launch Beat Thang Virtual on your computer, you can transfer files back and forth between the hardware and the software. Beat Thang Virtual works just like the hardware, so there is no learning curve. It also runs as a stand-alone application or as a VST plug-in within a host DAW, which creates a seamless pathway for bringing the tunes that you created in the wild into a recording studio situation.

Audio CD quality 16-bit / 44.1 kHz for sampling, playback and export
Pads 13, a full octave 
Velocity Sensitivity Yes, 16 layers 
Input 1 x Combo XLR and 1/4" 
Phantom Power Yes
Number of Tracks 16, with Mute and Solo functions
Headphone Outputs 2 x 1/4" stereo headphone outputs
Master Outputs 2 x balanced 1/4" TRS
MIDI In and Out, plus USB MIDI
Built-in Effects Filters, Delays, Reverb, Chorus, Disintegrator, Overdrive, Distortion, Phaser, Chorus/Flanger, Pitch Shifter, Vibrato, Vinyl Effect and more
File Compatibility Import or export files as .WAV or .AIFF
Connectivity 2 x USB ports (type A and B) for storage and computer connection
Foot Switch 1 x 1/4" foot switch jack
Display 3.5" color TFT
Battery Built-in rechargeable battery
Card Slots 2 x SD card slots, supports cards up to 32 GB
System Requirements Mac: Intel-based Macs only, 1GB RAM (or greater), OS X 10.4 or higher, 800MB free space on OS drive

Windows: Pentium 4 (or greater), 1GB RAM (or greater), Windows XP (SP2 recommended), Windows Vista (32- and 64-bit), 800MB free space on OS drive)
Dimensions 11.5 x 8.5 x 2.8" (292 x 216 x 71mm)
Weight 6.3 lb (2.9 kg)

Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth article. If you have any questions or comments about the Beat Thang, we encourage you to submit a Comment below.