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The global electronic drumming e-zine
Danny marks digital move
Mark Drum for Gottlieb
New DIY kit SSD4.0 review
FOR THE WAY YOU PLAY ©2012 Avedis Zildjian Company
Zildjian has created a revolution in edrums. Gen16, the world’s first acoustic electric cymbal. Play the hi-hat like a hi-hat. Choke cymbals. Roll with mallets. Stack cymbals. Experience all the dynamics without the latency or audio compression associated with digital sounds. Control audio levels and shape cymbal sounds with up to 99 presets per cymbal. Choose from an array of cymbal sizes and types made at the Zildjian factory. Visit Gen-16.com for more information and check out the “Young Guns” series of performance videos.
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is published by
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firstname.lastname@example.org www.digitaldrummermag.com Editor & Publisher Allan Leibowitz Sub-Editor
Solana da Silva Contributors Carl Albrecht Simon Ayton
Gerçek Dorman John Emrich Scott Holder
Courtesy Drum Craft Design and layout ‘talking business’
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Copyright: All content is the property of digitalDrummer and should not be reproduced without the prior consent of the publisher. In this age of electronic publishing, it’s obviously tempting to “borrow” other people’s work, and we are happy to share our information — but ask that you work with us if you need anything from this edition. Any reproduction must be fully acknowledged and include a link back to our website. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012
There are two approaches to new product launches. There are some manufacturers who flag their enhancements before they’re ready to take them to market; and there are those who beaver away in secret and then suddenly pull back the cover to reveal something new. Both approaches have their advantages and their drawbacks. Think back a couple of years and you’ll recall two product announcements that attracted a huge amount of interest. First, Zildjian’s foray into electronic percussion with its Gen16 acoustic/electronic range. At the same time, Aquarian unveiled an acoustic head with built-in triggering capability. It took many months after the first glimpse before the Gen16s started hitting shelves and as we went to press, the inHead had still not made it into full production. Of course, the product does exist and is actually featured in this month’s Monster Kit – but those are not production models just yet. Since those products were announced, Roland has completely revamped its line-up, from entry level to flagship – without a hint that anything was in the pipeline. Of course, potential buyers get frustrated when their interest is aroused but they can’t find the new offerings in the stores. So there’s a significant downside to premature announcements. But on the other hand, as the stakes rise and gear becomes more expensive, it’s understandable that manufacturers will want to tempt buyers and keep them “in the market”. There’s also a downside to “shock and awe”. It doesn’t help to take buyers by surprise. Nor do you win friends by bringing out a new model just after someone has invested in what was marketleading last week but is outdated today. To its credit, Roland did start running out its last generation before hitting the market with new offerings. The reason I raise this is that three products which we were hoping to review in this issue haven’t yet reached us – despite ongoing hype. At the same time, I am aware of half a dozen other products which are being readied for market as we speak. Their makers have told us from the outset that they don’t want any publicity until the products are ready to roll. And while we will be provided review samples ahead of the launch, we are sworn to secrecy. Personally, I think this is the way to go and look forward to more launches of this type. And I hope you enjoy the current magazine which includes a review of the new Roland flagship. The review was slated for the May issue, but the courier saw fit to send my review kit to a city 1,000 km away – and then to take some time getting it to the right place, missing our deadline.
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The global electronic drumming e-zine Edition 11
15 20 23 24 30 4
As the appeal of e-drums spreads, digitalDrummer asked the experts to explain who is buying e-drum products.
30 out of 20
Roland’s new flagship kit is being delivered worldwide after strong pre-orders and Allan Leibowitz spent some time behind the kit to see if it lives up to the hype.
Sampling the sampler
Roland’s recent upgrade of its multipad sampler brought some significant improvements, but it mysteriously left out some of its predecessor’s popular features.
Head2Head - Take Four
In our quest to leave no mesh untested, digitalDrummer broke out the test rig once again to compare three more offerings from Europe.
digitalDrummer looks at a couple of products designed to make life easier for drummers.
Danny makes his mark
Classically trained Danny Gottlieb has appeared on over 300 CDs, four of them Grammy winners. The original drummer in the Pat Metheny Group, Gottlieb recently aligned himself with new Italian e-drum maker Mark Drum.
Big names go with big names
It’s one of the ironies of the market: those people who can EHst afford and use top-end gear most generally get it for free in a bid to sell more of it to those who can afford it less and may not need it at all. It’s all part of the endorsement game.
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34 36 37 40 42 44 46
How I use e-drums
We’ve heard from Western drummers who have incorporated e-drums into their arsenals, and this month we discover a Turkish drummer, Gerçek Dorman, who is plugged in and switched on.
Big kit or little kit
Size doesn’t matter when it comes to drumming performance, according to Carl Albrecht. That wisdom certainly applies to ekits, where the choice of instruments is wider than acoustics.
Product review: SSD 4.0 Platinum
The new Steven Slate Drums moves away from the Kontakt host of its predecessor with the development of a new player, SSD Player. And that’s not the only improvement.
E-drum guru John Emrich is back to answer more questions on topics from programme selection to third-party samples.
Stand up and be mounted
Just because your kit comes with a rack doesn’t mean you’re forced to use it all the time. Simon Ayton looks at some of the alternatives.
