digitalDrummer August 2011

Page 1

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 1

Edition 7


The global electronic drumming e-zine

VSTs rule New offerings and applications

AGE s T S ON g le g i W The

GEA R In-e ar



LE PROFI hon a John M

FIRST LOOK: Zildjian Gen16 AE cymbals

HART PROFESSIONAL SERIES Hart Pro 6.4 Hart kits are handcrafted providing the highest quality. Available in Hart’s distinguished all Hand Hammered chrome or classic Piano Black lacquer shells with HH chrome snare. Features TE3.2 dual triggering, Pro Ecymbal II’s, Epedal II hi-hat stand, and heavy-duty Hartware rack system. The perfect kit to perform at church, on the road, or in the studio. Low acoustic volume for stage or at home, without disturbing your neighbors............................. MAP Price*: $3,849

r e m m

u r D l a digit

! T N COU de

DISer Coupon1C0o” Ent

Get the BEST DEALS on Hart Dynamics gear at

or Call Erik

877-222-7457 Toll-Free


Other models available:

The most versatile accessory trigger pad available. Give your kit a little something extra that performs in a big way. You can’t build an electronic drum set without a Hammer.

Hart Pro 5.3..................MAP Price*: $3,359

MAP Price*: $79


D “Hart

STUDIO MASTER SERIES Studio Master 6.4 Key features that set this drum

MAGNUM & MAXXUM Kontrol Screen “Mesh” Drumheads Magnum and Maxxum

kit apart are four TE3.2 dual trigger 10” mesh Acupad drums for toms and new super solid 10” Acupad kick. 13” Hart Pro TE3.2 dual trigger snare with stand, top-of-the-line bronze Pro Ecymbal II’s, and the one of a kind Epedal II upright hi-hat stand. Pair with the module of your choice (sold separately) for a compact kit that delivers high-end performance MAP Price*: $2,449

Kontrol Screen drumheads are Hart’s 5th generation of silent mesh drumhead technology. These heads are simply the quietest, most durable, best feeling, nonacoustic drumheads available. Play the new Maxxum on your snare and bass, Magnums on your toms and replicate the feel of playing a variation of double and single ply mylar. Attention to this kind of detail is how Hart continues to raise the bar for the electronic drumming experience. Magnum KS Drumhead....................................... click here for sizes & prices Maxxum KS Drumhead........................................ click here for sizes & prices

Other models available:

Studio Master 5.3 ........................ MAP Price*: $2,139 Studio Master .............................. MAP Price*: $1,789

HART PROFESSIONAL 13” Snare If you’re a digital

Limited Edition

drummer, you’ve probably already replaced your drumheads with Hart’s Kontrol Screen mesh. Now it’s time to upgrade your kit with the Snare Drum that represents the superior performance of Hart’s, TE3.2, state-of-the-art trigger system with KS drumheads. Built like a tank, this 13” Hand Hammered chrome snare is a full positional sensing, dual trigger drum that will stand the test of time and take your drumming to the next level....... MAP Price*: $390

20TH ANNIVERSARY Hart Professional Kit

EPEDAL II Hi-Hat Stand The Epedal II hi-hat stand is one more example of what sets Hart Dynamics apart from the rest. This is a fully variable pedal with up/down and open/close action, plus a super sturdy, double braced, 3 leg rotating base for use with all double kick pedals. ............MAP Price*: $299 with Hi-Hat Ecymbal II ...................... $449

What better way for Hart to celebrate 20 years of dedication to electronic drumming than by releasing the highest quality custom built electronic drum set ever made. The drums feature a limited edition Glass Glitter finish, machined lugs,10-ply maple shells and TE3.2 dual triggering system with Hart Kontrol Screen mesh heads. Plus, Pro Ecymbal II’s with Epedal II Hi-Hat stand and custom all chrome Hart/Gibralter Road Rack. Every detail of this kit represents the best of the best. This is a Limited Edition kit, so secure yours from RMC today. MAP Price*: $4,549

HART PROFESSIONAL SERIES Hart Pro 6.4 Hart kits are handcrafted providing the highest quality. Available in Hart’s distinguished all Hand Hammered chrome or classic Piano Black lacquer shells with HH chrome snare. Features TE3.2 dual triggering, Pro Ecymbal II’s, Epedal II hi-hat stand, and heavy-duty Hartware rack system. The perfect kit to perform at church, on the road, or in the studio. Low acoustic volume for stage or at home, without disturbing your neighbors............................. MAP Price*: $3,849

r e m m

u r D l a digit

! T N COU de

DISer Coupon1C0o” Ent

Get the BEST DEALS on Hart Dynamics gear at

or Call Erik

877-222-7457 Toll-Free


Other models available:

The most versatile accessory trigger pad available. Give your kit a little something extra that performs in a big way. You can’t build an electronic drum set without a Hammer.

Hart Pro 5.3..................MAP Price*: $3,359

MAP Price*: $79


D “Hart

STUDIO MASTER SERIES Studio Master 6.4 Key features that set this drum

MAGNUM & MAXXUM Kontrol Screen “Mesh” Drumheads Magnum and Maxxum

kit apart are four TE3.2 dual trigger 10” mesh Acupad drums for toms and new super solid 10” Acupad kick. 13” Hart Pro TE3.2 dual trigger snare with stand, top-of-the-line bronze Pro Ecymbal II’s, and the one of a kind Epedal II upright hi-hat stand. Pair with the module of your choice (sold separately) for a compact kit that delivers high-end performance MAP Price*: $2,449

Kontrol Screen drumheads are Hart’s 5th generation of silent mesh drumhead technology. These heads are simply the quietest, most durable, best feeling, nonacoustic drumheads available. Play the new Maxxum on your snare and bass, Magnums on your toms and replicate the feel of playing a variation of double and single ply mylar. Attention to this kind of detail is how Hart continues to raise the bar for the electronic drumming experience. Magnum KS Drumhead....................................... click here for sizes & prices Maxxum KS Drumhead........................................ click here for sizes & prices

Other models available:

Studio Master 5.3 ........................ MAP Price*: $2,139 Studio Master .............................. MAP Price*: $1,789

HART PROFESSIONAL 13” Snare If you’re a digital

Limited Edition

drummer, you’ve probably already replaced your drumheads with Hart’s Kontrol Screen mesh. Now it’s time to upgrade your kit with the Snare Drum that represents the superior performance of Hart’s, TE3.2, state-of-the-art trigger system with KS drumheads. Built like a tank, this 13” Hand Hammered chrome snare is a full positional sensing, dual trigger drum that will stand the test of time and take your drumming to the next level....... MAP Price*: $390

20TH ANNIVERSARY Hart Professional Kit

EPEDAL II Hi-Hat Stand The Epedal II hi-hat stand is one more example of what sets Hart Dynamics apart from the rest. This is a fully variable pedal with up/down and open/close action, plus a super sturdy, double braced, 3 leg rotating base for use with all double kick pedals. ............MAP Price*: $299 with Hi-Hat Ecymbal II ...................... $449

What better way for Hart to celebrate 20 years of dedication to electronic drumming than by releasing the highest quality custom built electronic drum set ever made. The drums feature a limited edition Glass Glitter finish, machined lugs,10-ply maple shells and TE3.2 dual triggering system with Hart Kontrol Screen mesh heads. Plus, Pro Ecymbal II’s with Epedal II Hi-Hat stand and custom all chrome Hart/Gibralter Road Rack. Every detail of this kit represents the best of the best. This is a Limited Edition kit, so secure yours from RMC today. MAP Price*: $4,549

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 12/07/11 4:26 PM Page 4


is published by DigitalDrummer ABN: 61 833 620 984 30 Oldfield Place Brookfield Q 4069 AUSTRALIA Tel: 61 411 238 456 Editor & Publisher Allan Leibowitz Sub-Editor Solana da Silva Contributors Simon Ayton Philippe Decuyper John Emrich Chris Whitten Cover Design GearPix Design and layout ‘talking business’ Support digitalDrummer If you like what you’re reading, please make a donation.

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 online dissemination should include a link back to our website. 4

My favourite reviewer, Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, once said: “There's no such thing as cheap and cheerful. It's cheap and nasty or expensive and cheerful!” While that may apply to cars, it’s not always true for electronic drum equipment. Yes, sometimes, expensive gear is good and cheap equipment may be rubbish, but often price and quality are not directly proportional. And, as we see in our review of snare trigger kits this month, price is not the only factor. Some of the kits were much harder to put together than others. And then there’s performance. Some worked brilliantly with one module but then had the responsiveness of a jellyfish when paired with others. So to help in the decision-making, we added some objective (I hope!) scores on a range of criteria. Evaluating mesh heads was a bit more straightforward – especially since we have already established some benchmarks in our comprehensive head-to-head review last year. But again, there are a few variables: for some e-drummers, silence is golden, while others count their pennies and some just want to feel good. This gear-filled issue also includes an extensive listen to in-ear monitors, a process which turned out to be really enjoyable. Some of the cheaper bud-style earphones were surprisingly good, but the canalphones were a real ear-opener. I was able to assemble a wide cross-section of models, including some of the popular pro versions, and I was blown away, hearing performance from a module that I had not previously encountered. For anyone shopping for headphones, I would certainly suggest that you consider these instead of the chunky over-ear versions. Of course, one of the highlights of this issue was the chance to get a first look and listen to Zildjian’s Gen16 AE cymbals. These are being hotly discussed on forums around the world – mostly by people who have neither seen nor heard them! So our first observations, based on first-hand experience, should add a bit of substance to the conversations. Our seventh issue also includes a substantial VST special report, featuring the second part of Chris Whitten’s “making of a VST” article. We also review a few offerings, highlight some new products and debut a Q&A column by John Emrich, one of the e-drum gurus and a very talented drummer in his spare time. Since I started with a Clarkson quote, it’s probably appropriate to end with one as well, especially as Clarkson is also a drummer in his spare time. Of his fellow stick artists, Clarkson recently wrote: “Drummers are a bit like house flies. They're born, they make a noise, then they die.” Hopefully, not before finishing this edition, so let’s get straight into it: One, two, three, four ...

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 10:08 PM Page 3

The global electronic drumming e-zine Edition 7

8 16 22

August 2011


First Look: Gen16 AE cymbals It’s been the subject of speculation and anticipation and shipments are about to begin soon, so we look at - and listen to - the new Zildjian Gen16 AE cymbal pack.

Head 2 head - take two There have been some new offerings since our last review of mesh heads and we test some of the newcomers.

Ear, there, everywhere Compact in-ear monitors offer an alternative to clunky over-ear headphones. A dozen popular models are scrutinised. We also offer advice on selecting the right ones and using them well.




John Mahon Elton John’s percussionist is no stranger to electronic drumming, combining triggers and acoustic instruments in his performances. He shares some of his ideas and observations.


38 47 48 50

Making a Classic The second part of Chris Whitten’s account of the recording and production of his Toontrack EZX pack, The Classic.

VST Q&A E-drum guru John Emrich answers some common questions about equipment, programmes and applications.


For the record When it comes to recording drum parts, there are several options for electronic drums, as Simon Ayton explains.

DIY Kits help trigger those acoustics They’re halfway between ready-made drum pads and do-ityourself triggers and we put them to the test - building them and then playing them with different modules.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 6


What’s so special? Forget emulating acoustic drum sounds. As we’ve read often in the profile interviews, electronic percussion is about exploring new opportunities. With that in mind, digitalDrummer asked some e-drum gurus: What is the most valuable thing you can do with e-drums that you can’t do with acoustics?

Rail Jon Rogut, Platinum Samples The most valuable thing is the ability to control the sound with the least amount of overall expense, headaches and hassles! Lorrie Landry, Pintech Electronics allow you to practice in big cities like Munich. Since everyone lives in apartments, this is the only way to do your daily practice routine. Frank Jooss, Fiddler’s Green Electronics allow you to have dozens of wellrecorded, authentic sounding kits available at the touch of a button, using only a couple of square feet of real estate. Angus F. Hewlett, FXpansion Audio The most valuable thing you can do with e-drums is open your musical mind to more sonic possibilities, push your musical and rhythmic creativity to higher 6

levels, and widen your approach to the music you play. Electronic drums will make you a better drummer and, more importantly, a better musician. Tim Root, Roland US The most valuable thing you can do with e-drums is make people dance on a totally genuine-sounding and 100% live-played electronic groove joint, whether it’s Techno, House, Drum’nBass, Dubstep, Breaks, Minimal or any other combination of whatever all those producers/DJs will be coming up with this summer and beyond. When playing these styles on acoustic drums, a nondrummer audience might nod their heads. But when that live electronic impact kick sound moves subwoofers and e-snares and claps trigger high frequency speakers, they move their bodies. Michael Schack, SquarElectric I want to bend the envelope of what is expected and really treat the instrument as a different sound source. I choose to use 2box drums because I can import my own sounds and build my own weird and wackily wonderful kits. As a percussionist, it is important to be thinking of creating sounds in a totally free way and it is this mentality that really excites me to the endless possibilities of digitally transformed drum sounds. Pete Lockett, percussionist


The obvious answer is that it gives you the ability to edit the drummer’s performance after he’s left the building without having to hire a ringer (I jest). Another advantage is that it gives you access to a world of Drum Virtual Instruments like BFD2, Superior Drummer 2.0 and Addictive Drums where, odds are, the drums were recorded in a (famous) room, with a great (or legendary) engineer using microphones and equipment the average drummer couldn’t afford.

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 7


Veni vidi drumi* THE SCANDINAVIANS ARE having another go, the Germans are poised to get in there, and now the Italians are about to enter the e-drum market. Mark Drum has announced plans to debut in October, with its YES1 kit, dubbed “the first acoustic-hearted professional electronic drum kit”. And where 2box went orange, Mark Drum has opted not for Ferrari red, but rather for yellow. A sneak peak at its launch kit reveals a 10” meshhead snare drum and rack toms – but not your regular mesh drums. Instead, the company is boasting about its “Smart Pad” triggering system in which “signals are processed directly inside the pad”. There are five piezo sensors in the snare and three in the toms. The ride boasts a staggering 10 triggers, while the crash and hi-hat have four each. The kick pad is a reverse action rubber number, reminiscent of an old Roland trigger. The YES sound module has a 2GB CF card, 12 professional kits, eight standard inputs and four extras. Of course, there’s MIDI In and Out as well as a metronome. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

Like Roland’s flagship MDS-25 rack, the cabling is contained in the rack, but unlike existing hardware, the pads actually plug straight into the rack with RJ11 cables. There’s no word yet on availability or pricing, but the project has some heavy-weight backers. Mark Drum is a project of M&P, a partnership between Mogar and Parsek. Mogar Music is part of the Monzino 1750 group which distributes Ibanez, Zoom, Tama, Zildjian, Mesa/Boogie, Music Man, Nord and Laney in Italy. Parsek is best known in the Italian market for its Mark Bass brand. The YES model (YES means “The Yellow Sound”), according to a company release, “is the result of an accurate and outstanding R&D activity undertaken by Parsek’s engineering team”. “YES is only the beginning of a new, exciting and challenging adventure, which may foresee an even closer co-operation between the two companies in the years to come,” according to the partners. *Apologies to Italian speakers. Latin was never my strong subject! 7

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 13/07/11 8:20 AM Page 8


Gen16 AE cymbals

It was the talk of the NAMM show when it made its debut in January. It’s been hyped, anticipated, pre-ordered and delayed, but Allan Leibowitz got his hands on a test set ahead of the first batch of retail shipments. CYMBALS HAVE LONG been identified as the weakest link in the electronic percussion arsenal, so there’s been enormous interest in the first e-offering from a traditional cymbal maker. Even more so since the new kid in town is one of the iconic names in the cymbal craft. So does the Gen16 range live up to its Zildjian heritage? The starter pack comes in three versions: the AE 368 (13” hi-hats, 16” crash, 18” ride), AE 480 (14” hihats, 18” crash and 20” ride) and the AE 38 (13” hats and 18” ride) – all supplied with pickups, a fivechannel processor, a cable snake and a mount. I had hoped to try the big boy, but pre-production was limited to the smaller kits, so I was able to get hold of the 368 set which retails for $1,249 (the others have a recommended price of $1,099 for the 38 and $1,349 for the 480).

