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Edition 15

AUGUST 2013

The global electronic drumming e-zine

Emrich

electrifies

KT2 kit review Gen16 update TD-30 tweaks


Š2013 Avedis Zildjian Company

GEN16 DIRECT SOURCE PICKUP

THE NEXT GENERATION Introducing the new Direct Source Pickup from Zildjian. A one-of-a-kind pickup design for use with Gen16 acoustic-electric cymbals as well as Zildjian acoustic cymbals. Eliminates feedback, phasing, and cross-talk. Reproduce a natural acoustic tone. Enhance with reverb. Or use the Gen16 Digital Cymbal Processor (DCP) to tone shape any cymbal in your setup. Seamlessly integrates with both edrum and acoustic drum sets. Perfect for live performance applications. Visit gen-16.com for more information.

SOUND LEGACY


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--from-the-editor-is published by

DigitalDrummer

ABN: 61 833 620 984 30 Oldfield Place

Brookfield Q 4069 AUSTRALIA

editor@digitaldrummermag.com

www.digitaldrummermag.com Editor & Publisher Allan Leibowitz Sub-Editor

Solana da Silva Contributors Scott Holder

Jeremy Hoyle Bob Terry

Cover Photo

Allan Leibowitz

Design and layout ‘talking business’

Support digitalDrummer If you like what you’re reading, please make a donation.

Copyright:

Forget the legalese and just play fair! We work hard to produce digitalDrummer. Please respect that and don’t rip off our content. In this age of electronic publishing, it’s obviously tempting to “borrow” other people’s work, and we are happy to share our stuff — but please ask first and be sure to include a link back to our website on anything published elsewhere.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2013

There may be a preconception that e-drumming is limited to pads and cymbals that look like traditional drum kits. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, as we see in Bob Terry’s introduction to kit alternatives. Bob runs through some of the multi-pad offerings and a range of other devices which can be used to trigger percussion sounds. Clearly, one of the biggest advantages of electronic percussion is the separation of form and function. In order to achieve a deep, boomy bass drum sound, you don’t need a huge resonant instrument – you can do it with a tiny trigger. Continuing this theme, our featured artist John Emrich is well known for his use of non-kit instruments. In fact, a new Zendrum model, designed by John, shows his profound understanding not only of playing ergonomics, but of hand drum techniques. John is very proficient on the traditional acoustic set, but he is also one of the few musicians who has built a career out of e-drumming. As you’ll read in the interview, he is involved in every aspect of the industry – from recording and sampling to design and performance. John’s journey is an inspiration and equally impressive is his keenness to give something back to the e-drum community through his detailed YouTube videos and his contributions to publications like ours. This edition has a strong product focus. Besides the article on non-kit set-ups, we have the first review of the entry-level KAT percussion KT2 kit, a first look at a new electronic china cymbal from Triggera, and a detailed examination of the Zildjian Gen16 AE Direct Source system which has taken the acoustic/electronic cymbal range to a new level. We also look at a couple of accessories – the Presonus FireStudio Mobile interface and the MIDIJet Pro wireless MIDI solution. Both of these devices may be niche products for electronic drummers, but they are extremely useful in specific applications. More importantly, they both simply work – and work simply. Readers will be familiar with Scott Holder’s reviews, but this time, we see the results of his DIY handy work, with a step-by-step guide to building a cheap and easy splash cymbal. It’s an interesting read and a great starter project which will only cost about $20 and take a short time. As you can see, there’s a mixed bag of offerings in this edition, as we strive to provide something of interest to everyone. Clearly, that’s a big ask, and if we’ve missed anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me with requests. And to make it even easier to contribute, we now have a Facebook Group where you are welcome to post your thoughts.

editor@digitaldrummermag.com

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The global electronic drumming e-zine Edition 15

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14 20 34 4

August 2013

TALKING-POINT

How I use e-drums

There’s some discussion at the digitalDrummer Facebook Group about how e-drums are used. Here are some of the posts…

GEAR

Kit alternatives

Electronic percussion is not limited to full-size kits. As Bob Terry explains, buyers can also choose from a variety of stand-alone electronic percussion pads and controllers.

The kat is out of the bag

There has been a surge of activity at the entry level of the market, and Allan Leibowitz reviewed one of the new offerings, the KAT Percussion KT2 kit.

Direct sensors make sense

Almost two years have passed since Zildjian ruffled some feathers with its Gen16 AE cymbals. Allan Leibowitz has followed the evolution and now tries the latest incarnation.

A china that looks the part

A new offering from Triggera is aimed at those edrummers who want a china cymbal that doesn’t just sound like a china, but looks like one, too. On opposite sides of the Pacific, Allan Leibowitz and Scott Holder put the D14 through its paces. www.digitaldrummermag.com


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profile

Profile: John Emrich

For American drummer John Emrich, electronic percussion is more than a passion. It’s the basis of his professional activities.

TWEAKING

Tuning the 30

While this Roland flagship TD-30 module is not vastly different to its predecessors, Jeremy Hoyle notes that plenty of new users are overwhelmed by the myriad tweaking and tuning options such a module provides.

VST

New Products

Read about new offerings from Native Instruments, Toontrack and XLNaudio.

ACCESSORIES

Product review: Presonus FireStudio Mobile

Having used the FireStudio Mobile for the VST review, it is worth passing on some thoughts on the device itself.

Product review: MIDIJet Pro

What have pipe organs got to do with e-drums? Surprisingly, the answer is wireless MIDI.

DIY

Making a splash

A simple, easy-to-make splash trigger for under $20. No problem, if you know where to start, as Scott Holder explains.

gear

My Monster Kit

Aaron Salamon from Perth, Western Australia has augmented his maxed-out Roland TD-20 kit with Gen16 AE cymbals.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2013

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--TALKING-POINT--

How I use e-drums

There’s some discussion at the digitalDrummer Facebook Group about how e-drums are used. Here are some of the posts… Philip Weinhold: For recording (as a controller) and for live performances in small venues... Always a great sound and never discuss where the mics should be placed!

Pedro Amorim: I use it for playing at home (apartment) and sometimes for rehearsal. I always use VST drum sounds like Addictive Drums or Superior. I would like to use it live with VST sounds, but I haven’t had the opportunity, and I am really afraid of computer and system crashes... Paul Roscrow: I use ‘em for playing at home, due to not being able to play my acoustic kit at home. Also I love using it in conjunction with VSTs and my goal is to play them along with my acoustic kit - best of both worlds.

Luk Bernaert: I use my TD20-KX live on stage with an in-ear system: so relaxed for me and the fellow musicians on stage, especially on small club stages. Nevertheless, one condition is very important: you must be able to rely on an adequate PA system!! Sören Köstel: I like the possibilities of changing the kit for every song, using artificial sounds and triggering samples. There is even the thought of going to surround sound somewhere in the future. Dislikes? Hmmm prices come into my mind, some technical stuff that needs further development and the fact that there are plenty of drummers around who aren’t able to see an e-drummer as a “real” one.

Steve Monti: I’m loving the control over sounds and being able to get that perfect take, all without disturbing neighbours as I work from home. Kev Harper: While the original intention was just for home use as a hobby, and because they are quiet, I have to say that having the versatility of so many kits is the main upside now. If I wanted to, I could happily play live and never have issues with tuning etc... It’s a very big plus.

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Sam Schmiedel: I like having access to literally a library of various sounds and drum kits at your finger tips and also the more quiet playing aspects for late night playing or recording. I also like the option of reassigning voices to drums - not just in the normal manner - and being able to add a secondary snare or rim click, for example, that is being triggered by a foot pedal instead of a drum itself.

