Porter & Davies BC2 Silent Bass Drum Monitoring SystemReview by Rich "Doc Spoons" Spooner // February 17 2012
Considering its relitively short lifetime thus far, there has been an awful lot of talk about Porter & Davies’ products. First, the brilliantly titled Bum Chum and now the second generation BC2. On various drum forums, and at recent drum shows in the UK and Europe, they have been widely discussed and tested by pro players and punters alike. Now a number of UK and European dealers have units that you can sample in store, and furthermore you will notice a growing number of artists having this system appear under them on stage or in the studio. So, what’s all the fuss about ?
What is it, what does it do?
I’ll start with a little bit of blurb from Porter & Davies themselves.
“We all know the feeling of the bottom-end thump when we see a band from out front. But who usually feels that the least in the whole room? The drummer. The answer is a device that you are in control of, something that delivers the weight and power of the bass drum to the player without the volume.”
So that, in essence, is what the BC2 does, it takes the sound from your kick drum and allows you to experience behind the kit what the audience experiences out front. All very good so far right, but how does it do that without sound? Basically it involves using an amp and a driver to transfer the vibrations from your kick drum to your body via your drum throne, thus allowing you to feel the low-end thump. And, yes, you’re correct; there are a number of systems available right now which do this and they generally involve bolting something like a sub or kicker to the underneath of your throne, then buying and casing a substantial power amp to run it. I have used a similar system for a couple of months and it’s a lot to transport, set up and mess around with. Furthermore, in comparison to the BC2, my old system is just a bystander and not even in the same league in terms of its performance and ease of use.
The BC2 was conceived, designed and constructed by pro drummer Dill Davies and pro sound technician Tim Porter who were striving to get good monitoring results whilst touring with Dill’s band, The Oysterband. Fed up with the usual alternatives and big stacks of subs and amps, they came up with the ingenious and brilliantly titled Bum Chum system and a few months down the road it has been tweaked to its latest version the BC2.
The Porter & Davies BC2 is a two part unit. Part one being a custom-made throne top which will fit all of the popular base brands like Gibraltar, Custom Percussion, Roc’n’Soc etc. The top has a built in Tactile Generator which is the clever techy bit used by the US Air Force in their flight simulators and the bit which takes your kick drum power and kicks you up the ass via your drum throne when you play it. You hear or rather perceive such a dramatic difference using the BC2 because it uses bone conduction to transmit the sound to you. Bone Conduction is the conduction of sound to the inner ear through the bones, muscle fibre, et cetera—in this case, the pelvis, spine and skull—and it certainly works a treat.
Part two of the kit is the engine, a clever box that powers the throne. The engine is enclosed in a neat little black flight case about the size of a 10” tom case, which houses the preamp/amp, input and output sockets and all of the controls for your unit, and in the lid is space to neatly stow all the cables required. Beautifully compact and easy to use, both parts are finished to an exceptionally high standard and beautifully fit for purpose.
Well it really doesn’t get any simpler. Even for traditionalists with techno-fear, it’s a painless ordeal. Simply set up your throne, open the BC2 case, use the lid as a stand for the unit, plug in the mains lead (supplied), stick a mic in your bass drum and connect it to the mic input on the engine, connect the Speakon cable (supplied) to the throne top and the engine and you’re done. It must be noted at this point that the BC2 will not polish a turd, as far as your bass drum sound goes. If you are giving it bad sound to play with, it will give you bad response; if however you have a well-tuned drum and you have positioned your mic well, then BC2 will open up a massive dynamic range for you to experience from your bass drum. However, before giving it the full gas you need to set the unit up correctly so you are driving the throne at its optimum power. It’s worth mentioning that if you are using a full mic set up with your drums, the engineer can take an output from the BC2 which is totally uneffected by what you do with your controls. It will even send a signal to the mixing desk when the unit is switched off so nothing for engineers to get funny about at all.