What’s in the box The 9 kg box contains two smaller boxes – one with the four gleaming silvery disks: the low-volume 8

cymbals are made of nickel-plated sheet metal alloy, perforated with hundreds (maybe thousands) of holes. They look and feel substantial, with a buffed shiny finish. The other box has a compact controller about the size of a Pearl module, three pickup units, a five-strand, colour-coded cable snake ending in 3.5 mm stereo jacks, a few bags of mounting bits including a hi-hat clutch, and some set-up instructions. The compact, stylish pickups contain two condenser microphone heads, and are designed for use specifically with the AE cymbals. They are real mics, and, as we’ll discuss later, are subject to feedback and extraneous noises, although Zildjian stresses that noise gates are applied to each in the controller.

Getting started Set-up was reasonably easy, with sleeves positioned onto regular cymbal stands, the pickups placed on them, followed by the cymbals and neoprene stoppers. If you’re using Roland cymbal

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 13/07/11 8:20 AM Page 9

Out of the box: the DCP and some of the Gen16 cymbal range stands, make sure you use the short sleeve, or else you won’t be able to attach the top nut fitting. There’s a bit more fiddling around with the hi-hat, but it’s certainly no more difficult to set up than any other two-piece electronic hi-hat rig. Then everything is plugged into the controller. If you follow the colour-coding, you’re forced to place the controller in what I term “traditional position”, on the left-hand side, because the hi-hat cable is the shortest. I’d prefer the controller on the right, but that’s not a big deal. Of course, you can ignore the colour-coding, but that can create some confusion as the controller is similarly coded. Once everything is plugged in, it’s a matter of firing up the controller and playing with settings.

In action The first thing you’ll notice, especially if you’re used to rubber-covered e-cymbals, is that these guys are not quiet. A strike that registered 65 dB on a Roland CY-13R notched up 89 dB on the 18” AE ride. The difference on the crash was even more pronounced, with the AE registering 94 dB, compared to 71 dB on a Roland CY-12C – and it continued to resonate like a regular acoustic cymbal – in contrast to the CY12’s deadened hit. A hi-hat chick that measured 79 digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

dB on a VH-12 elicited 96 dB from the 13” AE hats. But there’s no doubt that the ring of the Zildjians is far more pleasing than the thwack of the Rolands. The bottom line is that despite Zildjian’s claim of a 75% reduction in sound, quiet practice is not practical with the AEs – so much so that Ms DigitalDrummer Jnr declared: “You’re not going to play those at home!” So the home audience verdict is that these may be fine for gigs, but not acceptable in our unsoundproofed practice room.

Plugged in There’s been lots of speculation about “the controller”, not helped by the fact that Gen16 also recently released its first VST products, with many people assuming the AE cymbals are triggers that generate the Digital Vault sounds. Wrong! Think instead of a semi-acoustic guitar with a pickup and you’ll start to understand the AE system. Each cymbal has a stereo microphone under the bell, picking up the actual sounds of the metal cymbal. These are then processed and shaped by the Digital Cymbal Processor (DCP), just like an amp is used to shape and add effects to the guitar’s sound. But there are no samples, merely electronic processing of the real cymbal sounds. And not just 9

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 10

the cymbal sounds – if you cough next to the hi-hat, that’s what will be amplified. Similarly, if your pedal squeaks or if you hit the cymbal stand, expect that through the front of house. And the mics will even pick up the stick noise on your mesh head drums if the volume is turned up. Those using the AEs with a drum module have two output options. You can either take separate left and right feeds from the module into the DCP where they can be mixed with the cymbal sounds or you can go the other way, and take the separate left and right feeds from the DCP into the “mix in” input of the module. Of course, if you have the capacity on your external mixer, you can take separate outputs from both the module and the DCP and mix them on the desk - a preferred option.

Sounds like? The brain of the system, the DCP, has five inputs, designated for hi-hats, ride and three other cymbals from Zildjian’s range of crashes, splashes, chinas, etc. Each input has 20 presets which, according to the maker, allow you to shape the cymbal sounds. Now this may be the root of some of the confusion out there, especially with some of the online demos throwing around terms like “this setting creates a sound like a Zildjian K”. Yes, there is sound shaping, but nothing that I heard jumped out as any specific cymbal sound and I’d challenge any buff to match the tones to real Zildjian offerings. The sounds are merely tweaked versions of the base cymbal sound – some more resonant, some deeper, others more trashy, a few of them brighter and there are even some e-cymbal-type sounds. Imagine a mixing desk where you can alter the pitch, attack and decay and you get a sense of what’s happening inside the controller.

If you’re expecting COSM-style editing capability, forget it. There’s no scope for editing the pre-sets – what you get is what you’re stuck with. The only tweaking possible is panning for each cymbal and reverb for the overall mix. Auditioning through headphones, I was underwhelmed. The sounds were mostly thin and anaemic and inferior to the module sounds to which we have become accustomed. Plug the DCP into an amp – even a humble PM10 - and the sounds blossom and fill out. The processor adds depth and body to the shine of the acoustic sounds, producing very pleasing tones. There were a couple of hi-hat settings that would fit in well with my current repertoire, with the ability to dial up larger-sounding cymbals as well as some more delicate ballad-style tones. Admittedly, some of the settings were a bit synthetic. It also required quite a bit of additional bass on the amp to produce rock-style hats. The 18” ride, also thin in Direct Out signal, chunked up with amplification, but I didn’t really hear too

What’s good

What ’s bad


Great looks

Limited sound palette

13" AE Hi-Hats w/Pickup

Fantastic playability

16" AE Crash w/Pickup

Articulation range

Limited editing capability

Natural bell action

Limited inputs

Future updates

Needs amplification Risk of feedback Potential bleed

18" AE Ride w/Pickup AE Digital Cymbal Processor AE 5 Channel Cable Snake AE Digital Cymbal Processor Mounting Kit Recommended price: $1,249

Disclaimer: digitalDrummer tested a pre-production 220v-powered sample which had an audible hum not evident under 110v. Gen16 has committed to resolving this issue. 10

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 11

much variety among the pre-sets. Most of the “stock” sounds were giggable, and the responsiveness and range of articulations across the surface was refreshing, as was the bell response – once you learn to stop using the e-cymbal bash technique. Similarly, the amplified “stock sounds” of the crash were far richer and deeper than the headphone output implied and it certainly produced convincing swells. Unlike e-cymbals, where a change of module is required to switch from sticks to brushes, mallets or rods, the effect is immediate with the AEs. Of course, that presents a bit of a challenge if you’re using an e-kit since the drum pads won’t respond to different stick options in the same way. Comparisons with the tweakability of e-cymbals are inevitable, and here the AEs will disappoint since there’s no scope to edit the default sounds on the controller. Perhaps we’re spoiled by e-cymbals, but if you want a chain effect with AEs, for example, you have to physcially add a chain. Of course, the USB slot indicates that sound tweaks are almost certain to be offered for download in the future, but these will only be variations on the current patches. While the sounds may be limited, the responsiveness of the hats, the realism of the chick, the almost infinite degrees of openness or closed positions, the fantastic rebound and the articulations across the surface all feel and sound natural. Stocks were in short supply, so I wasn’t able to test the splashes, chinas or effects cymbals, but no doubt their performance will be something like that of the crash.

The verdict The Gen16 AE range is certainly something very different in the percussion space – something which smacks of innovation and carries a brand name synonymous with quality. But while you may not be able to go wrong with Zildjian in the acoustic market, this range is not for everyone. With street prices that digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

rival existing e-cymbals, the Zildjian Gen16 AE range is not a budget alternative but a serious investment, especially for those who already have a bunch of cymbal triggers. As a hybrid acoustic/electronic product, the AEs aren’t suitable for all uses either. Admittedly, quieter than their acoustic forebears, they are significantly louder than their rubbercovered peers and even their sound-dampened metal counterparts. They’re more suited to stage work, where the sonic signature is less of an issue and they can strut their stuff. They’re ideal for smaller venues and certainly look the part, especially when the violet lights are switched on (they can be switched off if you don’t want to show off), with great stage presence. While they may lack the range of sounds available to regular e-cymbals - either via a module or through VST samples - the AEs have some sound-shaping capability and can provide a varied palette if required. The quality of the output, however, is totally dependent on the final amplification – far more so than e-drums, where the shaping is done in the module and the amp just makes it louder. The strengths mainly centre on the playability of the cymbals. Those used to a fairly limited open/closed range on e-hi-hats or a paltry three zones on the ride will revel in the infinite variations of the AE hats and the fantastic articulations of the ride and crash, not to mention a bell that doesn’t require Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wrist action for triggering. The biggest challenge for Gen16 is overcoming the misconceptions about samples – and the current information offerings which liken the sounds to existing Zildjian models are not helpful. If you remove the expectation of being able to dial up exact replicas of acoustic cymbals, you’ll no doubt enjoy the AE range – and audiences should do likewise if the sounds are properly amplified. You’ll certainly enjoy the feel and playability – and those stunning futuristic looks! 11

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 12

--gear-TD-9 is fine for

Australia’s leading musical export, The Wiggles, found that a TD-9 made child’s play of touring. Allan Leibowitz caught up with the man who chose the kit.

WHILE THE YOUNGER audience members were concentrating on the hot potatoes and Dorothy the Dinosaur, e-drum fans noticed a dramatic change in The Wiggles’ drum set-up. After decades of touring with a Gretsch kit, the world’s biggest kids’ band has gone electronic, unveiling a Roland TD-9 kit during its recent North American tour. Front of house audio engineer Arnie Hernandez says drummer Anthony Field (the blue Wiggle) began thinking about moving to an electronic kit a couple of years ago as he “wanted to incorporate a more diverse array of percussion sounds in the show”. “Even though we’ve been adding a lot more percussion instruments to the on-stage arsenal (shakers, tambourines, whistles, etc.), what really appeals to Anthony about electronic kits is their versatility and the tremendous array of sounds 12

available that he can access without losing the space on stage that all those instruments would otherwise take up,” Hernandez explains. Field was led to the Roland TD range by his friend Noel Heraty, the percussionist for Riverdance, and the TD-9 was integrated into the first North American tour of 2010. The audio engineer sees a number of benefits in the electronic kit. “From an artistic perspective, the creative possibilities that are opened up by having so many drum kits and sounds brings a huge array of options for The Wiggles, and allows them to go ‘all the way’ in the direction they take the audience from song to song,” he explains, citing “Marinoa Lullaby”, an aboriginal song which features ethnic instruments such as the digeridoo and claves. “The e-kit is set to the ‘Ambient’ drum patch, and so completes the texture for that song.” He notes that this could not have been achieved

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 13




Anthony (above) and Sam on the TD-9 in Canada with the old Gretsch cocktail acoustic kit. The TD-9 is also extremely versatile, so it can keep up when the show “goes smack into ‘80s rock, disco, pop and ballads”. Hernandez notes that the e-kit goes a long way to complete the feel for each song. “Another benefit for us is artist visibility. Children respond highly to body language and the transparency of the electronic kit allows anyone playing the drums to continue interacting with the audience, which is particularly important to Anthony. “As you can imagine, the children’s angle of view to the stage from the arena floor is quite low so, even for the acoustic kit, it was important to set it up in such a way that the children could see the person playing the drums.”

“Had Anthony known how much fun it is to play with all the different settings, he may well have wanted a higher model drum brain to get even more sounds and even the ability to further customise, but there’s no doubt that the TD-9 hardware package meets everyone’s needs,” says the roadie. “The mesh heads certainly feel nicer to play than solid rubber pads and I’m sure everyone that plays the kit appreciates that.” With a bit more experience, he says, the band might have given some thought to some of the limitations such as only having a left and right output, unlike the direct outs of the TD-20, for example.

For touring logistics, the TD-9 is easier because it takes up far less space than its acoustic predecessor “so transport is better in that regard (with) fewer cases to move or lose”.

Another potential pitfall for the rigours of touring is the TD-9 cable harness which Hernandez says “clearly needs to be handled with care, but this hasn’t been a problem so far (touch wood)”. The TD-9’s two outputs are fed into DI boxes which are split to the FOH and monitor consoles “in exactly the same way as all the other instruments”.

“The TD-9 frame packs into a narrow custom roadcase that also holds some hardware and the throne, and the rest goes into the soft case that shipped with the kit which, in turn, fits inside a standard ‘drum hardware-size’ case,” he adds.

Hernandez says one difference that separates the e-kit from the way other instruments are used on stage is that in addition to normal stage monitoring, “we’ve given the drummers the option to put headphones on”.

It’s notable that one of the world’s leading entertainment groups and one of the highestearning enterprises in Australia chose a mid-range rather than a top-end kit. Hernandez describes this as “prudence”, saying the TD-9 “struck a great compromise between price and features”.

“Anthony is the only one that uses them, but you can tell he really gets into the drums. His love of drumming really shows,” he says.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

The Wiggles’ newest recruit, Yellow Wiggle Sam Moran, also uses the kit. 13

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 14

For their shows, The Wiggles largely use stock TD-9 patches. Hernandez says the on-board mixer has been adjusted to compensate for Anthony’s and Sam’s playing, along with some reverb changes, but the cymbal and drum sounds have not been changed aside from some pitch-tuning settings. “There is one kit which is set up rather differently, but that’s because Sam plays the kit while wearing a huge inflatable fruit! He has to stand while playing and so can’t physically reach the snare pad and hihat – at least not comfortably - so those sounds are programmed to be played from toms 1 and 2.” Hernandez says the e-kit was easy to incorporate into the act. ”The initial set-up was simple and straightforward. The hardware all made sense and the sound module menus (were) easy to navigate,” he recalls. “I’ll admit having read the manual first, but that was early on in the research stages when we were still deciding which one to buy. Once it arrived, I physically matched it to the Gretsch kit and even had it sounding close - all in less than two hours. “With practice, the set-up time has been trimmed and it’s now quicker than setting up the Gretsch, thanks, in part, to some home-made memory locks”. Given their extensive touring activities, The Wiggles’ TD-9 kit is set to become one of the most travelled of its ilk. Each year, The Wiggles perform live to nearly a million people worldwide. In 2010, they toured the USA, UK, Asia, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The Wiggles, which had their genesis in 1980s Australian band, The Cockroaches, this year celebrate their 20th year as children’s entertainers, having sold more than 23million DVDs and videos and 7million CDs globally. In 2003, they performed 12 sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York and performed to over 250,000 people in November 2005. Their US fans include John Travolta, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, John Fogarty, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Rock and Courtney CoxArquette. They have also toured the UK three times and were acknowledged by the Australian government as “Exporters of the Year” for their contribution to the economy. 14

TD-9 Update SINCE THE WIGGLES started using their TD-9 kit, the range has had a boost, with a module upgrade and some enhanced triggers.