Kit won’t go r-ong
Last year, we reviewed half a dozen conversion kits to transform an acoustic shell into an e-drum. Allan Leibowitz tests another addition with the arrival of a new offering.
My Monster Kit
This month’s beauty was put together by Californian Mark Moralez and is based on a Gretsch kit and inHead triggers.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012
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As the appeal of e-drums spreads, digitalDrummer asked industry experts to explain who is buying electronic percussion products. Here are some of the responses:
Alesis doesn’t necessarily see a singular “typical” electronic drummer. Rather, we see a range of musician profiles: the bedroom drummer, the quiet practiser, the electroacoustic enhancer, and the full-blown electronic player are among the key profiles. We believe it is crucial to understand the genuine needs of each type of drummer, so that every Alesis product delivers on the mission of making technology accessible and affordable for musicians. Dan Radin, Alesis I do have a varied customer base, but a more common buyer may be the 40-plus age group. Having outgrown their wild acoustic drumming days and settled into a sensible family life, they get the drum bug urge once more and, most importantly, the permission from the wife as long as three important things are not damaged: the bank balance, the family’s hearing and the neighbours’ friendship. Dave Chetwynd, Diamond Electronic Drums 6
These days, the buyer is as diverse as the models available. No longer the solitary domain of the drummer looking for practical practice options, they are a serious live alternative. E-drums are now sought by professional recording studios; musicians owning home studios; guitarists wanting to lay down their own drum tracks on demos; schools and teachers, mums and dads as the new beginner kit; and even serious gamers for a truer tracking experience than the toys that come with Rock Band! Mark Trask, Musiclink
The typical drum-tec customer is a very demanding customer who is prepared to spend a lot of money on his dream e-drum set. He is mostly well informed and already owns one or more drum kits. And now he wants to buy his individual e-drum kit. Many of our customers are higher earners, often self-employed and have a requirement for quality and service. Most of them want nothing else but the very best! Konrad Müller-Bremeyer, drum-tec
30 out of 20
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PHOTO: ROLAND US
Rolandâ€™s new flagship kit is being delivered worldwide after strong pre-orders and Allan Leibowitz spent some time behind the kit to see if it lives up to the hype.
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WE’LL SKIP PAST the “what’s in the box” stuff (see page 10) and go straight to the burning question: Is it any good? After a re-acquaintance with the TD-30KV flagship since my initial exposure at NAMM in January, the short answer is ‘yes’.
The kit was reasonably easy to assemble, taking about an hour and a quarter from the first boxcutter snip to the final trigger connection. Admittedly, I’ve had a bit more practice than most at kit set-up, but anyone should be playing in under two hours.
The shiny chrome MDS-25 rack is easy to erect, thanks to its rock-solid chrome connectors. And while the rack looks low, the flexible tom and cymbal mounts enable you to find just the right height for every component. Connecting it all to the module is
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012
a cinch, due to the well-labelled heavy-duty wiring loom threaded through the rack.
The pad configuration is excellent. A decent-sized snare and floor toms (the new 12” PD-128SBC/128-BC pads) and two more-than-adequate 10” PD-108-BC hanging toms give the average drummer targets that are very easy to hit. (BC stands for black chrome, Roland’s term for the gunmetal-coloured wrap.) The 14” KD-140-BC, rewrapped from its TD-20SX/KX incarnation, is a solid, imposing bass drum with plenty of realism for the feet. It looks great in the new colour.
The cymbal line-up is certainly enough to get any serious drummer started. The ride is a CY-15R-MG, again a recoloured version of the TD-20 pie, and it’s accompanied by two CY-14C-MG crashes. Sure, the rubber-covered triggers don’t quite have the feel
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Anatomy of a flagship
All-new TD-30 module with SuperNATURAL sound engine, USB connectivity and new Ambiance fader among the eight individual faders. There are 15 input jacks, t wo Master Outs and eight Direct Outs.
Th i n t e dr u e rc m h a w ra ng e a ps a ble re .
VH-13 hi-hat has a new motion sensor for smoother, more accurate transitions.
There are 100 kits, 1,110 drum instruments and 262 backing instruments. The module is now available separately as well.
No hi-hat stands, snare stand or kick pedals are supplied with the kit.
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The t wo PD-108-BC pads also have new rim sensors.
The CY-15R-MG Ride is finished in metallic-g ray rubber. Its bell response seems to have improved from its predecesso r.
There are t wo CY-14C-MG crashes - both with bow and edge triggering and chokes.
The ball joint makes it easy to position the toms.
The new PD-128 has a new rim sensor. The pad comes in t wo formats, the rack-mount PD-128-BC and the standmount PD-128S-BC.
KD-140, which made a debu t in the TD-20 kit, gets a new wrap.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012
The chrome MDS-25 rack has heavy-duty hardware, integrated cymbal stands and swivel-ball tom mounts.