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Ramon Opmeer: I decided last year to build my own from an acoustic kit to get as close as possible to an acoustic kit. This turned out to be really great together with Field Percussion Cymbals (real cymbals converted to e-cymbals). The cymbals are a little noisy, but not too bad. And it is great playing along with backing tracks to get my chops going again. And I am still able to turn the kit back into an acoustic kit. So now I use it to practise a lot and get better again to hopefully join a band.

Wayne Hanley: Electronic drums have given me the flexibility to change voices on the fly and even learn new playing styles (eg. you don’t play congas like a rock kit). The control over the volume helps me to dial it in according to the location I am playing in as well as the editing features allows me to tailor-make my kits to my liking. The control over the volume makes my family very happy. What I dislike about electronic drums is the prejudice I run into.

Vanzurpele Rudi: Total sound and volume control, especially when I play in cafés and “not so big” places. And recording possibilities with adapted software. Had already a lot of fun with this Roland. Daniel Reid: Just a hobby and fun for me at the moment. However, I spend way too much time building and tweaking things rather than playing. But once dialed in...the fun is way over the top for me in comparison to their acoustic counterparts....except maybe all the nuances and versatility of cymbal play on acoustic cymbals.

Join the discussion. Add your comments here.


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--Gear--

Kit

alternatives Electronic percussion is not limited to fullsize kits. As Bob Terry explains, buyers can also choose from a variety of stand-alone electronic percussion pads and controllers.

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ELECTRONIC PERCUSSION PADS act much like a full electronic drum kit. However, each of the sounds (and trigger pads) is contained in a single freestanding unit. These devices can augment your traditional acoustic or full electronic drum kit and usually contain eight (or more) on-board pads that can trigger any conceivable electronic voice. These can range from the normal bass drum, snare drum, toms, hi-hat and cymbal samples to various ethnic shakers, tambourines, congas and keyboard instruments.

Just like many of the full electronic kit drum modules, many all-in-one electronic drum pads have rear trigger inputs that you can use to connect to various sources such as signal triggers, foot trigger pedals or even traditional electronic (full-size) trigger pads. Thus, this unit can also act as the central nervous system of your set-up.

Percussion Pad Advantages Let’s discuss the advantages of using (and the many professional uses for) the percussion pad.

There are many advantages to using a percussion pad. Most importantly, you have a complete array of sounds within one small transportable unit, which also includes the on-board module and trigger pads. Furthermore (and depending on how robust your electronic pad is), these pads can contain everything from acoustic drum sounds to percussion sounds to tuned percussion instruments. Additionally, your pad will probably come preloaded with loops and drum grooves for you to practise with. Often, the advanced models also allow you to record your own samples and loops into the unit. There are three basic uses for this type of instrument: 1. As a stand-alone percussion tool;

2. To augment your acoustic drum kit; and 3. As a music production tool.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2013

Let’s take a look at each in greater detail. Stand-alone

As previously stated, you can have many different percussion instruments in one small (and ultra-portable) package. Using a pair of sticks, your hands, or even your fingers, you can easily play without any additional equipment. Essentially, this pad can be used as a portable, compact and often less expensive alternative to a full electronic drum kit. Thus (and in an instant), you can dial up a full kit with kick, snare, tom and cymbal sounds - as well as numerous percussion sounds such as wood blocks, bongos, congas, triangles and tuned percussion (vibraphone, marimba and timpani). If you add a bass drum and hi-hat trigger pedal, you can transform the pad into a “kit”. Add to your acoustic kit

Using a percussion pad alongside your acoustic drum kit is probably the most common advantage (and use for) this type of device. You will be able to seamlessly add triggered handclaps, tambourines, woodblocks or auxiliary snare drums to your songs. As you become more advanced, you can also play to onboard loops and patterns, or programme loops into it and accompany them while playing your acoustic drums. This device can also replace your metronome by using the onboard click for tempo settings (both during practice sessions or gigs). Music production

Drummers, DJs and music producers can also use percussion pads in the recording studio. These pads are more fun to play than a MIDI keyboard, which makes them the perfect studio component and rhythm production tool. By using a percussion pad alongside studio production software such as Cubase, Nuendo, Logic, Ableton Live or ProTools, you can record percussion parts, drum grooves or keyboard instruments into your compositions.

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Most electronic drum manufacturers offer a percussion pad at each price point – ranging from beginner to professional.

Let’s take a look at some of the features of an electronic percussion pad.

The module

There are preloaded sounds from the manufacturer called presets. You can modify these presets and save them as a custom user-kit and even create additional user-kits from scratch. The number of onboard preset sounds (and the capacity to store user sounds) will vary from unit to unit. Many pads also allow you to store and load your own custom sounds from a USB memory device or compact flash card. A percussion pad module functions, operates and navigates in a similar fashion to the full drum kit module. It utilises function buttons (located on the face) that correspond to different operations.

Trigger pads

As mentioned, a percussion pad has a number of trigger pads condensed into one unit. Additionally, these trigger pads are limited to one zone; but on some models, you can stack (layer) multiple sounds on this single zone.

Stands

Electronic drum manufacturers generally sell a stand and a clamp that is used for electronic percussion pads. The clamp mounts to the percussion pad and this fitting connects to the stand, which holds the pad. These are usually not universal; each manufacturer has their own system of clamps and fittings. This also holds true for drummers that are using racks.

Hand, mallet and unique pads

There are some electronic drum pads on the market that are considered percussion pads, but they have unique characteristics. These pads can have one surface (or many) and they are sensitive to pressure, texture (scratching) and positioning. These attributes make them perfect for hand percussionists that use their hands and a wide variety of mallets.

Korg Wavedrum

This instrument is one single pad surface that can be played with sticks, mallets or hands. It’s classified as a synthesizer and it is responsive to pressure by rubbing or scratching and it can be used to play melodic or percussive phrases, too. It has many cultural and ethnic percussion sounds and traditional drum kit sounds on board.

Stereo and headphone outputs

There are three main outputs on most electronic percussion pads: a stereo output that consists of a left/mono and right channel and a headphone output.

Auxiliary inputs

Most percussion pads also feature auxiliary (Aux) inputs and digital outputs. Often, the Aux input is used to send an iPod into the module (for play‐along purposes) and the digital output can be connected to a recording interface for an additional recording input. 10

Roland Handsonic

The Roland Handsonic is an electronic hand percussion pad with 15 trigger pads. Each pad’s built-in pressure sensor allows for realistic muting and pitch control of sounds and it also supports positional sensing for realistic timbre changes (depending on the area of pad hit). www.digitaldrummermag.com


KAT Digital Drums

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because they can constantly update and augment their sounds with external laptops, modules and sample libraries.

Mandala Pad

The Mandala electronic pad is a single surface device that connects to a computer via USB. It has 18 zones, which all respond to pressure, pitch-bend and location-based strikes. It can also be used to modify the sounds of a keyboard and other pitched instruments.

The drumKAT

The Alternate Mode drumKAT was the first well�known and widely used pad controller. It has 10 pads and nine rear trigger inputs for additional pedals and remote trigger pads. Again, it does not have any sounds of its own, but its real strength is its onboard software that allows you to stack multiple notes on the same pad (in some cases, up to 128 different sounds per pad). In addition, each pad can alternate through a large number of sounds per pad (depending on the model) and there are four sets of MIDI inputs and outputs. Thus, you can connect to 64 separate devices (sound sources) via the MIDI protocol.

