BitHeadz Voodoo
A feature-packed software MIDI drum machine for less than $200

by Rob Albertson
Special to Creative Mac

BitHeadz Voodoo Summary

Publisher: BitHeadz
Price/Availability: $199/Now

Overall Impression: This is a complex, feature-rich software MIDI drum machine wrapped in an easy to use interface.

Key Benefits: With great built-in samples and lots of controls, Voodoo stands above the competition in its price range by offering a fully capable sample editor, a very sophisticated sequencer and effects.

Disappointments: Tool icons are a bit confusing. Online help or pop-up labels would help. There's only one level of undo.

Recommendation: Buy.

Old-school drum machines like the Roland 808 and 909 have seen a resurgence in popularity of late. Their classic sounds and simplicity of user interface have given them a legendary status, as well as a high value on the auction block. BitHeadz is a company that specializes in creating software emulations of classic analog synthesizers (Retro AS-1), samplers (Unity DS-1) and now drum machines (Voodoo). Voodoo allows computer users to have a fully functioning sample-based drum machine on their desktop without any other hardware.

Voodoo contains a pattern-based sequencer, a sample-editor, real-time effects and a variety of options to trigger and play back samples with any connected MIDI device, a mouse or a QWERTY keyboard. The program supports up to 24-bit, 96 KHz samples, complete MIDI control allowing for 16 controllers at any one time, up to 64 stereo voices and support for most audio drivers, including Sound Manager, ASIO, DirectIO and MAS 2.0.

If you have installed any other BitHeadz product the Unity DS-1 engine will already be configured on your Mac, saving you extra setup time while installing Voodoo. If not, all necessary applications ship on the CD-ROM, and good documentation exists showing you how to configure the program. Because I had already installed Retro AS-1 on my Mac, the installation went perfectly. The drum samples load into RAM; the more RAM you have the better. A complete installation of the program requires 250 MB of free hard disk space. You can load just the software taking up 26 MB of space, but you would be eliminating the samples BitHeadz has included, which are excellent. You can integrate Voodoo into your MIDI system with a MIDI interface and a MIDI controller. MIDI routings are handled by Unity DS-1's engine, which is compatible with both Free-MIDI and OMS, depending on your platform of choice.

Click to enlarge the interface window.

When you launch Voodoo you are met with a busy interface. The screen is filled with 14 pads representing various drums and percussion instruments. Each pad is a graphical representation of the instrument the pad represents. For instance, clicking on the kick drum produces a kick drum sound, clicking on the hi-hat produces a hi-hat sound, etc.

Strangely, some sounds are completely different from their pictures. As an example, when I clicked on the maracas picture from within the 808 kit, a clave played. In general however, the pictures are consistent with their actual sound. BitHeadz has included 23 themes, or "skins," which change the look of the interface. It also easy to design your own using a graphics application like Photoshop.