The o

tsch ld Gre

The most obvious improvement is an additional 30 acoustic snare and bass drum sounds, taking the tally from 522 to 552. Some of the new bass sounds include a new “muted bass” effect which is triggered when you hit really hard – like burying the beater in an acoustic head. It’s very effective, but quite offputting when you’re not expecting it!


The new version also almost doubles the number of kits, from 50 to 99 (although 10 of them are blank “user kits”). The new additions include some Latin and World kits, a melodic steel drum kit, brushes, a ballad kit, some jazzy set-ups, a few more electronic kits and a beat box arrangement, among others.

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 15

The new CY-12 C (above), CY-13R (right) and the KD-9 (below) While there’s no change in the number of preloaded songs, the module gets a significant boost – and one that takes it ahead of its bigger brothers, the TD-12 and TD-20, by gaining MP3 playback. Previously, the TD-9 could only play .wav files from its USB interface, but now the popular MP3 format is also playable. The upgrade is available on USB stick in various markets, while some Roland distributors are asking customers to send their modules in for the “turbo boost”. Unlike some previous upgrades, the TD-9 Version 2 tweak incurs a fee, which varies from country to country. The Wiggles’ kit also missed out on some new trigger pads which were launched earlier this year in the kit overhaul. One of the key changes is the new KD-9 kick pad that replaces the old rubber-covered KD-8. The new pad has a fabric head – denser and more solid than mesh. Although the playing surface is the same – at 13 cm – the triggering sensitivity across the surface is more even, making it far easier to use double pedals. The feel of the new material is very much like an acoustic bass, without the bounce of mesh or the harshness of rubber, and the new pad is also marginally quieter than the KD-8.

of the CY-8. Best of all, it has a 360-degree choke and more consistent triggering The second addition to the kit, the CY-13R, is a three-zone cymbal, with separate jacks for the bow/edge and the bell. It is an improvement on the CY-12R/C, with a lighter, more sleek design and excellent response and feel. I was, however, a little disappointed in the bell triggering using the standard setting and found that I had to hit quite hard and very accurately with the shoulder of the stick to get consistent bell sounds. The other big difference is found only in the new upscale TD-9KX2 kit which now includes the VH-11 one-piece moving hat which mounts on a standard acoustic hi-hat stand. The VH-11 is a huge leap forward from the static CY-5/FD-8 combination, with a real hi-hat feel.

The CY-8 cymbals of the original TD-9 kit have also been upgraded in the version 2 kits, replaced by dedicated ride and crash triggers. The CY-12C is not only bigger than the model it’s replacing, it also has a significantly enlarged strike zone, a vast improvement on the rubberised wedge digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011



ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 16


HEAD 2 HEAD 2 e k Ta


Since the last digitalDrummer mesh head review, there have been a few new entrants to the market. Allan Leibowitz had little choice but to take out the test rig and try the newbies.


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 17

NOT QUITE SOMETHING old, something new and something borrowed, but this wrap-up includes a couple we overlooked, an updated model and a new offering from the land of the Samba. Testing was done on the same rig used in the original test – 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 Nero Wave Editor 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, in alphabetical order, were as follows:

682Drums Dutch company 682Drums includes dual-ply mesh heads in its range of DIY products. The PRO-XS mesh heads come in a range of sizes, with the 12” version well-priced at €14,95. The heads come in black only, emblazoned with a white “682DRUMS” logo. It looks very well made and feels robust and solid. Mounting is easy with a snugfitting hoop, and a generous amount of give in the mesh allows you to really tighten this guy down. The mesh is very fine, indicating a strong, durable product. The heads, when tightened, had a realistic feel, good rebound and excellent positional sensing. So, is there any compromise with a head that’s right at the bottom of the two-ply price list, coming in considerably cheaper than its nearest rival? It appears that there’s no deficiency in the feel or performance, and even on the sonic side, the heads certainly hold their own. Among the quietest of the dual-ply heads, the 682Drums product gave a dull thudding tone accented by the two-ply buzz when struck. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 18

Billy Blast Okay, so we may have been underwhelmed by Billy Blast’s “string vest” single ply, but the new three-ply Ballistech II takes the quirky US online trader into the big league. Sure, at $25, it’s more than twice the price of the original, but this white head is rugged, good-looking, durable and realistic under the stick. At first glance, there seemed little point to the third layer – besides avoiding Roland’s patent restrictions, but it did give the head more substance and a mylar-like feel. Interestingly, the controlled strike gave an almost identical noise reading to that of the original single-ply Blast head, but this one was a tad quieter on full-strength hits – around the mid-range of all the samples. The heads are characterised by a low-pitch thwack, but the addition of a third layer seems to have largely eliminated the two-ply buzz, giving this head a unique sonic signature. The third layer also appears to provide some muting, with less rebound than some of the other samples – although more than its predecessor. It did not, however, detract from positional sensing, which was spot-on. This head looks built to last, so all up, it’s a hands-down winner over its predecessor.

ddt German trigger maker ddt makes a range of double-ply and single-ply heads, but we only looked at the dual-layer since the single wasn’t available in our test size of 12”. At €21.90, the snow-white, tight-weave mesh head is not cheap, but it is well made, snug fitting and feels great. Past users say the new generation of ddt heads is a significant improvement on the early versions which were also available in black, and if you were previously disappointed, it may be worth trying again. On the drum, the ddt head feels robust, with excellent rebound (the most pronounced in the current batch) at reasonable tightness levels. Positional sensing was spot-on. The heads were fairly quiet (especially by two-ply standards) in both controlled and forceful play, but do exhibit the characteristic dual-ply buzz – albeit to a lesser extent than some rivals. They have a mellower tone than many of the dual-ply rivals. 18

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 19

RMV Electronic newcomer RMV, one of the largest acoustic drum names in Brazil, now offers a range of “Still heads”-sd white single-ply tight-weave heads. The heads are generally sold in packs of four (a 10”, 12” and two 14” for around $120), but may be available individually in some markets at around $30. In appearance, they’re probably closest to white versions of Pintech’s single-ply head, and coincidentally, sonic performance was also similar, although the Brazilians were a tad quieter. The RMV heads were also a bit bigger than other samples, but they are also quite tight, with little slack, so the fit on the drum is not compromised. They feel tough and sturdy and appear to be doubled over at the hoop, so there is a bit of roughness from the exposed ends. On the drum, it was easy to get good tension and smooth rebounds, and these heads were among the quietest in the overall testing – both under controlled strikes and at full bore. They did, however, have a much higher-pitched tone than most of the other samples – which shouldn’t be a problem to middle-aged players losing their upper-range sensitivity.

Mesh head performance (current models in blue) Head



Noise level




















Ballistech II












Drum-tec Design






Hart Magnum






Hart Maxxum






Pearl Muffle Head $10





Pintech SilenTech $37











Roland by Remo












$ Street price

# Position Sensing Capability

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

* Tightening required

Pos Sensing#

+ Sustain in seconds 19

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 21


Ear, there everywhere

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011


In a previous review, we auditioned headphones. Now Allan Leibowitz gets close and personal and puts listening devices inside his ears in this digitalDrummer head-to-head. (Or should that be ear-to-ear?)


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 22

BIG CLUNKY HEADPHONES never look good - even less so on stage. But e-drummers increasingly rely on headphones to monitor not only their own sound, but also that of the rest of the band. More gigging drummers are moving to discrete in-ear monitors, of which there are two main types. Earbuds or earphones are headphones that fit in the ear, but outside of the ear canal. These are generally associated with personal audio devices. More advanced – and expensive – in-ear monitors (IEMs or canalphones) are earphones that are inserted directly into the ear canal. This latter category has the advantage of also acting as an earplug, cutting out extraneous noise. While the technical specifications can be baffling, there are a couple of things to consider. Firstly, look out for the type of transducer used in the device. The diaphragm-type used in earbuds tends to favour bass response at the expense of highs. Armature-based transducers, associated with hearing aids, have more highs and are often used in two-way arrangements – one for the highs and one for the lows. The more expensive units have multiple drivers for smoother, more balanced sound palettes. Impedance is the important factor, with all headphones falling into either the high- or low-impedance category, with around 500 Ohms being the tipping point. Low impedance earphones generally plug straight into the headphone socket; higher impedance units usually need an amplifier. So low-impedance units will sound louder, especially when plugged into a drum module. digitalDrummer assembled a bunch of earbuds and IEMs to find which work best for edrums. These findings are totally subjective, much as any individual purchase decision in this category will be based on how the product feels, sounds and isolates noise. Testing included extended playing with a TD-20 kit, primarily using the inbuilt patterns, and a variety of kits from stock patches to VExpressions kits. A/B testing was done using an output splitter. The tone and colour of all earphones is obviously shaped by the audio device to which they’re attached, but the module was chosen as a test bed because many edrummers will spend much of their time listening to that source. I won’t bamboozle you (or myself) with specifications and tedious technical comparisons. This is not an audiophile review but more of a plug-and-play assessment of what to expect when you stick them in and fire up the module. The samples are listed in ascending price order. 22

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 23

Woodees iESW101B I’d never heard of Woodees, and had it not been for a glowing review on, I would not have included this $50 (street price) offering in the review. Indeed, the manufacturers went to great lengths to stress that it’s not a professional product, but is rather aimed at the consumer market – hence a new iPod/iPhone version. The neat package contains a set of wood-bodied earphones, four pairs of silicon buds (including an extra-small version) and a little black felt carry bag. There’s a 1.2 metre cable, ending in an in-line 3.5 mm gold-coloured jack. They even throw in a clip to keep the cable from rubbing against your clothes. I got a close fit using the small buds which created a good seal and enough isolation to cut out a lot of background noise. Rated at 105 dB and 16 Ohm, these little guys had plenty of grunt, with the volume dial cranked back to 10 o’clock on the TD-20 module. The reproduction was very convincing – crisp highs, mellow mids and deep, rich bass notes, combining in a clear, vivid performance. They produced a clarity that allowed the module to show its essence, with little colouring, and were particularly kind to the cymbals and snares. I didn’t expect much, especially after the maker’s warning, but it didn’t take long to warm to the Woodees which are said to benefit from the resonance of natural wood – just like speakers. While Woodees get mixed reviews as personal stereo earphones – mostly because of the variety of genres over which they are tested - for $50, this is a no-brainer. If you want to spend less than $100 and still come away with something that does the job, this one’s for you.

Sennheiser IE4 Billed as professional earphones designed for Sennheiser’s wireless monitor applications, these were certainly the most low-key in terms of packaging. They ship in a simple clear plastic bag with a cardboard label on one end, but these are the entry-level offerings in a range where the flagship costs six times as much. The IE4 comes with a 3.5 mm right-angled jack, requiring an adaptor for most modules, and a 140 cm cable which is a bit on the short side for e-drumming. Designed to sit tight in the ear, these earphones ship with three different-sized ear sleeves - interestingly, with the smallest size pre-installed. I found the smaller buds comfortable and easy to wear. And there was no rubbing noise when the cable brushed my body or clothes, which is another advantage. If ever there’s an indication that you can’t judge a book by its cover, the IE4 packs a punch that totally outclasses its basic black plastic looks. Rated at 106 dB, and with an impedance of 16 Ohm, these guys deliver in droves and needed to be dialed back to around 10 o’clock. The treble almost shimmers with brightness, there is a powerful mid-range which really lets the toms sing, but the bass is somewhat subdued at the bottom of the spectrum. Floor toms have heaps of oomph, but the IE4s just missed some of the thump in the kick. For the street price of around $60, you don’t get any fancy packaging, carry case or jack adaptor, but you do get a good solid sound reproduction in an easy-to-wear offering that provides quite good sound isolation, thanks to a snug fit. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 24

AKG IP 2 The AKG IP 2 in-ear headphones, bundled into the IVM 4 wireless system, are now available as stand-alones. They’re no-fuss earphones, supplied with three different sleeve sizes (interestingly, this was one of the few where the medium suited me best – for most others, the small was the most comfortable). Isolation is excellent, but this model does suffer from interference from body contact, with the cable noise amplified into the ears. The cable, incidentally, is ron the short end of the length stakes, at 115 cm, and the interface is a right-angle 3.5 mm mini-jack. Rated at 121 dB at 16 Ohm, these earphones were fairly hot, with the volume needing to be pared back to 11 o’clock. Performance-wise, they were well balanced, with good lows, highs and mids, and excellent detail delivered with realism. Well-packaged and shipped with a neat cloth pouch, they are excellent value at $80 – but beware of counterfeits as these earphones are widely knocked-off.

Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE If there were a ‘bang for buck’ award, the DTX 101 iE would be a strong contender in the under-$100 category. Its red finish is a tell-tale sign that it’s designed for personal stereos rather than professional performance, but the 12 Ohm in-ear headphones pack one hell of a wallop. They’re rated at 102 dB, but I had to turn the level down to around 8 o’clock, and still there was heaps of volume. Most notable was the decent bass reproduction, but the compact 101s also delivered a good amount of mid-range, some crisp treble and excellent separation and detail. I found the reproduction reasonably uncoloured. These guys come with a 1.2 metre cable – about average for the selection – but it does include a re-inforced section where the separate strands meet the main core, a good measure to prevent further separation of the cables. The jack is a consumer-type, right-angled 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack. Sound isolation is good, with three different silicon end tips. In my case, the small was a snug fit and blocked most of the environmental noise. The pads are soft and malleable and more comfortable than many others in the class. The DTX 101 iE also comes in black or silver and ships with a mesh carry bag which seems far too big for its purpose until you try and wrap up the cable. There’s some heavy-grade cable hiding beneath the surface and it doesn’t like to be curled up tight. Overall, this model punches way above its weight and reinforces that you don’t have to spend more than $100 for an easy-to-listen-to, quality product. 24

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 25

Bose MIE2i Okay, not quite an in-ear monitor, this is more like iPod earphones on steroids. And because Bose has a cult following, it was worth including this designed-for iPhone/Pod/Pad pair in the review. Equipped with a 3.5 mm jack, the 115 cm cable is just a tad too short for many module positions. These guys are not really sound-isolating because they don’t actually fit into the ear canal, rather they sit just outside it. Personally, I found the isolation sufficient to block out the most annoying of the stick sounds, with the added advantage that you don’t get an amplified sound when the cable brushes your body – something common with many in-ear designs. The second-generation MIE offering has new StayHear silicon tips with little wings to “nestle inside the bowl of the ear while also naturally conforming to the ear’s upper ridge”. The tips are supplied in three sizes, and I have to say that none of them actually “nestled” in my upper ridge. Nonetheless, they were comfortable and easy to wear. Bose is secretive about specifications, but I suspect these have low impedance as they delivered plenty of volume and had to be set at around 12 o’clock on the TD20 module. The sound palette was broad, with good clear bass reproduction, solid mid-range and bright highlights, with a good overall balance. At $130, the MIE2i ships with a stylish leather-look zippered carry box about the size of an iPod. And it has the added advantage of a built-in microphone and three-button remote which is handy if you also use your earphones with your mobile devices.