Percussion Ps II:

Traditional MIDI Controllers

MIDI allows performers to control multiple synthesizers from a single keyboard. Most controllers do not have any internal sounds, but these devices transmit MIDI data to external sound modules (synthesizers) or computer software synthesizers that produce sound.

Pad controllers are the modern percussion equivalent to the traditional MIDI keyboard controller. Usually, this device has four to 12 onboard trigger pads that are used to trigger external sound sources. These include a laptop running various software synthesizers, sequencers or hardware drum machines. Often, performers choose a pad controller

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The trapKAT

The Alternate Mode trapKAT is very similar to the drumKAT, but this device seeks to combine a percussion pad and full electronic drum kit in one portable package. It has 24 playing surfaces - 10 large flat pads, 14 surrounding raised edge or “rim� pads and individual kick

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and hi-hat foot pedal inputs. Up to 16 sounds can be triggered per pad via velocity switching, layering or alternating voices. The latest version has a built-in synthesizer.

The Zendrum

The Zendrum is a MIDI triggering controller gaining popularity. Worn like a guitar (there are also desktop and laptop models), Zendrums have between 24 and 30 triggers and can be used to produce any sounds via MIDI. Some experienced players have programmed their devices to play bass at the same time as percussion, while others use the Zendrum for anything from synthesized strings and keyboards to musical comedy applications.

Additional Controllers

There are hundreds of percussion controllers on the market; for most of these, you use your

fingers (instead of sticks) and connect to a computer via USB.

Additional items

If you choose to go the MIDI percussion pad controller route, you will need some additional items such as a MIDI to USB or Firewire interface that will connect from the MIDI inputs and outputs of your percussion pad controller to a laptop or desktop computer. If you would like to familiarise yourself with detailed MIDI concepts or the available software packages on the market, I suggest that you consult additional texts on these subjects.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article will give you some things to think about if you’re planning to add a percussion pad or controller to your playing. Like the full electronic drum kit, there are many to choose from out on the market. You can find out more in my book, The Beginner’s Guide to Electronic Drums.


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--Gear--

î ˘e kat is out of the bag There has been a surge of activity at the entry level of the market, and Allan Leibowitz reviewed one of the new offerings, the KAT Percussion KT2 kit.

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What’s in the box

The triggers

The kit ships with an easy-to-assemble, sturdy, ribbed aluminium four-leg rack, subtle grey cabling and a Silent Strike tennis ball-type drum beater.

The pads have a decent feel, although they’re not quite as bouncy as some other rubber pads on the market. That may be a good or bad thing, depending on your taste. They are on the quiet end of the noise spectrum, a big plus for silent practice.

The KT2 kit is the higher-spec offering of the two launch models and ships as an eight-piece kit – four 9” dual-zone drum pads, a 9” bass pad, a 10” single-zone hi-hat with remote pedal, a 12” dual-zone crash and a 14” dualzone ride. The drum pads are all covered in white rubber, while the cymbals are decked in grey.

The brain

The KAT KT2 module comes from the same manufacturer as the Alesis and Pearl modules, so there’s a lot of expertise packed into the ultra-compact two-tone unit. Like Roland’s TD-4 and TD-9 modules, it connects via an integrated nine-trigger jack, while sporting two additional 6.3 mm jacks for an extra tom and crash. There’s a USB connector (for both MIDI transmission and software updates), MIDI IN and OUT, two 6.3 mm audio outputs, an auxiliary input and a 3.5 mm headphone out. The module is loaded with 510 sounds, 30 preset drum kits, 15 user kits and 80 playalong songs.

The dual-zone 9” drum pads seem sturdy and well constructed for their light weight. The playing surface is significantly more generous than other entry-level kits. The rim is raised, which means the pads need to be correctly positioned and angled, and they are pretty sensitive - and tweakable via the module.

The white finish is attractive, and while I would question the wisdom of this colour choice, I’m assured all it takes is a quick wipe-down to ensure the pads retain their appearance. But I wouldn’t be eating beetroot sandwiches over my kit! The kick drum is another 9” pad positioned vertically on a slimline, sturdy mount. The kick feels excellent, solid and robust with just the right amount of bounce and its triggering is excellent. The cymbal pads are light grey plastic with a raised rubber strike pad and choke assembly. The strike pad covers about 40% of the surface, and the choke

There is quite a lot of trigger-tweaking control on the module, with the ability to adjust sensitivity, threshold, crosstalk and curve as well as rim sensitivity and splash sensitivity on specific pads. The module also has easy-to-use onboard recording, something you won’t find, for example, on the 2box, and some nifty training tools which again are not always found on even higher-spec units. These are particularly useful for anyone keen to hone their skills and allow you to check your accuracy in real time.

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The dual-zone 9” drum pads seem sturdy and well constructed

- lacking in some other entry-level kits - is easy to activate with a simple squeeze on the edge. The sizes – 10” for the hat, 12” for the crash and 14” for the ride – are more than adequate, and the cymbals trigger and choke well. They are also as quiet acoustically as the big manufacturers’ rubber-covered rivals.

In action

As mentioned earlier, the triggering is good out of the box. The dynamics are generally good: hit softly and you get a soft sound; hit harder and the volume increases.

Some of the techno and electronic kits sound great, but the acoustic kits are certainly not “realistic” enough to convince you you’re listening to real drums and cymbals if you close your eyes. Some kits are clearly higherfidelity than others. The Brush kit, for example, is a stand-out and its sounds stack up with some of the high-end modules out there. There’s a fair amount of sound shaping on this entry-level offering, with the ability to add

But the triggering has limitations.

For example, it was virtually impossible to achieve decent buzz rolls and ghost notes on most of the kits, presumably because of limited polyphony and a small number of samples. With perseverance, I did manage to get almost acceptable rolls on a couple of specific kits (albeit with machinegunning), but on others, no amount of effort could improve the performance. So if rolls are vital, you may have to reconsider or connect to a computer using VST samples. On paper, the collection of stock kits is impressive. There’s everything from rock to country, Latin and techno. And unlike some higher-priced kits, there’s not an oversupply of sound-effects kits that are of limited use to most users.

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The snare bracing feature prevents the snare pad from swaying or slipping when the pad is struck

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The KT2 ships with a 12” crash and 14” ride - both dual-zone

reverb and choose between three EQ settings – high, middle or low gain.

Three-zone cymbals are clearly not the norm in the price range, and absence of a third zone on the ride is another limitation – even more so since there’s an almost random allocation of sounds on the cymbal edge. Some stock kits have a crash-like edge sound on the edge (as you’d expect), but others have the bell sound on the edge. For the novice player, this is very confusing, but the sounds are fully editable and you can go through all the kits and put an edge sound on the edge if you so desire.

The kick set-up and hi-hat controller 18

The hi-hat is neat and responsive, although it’s limited to a single zone and three-stage pedal – open, closed and chick.There’s also the ability to produce foot splashes.

The onboard backing tracks are another mixed bag. Yes, there are plenty to choose from, which is excellent for the aspiring drummer looking for something to play along with rather than going through tedious rudiment practice. But many of the instruments sound a bit cheesy. That said, there is always the option of hooking up an MP3 player to the Aux In and grooving to “real” tracks.

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Bottom Line

There’s no doubt the first-time drummer would be delighted with the KT2 as soon as it is assembled. The box contains almost everything they would need to get started – except the kick pedal (which is supplied in some markets). It even includes a pair of sticks. And the novice would probably also enjoy the multiple kit sounds which would encourage them to practise and experiment. The training tools are another plus, for learners and advanced players wanting to check their accuracy and hone their skills. On the whole, as a practice and learning tool, the KT2 ticks most of the boxes – it gives drummers a feel for kit layout, with full-size pads, a realistic kick drum and a pedal-based hi-hat. However, the difficulty in achieving realistic rolls may be a source of frustration to more advanced players.