For this review I have been able to use the BC2 in a variety of settings, everything from small pub gigs of 100 persons, to a medium club gigs of 500-odd persons, right up to a large open-air festival of 5,000 plus. I have also used the BC2 in the studio, both with and without in-ear monitors. So I reckon to have given it a pretty thorough road test and am happy to report in each setting the BC2 did not disappoint. From a player’s point of view, the BC2 enabled me to hear and feel the placement and balance of every bass drum stroke, thus improving my feel and overall dynamic. Even in situations where I had to play quietly, the BC2 gave me the confidence and vibe to be able to dig in and groove without holding back. It actually helped lower my overall volume in every concert and using it in bigger settings with my in-ear monitoring system was an absolute joy. I was able to get a really clear mix in my ears without the low end blowing out the drivers and muddying my feed. I was also able to mix in an appropriate amount of thump from the BC2 until I had crystal clear, full-range monitoring—a truly great experience and something which really enhanced my enjoyment and performance of the shows. In the studio, that experience was repeated but enhanced, as I was able to feel the placement of my kick with the metronome. I also messed around with taking a DI from the bass guitar and throwing that at the BC2 in addition to my kick. Once again this proved to be a winning combination with just the right amount of high and mids in the ears from the bass guitar and the BC2 picking up the low end.
It wasn’t just me that the BC2 impressed. Without exception, every sound engineer and studio technician I worked with, not to mention a few curious guitarists and bass players, have been utterly impressed with the BC2 and tried to offer me cash for it. Also one young lady in Geneva even asked if she could hire it by the hour! I really do not know how I have survived for so long without a BC2.
The Porter & Davies BC2 is beautifully made, enhances the studio and live experience for the player in low and high volume settings. Engineers love it. It’s simple, portable and powerful which sounds all very good. There must be a downside, right?
Well, there is only one that I can see, but if it is a downside it’s purely dependant on your viewpoint, and that is, the cost. For many the BC2 will prove to be expensive with an RRP of £799 UK Sterling. However, it’s worth remembering that if you buy a pro-line throne, aftermarket kicker, power amp, leads flight case, etc, and include the time and labour to fit it, then you are pretty much running level with that price anyhow, if not more!
The BC2 is a professional bit of kit, and as we all know, a professional kit does not come cheap. It will stand up to the rigours of the road and will deliver exactly what it promises. It’s more portable and user friendly than other units and certainly out performs them in a head-to-head or bum-to-bum comparison (sorry, it had to be done), So for my money it’s worth the price, in fact so much so that I am not returning the unit I was sent to review and have in fact purchased it. From me, it’s a hearty thumbs-up, and I suggest you get you and your bum to your nearest dealer and check it out!
Stop The Presses!
Since writing this article Porter & Davies have launched a new model The Gigster, which is essentially a more portable version of the BC2 minus its flight case and the extra line input. Build quality is of the same high standard and the performance is exactly the same. The Gigster is priced at £599 UK Sterling.
Since living and working with my BC2 for a few months I have really been able to explore its full potential, and when working with larger rigs I have the monitor engineer feed, not just the kick drum but also some my toms and even the bottom snare mic for a truly epic monitoring experience. UK artist Craig Blundell also feeds in some overheads to his mix to really bring the experience to life.
It is so satisfying to know that regardless of venue size/quality or the ability of the engineer, my drum monitoring will be consistent and comfortable gig after gig, thus allowing me to do the best I can every time. There aren’t many products on the market that can live up to those claims, are there?
Lastly I feel it’s worth mentioning that I am also now on the artist roster of Porter & Davies. I was so impressed with these products that when invited, I was happy to put my name to them. The BC2—and now The Gigster—have truly changed the playing experience for me on both my acoustic kit and my eDrums. But don’t just take my word for it, check out the players who are jumping on board and see for yourself. If you get a chance, you won’t regret it!
The Porter & Davies BC2 and Gigster are now available in several EU countries and are on their way to the USA too. Keep your eyes peeled!
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About the Author
Richard “Doc Spoons” Spooner is a British professional drummer and educator, based out of Switzerland. Doc is touring & recording with multi-platinum selling artist Philipp Fankhauser. Doc proudly endorses C&C drums, Paiste cymbals, Agner drumsticks, Baskey Drumruggs & Luggs, Hardcase Cases,Protection Racket Bags & Tour Luggage,Porter & Davies Monitoring, Big Fat Snare Drum, Kelly SHU, Tuner-Fish. Visit Doc online at www.docspoons.com or follow him on Twitter@DocSpoons
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