Audio-Technica ATH-CKS90LTDII The limited edition ATH-CKS90L certainly looks the part. Its dual-chamber design really stands out, and is meant to boost bass and mid-high ranges. The earphones come with four – not three – different ear sleeves and there are two notches on the body for different bud positions. The two notches mean you can alter how deeply these fit in your ears, and it certainly made a huge difference when I managed to get a snug fit. The Audio-Technicas come with a relatively short cable at 60 cm, but they do ship with a 60 cm extension cable ending in an L-shaped 3.5 mm stereo jack. Performance-wise, this product didn’t quite live up to its promise. The output was on the lower end, with the need to push the pot past 1 o’clock. The listed output is 106 dB at 16 Ohm. Sure, there was lots of detail and clarity and plenty of high notes, but the bass was somewhat subdued. (Ironically, I’ve seen reviews which praise the bass and lament the lack of top end, so this may have something to do with the module output profile). Isolation, on the other hand, was excellent, thanks to the variety of tips and dual positions which really did ensure a snug fit. And good cable isolation prevented any body contact sounds. The packaging is impressive, as you’d expect with the $150 price tag, and the earphones come in a very stylish leather pouch with magnetised clamp. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 26

Etymotic ER4S If ever there was proof that the biggest surprises can be hidden in the smallest packages, it’s these compact giant-killers. The earphones themselves are tiny – probably a third the size of the Shure professional line and smaller than anything else tested. But the performance is astonishing, thanks mostly to a snug in-ear fit achieved by using one of a range of tips. The canalphone ships with two different-sized three-flange silicon tips, three sizes of silicon buds and two foam pieces – and you’re instructed to get them as far into your canals as possible for maximum performance and isolation. I found the triple-flange buds the most comfortable and quietest. Even though they’re rated at 110 Ohm, I had to dial the module back to 11 o’clock and still got a full burst of crisp, clear, balanced sound: crystal tingling treble, resonant bass and plenty of solid sound in between. The reproduction was uncoloured, with many kits sounding almost like recordings of acoustic kits. This must be what Roland engineers were hearing when they tweaked the TD-20. What’s even more amazing is that this sonic accuracy is achieved with just a single driver. Moderately priced at $299, they‘re not too far off their more upmarket rivals on performance, comfort and isolation, especially if you choose the right tip. The correct choice and insertion also means you virtually can’t even feel them when they’re in. The 150 cm cable is almost industrial in its ruggedness, with a serious connector where the main cable divides into the finer braided pairs linked to the actual buds. You’ll need the shirt clip to counter the weight of that removable cable which ends in a right-angled mini-jack, and a quality 6.5 mm adaptor is supplied. The ER4S, rated at 122 dB, comes boxed in a serious plastic case, with a stylish compact pouch also included. One thing to bear in mind with the Etymotics is that they come with special anti-wax filters, but these do need to be replaced, so you’ll have to budget for replacements down the line. They go for $15 for a six-pack.

Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 vi Ultimate Ears began life as a custom maker of earphones for musicians and the pedigree is evident in the Triple Fi 10 vi. Although this model is clearly a consumer product because the packaging stresses aspects like iPhone compatibility, the 10 vi is certainly no slouch on stage. It packs a huge punch, even with the module volume dial pulled back to 9 o’clock, thanks to its low impedance (32 Ohm). The Ultimate Ears product is among the largest units tested, probably 30% bigger than the Shure SE 535s. It has a reasonably sturdy 120 cm cable, ending in an inline mini-jack. Because this model is cellphone-compatible, there’s a discrete microphone and a control button in the cable. The key to this model’s performance is its advanced three-driver design with an integrated passive crossover to send frequencies to the appropriate driver. This translates into thunderous bass, tingling highs and 26

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 27

good, solid midrange. There’s some exaggeration at the low end and while you can almost feel the bass drum and low toms through the earphones, this may be a bit deceptive, because that’s not what you can expect through the PA. There’s been some criticism of the bulky size of the Triple Fi 10 range, which is due in part to the inline position of the ear tips, as opposed to the right-angle placement on the Shure line, for example. Personally, I didn’t find them too big or bulky, but I did find it hard to achieve a tight seal. UE seems to have skimped a bit on the tips, providing three sizes of silicon tips and a couple of foam tips – a far cry from the choice of the lower-priced Etymotics, for example. Unfortunately, Ultimate Ears has also chosen a larger bore format, limiting the choice of tips. While the difficulty in achieving a tight seal didn’t impact on performance, it did reduce the isolation effect, and a small amount of stick noise did bleed through. The Triple Fi 10 vi comes with a compact, sturdy carry case and a bunch of adaptors including a gold 6.5 mm adaptor, an attenuator and a cleaning tool. At $400, the Ultimate Ears are well worth considering, but you really do need to make sure that you can get a good seal.

Westone UM3XRC At under $400, the Westone UM3X should be on every top-end shortlist. The compact high-tech earphones are supplied with a neat crushproof case, probably the widest selection of tips, from flanged to soft and medium silicon and malleable Comply tips, a cleaning tool, a 6.5 mm jack adaptor and an attenuator attachment. There’s an option of a clear body, revealing the three drivers and circuitry inside and making the earphones look really hi-tech. At 130 cm, the cable isn’t the longest, but it is fully detachable (in the case of the RC review sample) and replaceable, with longer leads available from the manufacturer. The cable is a moderate weight braided pair that feels like it can take the demands of gigging and the attachment to the earpieces is firm and secure. With an impedance at the higher end of the samples, at 56 Ohm, the Westones were surprisingly hot (they’re rated at 124 dB), with the module dialled back just past 9 o’clock. At moderate levels, the UM3X delivered heaps at the extremes, with lots of thumping bass and tingling treble, and I found the midrange just a tad more muted than the more expensive Shures – but certainly not lacking.






ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 28

The bass was solid without a hint of distortion, even when pumped up. The overall reproduction was extremely clean, clear and detailed, with excellent separation, thanks to the three balanced armature drivers and the passive three-way crossover. The UM3X showed dynamics and subtlety in the module that was certainly not evident with any of the closed headphones I had tried previously. With the widest selection of tips – and probably the best quality out there, with significant differences between the sizes, comfort was exceptional, especially coupled with the compact earphone design which made for a flush fit in the ears. The combination of tip choice and small earphone body made these extremely close to custom-fit earphones in the comfort stakes. Of course, with the snug tip fits, isolation was superb, and there was absolutely no stick noise. Overall, the UM3X was an excellent balance of features, fit and performance and certainly rivals the more expensive Shure model in our collection.

Shure SE 535 Okay, we’re getting to the pointy end, price-wise, and the performance reflects the added cost. The Shure SE 535 is a serious contender and the $500 price tag gets you a box full of stuff – eight different tips sure to fit anything including a Klingon, a stylish hard carry case and a bunch of adaptors – and of course, the professional earphones with detachable cable – all 1.6 metres of it. Isolation and comfort are superb, thanks to the tip choices which range from foam sleeves, to silicon buds and a triple flanged option. There is no cable noise, in fact there’s next to no external noise. Rated at 119 dB and 36 Ohms, these guys performed best at 12 o’clock on the module – a higher volume setting than most of the others. But there was heaps of punch and totally accurate reproduction. Thanks to three drivers in each unit, I heard bass notes I didn’t know the TD-20 could produce, mid-range was clear and detailed and the highs were flawless. In fact, it was almost like being inside the module – no distortion, no colouring, just instrument sounds. I can honestly say that the modules had never sounded better - even with high-end professional closed headphones. The clear-shelled SE 535 is comfortable and reasonably compact, significantly smaller than the UE sample, but more substantial than the Etymotic. It is roadready, supplied with a sturdy, compact zip-up case big enough for the main units, a bunch of tips and the supplied cleaning tool. The SE 535 may lack the clout and low-end thump of the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi, but it more than makes up for it in balance and accuracy. Sure, the price tag is hefty, but the quality is undeniable, and it’s no surprise that so many professional musicians use SE 535s on stage, especially with Shure’s wireless monitoring system. 28

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 30

JH Audio JH16Pro Including the flagship product of JH Audio in this review is a bit like putting a tailor-made suit alongside department store clothing, because each JH16Pro is custom-made for the customer. The process starts with an impression made by the local audiologist (a useful contact for your later years, when all that live gigging catches up with you!). The moulds of your ear cavities are then shipped to JH Audio’s labs where acrylic shells are produced to your specification, and you can choose between clear and several colour options and add graphics or letters. You can also choose the “engine”, and the review pair were built to the top-ofthe-line JH16Pro specs. This means a staggering eight drivers for each ear – two dual lows, a dual mid arrangement and a single dual high set-up. The IEMs were shipped in a tough custom box with my name engraved into it, with a velvet-like carry bag and a hearing aid cleaning tool. It was supplied with a 1.2 metre see-through braided cable (personally, I’d have preferred them longer, so remember to specify that when you order). The fit was perfect (there’s a 30-day rebuild period after purchase and if they don’t fit, JHA will try again), resulting in an almost impervious seal that delivered amazing sound isolation. The company quotes impedance of 18 Ohms and output of118 dB, and on the module, that translates to a rich full sound rather than a surge of power. The volume needed to be dialled to around 11. At that level, the earphones delivered what can only be described as a seamlessly blended soundscape, with detailed reproduction of everything from the lowest bass drum to the gentle jingle of a tambourine. There was no artificial bass boost, but rather a full, enveloping tone that wrapped around the back of the head. The extra drivers and the integrated three-way crossover ensure that all the frequencies are covered and there are simply no gaps or surges in the reproduction. If the other pro offerings were like being inside the module, the JHAs were like being in the control room when the module sounds were being recorded – utterly faithful to the original instruments. These are serious in-ear monitors for serious musicians (or audiophiles), so you’d expect a serious price. How serious? Well, the 16Pro range starts at $1,149, and goes up as you add customisation and extra bits.

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 31

The bottom line: In-ears are a great solution for e-drummers, with most of the models tested eliminating much (in some cases, all) of the stick and pedal noise. There is, however, a big difference between the lower-end buds and the top-end canalphones which effectively seal the ears and totally block outside sound. Reproduction was excellent overall – with many models outperforming top-end traditional headphones. And all were easy to wear and less obtrusive than their bulky over-the-ears equivalents. Of course, some people will not like putting things in their ear. It is important to ensure that you choose the right tip and the appropriate size to ensure isolation and comfort. The better (more expensive) models tended to offer more choice in tips, with the pro models obviously in overkill area. And there are always after-market options as well. Of the models tested, there’s no doubt that the multi-driver JHA 16Pro was the overall performance leader, and if you’re a professional using your IEMs on a daily basis, you wouldn’t think twice about going totally custom – especially if it’s tax-deductable. Eargasmic as they were, for the average punter, it’s a big premium over the Shures or Westones, and it’s quite hard to quantify if they’re twice as good. And for the more budget-constrained who may be tempted by the Westones, Shures or Ultimate Ears, the step down to Etymotic ER4S is actually smaller than the price saving implies. The Etymotic held its own on all fronts (even down to the disconnectable cables – if that’s important to you). Some might favour the more substantial look and feel of the bigger models, but for me, less was more and the ER4S was plenty, although obviously it doesn’t equal the clarity, detail and broad soundscapes of its more expensive rivals .

One lesson I learned during testing was that draping the cables over the back of one’s ears rather than letting them dangle down your face cuts down on amplified cable noise. It may look odd, but it sounds much better. I’m loathe to say that earphones are a personal choice and what sounds good to me might not ring true for you, so instead I’d suggest that anyone in the market for new in-ear monitors make sure they at least listen to a couple of models – and avoid untested purchases, whether online or in a store. Of course, it may be hard to find stores that allow you to put their stock into your waxy ears and you probably can’t try your friends’ earphones either. And, clearly, it’s even more difficult to audition custom devices that require a mould and one-off production. You’ll also need to decide where your priorities lie. Are you interested in dedicated e-drum earphones, or are you likely to use them with your stereo, on flights or with your iPhone? The kind of uncoloured reproduction you’re looking for as a drummer might not be appropriate for your heavy metal CDs, so there will have to be some trade-off if you’re looking for broad application. The other tip is not to limit your search to a narrow price range. You may well find that the top-end prices are justified by their performance, but on the other hand, you may be pleasantly surprised by some of the cheaper options. And be aware that with some models, the purchase cost may not be the total cost of ownership. You may be up for filters or replacement tips and while these may only cost a few bucks, they may not be easy to find – and certainly will not be readily available if you suddenly need one during a gig. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

digitalDrummer would like to thank the manufacturers who provided review samples, especially those who shipped them great distances. Thanks also to the local distributors who helped out!

Of the bud-style earphones, the beyerdynamic DTX 101iE was a pleasant surprise, combining clarity and clout in an affordable package. And the entrylevel Woodees punched far above their weight, delivering surprising detail and depth for a very modest price tag.


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 32


Sound advice THEY MAY LOOK similar to earbuds, but in-ear headphones are nothing of the sort. Commonly called ear canal headphones, in-ear monitors (IEMs), earphones or simply “in-ears”, these little headphones sit deep in the ear canal and offer phenomenal sound quality and isolation, far surpassing other noise-reducing designs. They also protect your hearing by isolating outside sounds, leaving you to concentrate only on what’s coming through your headphones. Thanks to the plethora of models and brands available, there are sure to be some in-ears for your budget and monitoring demands. Here are several considerations to make when choosing an in-ear headphone. Fit: It’s very important to obtain a proper fit with inear headphones so they remain stable. Different brands and models have unique ergonomics, but all are designed to fit as many people as possible. Look for a model that includes a selection of tips in various sizes and materials, and be sure to try all of the included tips to find one that works best for you. Carefully read the included manual, as the specific insertion instructions will ensure a proper fit. Cable routing is also important; some are designed to be routed behind the ear and are ideal for drumming. Many models also include clips to keep cables securely fastened to clothing; this will dampen cable noise and prevent tangling. Sound: While most models in the $100+ price range sound very good, different brands tend to have their own subtle sonic signatures. Outstanding 32

clarity and detail is a hallmark of in-ear headphones, so prepare to be amazed. When it comes to bass, most models offer a respectable (and appropriate) amount, but if you consider yourself a bass-head, then there are probably some specific models best for you. One important consideration is to look at the number of drivers of an in-ear headphone. Typically, the more drivers, the higher the fidelity of the sound. Many mid-priced models have separate drivers for low-frequency and high-frequency, known as dualdriver, and still others feature triple drivers for lows, mids and highs. The pinnacle of multiple drivers can be found in the fully customised Jerry Harvey Audio JH16s, sporting an astonishing eight drivers per side! Custom Models: If you’re looking for the best sound and fit experience, it’s likely to lie in a custom-moulded model, where special moulds are made of your ear canal by an audiologist. The advantage is supreme comfort and a level of sonic quality that is simply unsurpassed. They start at around $400 and run up to $1,200, but for musicians wanting the very best with no expense spared, they’ll be blown away by the immersive accuracy and intense realism these phenomenal tiny headphones offer. Whether you spend $100 or $1,000, a wonderful world of high fidelity awaits. But the choices can be a bit overwhelming, so it’s essential to talk to an expert and to try before you buy. Ivy Burford,

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 33


on percussion and vocals...


digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 34

Percussionist, drummer and vocalist John Mahon has been playing with Sir Elton John since 1997. He’s appeared with the pop giant in more than 1,000 shows in over 60 countries. Mahon spoke with digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz from his home in Los Angeles. digitalDrummer: John, tell us a bit about how you got into drumming.

dD: And why the move to percussion as opposed to kit drumming?