On the whole, there’s a lot of stuff for a small price. With a street price of around $700 – just $100 more than a single Roland PD-128 pad, the KT2 is good entry-level value. The hardware and pads are superior to most other offerings in this price range and the kit delivers a lot of bang for the buck.

SPECIFICATIONS

Module: Maximum Polyphony: 64 Connectors: Nine-trigger input jack, headphone jack (3.5 mm stereo), Aux In jack (3.5 mm stereo), 2 external trigger input jack (6.3 mm Tom4, Crash2); output (6.3 mm L/Mono, R), USB, MIDI IN, MIDI OUT Control Buttons: Power on/off, volume, start/stop, save, song, kit, voice, page/select, inc/dec, click, drum off, record, tempo, utility, play/practice Pad Select Buttons: 12 pad select buttons Drum kits: 45 (30 preset kits + 15 user kits); 11 GM Kits Drum Instruments: 510 (drums, percussion, SFX); 19 hi-hat combos Effects: Reverb, 3-band equalizer Sequencer: Normal: Song 80 Learning: Beat 20, Rhythm 12, Pattern 10 Resolution:120 ticks per quarter note Recording method: Real-time Maximum Note Storage: approx. 1,600 Tempo: 30~280 Display: Backlit Segment LCD Kit Configuration Snare: 9” dual-zone pad Toms: 9” dual-zone pads Crash: 12” dual-zone with choke Ride: 14” dual-zone with choke Hi-hat: 10”single-zone, no choke Street price: $699


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Direct sensors make sense --Gear--

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Almost two years have passed since Zildjian ruffled some feathers with its Gen16 AE cymbals. Allan Leibowitz has followed the evolution and now tries the latest incarnation.

WHILE THERE HAVE been some vocal critics, Zildjian has quietly gone on with refining its acoustic/electronic cymbal system which consists of special perforated cymbals made of a special low-volume alloy, some microphone-style pick-ups and a digital controller. All the while, a loyal group of musicians has been using the AE range in a variety of situations, tweaking the processor settings, adding dampeners and personalising the products. Despite some excellent results, there were lingering “issues”, the biggest of which was audio feedback when the system was used live. Often, a fair amount of amplification was required, and this not only caused feedback when the speakers weren’t properly isolated, but also produced bleed from other cymbals and drums.

This year, Zildjian announced a new direction. Much like the transition from pick-ups in acoustic guitars to the fullblown electric instrument, the AE system has been augmented with a new Direct Source Pickup, a device which works with the direct vibrations for the cymbal.

Now available, the new pick-ups can be used with or instead of the original mic-based units and are perfectly compatible with both the cymbal stock and the DCP controller.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2013

Swapping the sensors

The new DS Pickups are supplied with mounts for both regular cymbals and hi-hats. Unlike the original one-piece cone design, there are effectively two pieces – a sensor unit that attaches to the cymbal through one of the perforations and an amplifier unit that connects to the DCP. For rides, crashes, splashes and chinas, replacement is simply a case of removing the old sensor, attaching the new one and connecting it to the amp ring and then the DCP.

For hi-hats, the changeover is a bit more complicated as the mount needs a slightly bigger opening, so the hole has to be redrilled either by DIY or as part of Zildjian’s upgrade programme. (Check with your local dealer as arrangements can vary from country to country). New hi-hats come drilled with the bigger opening. You’ll also need to do a software upgrade to access the new DCP “shapes” designed specifically for the DS units. If you haven’t upgraded the software for a while, you’ll also find some significant enhancements to the

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The revamped Gen16 Access Tool (above) expands the ability to edit the DCP settings

DCP editor. For example, there’s now a fiveband EQ adjuster instead of the original three, and much easier downloading and uploading of changes to the controller.

The current set-up keeps some of the old acoustic pickup settings and adds new shapes specifically for the DS inputs.

In action

I tested the new DS Pickups on a collection of AE cymbals including 14” hats, 18” crash ride and 20” crash.

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The first obvious change is the input volume level. I found that I could dial the inputs down from their previous setting without any loss of sensitivity. And, at the other extreme, pushing the inputs to maximum was now possible without any risk of feedback. The new pick-ups are clearer and more precise. Unfortunately, this means you have to be quite careful about pick-up placement, and the tone changes significantly depending on where you position the new sensor. In all cases, I settled for a position on the bell, about

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2 to 3 cm from the middle – where I was able to get just enough bell response while still picking up plenty of response all the way to the edge of the cymbals. Obviously, the new sounds are a combination of the pick-up performance and the new DCP shapes, and Zildjian has gone for more “neutral” tones in the current settings. Where some of the initial shapes were very artificial and electronic, the current array is more ... well, cymbal-sounding and natural.

The 14” hats have lost some of the “shine” of the original sensors, and that is replaced by more “body” for a much more realistic hat performance. Of course, playing through amplification, a bit of the natural cymbal shimmer is evident, but that can get lost in the overall sound.

Where the new pick-ups and new shapes really come to the fore is with the rides, especially the 20”. Where there was some “thinness” under the previous system, the current sounds are beefier, with more body and richer tones. The bell sounds are also much more natural – and I found I could remove the dampening material I had used previously to cut down the unwanted overtones to produce good strong, clear bell tones. Similarly, some of the new shapes combine with the more precise input from the DS units to add more substance to the crashes and china sounds, but the differences there were more subtle.

The DCP settings are editable, with lots of parameters to mess with, so the new presets are just a starting point. Already, players are swapping tweaked settings that are tailored to specific needs and tastes – and the enhancements to the tool make it easier to audition changes in real time.

And the changes are not just auditory. Part of the appeal of the AE system when it was launched was the distinctive blue lights in the sensors. These have been updated, with the old blue glow now replaced with LEDs that can be programmed to various colours and effects, including vertical sweeps, flashes and pulses. And because the light controls are inaccessible on the hi-hat once the sensor is mounted, the lights are daisy-chained, and any change made on one is automatically transferred to all the others.

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The options

The launch of the new pick-ups has led to a shake-up of the Gen 16 range, so buyers have an almost bewildering array of choices.

For first-time buyers, DS-equipped kits come in two versions: the 38DS with 13” hats and an 18” ride; and the 368DS which has 13” hats, a 16” crash and an 18” ride. Expect street prices of around $700 and $900, respectively, for the kits which also include the controller, cables and mounting kit.

The original kits, with the original acoustic pickups, are still available and significantly discounted. For those wanting to upgrade, DS Pickups are available in single packs, with a street price of around $80 each. As mentioned, that includes all the mounting bits needed for hats and “regular” cymbals. If you’re upgrading your hihat, you’ll need to either widen the central hole yourself (which requires a special bit) or send the cymbal back to Zildjian for adjustment.

The good news is that you can continue to use your old pick-ups alongside the new ones since each channel on the DCP is totally independent.

The verdict

The new DS Pickups have taken the Gen 16 AE cymbals into the big league. The improved system reduces feedback and delivers stronger, clearer signals to the digital processor and the new presets are more realistic and full-bodied than their predecessors. Without the feedback risk and with beefier, more tweakable sounds, the AE cymbals now sound as good as they feel.