Click here to see a comprehensive video tour by digitalDrummer columnist Simon Ayton. 11
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under the stick of metal cymbals, but they are quiet and, as I’ll explain in a bit, super-realistic in performance. And yes, some might have wanted a bigger ride. Others might yearn for a china-shaped cymbal or a smaller crash – but those are trivial issues and the overall trigger offering is spot-on.
performance to reduce latency, and while the TD-20 certainly didn’t seem to present any lag, there is an immediacy about the TD-30 which is hard to miss.
The hi-hat might look deceptively like a recoloured VH-12, but the VH-13-MG is like an e-hat on steroids, thanks to an improved motion sensor.
At the first strike of your stick, you’ll notice the accuracy of the triggering across the whole kit. From the lightest of strokes on the snare to energetic rolls on the edge of a crash, the response is immediate and exact.
Start your engines
Rim triggering is superb, with the module producing cross-stick, shallow and deep rim shots – all with a natural feel and sound.
And then, of course, there’s Mission Control: a serious black box with the potential to convince even the most sceptical acoustic drummer. The TD30 module takes what was previously a benchmark module (I know some rivals will stop reading at this point!) and transforms a Bentley Continental into a Bugatti Veyron. But, unfortunately, Roland has filled the tank with regular instead of premium. Hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself… The TD-30 module interface is very similar to that of the model it replaces. It’s logical, user-friendly and generally allows you to make changes with a single button or slider, rather than complicated menu trees. So it gets a tick for ease of use. I won’t run through trigger tweaking because it’s all straight-forward, but I should point out that because of the module’s added capabilities, some parameter changes will be needed for most drummers. Some triggers will need a bit more sensitivity, others a bit less – depending on your playing style. But certainly don’t just use the defaults unquestioningly. You’ve probably read a bit about the “SuperNATURAL sounds with Behavior Modeling”. Without getting too technical, it’s as if Roland has added nuance layers to its “samples” and augmented that with improved triggers and an enhanced ability to determine where on the head or cymbal you’ve hit and how hard. Add those two together and you get far more realistic performances with subtly different sounds as you move around the head or rim. Also under the hood, Roland claims to have enhanced engine 12
On the new PD-128 snare, for example, there’s a terrific transition as you move from the rim to the centre, and as you strike harder or softer. Under the hood, there’s clearly some serious processing happening in the Behavior Modeling circuit because there’s absolutely no machine-gunning – each strike sounds unique as if there’s a “round robin” effect.
There’s been a lot of speculation about the improved rim triggering of the new PD-128 pads and for comparison purposes, I swapped the pad for a brand new PD-125X and found very little difference when the pad was properly dialled in. So the good news is that you get improved rim response even with older pads. The toms’ responsiveness has also been enhanced, with subtle changes in tone from head to rim and an impressive dynamic range. Roland has beefed up the tom sounds which now have more body and oomph, especially the low toms on some of the rock kits. When you attack the ride, one of the first improvements that jumps out is the massively improved bell triggering. No longer requiring huge wrist movements, the bell action is now smooth and natural. Like the drum pads, the ride has positional sensing, with subtle changes of tone depending on where on the bow you hit. The sensitivity is really evident in those light, delicate notes, especially when they’re paired with the new ultra-realistic sounds. And of course, there’s a very
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responsive edge with choke. The choke is still just an on-off switch, and you can’t, for example, partially mute the ride the way you can with Yamaha’s DTX kits.
The new hi-hat triggering is another breath of fresh air. The VH-13 is very sensitive, with subtle transitions from edge to bow. Again, there’s a lot of hype around the responsiveness of the motion detector, but in head-to-head testing, I found only a subtle improvement on a well-dialled VH-12. Either way, the module certainly delivers convincing transitions from open to closed and even when the hats are closed, the pedal tightness continues to change the sound, just like “real” closed hats under pressure. And not that anyone would really need it, but the hat also has a choke, so it too can be silenced with a squeeze of the fingers. (The pitch bend, by the way, works on all the triggers, like it did in the TD-20, so you can alter the pitch of the toms, for example, with the hi-hat pedal.) The crashes especially benefit from intelligent interval control which takes cymbal rolls into a new level of realism.
The KD-14 feels realistic, with just the right amount of bounce. It was a snug fit for my Demon Drive pedal and I suspect some ultra-wide pedals may require some modification.
The TD-30KV is competing in a niche market, but it’s not alone there. Buyers would probably also consider some of the following:
Five drum pads, a bass drum, three cymbals and a hi-hat on the new hex track. Drummers either love or hate the new Textured Cellular Silicone (TCS) heads. The module is pretty impressive, with 1,115 drum and percussion sounds and 211 GM melody voices. Best of all, if you add a DIMM digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012
Before we get into the sounds themselves, one of the biggest enhancements from a performance point of view is the new ambiance control. The TD-30 builds on the parameters of the TD-20 and adds a convenient slider control. With one click of the Ambiance button, you can choose the balance between overhead and room mics and the amount of reverb – and you then refine that on a global ambiance slider. The TD-30 even allows you to control the virtual mic positions and the spacing between stereo overheads (with a mono option as well). The extensive selection of preset ambiance models (from a studio to an arena) is also carried over from theTD-20, and I should point out that the ambiance settings are breath-takingly realistic. So, you’ve got VST-like ambiance control, more sounds (1,362 - as opposed to 1,282 on the expanded TD-20X), “better” sounds, faster processing and more positional sensitivity – all the ingredients for a supreme instrument.