John Mahon: I got into drumming by joining a drum and bugle corp when I was about 12. My father was a policeman and took my brothers and I to the Police Boys Club. From there, I joined the school marching and concert bands and then my parents bought a drum set for me. It was not the highest quality. I remember the tom mounts breaking and the toms rolling across the stage - on two different songs, no less - when I joined a rock band. Hilarious! The roadie bolted them back on during the intermission - brilliant!

JM: I’m still a kit player too, but I have always played a little percussion: tympani in high school, studied some mallet and played some hand drums. But it is my singing that really pushed me in that direction and also my interest in electronics. I had my own band for a while that I fronted and sang all the leads.

dD: What about your pro career, how did that start? JM: I really started playing gigs for money when I was in my teens. My brother had a band and I was always playing somewhere every weekend. Of course, I had day jobs too but when I hit my 20s, I started to study more seriously and play full time in jazz and top 40 bands. (You could do that back then and make a living). DJs pretty much killed the working club musician. 34

I used a mix of Simmons drums and triggers so I could be more up front and visible. I was often getting asked to sing backing vocals in bands that already had drummers and needed percussion and electronics - loops, samples, etc... Seemed like a good fit for me. dD: We’ll get onto electronics in a bit, but first I have to ask about working with Elton. How did that come about? JM: I was playing with Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night at the time. Doing percussion, electronics and backing vocals. My name was suggested to Davey

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 35

A bit of this, a bit of that: Mahon mixes acoustics and electronics Johnstone, Elton’s musical director, by Bob Birch, Elton’s bass player. Bob and I go way back to the early ‘80s in Los Angeles. I did a small audition on vocals only and flew to Nice, France for rehearsals for a show in Germany. I guess Elton liked me and here I am 14 years later. dD: Let’s talk a bit about electronic drumming. What was your first bit of electronic gear? JM: In the ‘80s, you could not listen to pop music or jazz (listen to Herbie Hancock’s Future Shock) and not hear electronics. I loved the big crazy sounds and the drum machines with quantising were addictive. Wow, I think my first setup was the Simmons 7 kit. It was analogue mixed with digital. You had to actually open it up and insert the sample chip - like “Phil Collins toms”. Then you could mix in some analogue with it. Pretty bad-ass really and expensive! Yamaha also had a trigger interface that I used on acoustic drums with the Simmons. I even carted a big audio system around with them. I’ve been through a variety of gear. I used Dauz pads, Roland’s three-way pad, the Roland Pad 8, the DrumKat, with pedals and all. Then the Zendrum, which I still use. I have had lots of different Yamaha DTX electronic kits - they just kept getting better. I worked with the original Linn Drum, and did some records, all on the Linn 9000. That was a great machine. I had a Roland 808, Yamaha RX11 and RY30 and an Akai 2000 and 2500. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

dD: What does your current arsenal include? JM: I’m using MOTU’s BPM and NI’s Battery. In my home studio, I programme and trigger with the Yamaha DTX 950 or the Multi 12. Sometimes, I even bust out the Zendrum because it’s just cool! I would much rather play a part than programme a beat if I can. If I programme, I do it on the Akai 2500 but I’m going to get the Akai MPD32 because I don’t use the 2500 to programme as much anymore. I do some acoustic triggering using Ddrum acoustic triggers into the DTX. I jump back and forth between Logic and DP7. Don’t ask me why!! It’s crazy. dD: What electronic gear do you use in Elton’s shows and what does the band think of it? JM: Now, I use the Yamaha DTX 950 and DTX Multi 12. I mostly use the sounds in the DTX, or have custom samples. For a while, I used a Roland Fantom for samples before Yamaha upped the memory allocation in the DTX. I’m using a MalletKat Express and Yamaha Motif XS rack for sounds. I have six pads laid out flat in front of me – sort of like a tympani - and a kick pad on which I programme everything from massive booms to a tambourine sound. I’ve also been triggering a 28” Yamaha marching kick and 15”x10” snare for a mixed sound. That was for the Union CD shows. As for the rest of the band and the tech crew, I think what they like most is that sounds like tympani and effects are all stereo direct to the mixer. No mics - we have quite a loud stage scenario, so it is difficult to mic live instruments. Our sound engineer is always happier with fewer live mic inputs. 35

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 36

dD: What are the benefits of electronics over acoustic percussion pieces?

dD: Do you use electronic percussion in your studio projects as well?

JM: With electronics, you can have an endless variety of sounds to choose from. When recording, you can have MIDI and audio recorded so you can easily make changes if you need to in the computer. You can record with one song and go back and replace the MIDI drums with a completely different sound. All these new electronic drum sets are designed to play along with and can be superb learning tools. And, of course, there is the volume factor: if you are somewhere where disturbing someone is an issue, electronics are a great alternative. All that said, there is nothing like playing an acoustic instrument. It is just an alternative, another tool at your disposal.

JM: Like I mentioned before, I am always incorporating electronics, whether I programme via the Akai pads or play in parts on the DTX drums. I find that mixing acoustic percussion with electronic drums provides a warmer feel than going allelectronic. I like using the Roland HandSonic in a pinch and the Korg Wavedrum is amazing.

dD: I know you’re a Yamaha endorsee: what impresses you most about their gear and what does your endorsement entail?

JM: These guys are all masters and great masters never stop learning and never sit back on their laurels. With percussion, there is always the search for a new sound or new instrument. When I’m on the road, I always pop in stores to see if I can find something out of the ordinary. It can be a problem getting things shipped - like the 36” bass drum I just found in Bismark, North Dakota. Not sure what I’ll do with that monster yet! I’m sure if you are reading this, you are like me - when you get sticks in your hand, you want to hit anything that looks like it might make a cool sound. I used to work in a hardware store and I would disappear into the paint department. It was heaven!! But with electronics, there are so many sounds at our fingertips - with no tuning or fussing around either. Looping sounds creates a whole other instrument, too. It’s like playing a cymbal that just keeps cooking along.


JM: I started with a Yamaha acoustic drum endorsement. Their drums have always been the benchmark for others to follow - the highest quality. Then it just expanded into electronics. Their stuff is very reliable, and they have an ever-growing sound pallet. So I now use many of their products. They have sweet tambourines - and the Motif keyboards are all amazing. From one end of the spectrum to the other, the quality is always top notch. My endorsement means a direct line to Yamaha equipment that I might need. Say I am in another country and something breaks, I have a network to go through to help me all over the world. Yamaha provides equipment for the Elton John Tour and gives me an artist break on personal equipment. They have always been there when I needed them.

dD: Why is it that percussionists are increasingly using electronics? We have profiled Pete Lockett who is now developing patches for 2box and previously featured Tom Roady who is the cover boy for Zendrum and seems to have tried everything electronic under the sun. And we also heard from Germany’s Oli Rubow who combines all sorts of electronic and acoustic bits. So as a percussionist, perhaps you can explain the fascination?


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 37

dD: What about the future of e-drums: what innovations or developments are you looking out for? JM: The future of e-drums is going to be pad feel and velocity response getting better all the time. The pads have to be a joy to play. Maybe we’ll see edrums develop a game controller-type vibration to mimic acoustics. The new Zildjian electronic cymbals introduced at the 2011 NAMM show are breaking ground and I think we are seeing more edrums being a little acoustic in there too. I’d like to see this cross over into hand drums - congas that are acoustic/electric. Drum sets are going to go completely dual-purpose with the skins being both great drumheads and triggers. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

dD: And finally, what does the future hold for John Mahon? JM: Well, the future is going to be touring with Elton John. We have a busy schedule for 2011. I am always composing in my spare time. Bob Birch and I wrote some songs for Jose Feliciano last year. Hope to do more of that. So besides some two-wheeled fun, I’ll be learning, song writing, producing and .... trying to get some practice in!! dD: John, thanks for your time and good luck... JM: Thank you for asking to interview me. It’s interesting to think about what it is I do - instead of just doing it. And thanks to all the fans that come out and see the Elton John Band. We really do appreciate your support. 37

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 38


Maki ng a Classic In the May issue, Chris Whitten shared some of the background to his first VST pack. This month, he picks up after the round of recordings in the UK.

WE’D RECORDED EVERYTHING into ProTools and agreed with Toontrack from the outset that producer Peter Henderson and I would perform a first edit, essentially separating the individual hits we needed from all the chatter, coughs, splutters and creaking doors, etc. I would also ask Peter to remove any strokes that sounded badly performed from a drummer’s perspective. We then tried to group all the individual hits together as ‘articulations’, as the drum software companies call them. In other words, rimshots, centre hits, flams, ruffs, hi-hat tips, hi-hat edge, ride bell, ride shank and more. Then, we grouped them in terms of velocity of hit: soft, full volume, etc. After that, hard 38

drives were copied for safety and the main drive was sent by courier to Toontrack in Umea, mid-north Sweden. Over the next couple of months, Toontrack did some more work on the edits and assessed what we had and how it was all going to come together in the final product. They’d done this once before as they’d recently released a new product called Superior. Peter and I really had no idea how the software worked or how hundreds of samples became a virtual instrument. Finally, in February 2005, Peter and I flew to Umea to hear the software in action, witness the final

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 39

programming tweaks and give it our final seal of approval. We also found out the drum library we’d created was too big for one software package, so we had to choose which drums and cymbals to include, and which to set aside for a follow-up release. Somewhere along the line, I’d started referring to the sample collection as ‘Custom & Vintage’, largely based on the range of instruments and equipment we’d used; a custom-ordered cymbal by Steve Hubback, a vintage Ludwig kit, and the vintage EMI TGI console, for example. We all agreed ‘Custom & Vintage’ was an appropriate and agreeable name, so the Toontrack graphics department went to work on packaging and advertising. On returning from Sweden I packed up my house and studio and emigrated to Australia (another story). ‘Custom & Vintage’ was officially released in April 2005. Fast forward to 2010 and after many discussions, Peter and I embarked on another project, aiming to try and apply what we’d learned with more great kits and another unique console. This time, we chose a Helios. Like the EMI, it is very highly regarded, made in small numbers and hard to find in working condition, in bookable studios. However, unlike the EMI which imparts a thick, coloured coating to the drums, the Helios is warm, but crystalline, particularly noted for being gloriously smooth on cymbals. So the hunt was on for a great sounding studio with a working Helios console. We found one in New Jersey - Shorefire Recording Studios, formerly owned by E Street Band bassist Gary Tallent. This find was especially good news for me as I figured we could somehow engineer a way to grab a Noble & Cooley kit of mine stored at the Cooley factory in Granville, Massachusetts. After much schedule-juggling, we managed to arrange a four-day session. The logistics included a visit to the factory to collect the kit and a trip to Manhattan to pick up cymbals and to check out a Craviotto drum kit at Maxwell’s drum store. On the first morning of four booked at Shorefire, I started by re-heading and setting up my Noble & Cooley Horizon drum set. Peter started setting up a digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

comprehensive array of microphones. The Toontrack team of Mattias, Henrik and Nils arrived from a couple of days of meetings in Manhattan. Going Back To My Roots OK, so I made a concession to the niche, vintage vibe from which I was attempting to escape. I bought a set of Remo CS Black Dot heads for my N&C concert toms. You couldn’t record concert toms (single-headed toms) without one of the most popularly used heads of the 1970s. The last time I’d used them was probably in the 1970s, and they sounded awful, but I didn’t know how to tune drums back then. This time, they sounded pretty good - if I say so myself. Apart from the black dots, I’d decided to learn from ‘Classic and Vintage’ and concentrate on heads and tunings I knew. Having said that, I installed an Evans EQ4 head on the Horizon 24” bass drum. I’d used one before as it has a less dampened sound than my usual EQ3 head. However, once we mic’ed the kit, we were unsure about the bass drum tone and I ended up putting the EQ3 back on. The unfortunate thing about working with rare, vintage recording equipment is that it doesn’t always work as you’d hoped it would. As a result, during the day, some mics and some recording set-ups were abandoned in favour of two we could rely on to deliver: a standard contemporary close mic’ed kit, and a classic four-mic set-up, both to be recorded simultaneously. The ‘four-mic’ was partly inspired by the Helios console. Legendary producer Glyn Johns had made the four-mic set-up his trademark, especially working in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s with artists such as Led Zeppelin and The Who on the Helios console at Olympic Studios, London. Also, Peter and I wanted to explore a simpler, more raw virtual drum instrument, especially as that strippeddown sound had become fashionable again among younger bands and recording engineers. Towards the end of day one, with the mics all positioned correctly and the drums all tuned, we commenced the sampling process. I won’t go back over that process again: tedious to do, and tedious to read more than once, I think. 39

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 40

So what’s it like? As before, on the C&V sessions, Mattias was happy to accept our artistic direction, gently guiding us and helping us remain on track towards the vision we’d set out to achieve. I was happy to let Peter make the decisions in the recording process and he was happy for me to tune and play the drums as I saw fit. Ch Ch Ch Changes After the retro tom heads, I installed my regular tom head of choice on the N&C Horizon kit: Evans G2 coated. On day two, we made a start on Shorefire’s own Yamaha Recording Custom kit, which fulfilled my need to sample something mainstream and popular, especially as I installed Remo Coated Ambassador heads throughout. We decided to rent the Craviotto kit from Maxwell’s in Manhattan. When it arrived, I just checked the tuning for any rogue dissonance. I didn’t want to actually change the tuning as I presumed the store sent the drums out sounding their best. Also, one of the features of a good virtual drum instrument is variety. If I tune three kits on three consecutive days, it’s likely I’ll subconsciously tune them too similarly. I’ve got to admit the sessions were even more demanding and stressful than the 2Khz sessions six years earlier. One of the problems was the vintage nature of the recording equipment, including some fantastic rare and expensive German microphones. Occasionally, one would develop a fizz. Of course, with the drums being banged and crashed and a whole rock band thrashing away, it would be unfortunate, but not disastrous. However, when you are recording dozens of pianissimo cymbal hits, it is a disaster. Worse still, often these mic breakdowns were barely noticeable - except when you soloed the mic and turned the volume right up. So, on more than one occasion, I’d spent an hour meticulously sampling a kit piece only to discover I had to do it all over again. The Sound of Silence The studio also turned out to be less than perfect for a super critical sampling session. To be fair, only the elite studios can boast such perfect soundproofing that when a cockroach sneezes, it isn’t an issue. We just had to be careful, and in truth, the extraneous noises were few, especially after dark. But on our final night, with the clock ticking on our available time and a slew of fantastic cymbals still unrecorded, the local council decided to have an end-of-summer fireworks display. So we took a break and had a cup of tea until the display fizzled out. A short while later, as I was in the middle of a 40

We’ve read Chris’ account of what went into it, so what can we get out of Toontrack’s The Classic EZX? Firstly, this sample pack and MIDI collection is playable with Toontrack’s EZdrummer VST and doesn’t require the full-blown Superior Drummer solution. While this means 16-bit samples instead of 24bit, there’s certainly no compromise on sample scope or realism. The selection of kits is excellent. The Noble & Cooley, Yamaha Recording Custom and Craviotto Ash kits add great contemporary sounds to the EZdrummer arsenal and you can easily hear how these kits would be ideal for the creator’s work with Paul McCartney and Dire Straits. There are some good punchy sounds as well as more subtle tones. The cymbal selection is outstanding, with some cut-through rides, crisp hi-hats, full, warm crashes and bright splashes. The devil, they say, is in the detail, but in The Classic’s case, the detail is the major strength. Whitten has provided some fantastic articulations, especially on the cymbals, and the realism is striking. The ride, for example, has ride tip, ride shank, bell tip, bell shank, edge and mute articulations. The dynamics on the snares and toms are magnificent. They don’t just get louder as you hit harder, you can almost feel the increased energy. One of the appealing aspects of this sample pack is that it easily provides two very distinct feels for all the kits at the click of a mouse, thanks to its two different recording settings. The Classic offers a choice between a contemporary multi-microphone version and the “4 mic setup” which feels tighter and is reminiscent of some of the big ‘70s recordings. The Classic certainly adds something fresh to the EZ line and is among the most detailed and responsive VSTs I’ve heard to date. It’s an essential add-on for any EZdrummer collection and must be equally tempting for SD owners. And I’m not just saying that because Chris is reading this… Allan Leibowitz

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 41

sequence of low-volume tip strokes on the final cymbal we would have time to sample, an angry seagull apparently landed on the roof just above the studio. It started to squawk loudly. Oh, what this vegetarian, animal-loving drummer would have given for a gun! Luckily, it flew off after a few minutes, but it felt like someone had it in for us, especially as we’d had none of these problems on previous evenings. After completing that final cymbal, our time was up, except for a couple of hours packing everything up, that is. Did I say the drum sampling game is glamorous? Gonna Write a Classic These days, Toontrack has developed custom tools to edit and format all the samples into its software products like EZdrummer and Superior. You still need skilled people like Mattias to make them sound their best, and there are also artistic and commercial decisions to make. Peter and I always hope to record more than we need, and offer more choices than can be catered for. So, everyone - Peter, myself, the Toontrack team and the beta testers have a say in how the final product ends up. One hot topic was a name for the product. This time, I wanted to keep my lip buttoned. I’d come up with ‘Custom & Vintage’, a name based on the drums and cymbals recorded and recording equipment used. However, potential buyers seemed to focus on the word ‘vintage’ and ignore the word ‘custom’, presuming the samples were aimed at the retro music scene, which they are not. Anyway, a couple of the Toontrack guys suggested ‘Classic’ and this morphed over a few days into ‘The Classic’. Everyone seemed to like it, so it was duly named.