Personally, I think current AE owners, especially those who use their cymbals live, should consider upgrading their hi-hat and ride pick-ups as a priority. And because the units are interchangeable, it’s a good idea to try them on your other cymbals at the same time. If feedback is not an issue, you may well be happy to continue using the acoustic pick-ups on crashes and effects cymbals, but I don’t doubt you’ll be going DS on your two workhorse cymbals, the hats and the ride. 23


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--Gear--

A china that looks the part

A new offering from Triggera is aimed at those edrummers who want a china cymbal that doesn’t just sound like a china, but looks like one, too. On opposite sides of the Pacific, Allan Leibowitz and Scott Holder put the D14 through its paces. 24

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TO DATE, THERE hasn’t been much choice if you wanted a cymbal that looks like a china. Hart Dynamics and Smartrigger make china ecymbals that look like “real” china cymbals, but for those who already have an array of black rubber-covered pies, the metal offerings may stand out like a sore thumb. For some reason, Pintech’s black Visulite hasn’t set the world on fire, either.

Enter the Triggera D14 china. It’s an all-metal single-zone e-cymbal that doesn’t choke. It has a black rubber surface that extends over the entire cymbal; thus, there’s no limiting strike pad. The two review cymbals were from Triggera’s initial batch and we both experienced “distribution issues”. Not only did shipping take a while from their Serbian origin, but both packages arrived in dreadful shape. As it turned out, neither of us had to physically open the packaging – we merely slid the cymbal out through one of the gaping openings in one side. To their credit, the Triggera guys have updated their packaging, now using a customformed styrofoam casing.

The design

The cymbal measures 14” in diameter (hence the name D14) and, as mentioned, consists of

a metal core topped with a ribbed, moulded rubber skin. The main surface is concave, with a 3” sloping outside edge. There’s a neat project box containing the sensor on the black painted underside and the cymbal, which weighs in at over a kilogram, feels solid and sturdy.

Although we’re assured this has been addressed in subsequent batches, we do need to comment on the rubber finish. To put it kindly, it has a very distinctive smell. The one shipped Down Under arrived smelling like something had died in the package and the smell has lingered for several weeks – so much so that the cymbal resides in the garage and was only brought out for testing purposes. Maybe it has something to do with olfactory sensitivity, but Scott reports that “within a foot or two, I’d catch that distinctive smell - but as far as anything overpowering the space, no”.

In action

Scott: I tested it like I’ve tested all our review cymbals, on my Roland TD-12 module. In this case, I put it alongside a CY-14 to test the rebound, stick noise and overall playability.

It plays very, very well. I had the module set to a CY-8 with a sensitivity setting of 15 and it played perfectly right out of the box. There is


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no “sweet spot”: you can hit anywhere on the cymbal and it responds well. Since it’s a metal cymbal, like the Hart, it swings like an acoustic cymbal.

More surprising, it’s quiet - as in Yamaha PCY155 quiet. I set up the sound meter five feet away and gave it a “full hit” (you can read about our cymbal testing methodology in the February 2011 issue) and consistently got 75 dB on the meter, that’s 2-3 dB less than on the CY-14. Stick rebound isn’t as bouncy as the CY-14, the Hart china or the PCY155; it’s more like the Roland CY-5 which falls somewhere in the middle of the rebound pack. Allan: I’ll preface my comments with an explanation. Testing this cymbal showed me that I’m a light hitter. My initial findings were very different from Scott’s and at first I thought it might be that my sample had been abused too much during its passage to Australia.

However, after speaking with Scott and watching the video on the Triggera site, I realised that I simply wasn’t putting in enough effort. When I went back with renewed determination and more energetic strikes, I got excellent triggering all over the cymbal. What follows are my observations based on my playing style, which I’m sure is not uncommon.

On a TD-30 module and using the CY14C setting, I found the sensitivity was excellent just above the trigger sensor (under the D14 logo), but it dropped off as I struck the outer edge of the cymbal – or moved further away from the sensor. The “sweet spot” was concentrated on the front third of the cymbal.

Connected to a 2box module, triggering was excellent using the stock Cym14 setting. Responsiveness was optimal on much of the inner surface, and about 66% of the outer ring generated good responses, with triggering falling off dramatically towards the rear.

On a Yamaha DTX700, I had to use PCY100 setting and boost the sensitivity to the end of the dial to get almost-decent triggering. Again, sensitivity was fine (but not great) above the sensor, but dropped off dramatically from a couple of centimeters away.

The best triggering was obtained on a Roland TD-6V module in stock CY5 setting. Here, the “sweet spot” covered about 75% of the inner ring and about two-thirds of the outer ring surface.

Overall

Both reviewers were impressed at the elegant design and sturdiness of construction. The natural swing of the cymbal makes it a pleasure to play. In short, it looks very slick and professional. We were both, however, horrified at the state of the packaging. But the fact that they still triggered well after the abuse should indicate the durability of the D14s, especially in their new packaging.

Performance was excellent on one sample and good – but more subdued - on the second when played more sedately. So the bottom line is that if you’re a heavy hitter, this cymbal is plug and play on virtually any module, with almost any trigger setting. If you’re a light hitter, you’ll need to be much more accurate in your hitting – or you’ll need to hit harder than your normal force level. Alternatively, you can boost the sensitivity on your module, but you will lose some dynamics, which is not a big deal with a china cymbal. And then, of course, there’s the smell which one reader described as being reminiscent of “rubber stolen from an old Russian car manufacturer’s used tyres”. Again, we are assured that this was due to a coating applied to an early run and which has now been modified.

Shipped from Europe, the total cost if you live in North America or in Australia is around €100 (US$130) - almost half the price of Pintech’s Visulite 16” china and around $70 cheaper than Hart’s 14” china.

If Triggera has shown anything so far, it is market-responsiveness and the company is quick to sort out any customer concerns. So while there were some issues associated with the early run, these have been fully addressed, meaning this cymbal is certainly worthy of consideration.

s ... Get the latest e-drum news at www.digitaldrummermag.com/news ... 26

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--Profile--

h c i r m E s e i f i r t c e l E

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For American drummer John Emrich, electronic percussion is more than a passion. It’s the basis of his professional activities. He shared his perspectives with digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz. digitalDrummer: How did you get started in drumming? John Emrich: My first instrument was a trumpet that my dad gave me when I was four. I beat the crap out of it on the first day and have been drumming ever since. My father was a professional trumpet player and knew what to do and not to do to get in the way of my development.

I started formal training at age four. At about six years of age, I started playing with local community bands. This was instrumental in my progress because playing by yourself does not do much for musical development. It is great for working on chops, but playing in a group teaches you to be musical. I was also working on mallet instruments. I encourage everyone to get into melodic instruments. dD: When did you decide to make drumming your career and how did you go about achieving that?

JE: To be honest, I haven’t really done anything else. I have always wanted to make music and my preference was drums and percussion as my vehicle. I was still in school when I started playing out with professional groups. When I graduated high school, I auditioned and was accepted as a Navy musician. That was at 18 years old. The US Navy Band is the premier musical organisation in Washington DC and I did a mix of military functions like parades and funerals, concert band, jazz, rock, country and a few others. The workload was intense and I did a lot of playing. I have worked at the White House, embassies and other venues around DC as well as national touring and overseas gigs. I retired as a featured performer with the US Navy Band after a 20-year career and gained a lot of very demanding experience. The best part was that I got the gig when I was 18 and retired at 38! That gave me a small

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pension, medical and dental. That helps when you are self-employed, with a family. dD:Was there a moment of enlightenment for electronic drumming?