The TD-20 snare sounds were excellent and the 30’s are even better. There’s another huge leap in the cymbal sounds which are far more realistic. The hi-hat, as indicated earlier, has also stepped up a notch. And the tom and bass sounds have also benefited from the makeover, with more ballsy lows
card, you can use the module as a sampler – something you can’t do with the TD-30. Price tag: $5,500 Drumit Five 2Box Gaining popularity, this quirkylooking orange kit is winning respect for its VST-quality sounds and open system which allows for the addition of custom sounds. While it may not have Roland’s nuanced triggering, it has plenty of onboard memory, terrific stock sounds and free access to a growing sample
and loop library. The standard kit has five mesh pads, two cymbals and a hi-hat on a quality rack. Price tag: $2,800
Pearl e-Pro Live
The hybrid kit has full-sized drums, two brass cymbals and a 12” hi-hat. The Tru-Trac heads are as polarising as Yamaha’s silicone offering: some swear by them, some swear at them. The triggering is not quite at the level of the big two and the rebadged Alesis module is also outclassed at the top end. Price tag: $3,200 13
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And, overall... and ringing highs. In short, the SuperNATURAL sounds may not be “real samples”, but they’re very, very close and, with COSM editing, are also extremely customisable. But I’m reminded of the famous conductor who turned to his principal cellist and said: “Madam, you have between your legs an instrument that could give pleasure to thousands and all you can do is scratch it!”.
Scratching it, in this case, refers to the stock kits. Firstly, there are ‘only’ 80 stock kits – and 20 empty ones (although I suspect Roland will fill these sooner rather than later). Of the 80 kits, around two dozen are lifted from the TD-20X kit bank – although they admittedly sound much better on the 30 – fuller, brighter and more detailed. But there was no reason to repeat the kits as the entire TD-20X kit collection is already loaded onto the brain (together with the TD-20 bank) and can be accessed by hitting two buttons. Now, some of the new kits are excellent and I can see gigging bands being able to find enough variety to cover almost any genre, from delicate jazz brushes with astonishingly realistic cymbals to big fat rock kits with thunderous toms and a cannon bass. There are country kits, oldies kits, revamped Latin kits and some impressive acoustic knock-offs. A few of the new kits certainly rival some VST offerings. But as usual, there’s the collection of wacky and weird kits that only Michael Schack can play with any credibility.
I got a glimpse of the module’s potential by loading some TD-20X VExpansion kits and even though they are not optimised for the TD-30, they instantly took the module to a new level, bringing the kit to life with cracking snares, ringing toms, shimmering cymbals and a bass you could almost feel. That kind of tweaking can bring pleasure to thousands! I suspect (or, at least, hope) we’ll see some modelled kit offerings from Roland – either as free updates or paid add-ons, and no doubt, there will also soon be tailored VEX offerings for the more demanding drummers.
The bottom line
This is, beyond doubt, the best Roland kit ever. Great triggering from the last generation has been tweaked with intelligent responsiveness, new fresh sounds make this kit more realistic-sounding and its interface is highly intuitive. What’s more, Roland has managed to bring a superior kit to market at the 14
Some nifty stuff:
✔ At last the CF card has gone to meet its maker and you can use a USB stick to back up kits and move stuff to and from the module. ✔ Tweaked TD-20 and TD-20X kits can be loaded onto the module via USB. The stock TD-20/X kits are already in the memory and accessible with a couple of button pushes. And they sound better than they did on the 20. ✔ You can now play .wav and MP3 files via USB. Roland has supplied a CD of drumless practice tracks which are very cool.
✔ The interchangeable shell wraps from the TD-20 range can be used on the new pads.
✔ The TD-30 module is available for purchase separately and performs well with “previous generation” pads, cymbals and hi-hats.
And the disappointments:
✘ Those naff sound-effects kits that only Michael Schack will use. ✘ The empty kits (although I sense Roland will fill those).
same kind of price level as its predecessor. Sure, the street price of around $7,500 is not ‘modest”, but it does buy a lot of kit that’s pretty much plug and play. If you’re looking for a new kit at the top of the range, this offering certainly warrants a test drive.
If you’re a current TD-20 owner looking for even better performance, you should seriously consider upgrading at least the module – and possibly the hihat and snare (in that order), although I’m convinced a brain transplant will produce 95% of the improvement on its own. The TD-30 is a significant step up, but it hasn’t quite reached its full potential. The power of the brain has presented huge opportunities to further polish the stock kits – and if Roland doesn’t provide expansions to exploit the huge capabilities, someone else certainly will take the TD-30 to the level it deserves.
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Sampling the sampler
Rolandâ€™s recent upgrade of its multipad sampler brought some significant improvements, but Scott Holder notes that it mysteriously left out some of its predecessorâ€™s popular features.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012
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ON SALE SINCE last year at US$799, the SPD-SX is the replacement for the venerable SPD-S sampling pad. It combines a preset library of sounds with nine trigger pads and a generous amount of sample storage space with a modest set of external trigger inputs.