One final duty befell me, to record and edit a ‘Best Of…’ MIDI library to include with the sampled drums. For this, I’m indebted to Roland Corp Australia. I’m not a regular e-drummer. In fact, I find it a hard discipline to master. Roland’s Simon Ayton had offered to help out if I ever needed to create a MIDI library for Toontrack and so I decided to take him up on it. Amazingly, he offered to let me work at their offices for as many days as I needed, and to use one of their TD-20s, already set up and ready to play. The next task was to go through my career CDs and decide what to reproduce in MIDI form. Which songs would people want to hear me play, which grooves would be most useful to our customers? I knew everyone would expect ‘What I Am’, the Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians hit. I decided to choose at least one song from the main bands I’ve been associated with. I never recorded with Dire Straits, but everyone loves ‘Money For Nothing’. I played it over 300 times on tour, not counting months of rehearsals, so that went on my list. So did the biggest hit from the ‘Flowers In The Dirt’ album I recorded with Paul McCartney: ‘My Brave Face’. Plus songs from Julian Cope’s ‘St Julian’ album, the World Party album ‘Goodbye Jumbo’, and the hit ‘Where In The World’ by Swing Out Sister. With all that recorded and edited, the next part was waiting for ‘The Classic’ to hit the shelves. I only hope Toontrack’s customers enjoy using the sounds as much as I already am. Maybe someone will record a hit record with them and tell me on the Toontrack forum, “That’s your snare!”

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 42

--vst-Product review: Abbey Road IV ALL VST PACKAGES require a host programme, and Native Instruments provided digitalDrummer with a copy of Kontakt 4 for the testing of its Abbey Road Modern Drums product. This was a bit like providing an Airbus A380 for the testing of its coffee machine – the host programme was way overengineered and far beyond the understanding of a humble drummer. Even more so since the Abbey Road series ships with NI’s free Kontakt Player host. But if I ever need highly detailed samples of a French Horn to a four-part harmony choir, at least I know where to go now.

Even the kit representation in the main screen is highly detailed.

So, onto the drum part…

The main page includes a fantastic drummer’s view of the kit together with some adjustments that cover drum tuning and microphone mixing. Users can also tweak the attack, hold and decay of sounds and choose articulations in the bottom panel. This page includes the mapping controls which allow users to select their MIDI input parameters and this includes presets for most e-drum modules and VST hosts, as well as a learn function.

The Abbey Road pack is the fourth in a series recorded at London’s famed studio. Like the previous offerings, this collection is based on a lessis-more approach. It consists of only two kits: a Drum Workshop (DW) Collector’s Series from the mid-90s (the white kit) and a Pearl Reference kit from the mid-2000s (the sparkle kit). So, unlike some other VST packs, there’s no wholesale swapping of drums or cymbals – although there are three snare choices in each kit. Instead of variety, there is plenty of depth, with over 40,000 24-bit, 44.1 kHz samples in a 17.4 GB library. The detail includes up to 27 velocity layers for each articulation and up to six variations of drum hits at the same velocity for added realism. Most of the articulations for drums and hi-hat include separate left- and right-hand samples.

The Abbey Road name is synonymous with recording and engineering technology, so it’s no surprise that the NI pack has a heavy focus on sound reproduction. The samples were recorded with a mix of cutting-edge new equipment and Abbey Road’s respected vintage collection. The interface reflects the control booth focus, with lots of dials and sliders reminiscent of a 1960s recording studio.

The mixer page is like a trip to the famed studio, with a range of analogue-looking dials and sliders to control the levels of the various microphones, as well as panning and output routing. This is where it gets fairly technical for stick artists and you get into routing individual tracks to various outputs. For me, this was a step too far! The options page is probably also out of bounds to the average punter, but for those who venture forth, this is where you can tweak the velocity curves and adjust stuff like snare bleed and randomisation.

digitalDrummer’s VST approach Like most of our readers, our reviewers are drummers, not producers or recording engineers. We’re looking for plug-and-play solutions - programmes that work out of the box. When I test a VST, I’m looking for something easy to install and run. I’m looking for a product that allows me to start playing without too much fiddling around. Of course, I’d like some degree of tweakability, but I don’t want to spend hours fiddling with parameters. To test, I use a Dell Studio 1555 dual-core 2.2 GHz notebook running Vista, with 2GB of RAM. I test VSTs using a Roland TD20X-based kit and with a Zendrum, both connected via USB using an M-Audio Midisport 1x1 interface. To monitor the output, I use the laptop’s soundcard and high-end in-ear monitors.


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 43

The Abbey Road series features great sounds and enormous editing capability

In action After the mammoth task of loading Kontakt and its six disks, Abbey Road was simple to install. The interface is easy to navigate and after selecting the Vdrums preset, the software found all the drums and cymbals right off. There was a bit of tweaking, with the floor tom and ride not triggering too well in default settings, but by altering the response curves, it was quickly remedied. Once set up, response was excellent around the kit, from rim shots to cymbal chokes and variability in the hi-hat. The ride bell took a bit more tweaking - that’s probably more to do with the sensitivity of the CY-15R. The sounds were uber-realistic and enveloping, especially when auditioned through high-end in-ear monitors. The DW kit had lots of presence and some rocky low-end punch, especially when played with a roomy mic setting. The Pearl kit was brighter and more poppy, with some shimmering cymbal tones. I found little latency, and playing was smooth and digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

responsive, the snares a real joy. All the drums had excellent detail, making for hyper-realistic playing. Clearly, the default sounds are just a starting point, but for me, the handful of presets would certainly be giggable and suitable for any rock/pop recording. Someone more adventurous would no doubt be able to lift the kits to an even higher level and there’s plenty of scope for obsessive tinkerers. At around $120 for just two kits, this package is not cheap. But it is certainly among the most detailed sample collections you’ll find, and you’re getting exactly what you pay for, rather than a bunch of filler sounds. Abbey Road also doesn’t come with any groove samples, so it’s clearly a drummer’s offering rather than a producer’s pick. Its excellent sounds, quality and depth of sampling make it a valuable addition to any sample library, especially for anyone who plays modern classics. Just one word of warning: this is a very big pack, so unless you have very, very fast Internet access and a generous download entitlement, go for the hardcopy version rather than the download. 43

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 44

--vst-Product review: Addictive Drums XLNAUDIO’S ADDICTIVE DRUMS VST is usually lumped with Toontrack’s EZdrummer and FXpansion’s BFDeco, but the main difference is that it requires a host. In my case, I tried it on a Windows laptop using the free SaviHost which is extremely easy to use. What most people find instantly appealing about AD is its tiny footprint of less than 2GB. Where the other lite VSTs have smallish base kits with a couple of toms and around three cymbals, AD has 12 kit pieces. Of course, you don’t have to use them all. The stock pack has three full kits - a Sonor Designer, DW Collector’s Series (both with kick, snare and five toms) and a Tama Starclassic (with three toms). On the cymbal side, there’s a choice of three hi-hats, four rides, nine crashes and three splashes two chinas from the Sabian and Paiste collections. There are also some extra bits like a Pearl Signature Ferrone snare, Masterworks Piccolo snare and Masterworks kick. The application opens in the Kit page, where you can audition and tune the kit pieces using intuitive and easy-to-use controls. Unlike the rival VSTs, the kit representation in AD is inanimate – you can’t “play” it, but you can audition individual pieces by clicking on their images on the kit page. And, where both rivals take a while to load instruments, with AD, it’s almost instantaneous and you can change sounds on the fly, even while listening to a groove – and that’s impressive. AD’s second page, the Edit screen, allows you to alter the effects – tune the instruments, modify mic placements and change other parameters – much like the activities in other VSTs’ mixer screen. In the FX pane, one can change the two included reverb settings. This is probably an unnecessary window, which most rivals merge into the mixer screen, but it has some nice graphics, so it’s good to have. The last pane is the Beats option where literally thousands of beats and fills can be selected. Edrummers probably won’t spend much time here because we can make our own beats, but this page also provides access to the map window where MIDI mapping is possible. There are presets for all the popular modules (including the 2box, which is not yet mapped for some VST products) and a “learn” function where triggers can be assigned to kit pieces and articulations. So, set-up is really easy, even for the VST novice, 44

and there isn’t much stuffing around before you’re ready to play. The stock kits are excellent bread-and-butter drum sets which get quite a lift from the various adjustment presets. The kits tend to favour heavier, rock applications with some very handy retro-style sounds, a stadium-like live kit and a couple of techno offerings in there for good measure. The starting line-up is limited, but like rival VSTs, there is, of course, a range of add-on kits – or ADpaks, as xlnaudio calls them – and the current crop includes Retro, Jazz (Brushes and Sticks), Funk and Reel Machines (featuring the sounds of classic Simmons kits which can’t be named because someone else now owns that trademark!). And what’s it like to play? I was initially a bit distracted by the latency, but was able to tweak the ASIO driver settings to get a decent balance of sample depth and delay. Once that was addressed, I found the application very responsive, with an impressive range of dynamics. One of the most impressive features is the velocity-sensitive cymbal chokes which are hyper-realistic compared to most of its competitors. The playability was certainly enhanced by the quick changes on the fly – something which would be important to gigging drummers who don’t really want to be watching kits load up in the hope they’ll be ready for the next song. Overall, Addictive Drums is a very neat solution, offering some detailed samples with a small footprint. There’s plenty of tweaking scope for the amateur (I’m really not that into infinite mixing options) and it’s an easy-to-use solution with a gentle learning curve. As a drummer rather than a producer, AD is hard to fault.

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 45

--vst-Product review: Virtually Erskine IT’S GOOD TO see a new sample offering optimised for lower-end VSTs, and the newest collection from Cymbal Masters and Platinum Samples, Virtually Erskine, is designed for the BFDeco entry product as well as its BFD2 package. For those unfamiliar with Peter Erskine, whose website simply describes him as “Drummer. Composer. Professor”, he is perhaps best known for his four-year stint in Weather Report. He has 500 albums and film scores under his belt, and has toured and recorded with Steely Dan, Diana Krall, Chick Corea, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Virtually Erskine library consists of two collections, sold separately. The first is the Sound Library, the second is a collection of MIDI Grooves. All the grooves and samples are played by Erskine and meticulously recorded and produced by John Emrich, not only an e-drum guru, but also a Zendrum virtuoso and digitalDrummer contributor. Emrich did the recordings in Erskine’s own personal studio to capture his signature sound, something that is evident in a stunning promo video which shows the original kits and the samples played side by side. The recordings are done mostly with Shure overhead mics to which Emrich added one stereo room mic. He didn’t bother with the Amb3 channel because “it was not needed to capture Peter’s signature sound”. I tested the Sound Library together with its companion Brushes Pack, trialling both on a TD-20based kit and a Zendrum.

The Sound Library is designed for smaller kits. When you have as much talent as Erskine, you don’t need a ton of gear, so the samples cover bass, snare, two rack toms, a floor tom, hi-hat, ride and two crashes. There are two kit set-ups, both DW - The Jazz Series and the Collectors VLT rock kit. With the smaller jazz kit, you can choose between an 18” or 20” bass drum, the two snares common to both kits, a 14”x4.5” wood jazz series snare or a more aggressive 14”x6.5” stainless steel snare. The rock kit is built around a 22”x16” kick and a three-tom line-up of a 10”x8”, a 13”x9” and a 16x16” floor tom, all sporting Evans G2 heads. The Zildjian cymbal samples include 14” New Beat hi-hats, an A Series 14” Thin Crash and a K Series 18” Dark Crash, a 22” Swish Knocker and a few rise choices - 19” Armand Ride with rivets, a Zildjian 20” Prototype, a 21” Armand Ride and a 20” Left Side Ride. These are two very different kits, one smooth and subtle, the other punchier but still crisp and compact. The samples are richly nuanced, with a wide spectrum of articulations that are especially useful for the Zendrum. There are drags and flams, crossstick and side-stick samples, for example, providing the snare with plenty of depth and variety – even more so when the anti-machinegun option is selected to ensure the same samples aren’t triggered twice. At $80, the sample library is very keenly priced. However, it’s available only as a download and at 5 GB, that can be a challenge, especially for those with slow Internet connections.

For review suggestions, contact digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 46

New products Metal ADpak by xlnaudio This pack for Addictive Drums features a Ludwig Classic Maple drum kit recorded by metal guru Ross Robinson (Korn, Slipknot) in Los Angeles. The 18-piece drum kit is characterised by thunderous toms, a heavy kick drum, a sharp but balanced snare drum and vicious Zildjian cymbals. The Metal ADpak includes 30-plus mix presets tweaked by professional metal producers and musicians such as Roberto Laghi and Björn Gelotte (In Flames), David E.K. (Fuge), Martin Preikschas and many others. To accompany the new kit, xlnaudio has also released the Diabolic MIDI Pak, featuring the work of Daniel Erlandsson from Arch Enemy and covering a wide range of metal styles and grooves in different tempos and variations. Price: $59 Information:

Military Cadence by Platinum Samples Platinum Samples has teamed up with digitalDrummer columnist and retired Chief Musician from the US Navy Band in Washington, DC John Emrich to release the Military Cadence Multi-Format MIDI Groove Library. Military Cadence features drumline grooves, snare rolls and a full collection of rudiments formated for BFD2, BFDeco, EZdrummer, EZplayer, Superior Drummer 2.0, Addictive Drums, Cakewalk Session Drummer, as well as General MIDI which can be used with any GM compatible drum software or hardware. It’s a collection of 285 live, military cadence grooves and rudiments recorded as a real performance on an electronic drum set, composed and recorded by Emrich. Price: $19.99 Information:

Number 1 Hits EZX by Toontrack This EZX expansion for EZdrummer, according to its creators, is “a fusion between organic, electronic, high-tech and vintage - a sound library that covers classic sounds but carries them into the new decade, a collection of drums that would sit right away in any contemporary pop, dance, house or hip hop mix”. Produced by sound designer Niklas Flyckt (Britney Spears, Robyn, Kylie Minogue, Girls Aloud, Rachel Stevens), it is a one-stop-shop for instant drum production for contemporary pop, dance, house and hip hop music. It has the popular Linn, TR 909, TR 808, DR 55 sounds as well as Flyckt’s characteristic acoustic run through his signal chain of SSL, tube vintage compressors and hard-to-find outboard gear. Price: €69 Information: 46


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:48 PM Page 47


With growing interest among e-drummers in VSTs, there are many little details that can make the difference between fighting with technology and mastering the tools. E-drum guru John Emrich has kindly agreed to answer some of the common questions.

