Review: MFB-Tanzbär

MFB Tanzbar 3

Analog hardware is currently hot. The MFB-Tanzbär is an alternative to the still very popular 909 and 808 drum machines from Roland. This drum machine by MFB combines powerful analog sounds with a step sequencer.

Berlin based MFB has released various drum machines during the last 30 years, including the MFB-522 and 503. The 16 instruments of the Tanzbär (Dancing Bear) come partly from these two drum machines. These are two bass drums, a snare, rimshot, cymbal, open hihat, closed hihat, claves, clap, low tom / conga, mid tom / conga, high tom / conga, cowbell and maracas. Besides the drums and percussion, the Tanzbär has a simple bass synth and a lead synth on board.

Very powerful sound
The Tanzbär delivers a very powerful sound, reminiscent of the 909 and 808 drum machines by Roland. This machine can punch nicely and hard with booming bass drums and banging snare drums and claps. But the sound can also be adjusted to a much sweeter minimalist style, so it’s suitable for various electronic music genres. The first bass drum and the snare drum are adjustable with 7 rotary buttons. The other instruments have significantly fewer parameters. This may be unfortunate, but it makes the device very compact. It easily fits on the desk in the studio or in the backpack while travelling to the next gig. The dimensions are 330 x 170 x 60 millimeters.

Inputs and outputs
The instruments of the Tanzbär can be controlled by the digital audio workstation (DAW) or another MIDI device via the two MIDI inputs. The drum machine also supports MIDI-cc, which allows the parameters of the instruments to be controlled by your DAW. Sadly, the Tanzbär lacks support for USB. It also does not feature VST plug-in software to control and tweak the machine from within the DAW.

In addition to the MIDI inputs, the Tanzbär has CV inputs, gate inputs and start and sync inputs. With these inputs, the drum machine can be controlled by an analog step sequencer or modular synthesizer system.

The Tanzbär has a general audio output and six individual audio outputs for routing the individual instruments to a mixer. So you can mix the bass drums, snare / rimshot, hi-hats / cymbals, clap, toms / congas and cowbell / claves separately via these extra outputs.

Step sequencer
Live performers will appreciate the programmable step sequencer on the Tanzbär. The step length is adjustable for each instrument separately. For example, the bass drum sequence can contain 16 steps, while the snare drum only has 9 steps providing a more surprising rhythm. Moreover, the sound of each instrument is adjustable by step. For example you can vary the decay of the bass drum or clap automatically throughout the sequence. By doing so, it sounds like the Tanzbär has more instruments on board. In addition, you can program different accents and rolls / flames. You can store self made patterns along with the freshly tweaked sounds in one of the three pattern banks. Each bank contains up to 16 patterns. So you can store up to 48 patterns, along with all the drum and percussion sounds.

The Tanzbär offers many opportunities. You first need to study the manual thoroughly to use them all. Controlling the drum machine is not very intuitive, you will need the manual for certain tasks. The review model came with a German manual, but on the MFB website an English version can be downloaded.
The menu of the Tanzbär is operated via different button combinations. For this purpose, also the buttons on the step sequencer are used for different functions. The colors of the LEDs (red, green and orange) indicate what you are doing. A digital display which tells you what happens is missing. The tempo of the Tanzbär can be set by dialing the Data button, but the bpm is not displayed here. This can be solved by connecting and syncing the Tanzbär with your DAW.

With its beautiful sound and individually adjustable instrument arsenal, the MFB-Tanzbär offers a modern, compact and affordable alternative to the good old Roland 808 and 909 drum machines from the 80s. You can save individual sounds with the programmed patterns. A digital display and support for USB is missing. The operation of the Tanzbär is not so intuitive, so be prepared to invest some time to get the most out of it. The great sound of the Tanzbär makes it worth the effort.

Rating: 8/10 | Website: | Price: 840 euro


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