The pad arrangement is a single-level, six-pad, three-bar (nine “pads” total) layout measuring 365mm x 330mm. That puts it on par with the Yamaha DTX Multi 12 (reviewed in January 2010) but smaller than both the SPD-30 Octapad or the Alesis Performance Pad/Pro. The main pads measure 3.75” square (950mm) and the bar pads are like the Multi 12 in that they’re raised above the level of the bigger pads, making them easy to hit with the shank of a stick.
The pads are not hard rubber, but then they’re not super-soft. They fall somewhere between the rather unique softish feel of the Multi 12 and the hardness of most solid rubber pads, ranging from the old Roland PD-7 to Alesis’ various multipads. The result is a pad that’s reasonably bouncy, while attempting to minimise the relative pounding one’s hands would get from extended use that way. Nonetheless, hand and finger play for long sessions on the SX will definitely be fatiguing, again falling somewhere between the Multi 12 and hard rubber pads. Getting fast rolls and responsive cymbal swells if transitioning back and forth to mesh or dedicated ecymbals won’t be jarring. Any equivalent “positional sensing” characteristics (to the ear) weren’t evident on the stock sounds, although the responsiveness of the flat pads over the entire playing area was good. Pad noise isn’t too bad. The sound has a lighter tone, thus the overall effect is less intrusive than most other multipads - except the Yamaha DTX Multi 12 and Alesis Performance Pad.
Pad setting adjustments are extensive and will be familiar to anyone used to working with a Roland module. You can adjust things like sensitivity, velocity curve, etc. Pad settings are global.
Thus, if you find something too soft on one kit and too hot on another and they’re both assigned to the same pad, you can’t differentiate their pad settings. That’s normal for all Roland e-drum modules and is a different approach than Yamaha’s which allows you to set those technical settings per pad on a kitby-kit basis. The volume and control knobs are conveniently located on the front of the unit. Some might feel uneasy about an errant stick hit that could crush a control, but having those within reach is an ergonomic advantage over most of the other pads. This is very important for the SX because it has separate control knobs that, if one of the effects is selected, gives the user the ability to change the entire characteristic of that effect on-the-fly.
The SX has 210 drum, percussion and effects sounds; most are what you would expect in terms of percussive sounds, although the range is very limited and “standard” drum sounds are scant. Around 60 of the sounds are short “riffs”, not patterns in the classic sense, but little one- to eightmeasure riffs of bass or piano. The pad sounds are not grouped. Instead, they’re accessed via a list and the pre-loaded 16 kits are not listed in the owner’s manual, nor are the individual pads for each kit.
The SX also processes signals from external triggers or foot switches, having a single foot switch input and two stereo trigger inputs. The latter can be increased to four mono inputs by using a splitter. There is no HH controller input. Like the Multi 12, the three external trigger connections are universal: I plugged in Roland, Yamaha, Kit Toys, Hart, Concept 1 and Alesis pads and all worked without a hitch. Storage capacity is massive and far, far beyond what’s found on any other multipad which loads samples. That speaks to the main purpose of the SX: an easy-to-use sampler with significant onboard sampling capabilities. The 2GB of storage holds up to 10,000 16bit/44.1kHz mono sample files.
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The SPD-SX features a single-level, six-pad, three-bar layout.
The SX is the only multipad sampler on the market. Yes, units like the Alesis SamplePad and Yamaha DTX Multi 12 have the ability to import and play back samples, but no ability to sample real time or edit them on the unit. This on-the-fly sampling (aka “Multi-Pad Sampling”) is a slick feature. Start recording with a simple thwack of your stick on a pad, then start playing the sample and the latter will load onto the SX as a .wav file. It’s that easy. Roland makes a lot out of the SX’s edit functions and while they’re not that extensive, you can edit start and end points on the unit itself. For those without decent software to produce their own samples, you can do a credible job on the SX.
You can assign up to two samples per pad and they can be set to play simultaneously. However, each sample’s output can only be routed to either the Main output or the Sub output. The accompanying Wave Manager software allows for easy sample transfer and assignment to each pad. It’s a huge improvement over what came with the SPD-S but still does not allow for complete kit editing functionality. You can’t assign digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012
loop/phrase/single shot parameters of the sample using the software; you have to do it on the SX unit.
As a MIDI controller, you can control every MIDI note for every pattern. Our usual test of plugging the unit into a computer and running Toontrack’s EZDrummer wasn’t completely plug and play. Instead, you have to dial the MIDI note number for any given pad, but that took about a minute. Pad responsiveness as a MIDI controller was excellent. When hooked up to our TD-12, again the same thing - almost plug and play, but very easy to either change the MIDI note number on the SX side or simply change the instrument for the kit being used on the TD-12 side.
The menu is easy to navigate and the live controls are an improvement over the SPD-S. A dedicated LED with each pad illuminates with varying intensity, depending on the waveform. The Wave Manager software is very easy to use. The onboard .wav editing, while basic, is very easy and very handy. The ability to quickly import/record samples and have them automatically stored in the onboard library is great.
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The amount of onboard memory means you could theoretically load an entire drum kit and still have room to spare for a vast variety of samples needed for any live performance. Significant onboard effects and real-time performance application of those effects is another live performance feature of the SX. The ease with which you can start and stop a loop, merely by tapping the pad, is incredibly friendly to live performances. Also, you can assign a loop to play for a specific number of measures, then stop.