Question: I notice that my VST has all these mic setting and mixing options. I’m a drummer not a sound engineer, so can I just ignore all of that and choose some drums and play? Answer: Yes! All of the popular VST drum programmes include presets. You can have great results right away. All of the hard work involving selecting mics, placement, and proper recorded gain structure has been taken care of. Don’t be scared of building your own presets; it’s easy. This is a great way to experiment and learn a little about processing. All that really matters is that it sounds good to you.

Question: I’m using ASIO drivers, but I can’t seem to play audio from my computer like music tracks to accompany my VST drums. Am I doing something wrong, or do I need some more gear to enable me to hear both the VST sounds and audio from my sound card?

Answer: ASIO drivers are an important subject to understand. ASIO stands for Audio Stream Input/Output. It is a driver protocol for Windows-based machines that allows the end-user to connect their programmes to sound card hardware. It is important to make sure that you have an ASIO driver that allows for flexibility and reduces latency. I recommend getting a free copy of ASIO4ALL.

Playing audio, like that from a CD, at the same time that you wish to play a VST drum

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

programme means you have two applications sending info to your audio interface. Some programmes will allow you to have both going at the same time, but it depends on the programmes. A better option would be to get your hands on a software Digital Audio Workstation programme. Many of the well-known software DAWs like Cubase AI5 have free, feature-reduced versions. There are also programmes like Reaper that cost very little. Using a DAW programme like Cubase or Reaper has a couple of benefits. Both of these can work with ASIO4ALL and the computer’s onboard sound card. You can load in audio files that you want to play with and learn a little about working with a DAW. It really is simple. This will also allow you to record yourself for fun. The key is that now both the music and the VST drums are running inside one programme and your audio interface is only dealing with one programme. Another solution worth looking at is a simple, inexpensive Audio/MIDI interface. I recommend this route because it will be better suited for your needs than using a computer’s onboard sound card. This will also generally give you better results dealing with latency. The cool thing is that most simple interfaces will include a free version of a DAW. This kills two birds with one stone. ○ Send your VST questions to


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 48



For the record

When it comes to recording drum parts, there are several options for electronic drums. Simon Ayton runs through some of these.

IT WASN’T REALLY so long ago that multi-tracking drums into a desktop or laptop computer was a major ask for any machine, while purpose-built multi-track machines were costly and offered little editing possibilities themselves.

expanding computing power at our disposal to record at potentially triple-digit sample AND bit rates. But having the power to crunch those huge numbers doesn’t necessarily aid the creative process for an inspired drum part.

MIDI proved a great aid for keyboard players and engineers, allowing the inter-connection and control of instruments from different makers. It also allowed large and complex arrangements to be recorded and endlessly copied and edited using minimal space.

Let’s get straight to the positives and negatives of recording electronic drums via MIDI and via audio…

Nowadays and off into the future, we’ll no doubt take for granted that for modest dollars we’ll have ever48

Recording via Audio Outputs Thumbs Up: Plug the kit into audio interface with two leads (stereo, of course!), choose sounds, decide on tempo, set recording level and then go for it. I got it in one take, so time for another beer!

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 49

Thumbs Down: Listening back, the rest of the band reckon I could have played it better. Kick drum too quiet and not enough snap so gets buried in the guitars. Snare also too quiet and could use a bit of reverb. What was I thinking with those toms and where’s that ride cymbal gone? Recording level also too hot and some parts distorted. Need to organise another recording session.

Recording via the MIDI output Thumbs Up: Plug kit into MIDI interface with one lead. No need to set recording level, decide on sounds or even final song tempo. Start recording. Recorded several takes as it hardly takes up any hard drive space. Got a great take but the timing of a couple of parts wasn’t perfect, so fixed this using the note quantise in the recording software. Found the perfect drum sounds for the track using a combination of sounds from the drum brain and some from virtual drum software and was able to adjust their levels just right for the song. Changed my mind in the mix and did another version with different tom and snare sounds. Thumbs Down: Need to know the difference between MIDI Out and MIDI In.

Reality Check Recording electronic drums - or for that matter any audio mixed together, even in stereo - is a bit like baking a cake. No matter what, once it’s baked, you can’t change the amount of sugar or flour in it. Even if your drum module allows multiple outputs and you have recorded the drum kit instruments on

separate tracks, you still won’t be able to easily substitute, tune or alter the sounds beyond their original form without much work. When recording via MIDI, you may still want to bounce/mix the software drum sounds or the kit’s audio output down to a stereo track for the final mix with the rest of the music, but this can be done at the very last stage - once all the creative polishing and editing work has been done and the performance and sound is as intended. Great drum joy is to be had from pumping the MIDI performance back into the kit’s MIDI In, amplifying the sound into a room and micing the result to add into the final mix too! By the way, even a kit with only left and right outputs can be recorded onto separate tracks one MIDI instrument part (kick, then snare, then toms, etc.) at a time. Also, whereas recording audio consumes much hard disk space, the data saved in MIDI recording is miniscule in comparison. Entire multi-take MIDI recordings can be sent via email easily as MIDI files which remain completely editable at the receiver’s end using whatever electronic drum hardware or software they have. For a blow-by-blow explanation on setting up for a recording, laying down tracks and mixing the result, I recommend you check out ‘Long Distance Drumming’ (digitalDrummer, January 2010). There’s also comprehensive info to be found on the Internet on MIDI recording and most music sequencing programmes have extensive help on the subject , so uncurl that MIDI lead and give it a go!

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 50


Kits he p trigger th se acoustics

They’re halfway between ready-made drum pads and do-it-yourself triggers. They’re kits that allow you to transform an acoustic shell into an e-drum, and as Allan Leibowitz found, they vary in price, ease-of-use and performance. 50

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 51

digitalDrummer scoured the four corners of the globe to assemble a range of DIY kits. Each was installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions into a 14” acoustic shell. This size was chosen in the wake of our external trigger review because it sorts the men from the boys. It’s relatively easy to trigger a small head, but with the larger sizes, sensitivity can drop off at the extremities, and positional sensing – that change of the tone as one moves from the centre of the drum towards the rims, emulating acoustic drums - is more troublesome on bigger surfaces. The converted drums were tested as snares, using a Roland TD-20 module with the TDW-20 expansion card and the latest firmware, an older TD-6 and a 2box module. Our digitalDrummer scorecard measured each kit against a number of criteria and in each case, the top score is five and the worst is awarded one point. For ease of construction, five points means easily done without tools or craft skills; four indicates that some tools are required; three implies the need for removal and or replacement of some drum parts (other than heads), two indicates the need for drilling or soldering and one connotes the need for drilling/part replacement and soldering. The performance score is an average (out of five points) across the three modules on which the triggers were tested.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 52

On the 2box, a fair amount of sensitivity boost was required, while the threshold also had to be dropped significantly, but once that was done, response and dynamics were very good across the entire head. Rim response was slightly subdued. The 682Drums kit is certainly among the easiest to install and the company also sells mesh heads and rim silencers, so it is a one-stop-shop solution. Price: € 55 ($79) Ease of construction: 4

682Drums DT2-PRO

Non-invasiveness: 4

Late last year, digitalDrummer reviewed the nondestructive kit from European company 682Drums.

Performance: 3.66

The kit consists of a piezo and cone mounted on a metal plate and attached to a sturdy black ribbon. The ribbon is draped over the edges of the shell and held in place by the head and rim – no other form of attachment is required. The 6.5 mm output jack can be mounted in the air vent hole, or simply attached at the bottom of the shell in bare-bottom drums. 682Drums also does a dual-zone version, with a separate sensor that attaches to the shell. This is not just a stick-on sensor, like the Quartz version, but a solid-looking metal bracket which attaches to one of the lug screws. I found installation relatively easy, thanks to the detailed instructions. Armed with my experience from a previous review, installation of the ribbon was easy when I used masking tape to hold the ribbons in place as I centred the cone. No soldering is required, and the kit includes bullet connectors to link the sensors and the jack, neatly colour-coded and snug fitting. In TD-20 testing, the trigger needed a slight sensitivity boost to get good responsiveness at the extremities, but once tweaked, responsiveness and dynamics were very good. Interestingly, like the Quartz kit, the polarity of the head trigger needed to be reversed (ie. the red connected to the black) to get full positional sensing. Rim response was good on the TD-20 without any adjustment, but ironically, not quite as good on either of the other modules, where adjustment was harder. For the TD-6, it was necessary to revert to the original polarity. Sensitivity needed to be significantly boosted and threshold dropped to achieve acceptable triggering, but even after tweaking, the TD-6 struggled with some of the softer hits at the extremities. Perhaps some adjustment of the cone height might have improved the triggering, but since the height worked fine for the TD-20 and even the 2box, that’s debatable. 52

ddt Truss system There probably isn’t an easier e-conversion kit out there. The ddt Truss system consists of a one-piece bridge that mounts straight onto the bearing edge with no screws or attachments of any type. The bridge is set at a perfect height for the inbuilt trigger cone in the middle of its span, and it overlaps the outside of the shell to reveal a stereo XRL jack on the one side and a discrete counterbalance section on the other. Installation is totally simple: remove the acoustic head, position the truss on the shell (preferably between the lugs), slip a mesh head over it (and ddt makes excellent white dual-ply heads as well), replace the hoop and slip on a ddt rim silencer (sold separately). The ingenious system is totally simple and completely reversible and one has to wonder who would take up ddt’s custom install option. The rim trigger is built-in and kits are available in all sizes from 8” to 22”. All kits include a quality 4.5 m XLR–jack cable. Set-up was as simple with only minor tweaking required on the TD-20 module. The stock PD125 setting worked better than the 125X, but did require a couple of clicks of sensitivity boost and some rim gain. Triggering was responsive across the whole head and around the entire rim. Tracking and dynamic response were excellent, although for some reason, positional sensing worked far better in PD125 mode

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 53

than with the PD125X setting. The module’s position detecting meter hardly moved in X mode, but followed the triggering in the 125 setting. On the TD-6, there was also a need for a slight sensitivity nudge, although the rim setting needed no adjustment for good triggering. The ddt trigger was plug and play on stock pad12 setting on the 2box, with excellent responsiveness across the head and the rim. The downside: this is clearly the most expensive option available, but if you were triggering a good quality acoustic kit, you probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Also, to its credit, the kit comes with a threeyear warranty. Price: €159 ($225) Ease of construction: 5 Non-invasiveness: 5 Performance: 4.3

Musician Near You rail system This kit is available online from the US and consists of a rail attached to two brackets which overhang the bearing edge. It’s a budget version of the ddt Truss and requires no hardware removal. There are just two screws to tighten once the mounting

brackets have been fully extended. In my case, I needed to bend the fittings with pliers to get them to fit over the edge. The trigger assembly ends in a Neutric stereo inline jack which may or may not fit in your drum’s airhole. If not, you’ll need to widen that until it fits – or use a bottomless shell. One installation tip you won’t find in the instructions: make sure you position the hooks over your lugs. I tried the rail between lugs and the hooks distorted the mesh head hoop on three different heads, making it impossible to tighten. However, when aligned with the lugs, it came together easily (there, just saved you 15 minutes and maybe the vendor will add that to his instructions!).

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 54

For some reason, the instructions advise you to move the trigger pyramid assembly off centre, which I did. When connected to the Roland TD-20 module, the trigger responded well with PD125X settings, needing only one click of sensitivity boost and about the same rim gain as most of the other kits. Performance was surprisingly good. The trigger was responsive all the way to the rim. Triggering was even all around the rim, and tracking and dynamics were very good. Positional sensing was up there with the other samples, the only slight issue being a difficulty in getting ‘distant” hits on the side closest to the trigger and a slight loss of response on the opposite far corner. Again, I’m puzzled by the offcentre position. It’s almost as if the unit was designed for the TD-6 because it needed absolutely no adjustment on this module. Response and dynamics were very good almost to the extremities of the head, and rim triggering was excellent. On the 2box, quite a lot of tweaking – reduced gain, reduced threshold and alternation of the curve - was required to produce passable, but not brilliant, triggering and the rim response was useless unless struck very close to the sensor. At $30 plus postage, this is one of the cheapest solutions and its other clear advantage is that it has minimal impact on the shell – none if you’re using a bottomless shell or if you have a generous airhole (or your shell does, at least). Price: $30 Ease of construction: 4 Non-invasiveness: 4 Performance: 3.33

Pintech AcousTech kit American e-drum maker Pintech has been producing its conversion kits for many years, usually performing conversions in-house. However, growing demand from international distributors and from DIYers has seen the company offer the kits as a self-install product. The kit is based on the components used in Pintech’s ready-made drums and includes a bridge assembly, head and rim piezos and a foam column, and buyers are able to specify cable length and jack style. One word of warning: read the instructions before jumping in or you may end up with the bridge upside down! Installation requires the removal of the top screw from each lug and mounting the bridge, which 54

comes in three sections and fits a range of shell sizes by simply sliding the two end bits under the middle section. The piezo and sensor column are then attached, using the premounted adhesive strips, and the jack is then threaded through the airhole, which may require widening of the opening. The rim sensor is mounted on a metal strip that needs to be attached to a lug screw somewhere near the bottom of the drum. No soldering is required, with all the electrical bits simply clipping together – and actually staying clipped in! Just make sure you have attached everything correctly by tapping the sensors before putting back the mesh head (which is available from Pintech) and the hoop. On the TD-20, triggering was excellent on default PD125 settings. Positional sensing was spot-on, and the tracking and dynamics were faultless. However, the rim trigger was quite hot and rim sensitivity needed to be reduced a fair bit. The Pintech trigger was fairly comfortable on the TD-6, needing just a bit of sensitivity reduction, but that did reduce the responsiveness at the very extremities of the head, so it was a bit of a compromise between dynamics and use of the whole playing surface, especially as the rim triggering was quite hot and miss-hits at the edges easily triggered rim responses. On the 2box, it was a battle to dial this trigger in. Ironically, rim response was great, but I had to virtually push all the adjustments to the limits to get reasonable triggering, and the best results were using the Kick 2 settings. This resulted in very limited dynamics, with every stroke basically sounding like the drum was being bashed full bore. Besides the trigger kit and mesh heads, Pintech also sells rim silencers. Price: $56 Ease of construction: 3 Non-invasiveness: 4 Performance: 3.5