JE: My role model growing up was Bobby Rosengarden (among a lot of others). He played every percussion instrument, not just drum set. That was an early life lesson for me. The more that you understand about all of the instruments, the better all of your chops will become. That included getting into electronics when they first started coming out. They were immediately put to use in the studio. A lot of people were upset by the introduction of these instruments, but I just looked at it as another set of tools that I had to learn. I still have a few of those early instruments laying around. Again, all of that knowledge contributes to what I am doing now and I encourage everyone to learn multiple instruments, including mallets. Electronics are not the only instruments that I use. I still get called for a lot of acoustic gigs of all styles. dD: What gear have you owned and used and what has really impressed you?

JE: The Zendrum was the first electronic percussion instrument that really did it for me. It still does. There have been a lot of cool sets over the years, but the Zendrum really speaks to me. The Octapad and DrumKAT were great when they came out because you could keep everything in a smaller footprint. Today, there are a lot of great advancements in electronic drums. For example, the newest DTX502 from Yamaha had some great development science used. They used a laser to measure stick speed and impact depth on the pad. They then put that together with the velocity curve to come up with the overall pad velocities. That’s some very cool stuff going into development of a lower-priced product. Can’t wait to see what they do next.

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PHOTO: BOB CAMPBELL John with his Dunnett Classic Drums titanium kit (“one of the best-sounding kits you can play”) and his Yamaha DTX rig (above). Below: In action in the studio.

dD: You’ve done some amazing things with the Zendrum . What is it about the instrument that has “struck a chord” with you?

addresses some design features that I felt were important. This design allows me to get more fluid access with both hands. You can check it out on www.zendrum.com.

We are releasing a new Zendrum that I designed with David Haney. It’s called the Zendrum EXP and I am thrilled that it is now in production. This new model is based on my 20plus years of working with the instrument and

JE: I was lucky enough to start doing sampling and sound design when VST drums first started. BFD was still on rev. 1! I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. There are a lot of people that think it is easy to do sound design. It is not. It takes a massive amount of time to do it right. There is zero room for noise in the signal chain and the attention to detail is critical. The average time it takes to produce a sample pack is eight

JE: Thanks. I have always loved working with just my fingers. For whatever reason, the Zendrum just fits me and the way I think. I can say without a doubt that it has the widest velocity range of any instrument. It always has had. When software instruments came into play, it really opened up the Zendrum.

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dD: That looks fantastic. Okay, so tell us about your VST work.

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months to a year. One mistake along the way and you have to start over. But, I really like that challenge. Same thing goes with recording professional MIDI groove packs. My friends at Platinum Samples and I have produced a lot of MIDI packs focusing on real playing without a lot of editing. Those packs can take up to a year to produce as well. dD: You’ve worked with most of the big manufacturers and software companies: do you foresee any convergence of technologies – modules, triggers and VSTs? JE: Sure, but it doesn’t have to be a convergence of modules, triggers and VSTs. By that, I mean developing a new electronic drum set boils down to a couple of key factors. Firstly, the onboard sounds must be top shelf. Secondly, the playability has to be spot-on so that you don’t work against the instrument. Thirdly, connectivity in a modern studio environment. For a long time now, companies have made some nice products, but fallen short on a couple of these key factors. These are the three areas I work on with different clients. When you get it all together in one package, you will have the best experience and we will finally raise the bar. Then, we electronic drummers will have an instrument that stands on its own against anything else in the acoustic world. We are not there yet, but I think we will be very soon. dD: What advice would you have firstly for anyone starting out in electronic drumming – maybe considering their first kit ... JE: My advice to everyone is to look in the $1,500 to $2,000 range. Then you have enough left over for an interface and software. That will give you what you need to develop all of your skills. The younger guys understand computers faster than us older folks and that’s great. If you are getting started on drumming, you should aspire to learn everything you can. By the way, that should include playing on acoustic drums. I also encourage everyone to get a small frame drum. Check out what Glen Velez does with a simple frame drum! Those chops have a huge impact on your overall technique and they are cheap instruments. dD: ...and for people looking for the next big thing?

JE: Keep your mind open. I see a lot of people taking sides within the electronic drumming community. Mesh vs rubber, module vs VST, Mac vs PC and the list goes on. With music and musical instruments, you have to take it all in. That has always been the key to success for every musician. Secondly, keep your eyes open. There are a lot of advancements coming down the road that are going to make what we do exciting! Bottom line is that we are called upon to perform. The client doesn’t care what you are using; only your contribution to the music is going to get you called back. dD: And what’s next for John Emrich?

JE: I’ve just been setting up for a trip to Chicago with Peter Erskine and Bob Mintzer. They are going to be doing a duet performance on e-drums and EWI. My job is to programme those instruments to not only sound good, but also control all of the lighting, video and other special effects in the venue. I have a few trips in support of FXpansion to New York and LA as part of the Line6 “What’s Next” events and I will be at Sweetwater for this year’s Gearfest. And, I continue to do a lot of development work for companies that will remain unnamed for now ...

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--Tweaking--

Tuning the TD-30

While this Roland flagship TD-30 module is not vastly different to its predecessors, Jeremy Hoyle notes that plenty of new users are overwhelmed by the myriad tweaking and tuning options such a module provides. MANY USERS JUST plug and play, and while that may work with lesser modules, the broad range of tweaking options available in the TD30 module allows users to adjust their kit to the individual responsiveness of their triggers and their own unique playing style. Before we get into module adjustment, it’s important to get a good ‘baseline’ setting – whether we’re talking about the TD-30 or an old TD-10. And that starts with pads.

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Where’s your head at?

Once you’ve set up the kit and placed all your kit instruments to your liking, it’s best to start by making sure your pads are set up for optimal response. Head tension has a pronounced effect on triggering. It directly affects the range of signals sent to the module, directly affecting the sound the module produces.

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In typical Roland fashion (sorry, Roland!), ‘correct’ mesh-head tension is rather vaguely specified in various manuals as ‘two complete turns from out of the box’. Not particularly helpful if you’ve had to remove or loosen off a head. So it’s best to ‘reset’ your pads:

• Remove the pad from the kit. Place it on a flat surface, preferably one you can easily spin the pad around on without damaging it (a folded towel on a flat bench is perfect). • Start by competely unscrewing all your tension rods until they come out of the lug casings.

• Lift the hoop and head up and then re-set the hoop and head back down. Make sure it’s evenly seated. • Thread each tension rod into the lug casing threads with your fingers – just enough so the rods take to the thread.

• In opposing pairs (see diagram), fingertighten the tension rods in a pair simultaneously until you see the head/washer on both tension rods close the gap down onto the hoop’s flange.

• Spin the drum pad clockwise and repeat with the next opposing pair. Repeat until all your tension rods are finger-tight. At this point, grab your drum key.

• As per Roland’s guide, turn each tension rod a half turn in the order of the diagram. Don’t be tempted to turn more than a half turn as you can easily misalign the head. Check alignment by turning the drum on its side and sighting the distance between the lug casing and the underside of the head’s aluminium channel – there should be equal distance all around. If not, start again! • For a PD-125/125X/128, tensioning each tuning rod pair a total of four times (two complete turns) works well (take care not to forget which tension rod you’re up to in the process!) digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2013

• For a PD-105/105X/108, you will tension each tuning rod pair a total of three times (oneand-a-half complete turns) works well, as the pad is slightly smaller and tensions up with fewer turns of the tension rods. You should now have an even and welltensioned head.

Tap the head with the drum key (as you would tuning an acoustic head) and you should hear consistent tone across the head. Once head tension is set, you may feel you need to ‘tune’ the feel to your personal liking.