Not So Good Things
The pad settings are global, not kit-by-kit. For Roland users, this is a given and might not be a big deal. However, some will find that different samples or stock sounds react differently when a pad is struck; in one case, it might be too “hot”, in another, too “cold”. It’s a real Goldilocks dilemma when you can’t fine-tune each pad to account for those differences. The Sub Output can’t be used along with the Main output for velocity-based multi-samples. For example, you can assign a .wav to the “Sub” in order for a pad to play two sounds simultaneously. However, that combined sound can only go out through the Master outputs or the Sub outputs, not both simultaneously. It’s a small thing, but might be a deal-breaker for some.
Ergonomics for hand usage isn’t ideal. The pads are not tiered and even if the SX is angled to the percussionist, it’s hard to get a good slap on the pads with anything but your fingertips, and whacking the bar pads with your hands is doubly hard because… The bar pads (1-3) have poor sensitivity. Each took a decidedly hard thwack with the stick shank to get a response. Even after cranking the sensitivity and lowering the threshold to nothing, stick hits on the bar pads needed a strong hit. That depended in part on the sample selected but with hand play, this got old really fast. There is no variable HH support – a step back from the SPD-S. On really long samples, if synced with the internal click, a “creep” issue results where the two move away from each other.
The Bottom Line
The SX is not designed as a mini-drum kit, although with its storage capacity, you could sample an entire kit from any number of VST packages. Its usefulness for a performance lies in the ability to have a slew of customised samples, or even the onboard percussion instruments, available in a small 18
Pad Section: 9 built-in pads, 1 foot switch Max Polyphony: 20 voices (aka “notes”) Sounds (voices/instruments): 650
Drum kits: 16 preset; 84 user-defined
Effects variation: 20 presets that include delay, reverb, chorus, flanger, etc; 4-band EQ Flash memory: Mono/.Wav or AIFF
Flash memory file capacity: 10,000 files .Wav file sample rate: 16bit/44.1kHz Sequencer Capacity: N/A Note resolution: N/A
Recording method: Real-time overdubbing Patterns: None
Interfaces: MIDI; USB Wave memory: 2 GB
Click tempo range: 20-260 BPM Inputs: L and R ¼” mono
Outputs: 2 L and R ¼”; ¼” headphone
package to either the acoustic or e-drummer. The added ability to tweak those samples on the fly might also appeal to live performers or DJs because it is very easy to do. Short loops work flawlessly. Longer samples that depend on staying synced to the internal click remain a problem. Finally, the Kit Chain feature means you can take a 100-song library and quickly set up a set list. The sampling feature seems to be aimed more at the non-professional musician or up-and-coming songwriter who’s not using a computer to generate and edit samples. However, the ease with which a sample can be recorded, then exported to a USB drive and then edited on a computer is also appealing in that you don’t need to drag a computer somewhere to record samples; simply do it on the SX, then transfer it over to the PC. The onboard sampling edit features are simple and easy to learn, whereas editing audio and creating samples on a computer can be daunting to those just starting out.
If you own an SPD-S, chances are you won’t find the SX enough of an improvement to warrant an upgrade. However, if you’re looking for a sampler with decent onboard sounds, easy edit functions and far better software/computer interface, the SX could be in your future. www.digitaldrummermag.com
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Head2Head 4 e ak T
In our quest to leave no mesh untested, digitalDrummer broke out the test rig once again to compare three more offerings from Europe. Allan Leibowitz has the results.
TO DATE, WE have compared 15 production mesh heads and one DIY version. This time, we add two new offerings from makers we have previously featured and one which was missed in our past efforts. Testing was done on the same rig used in the original test â€“ a heavyweight drumstick pivoting on a nail on a vertical rod. Noise measurement was done via the same Realistic Sound Level Meter, with a brand new Hart mesh head used to calibrate the measurements against those obtained last time. The rebound measurement was done, again, by connecting the snare to a Roland TD-20 module and taking a line recording from the module. The recordings were loaded into Audacity and the waves measured until they fell below a minimum value. The duration to that zero point is noted in the table. Again, there were two noise level measurements: one from a controlled drop, and the second in free play at maximum velocity. The results were as follows:
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The Dutch e-drum supplier has reacted to the demand for white heads with a new range of dual-ply heads to accompany the trademark black ones. These are similar in design, with two layers of medium-guage mesh producing a reasonably opaque appearance. The heads are quite generous and fit easily on a 12” shell. The head has a good feel under the stick – not too bouncy, but just lively enough. Triggering response is even across the head and it can take a good amount of tension with no signs of strain.
The white mesh is clearly different to the black stuff used in the other model as it was slightly louder under controlled hits, but slightly softer under heavy battery. The head also has a deep distinctive tone and quite a pronounced buzz.
Overall, it’s a well-made head which performs well – at a reasonable price.