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 55

dynamics were good, but rim sensitivity was a bit on the low side. Of course, the price tag and non-invasiveness make this an appealing option, especially for those just testing the water and not wanting to spend too much. Price: $25 Ease of construction: 4 Non-invasiveness: 4

Quartz trigger harness

Performance: 3.66

Canadian DIY supplier Quartz Percussions recently added a suspended trigger system to its line-up. The $25 dual-zone kit consists of a trigger assembly attached to three Velcro straps, a stick-on rim piezo and a jack fitted with spade connectors. Quartz does two versions of the system – one with a cone for snares and one with a flat-topped column for toms. We tested the former. The assembly takes a few minutes and requires the removal of the head and hoop, placement of the harness on the reverse side, tightening the straps and putting the head back on. Finding the right position for the plastic buckles is a bit hit and miss, and I had to try a couple of times to get the right tension. Some drilling may be required for the jack mount, although it may just fit in some of the more generous airholes. The sensors are connected to the jack with spade fittings which are easy to apply, but did come loose a couple of times during testing. I guess I need to learn to push harder! When connected to the Roland TD-20 module, the trigger responded well with PD125X settings, needing only one click of sensitivity boost and about the same rim gain as most of the other kits. We also needed to reverse the polarity from the recommended connections to get positional sensing to work, but work it did. And adjusting the polarity was a cinch, as the connectors simply clip into the sturdy 6.5 mm jack assembly. Overall, performance was very good, with good response, tracking and dynamics and sensitivity to the very edge of the head. Rim triggering was excellent and, in fact, needed to be adjusted downwards. On the TD-6, the trigger needed a bit of a sensitivity boost and increased threshold levels to produce accurate triggering across the head. Rim sensitivity was a bit on the low side. The Quartz kit also needed a sensitivity boost and threshold adjustment on the 2box’s stock pad12 setting. Once dialled in, responsiveness and digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

TSK Trigger System This kit is available from German online dealer Handlesbau and ships totally unassembled – a bunch of frame arms, a cradle-type assembly, a couple of piezos (one attached to a cone) and an XLR socket. It looks easy to put together, but in fact this project took a couple of hours. If you follow the instructions, the process starts with drilling holes between each pair of lug holes for the mounting arms. There is another way of doing this, but it’s subject to some legal wrangling, so we don’t go there. With the arms attached, the platform is then screwed into the arms and the piezos attached. The cone goes on the top and the rim sensor either on the bottom or on the shell. Here, we struck the first challenge – the rim sensor wire was too short to reach from the centre of the platform to the jack, so we needed to solder additional lengths on. Additional hurdles for the craft-challenged would be soldering the leads to the XLR sockets – even though the jack is actually numbered. And then there’s the issue of drilling a hole for the chunky connector. Although the makers do supply a template, many wouldn’t have the tools to do it 55

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 56

neatly, nor would they necessarily want to permanently take a big chunk out of the shell – especially if there’s a chance the kit may again be used acoustically. In our case, we opted to use a standard quarter-inch stereo jack instead. The final step is adjusting the cone height – a relatively easy task, using the nuts on mounting bolts to raise or lower the “table”. The difficulty is believing the instruction that the cone height should not exceed “1mm beyond the drum edge” – way lower than the traditional wisdom of at least an eighth of an inch (or 3mm). When it was all wired up, the snare needed almost no module tweaking from the 125X setting on the TD-20. Responsiveness was excellent across the head – even at the extremities, and positional detection was spot-on. Tracking and dynamic response were excellent, and rim sensitivity was great without any adjustment. So, the cone height instruction was not as bizarre as it might seem. And that’s because the cone is a little shorter than most and blunter at the tip. The material does produce a slight hot spot on the cone tip, but it was certainly playable without being distracting. The snare was harder to dial in on the TD-6 module, and even after tinkering, performance was less than optimal. Similarly, on the 2box module, no acceptable level of triggering could be obtained, even after extensive adjustments, using a range of pad settings. In short, the snare was just too hot. The manufacturers admit this is not a kit for DIYphobics and stress that they’ve left out some labour to keep prices down. Price: €39,95 ($57) for the platform and €9.95 ($14) for the six arms. Ease of construction: 1 Non-invasiveness: 2 Performance: 2.6 (due to the low score on the 2box) Performance: 4


The verdict This review probably revealed more about the trigger tolerance of modules than about the DIY kits themselves. The enormous tweakability of modules like the TD-20 means that acceptable performance can be achieved from almost any trigger. The 2box module is very fussy and some triggers just couldn’t be made to work acceptably in the time allocated for this project. Perhaps the next software upgrade will make the unit more accommodating. The ddt Truss system ticks a lot of the boxes – easy to install, excellent performance across all three tests, no impact on the shell and availability of matched heads and rim silencer, but it comes at a hefty price. The Pintech system is a solid performer that’s relatively easy to install and looks built to last – at a reasonable price. It uses the same design you’ll find in Pintech’s drums, and has replaceable components if anything ever goes wrong. But it won’t suit 2box owners. The two suspended trigger systems – Quartz and 682Drums – are relatively versatile and easy to install at reasonable prices and with good performance, depending on the module with which they’re expected to work. I preferred the connectors and sturdy rim sensor on the Dutch offering, but the Canadian certainly wins on price. The TSK trigger really performed on the TD-20, but at a cost and with some DIY skills required to install. It would also not be much use for 2box owners. And if you’re using a TD-6 module, there certainly is no need to look beyond the budget, easy-to-install Musician Near You kit. Some people have turned their noses up at this product, but it was certainly no slouch in digitalDrummer’s testing, especially paired with the older module. So, for those who want to use acoustic shells, there’s plenty of choice and a number of good performers at all pricepoints. These triggers generally performed as well as or better than external triggers because they are centrally located on the head, rather than mounted near the rim. They are also out of harm’s way and can’t be struck and damaged during play. But they may require some drilling of the shell, which might not be acceptable to some.

Highest quality 24 Bit sounds. 4gb of internal Memory. Use Mesh, Rubber or Real Heads. Edit all sounds on your MAC or PC. Create your own sounds from the software provided or upload from other sources via USB. Trigger different sounds from the rim or the head. Eight assignable outputs.

2BOX Kit shown with real Drum Heads fitted.

Individual items now on SALE separately.

2BOX Module,



ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 58


Positional sensing made easy Whether you’re building a trigger from scratch or doing a home repair, digitalDrummer can help. Philippe Decuyper will find the answers to your DIY dilemmas. Just email your questions to This month’s question is from Kaushik Nilakant: “I am a little lost over how positional detection/sensing works on Roland drum modules, and how the configuration of piezos contributes to that effect.” THE THEORY BEHIND positional sensing has been overviewed in a previous issue of digitalDrummer. To recap, let’s say that a piezo placed in a crossbartype trigger with mesh head receives more bass frequencies (long waves) if a strike occurs next to it. If this piezo is placed right in the centre of such a trigger, it will then get more bass on a centred hit and less bass from the edge. Let’s get into details now… In order to detect the position of a hit, a module must analyse the produced waveform. It needs to know how much bass there is in the signal from a piezo which is used as a microphone. Analysing frequencies can be done using various methods. Some methods are very precise but need a lot of costly mathematical operations (if you are curious enough, you can search the web for “Fast Fourier Transform”). The basic requirement is fast response to avoid latency. Roland owns a patent (US patent #7385135) which describes the extremely fast method it uses: 58

“Namely, when detection (of the) signal of the head sensor in the case when the head, composed of a net-like raw material, is ... observed, there is such a characteristic that a first half-wave time changes dependent on a position of percussion point in a certain frequency band.” Ouch! What does it mean? It means that what’s coming from a piezo must be cleaned up to be useful (“a certain frequency band”) and that the module just needs to know how long it takes for this clean signal to go from 0 volts to 0 volts as soon as a hit occurs (“first half-wave time”). We can then imagine how our module works: Our piezo starts to produce enough electricity… -> a hit is occurring …wait until the signal goes back to 0 volts. -> then we can know how strong this hit was (from the voltage “peak”) and how far from the centre it was (from the elapsed time).

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 59

The signal produced by our piezo must be filtered so the module can detect position from this signal. Practical considerations for the DIYer The cleaner the piezo signal, the more effective the detection of the position. Even if a piezo is a bad microphone, we can help it to co-operate with a module. Like a guitar, shielding the wire to which our piezo is attached will reduce useless noise. If you do not use a shielded wire to connect your piezo to the trigger’s socket, interlacing both negative and positive wires can also help to get a cleaner signal. Roland triggers feature an inverse polarity, so it is usually a good idea to link the ceramic part of your piezo to the “sleeve” (ground) part of your jack socket, and the brass part of your piezo to the “tip” (positive) part of your jack socket. This way, the first half-wave produced by your piezo will be negative, which may be important in the context of the waveform analysis job performed by your module. Piezo transducers have different properties and some may not get the exact frequencies a Roland module needs to detect the position of your hits. You’ll need to change a piezo for a different one if positional sensing does not work with it.

Positional sensing from the rim piezo As far as I know, Roland modules do not appear to work this way. Some may think it is implemented like that because some Roland modules are able to differentiate “open” and “shallow” rim shots. However, the rim piezo is usually used as a binary switch (rimshot or not rimshot). Velocity and position are always processed from the head piezo. Some non-Roland and many home-made modules or software add-ons may use a two-piezo position detection approach, probably because: • The first half-wave method needs the piezo signal to be filtered properly (extra filters and fine tuning needed). • Roland triggers are produced in series with the same type of piezo featuring specific properties (Roland module algorithms are made to work with Roland triggers) while home-made or other brand triggers may not provide the signal a Roland module expects to work with. • The first half-wave method is patented by Roland.

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 60


MyMONSTERkit This month’s monster is a custom-built Diamond Electronics Drums kit crafted for Jeremy Godwin in Sydney, Australia. Academically qualified musician Jeremy Godwin exchanged “hundreds of emails” with Diamond to get everything customised. The specifications covered everything from the birch shells to the burr veneer, the size and location of the lugs and a first for Diamond – removable triggers. Hybrid Kit Setup: Dual-zone toms: Two 8”x6”; two 10”x7.5”; 12”x9” and 14”x12” (all Birch core with Maple inner/outer face ) Snares: 10”x6.2” and 12”x5.5” 4-ply vertical grain Birch core with 2-ply Maple inner/outer face, both with snare beds Bass: 20”x18” 4-ply vertical grain Birch core with 2-ply Maple inner/outer face and Poplar veneered Maple Hoops All drums with outer ply of Poplar Burr Cluster Veneer. 60

Snare drums fitted with gold Trick throw-offs. All drums fitted with gold iso mounts and drumtec 2-ply mesh heads . Cymbals: Roland VH12 hi-hat Roland CY15R ride Kit-Toys 14” crash (x2) Kit-Toys 13” crash (x2) Kit-Toys 12” crash (x2) Audio Hardware: Roland TD-20X module, M-Audio Fast Track Ultra 8R Audio/MIDI interface Hardware: Pearl 503c three-sided curved rack Pearl RH-2000 Remote Hi Hat DW 8002B Longboard Double Kick Pedal

If you have a monster, email

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 61

Jeremy with his kit (above). All the drums feature a unique removable trigger system for easy conversion to an acoustic kit (right).

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011

For their own safety, digitalDrummer advises impulse purchase-prone readers to avoid this feature.


Lots of gold hardware on the snares and toms (below).


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:36 PM Page 62


AUXILIARY TRIGGERS The Cowpaddy Electronic Drum Accessory The Cowpaddy is an Accessory Drum Trigger that can fit just about anywhere without having to rearrange your set. The Cowpaddy is made of a foam that is rubber coated, so its easy on the Wrists and Hands. With 1/4" Mono Jack Cable or the Optional Stereo "Y" cable, it can be used as the Main or Auxiliary Trigger from any Dual Trigger input on your Module. The Cowpaddy can be attached to any Rack Mount L-Rods or Cymbal stands up to 1/2" in Diameter. Choose between a single Cowpaddy or a special Dual Cowpaddy Drum Trigger Accessory, complete with "Y" Cable. And now the Hand Drum, Dual Cowpaddy Cowabongo allows you to have a Hand Drum incorporated with your Electronic Set. To order, email



Acoustic elegance Stealth electronics 62

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 11/07/11 9:22 AM Page 63





VDrumLib allows you to create custom drum kit libraries for your Roland V-Drum module. The same simple user interface is employed for all of the following Roland V-Drum modules: TD-3, TD-6, TD-8, TD-9, TD-10, TD-10EXP, TD-12, TD-20 & TDW-20 VDrumLib is trialware, so it is FREE for you to try. If you wish to continue using it beyond the 10-day trial period, a license can be purchased for US$19.99.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011



ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:36 PM Page 64

gear Guide MESH HEADS



To order in Australia, click here

digitalDrummer cable label sheets are running out at just $5 each (including postage). SOUND SOURCE



Your ad here for less than $200 CLICK HERE 64

ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:36 PM Page 65

--contributors-Let’s hear it for the band ... digitalDrummer is a combined effort, bringing together the expertise and experience of electronic drummers, industry professionals and experienced writers. Here are some of the people who made this edition happen ...

SIMON AYTON Simon Ayton is the V-Drums and percussion specialist for Roland Australia. He began drumming in 1983 and trained as an audio engineer. Simon’s drumming can be heard on more than two dozen albums and film soundtracks, ranging from metal to electronic and folk, and he is currently working on two new solo albums. He shares his intimate knowledge of module-tweaking and amplification.

PHILIPPE DECUYPER Philippe Decuyper, a.k.a. PFozz, is the founder of the Edrum For Free website. He has consulted to Toontrack since 2005, specialising in electronic drums, and is also the founder of eaReckon, a small independent audio software company which launched in 2009 and recently debuted its BIoXpander MIDI solution. PFozz answers readers’ DIY questions in each edition.

JOHN EMRICH John Emrich specialises in live and studio drumming, music production services, drum programming, original scores and arrangements, sound design and jingles, remote recording and event support, digital editing and mixing and product development, and has been responsible for many award-winning sample libraries for the BFD2 platform as well as sound development for drum modules.

ALLAN LEIBOWITZ Allan Leibowitz founded digitalDrummer in 2010, drawing on a long-time interest in percussion, many years of media experience including stints reviewing everything from sports cars to restaurants, and a love of gadgets. His interest in e-drums is not just academic and he tests gear in the real world as a drummer for gigging tribute/oldies band, City Limits.

CHRIS WHITTEN Chris Whitten is a British session drummer who has recorded and toured with Paul McCartney and Dire Straits. He has also recorded with Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, The Pretenders, ABC and The The. Whitten has just completed The Classic EZX for Toontrack. Now based in Sydney, Australia, he has also worked on film and television scores. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011


ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 57

Missed a review? Using the search function and the archive option, you can search back issues for any content, including our reviews and head-to-head comparisons.

Here is a summary of our reviews to date: January 2010:

October 2010



Yamaha DTX M-12

Roland HPD-10

Korg Wavedrum


Roland TD-8

682Drums e-conversion kit



Amps and Powered Speakers

Double pedals

April 2010

Notation software

February 2011

Reviews: Diamond Electronic Drums 12� snare


Crappy Triggers external triggers


Jman cymbal conversion kit

E-cymbals (stick noise)


Cymbal VSTs – Bosphorus vs Zildjian

Mesh heads

May 2011



July 2010 Comparatives:

DrumIt Five 2box kit Comparatives:

External Triggers

Auxiliary triggers


E-cymbals (crashes)

Your definitive guide to e-drum gear