Mesh heads can actually rebound a little less with a bit more tension, so a quarter turn (or two) more of each tension rod pair might create a feel you prefer. Similarly, backing off a quarter turn (or two) might feel better for you.

Tip: while it’s rare to actually over-tighten a head, triggering will start to be affected with too much tension, and the pad will not respond as expected. However, when head tension is too low, there is significant risk of damaging the head trigger. Try to keep as close to recommendations (+/- half turn) as possible. • Next time: Fire up the module and get ready to start tweaking ….

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--VST--

New products Abbey Road 50s Drummer

Native Instruments has released Abbey Road 50s Drummer, a collection of ultrarare drums and period-authentic grooves, capturing the flair of early rock and roll, rhythm and blues, country and jazz. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, UK, the drums feature a rough, cutting sound, with massive, resounding snares and mellow cymbals. There are two kits. The Spring Kit is an early-50s Gretsch Cadillac Green Nitron with a 20” bass drum. Its 12” rack tom and 14” floor tom are tuned lower than those of the Autumn Kit. Three interchangeable 14” period snare drums deliver brilliant sonic options. The Autumn Kit is a late-50s WFL with a 20” kick, 12” and 13” rack toms, 16” floor tom, and a choice of 14” x 6.5”, 14” x 8”, and 13” x 3” snare drums. Its higher tom tuning means it sounds slightly brighter than the Spring Kit. Price: $99 Information: www.native-instruments.com

Indie Folk EZX

Toontrack Music has released a new EZX expansion focusing on capturing the organic, warm, intimate and ambient sound characteristic of the indie folk genre. The Indie Folk EZX was recorded at the Avast! Recording Co. in Seattle, home to bands such as Fleet Foxes, The Shins and Band Of Horses. It comes with three complete vintage kits: a 1960s Gretsch Round Badge sampled with both sticks and mallets, a Ludwig from the 1950s as well as a Slingerland Rolling Bomber kit dating back to the 1940s. Also included are two tambourines, a hi-hat mounted tambourine jingle, an extra kick and snare, as well as a 28" floor tom. Each kit is available in two variations: a standard multi-mic mix and a classic four-mic mix. The default kit is sampled with both drumsticks and mallets. Price: €69 Information: www.toontrack.com

Black Velvet ADpak

XLNaudio has released a new expansion pack for Addictive Drums, the Black Velvet ADpak. Described as “a modern classic dressed in black captured with a large, epic sound”, the pack includes samples of a DW Collector’s Series in a six-piece kit, matched with a selection of Zildjian cymbals and hi-hats. “Created with the grunge/post-grunge era in mind, with roots in alternative rock transcending to an expensive arena rock-band sound, this takes you on a journey from Seattle to LA,” according to XLN. The ADpak “offers an almost unreal diversity … from a tight, fat and controlled sound to unleashing some kind of monster by just pushing the room fader”. The Black Velvet ADpak was divided in two recording sessions: The drums were recorded in a large studio with a gymnasium hall-sized recording room, and the hi-hats and cymbals in a smaller damped space. Price: $69 Information: www.xlnaudio.com 34

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THE headphone company

Don Dexter Agency Š

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--Accessories--

Product review: Presonus FireStudio Mobile FOR YEARS, I’VE been using a Presonus AudioBox USB as my MIDI/USB interface and it’s been flawless. It’s easy to install on both Mac and Windows, works with generic and ASIO drivers and feels virtually latency-free.

I would not have thought of two-timing Miss AudioBox had it not been for a VST review that required an iLok dongle, which took up one of the two USB ports on my MacBook, the other dedicated to my external drive which hosts my samples (you see, I follow the advice from the VST Q&A, Mr Emrich!). That’s how the compact FireStudio Mobile landed on the review desk and, having used it for the VST review, it was worth passing on some thoughts on the device itself.

What’s in the box

It’s a small box, with the FireStudio Mobile almost identical in size to its USB equivalent and more compact than most of its rivals.

It comes with a power adaptor, a Firewire cable (which was not compatible with my Mac), a MIDI-S/PDIF cable arrangement and Presonus’s Studio One Artist DAW software plus some virtual instruments, plug-ins, loops and samples.

The ins and outs

For a small box, the FireStudio has plenty of bells and whistles. There are six line inputs, two Firewire ports, the MIDI-S/PDIF connections and left and right outs on the back, with another two mic/instrument inputs 36

(phantom-powered) and a headphone out on the front. All up, that’s a whopping 10 inputs and six outputs in a box the size of half a dozen CD cases.

The device is powered either by Firewire or using the 12 v DC adaptor, and even when powered by a computer, it has no problem coming up with the 48 volts of phantom power for microphones.

In action

While the FireStudio is designed as a mobile recording interface, I used it mostly as a MIDI interface with various VSTs, and it did the job well. Unlike its USB sibling, it required dedicated drivers and even though the unit is far from new (it was launched in 2010), I had no problem finding an appropriate version for the latest Mac OS. Connecting it was flawless, with some minor adjustment to the laptop’s MIDI settings and connections. Once installed, DAWs had no problem finding the new source.

As a MIDI interface, the FireStudio was solid and reliable, and felt marginally faster than its USB counterpart. On paper, the latencies of the two units are almost indistinguishable – I’ve seen reports of 8 ms at 44.1 kHz (256 samples) - and playing still felt natural, even monitoring through the computer rather than the zero-latency onboard headphone output. I also tested the unit as a pre-amp, running a phantom-powered Crown CM311A headworn

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implemented to save space on the unit. If you lose the cable, it’s a costly replacement compared to standard MIDI cables. But that’s probably the only negative I could identify.

mic through it. The mic is not the easiest to handle, and FireStudio had no difficulties, with plenty of grunt and lots of headroom.

Clearly, I just scratched the surface, hardly touching the Universal Control utility, where all the buffer, sample rate and clocking is tweaked.

I also only scratched the surface of the supplied 64-bit Studio One DAW. Clearly, the DAW is not designed for e-drummers because you can only load one drum VST, the Kontakt sample which is included. If you want to use Studio One - which incidentally, just walked off with a swag of awards at Musikmesse in Germany - with BFD, Superior Drummer or any of the other popular drum VSTs, you’ll have to upgrade to one of the advanced versions of the software. But again, that may mean buying way more than the average stick-wielder will ever need.

Bottom line

Had it not been for the iLok, I would not have gone looking for a Firewire/MIDI interface, but I am happy to have discovered the FireStudio Mobile. It is compact and robust, easy to install and operate, compatible with the latest Mac and Windows operating systems and is virtually plug and play (besides the driver loading).

Some people might not like the coax MIDIS/PDIF cable arrangement which was clearly

The passage of time has seen the FireStudio Mobile become more price-competitive. Currently priced around $230, it has dropped from being one of the most expensive in its class to one of the cheapest.

In all, it’s an appealing package that transformed from a necessary evil to a muchappreciated tool.

In short, this one’s a keeper, and I hope to be able to explore some of its pre-amp and mixing capabilities and, if I could wean myself from Reaper, try and find out why my fellow music technology reviewers have had such high praise for Studio One.

Specifications

Analogue inputs: Two mic/instrument inputs, six line-level TRS balanced inputs Outputs: Two TRS balanced, headphone output with level control Digital I/O: Coaxial S/PDIF In/Out, MIDI In/Out, two IEEE 1394 Firewire ports Power: 12 v (via adaptor) or Firewire Bus power Operating System: Mac OS 10.6.8 or later; Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 Street Price: $250

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--Accessories-Product review: MIDIJet Pro WHAT HAVE PIPE organs got to do with edrums? Surprisingly, the answer is wireless MIDI. In 2004, MIDIWorks launched a device to allow pipe organ technicians to use a portable MIDI keyboard to tune their giant installations. And that’s probably where the MIDIJet Pro would have remained had it not been for Michael Brecker looking for a way to play his MIDI wind controller wirelessly. When U2’s Terry Lawless used the device for keyboards and drum triggers on the Vertigo tour, MIDIJet entered the mainstream.