The Swiss T-drum company has taken up where ddrum left off in Europe, and its mesh offering takes the form of black singleply heads. At around €18 for a single-ply, these are not the cheapest heads. The heads are generously sized with a bit of give in the mesh, so it takes quite a bit of tightening to get them tensioned. Triggering is good across the entire surface and these heads are about average for noisiness. They are average for controlled hits, but on the softer side for full-bore strikes, which is good news for heavy-hitters. They produce a high-pitched sound – almost identical to the Z-ed single ply. The heads feel lively and, especially under vigorous play, are more bouncy than their rebound score suggests.
One thing that may put off some picky drummers is the extremely large white logo (all 9cm x 4.5cm of it), which looks okay on a 12” head, but is overpowering on the smaller sizes. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012
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Britain’s Z-ed has gone to the next level with three layers of mesh. Unlike the Billy Blast triple, the three layers here appear to be the same material used in the two-ply (Blast has a different texture to its middle layer).
Britain’s Z-ed has gonehead to the next levelwith three layers of mesh. Unlike the Billy The third skin significantly reduces noise Blast triple, the eliminate three layers here appear to be the same material used in the two-ply from the two-ply, but didn’t the buzz. In fact, the(Blast buzz on these heads istexture among to theits middle layer). has a different most pronounced weskin havesignificantly heard. The third reduceds head noise from the two-ply, but didn’t eliminate buzz. In fact, on these heads is among the most pronounced we have The headsthe have a good solid the feelbuzz with some heard. beefy bounce. These had the strongest rebound The headsinhave a good solidalso feelatwith some beefy bounce. These had the strongest of the three samples this test and were of theleader three board. samples in this test and were also at the top end on the overall the top endrebound on the overall leader board. Triggering Triggering performance was flawless. performance was flawless. Like the dual-ply, these heads have generous hoops after testing. and again remove proved challenging to remove after testing. Some were disappointed at the of transparency of the previous Z-ed lines and Some users wereusers disappointed at the transparency the while these add another layer, they are still not completely translucent. previous Z-ed lines and while these add another layer, they are still not completely opaque.
Like the dual-ply, these heads have generous hoops and again proved challenging to
Head 682Drum 682Drum (white) Arbiter Ballistech Ballistech II ddt Drum-tec Design Hart Magnum Hart Maxxum Pearl Muffle Head Pintech SilenTech RMV Roland by Remo Triggerhead Tuff Mesh^^ Z-Ed Z-Ed Twin Z-Ed Triple XM
Price !12 !12 £9 $12 $25 !22 !22 $40 $40 $10 $37 $30 $40 !18 $13 £7 £9 £10 $10
Ply 2 2 1 1 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 3 1
Noise level 72-86dB 74.5-84dB 81-95dB 78-93dB 78-91dB 78-89dB 79-91dB 75.5-89dB 77-92dB 75-94dB 76-89dB 75-87dB 77-88dB 75.5-82.5dB 79-85dB 78-86dB 76-88dB 72.5-85dB 75-90dB
Rebound+ 2.155 2.055 2.109 1.619 1.952 2.322 2.147 2.017 2.030 2.175 2.273 2.043 2.251 2.051 1.602 1.949 2.218 2.285 1.983
Heads in black feature for the first time. +Rebound measured in seconds. ^^ DIY head. 22
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digitalDrummer looks at some add-ons that make life easier…
Dixson Bass Drum Lift
With more full-size bass drums finding their way into ekits, there’s often a need to raise the drum. Especially if you’ve converted a 16” or 18” tom into a kick drum, you might need an extra inch or two to get the beater to hit accurately. Enter the Dixson Lift. While this is not its intended use, the riser effectively lifts the drum for more accurate beater contact. It also eliminates the need to attach the bass drum pedal to the drum hoop – which can prove difficult if you’re using a DIY bass drum.
The lifter is a one-piece plastic bridge on which the drum sits. Its base extends about three inches, providing somewhere to attach the pedal.
Unlike complicated adaptor systems which require mounting to the shell, the Drum Lift is easy to use since the drum just sits on top of it, held in place by the rim. It also allows drummers to easily change the angle of the drum head – ensuring even triggering. It’s elegant in its simplicity, light and compact and sells for about $40.
When Paul Simon sang “Slip Sliding Away”, he might well have been describing drummers playing “chase the pedal”, the frustrating battle against slipping foot devices when you can’t use spikes to anchor your bass drum or hi-hat to the floor. There have been a number of homebrew solutions, many of which involve cutting up bits of carpet.
Well, you can now throw away those unattractive offcuts and break out a simple and elegant solution developed by the StageWorks Gear Company in the UK.
The StageWorksMat is a non-slip three-layer pedal mat designed to fit under a pedal and keep it in place. The mat is conveniently sized for the average bass or hi-hat pedal set-up, measuring 20cm x 46cm.
It’s lightweight and produced in nondescript black and with a logo on only one side, so it’s easily hidden.
The mat ships in a two-pack (£14.99), so you can even give one to your guitarist who will thank you when his effects pedals stop sliding away ... digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012
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PHOTO: MARK DRUM
Danny makes his Mark Classically trained Danny Gottlieb has appeared on over 300 CDs, four of them Grammy winners. The original drummer in the Pat Metheny Group, Gottlieb has worked with a “who’s who” of contemporary music. Gottlieb has recently aligned himself with new Italian e-drum maker Mark Drum and shares his perspective with digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz. 16 24
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PHOTO: MARK DRUM digitalDrummer: Tell us how you got into drumming. When did you start and what got you going?
Gottlieb: I grew up in Union, New Jersey, and started playing cello in the fourth grade. My mom was a violin player, and the cello seemed close enough, and I played it for eight years. But it was really not my instrument, and with the help of a best friend, Dave Uhrig, the drummer in the high school jazz band, and the instructor, Mr. Geist (whom we still call Mr. Geist some 40 years later), I took a summer music school programme and started drum lessons. That was in 1967, and I was hooked from the minute I started, and it just has not stopped!
digitalDrummer: Let’s talk about the legendary Joe Morello. How did your association with him start?
Gottlieb: As it turned out, Joe was teaching in a music store, Dorn and Kirshner, about a five-minute walk from my house in Union. I used to go there when I first started playing to buy drum heads, keys, etc. One day, the gentleman who ran the drum digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012
department pointed out a large man who was walking up the stairs to the teaching studio and said: “That’s the great Joe Morello. He teaches here”. I asked who he was, and although I didn’t know much about Dave Brubeck, Joe explained who he was, and pointed out that he was on the cover of the Ludwig drum catalogue. I figured if he was on the cover, he MUST be good! I asked if he thought I could take a lesson, and he said “just go ask him!” I nervously went to his studio, and knocked on the door, and Joe was as nice as could be. I asked about taking lessons, and he agreed to schedule an evaluation lesson. I returned the next week, and it changed my life. For the evaluation, Joe asked me to play some rudiments. When we played paradiddles, he said “Ok, let’s work it up to speed”. I played as fast as I could and then he started to play much faster. But when I looked at his hands, he was playing much faster, but with only one hand! I was astounded, and totally turned around. I had no idea technique like that existed!
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PHOTO: DRUM CRAFT
He explained that it was a method using â€œNatural Body Movementâ€?, developed by his teacher, George Lawrence Stone, author of Stick Control, and was also influenced by his other teachers, Joe Sefcick, and Billy Gladstone. And he told me he could help me with it, if I was interested. And I said â€œabsolutely!â€? That started a series of weekly lessons through high school, and lessons after that while I would be home from college, or off the road. It also started a friendship that lasted more than 40 years. He would give me three or four things, and request that I practise each item an hour a day. At first they were exercises and variations from Stick Control, and later from his great books Master Studies 1 and 2. Between Stick Control, and Joeâ€™s books, I have enough to practise for the next 20 years. For those interested in the basics of his techniques, take a look at his two instructional videos, and three that we did together for the Mel Bay Company (Natural Drumming). digitalDrummer: What are some of the enduring insights you acquired from learning from Joe?
Gottlieb: To me, this technique is a gold mine, and the most logical, no-tension method to which I have ever been exposed. It affects your touch, endurance, sound control â€“ really, every facet of playing.
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From a musical standpoint, his ability to improvise like a horn player, and create drum solos like a master composer are two of his main influential components which I would also call insights into playing.
Also his brush playing, ability to play polyrhythms and improvise in odd times on the highest level were other insights (and his ability to illustrate and discuss them during lessons). As far as conceptual insights, there shine through some of his famous sayings: “you can’t please everyone”; “they are your drums, play them how YOU want to play them”; “you yourself have to know how you are playing, and not to base your judgment solely on outside sources (the leader says you are rushing… YOU have to know if you are rushing); “I can back up my bullshit” (He would never give anyone an exercise that he himself could not play on the highest level). digitalDrummer: Your recording/performing career is really diverse - from Pat Metheny to Booker T. What are some of the highlights and people you enjoyed working with most?
Gottlieb: There have been so many great performing situations and great musicians with whom I have had the pleasure to play or record. Here are some: Metheny; Gary Burton (my first gig, with Pat in the band, who GOT me the gig) and my
first recording date “Passengers” on ECM, in 1976; recording “Say it with Silence”, 1977 with flautist Hubert Laws at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio; forming the group “Elements” with former Metheny bassist, Mark Egan (we recorded nine CDs); playing with Gil Evans and his big band for four years (CHANGED my life), and recording the Grammy Album “Bud and Bird”. Others include playing with Sting and Gil in Italy (videos still on YouTube); my first two albums on Atlantic, ”Aquamarine” and “Whirlwind” (late ‘80’s); playing with John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra (1984-86) - a video from Montreux from those years was recently released and my current experience, playing with actor Gary Sinise and the Lt Dan band (ltdanband.com), doing fundraisers all around the world. My wife Beth plays percussion and we have the greatest time. I have to say, getting to play with Beth (and having the amazing good luck to have married her) has to rank as a big highlight! We play about 50 concerts a year now with Gary. Also, teaching at the university of North Florida has to rank as a highlight. I love it and it was something I never thought I would do. digitalDrummer: There’s a lot of variety in that list. To what do you attribute your versatility? Gottlieb: It’s really growing up in the late ‘60s, hearing Miles Davis, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Basie, Hendrix, Bitches Brew, Led Zeppelin, all at the same time. I loved it (and still love it) all! I just