So why would e-drummers be interested? Exhibit A is the Zendrum, the portable MIDI trigger array which can be worn like a guitar and played on the move. Of course, it needs to be tethered to a power supply and a module, meaning a cumbersome MIDI cable. Zendrum has been fitting MIDIJet Pros into its instruments as a custom install (and retro-fit) item for some time, but digitalDrummer’s test was done on a stock-standard Z4. (Zendrum and MIDIJet collaborated to provide a batterypowered solution for the Zendrum itself.)

What’s in the box

The kit consists of two MIDIJet Pro USB boxes – a black transmitter and a white receiver (and yes, they do need to be plugged

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into the appropriate device, or they won’t have anything to transmit and receive – trust me!). You’ll also get a 7.5 v external power supply, some batteries and a belt clip.

There’s also an easy-to-follow user manual, and set-up is a breeze, especially since the two units have already been synced at the factory. It really is plug and play – provided you connect the transmitter to MIDI Out and the receiver to MIDI In.

In action

The two ‘boxes’ are identical on the outside, but clearly one needs ‘internal’ power for the transmitter, and you’ll need to pop a couple of AA batteries into that one.

When it’s powered up, you’ll see the power light illuminated. The receiver can be powered either by battery, mains (using the adaptor) or USB, if you’re connecting to a computer. Again, the power light goes on and the blinking connect light lets you know that there’s some MIDI communication. I tested the MIDIJet Pro with a Zendrum and with a Korg padKONTROL, connecting both to various drum modules and to a MacBook Pro running Reaper and various VSTs. I used both MIDI In

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A no-fuss design makes the MIDIJet Pro easy to use

and USB connections and also experimented with an AudioBox USB.

In all the applications, the connection was flawless. Whether using external power or USB bus power, the receiver found the transmitter the moment it was switched on.

The new generation has a built-in MIDI-USB interface, eliminating the need for a separate interface and, I suspect, reducing latency a touch.

On the latency front, MIDIJet quotes a measure of - 2.7ms. In reality, there was a very slight sluggishness; for example, when the Zendrum was connected to a module and I was playing 16th notes through the MIDIJet, compared to a 20 foot MIDI cable. But the delay was almost imperceptible compared to a MIDI cable through the AudioBox USB. In other words, the internal MIDI-USB translation is no slower than the MIDI transmission into an interface and then translated into USB.

MIDIJet quotes a range of 500 feet – way beyond the recommended maximum cable length for MIDI. I tested it close to that limit – and continued to get reliable triggering even through walls, although that’s not recommended.

The final word

The Canadian-made MIDIJet Pro kit sells for around $450 and virtually stands alone in its market segment. There are a couple of competing products, but one appears to be discontinued and the other looks like it’s almost impossible to find. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2013

The MIDIJet Pro is compact enough to wear on your Zen strap, looks and feels tough and resilient and, most importantly, is totally plug and play. There’s no stuffing around and very little scope to plug the things in anywhere but the right place.

Sure, there’s a touch of latency, but almost not enough to notice and certainly not enough to detract from the freedom provided by cutting the umbilical cord to the module or computer. Zendrummers, in particular, will revel in the ability to walk around and show off their instrument. If you’re considering ordering a brand new Zendrum, don’t skip past the MIDIJet Pro option without giving it some thought. The built-in option is by far the most elegant – and it‘ll cost less than trying to get it retrofitted – or doing it yourself.

In short, the MIDIJet Pro simply works – and works simply enough for the average edrummer to plug, play and enjoy. Whether you need mobility or simply want to transmit MIDI across distance - for example, from your e-kit to a DAW on the mixing desk at the back of the venue - this is an elegant solution that won’t break the bank. And, of course, if you ever decided to start tuning pipe organs for a hobby, you’ll be set for that, too.

SPECIFICATIONS

Range: 500 feet Transmission: Bi-directional on 2.4 GHz licence-free band Latency: - 2.7ms Transmitter battery life: 20-30 hours Warranty: One year Street price: $450

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--diy--

Making a splash

A simple, easy-to-make splash trigger for under $20. No problem, if you know where to start, as Scott Holder explains.

Do you have a DIY question? Whether repairing existing equipment or building your own, our experts will find the answers. Just email your questions to editor@digitaldrummermag.com. Published questions win a DIY prize from Stealth Acoustics.

THIS ALL STARTS with Rock Band 3 by Mad Catz. Grab yourself a PRO-Cymbals Expansion kit, consisting of three, 10” rubber cymbals. The pack will set you back around $32. If you want to dampen the stick noise, you’ll also need something like an 8” plant coaster like that made by Drymate ($14).

Step by step

On the underside of the cymbal, remove the screws as shown. You’ll find there’s not much there. The piezo is at the top, under that black plate - but you can safely ignore it for this project. 40

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For now, pull out the central rubber mounting piece and separate the wires. Snip the wires where they connect to the circuit board and strip about ½” from each end. You now have a red/black pair of wires coming from the piezo and a red/black/green trio of wires from the connector cable. Connect the black wire from the piezo to the green wire from the connector cable. Then connect the red wire from the piezo to the white and black wires from the connector cable.

Wrap the ends in electrical tape, fit the wires back around the hole, put back the rubber piece and screw the cover back on.

carefully work it on the plastic core so you can remove the cover. For the nipples, squeeze one while pushing it up through the hole and gently prying the other side up. The nipple should pop free. You could simply cut them away, but I found keeping them makes it easier to put the rubber cover back on and helps keep the inside portion tight to the surface.

Now take your plant coaster and cut a circle wide enough so that the rubber nipples can go back through the holes.

You could stop there, but this next step is well worth doing if you want to cut down on stick noise. So, instead of putting the cover back on, remove the screws on the five plates on the bottom edge.

Carefully peel back the rubber cover from the underside of the cymbal. There are still two things holding the rubber cover to the plastic core: some spots of glue and five nipples that go through holes and can be seen on the underside.

If the cover is held by glue, gently peel it away. If it seems tightly affixed, get a razor blade and

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2013

To reattach the rubber cover, push the nipples back through the holes; you might need to pull on them a little from the underside. Then, lift the edges so that the cover goes back into place, screw the plates back on, then the underside plastic cover and presto, you have a 10” rubber cymbal that cost nothing to convert and looks great. You’ll just need one more tweak. The connector is 3.5mm, so you’ll need a 6.3mm adaptor for most modules.

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--gear--

MONSTER

My

kit

Aaron Salamon from Perth, Western Australia has augmented his maxed-out Roland TD-20 kit with Gen16 AE cymbals.

The kit: An expanded Roland TD-20 kit with Zildjian Gen 16 AE cymbals Drums: Four PD-125s, two PD-105s, two PD-8s and a KD-125 Cymbals: Three CY-14s, two CY-15s, three CY-12s and a VH-12, augmented by Gen16 13" hi-hat and 18� ride Modules: Roland TD-20, Roland TMC-6, Zildjian Gen16 DCP and Roland VF-1 Multi Effects Processor Hardware: Roland MDS-20 Rack with Roland and Gibraltar hardware, Pearl Eliminator double bass pedal, Pearl Eliminator hi-hat stand, two Boss FS5Us and a Roland FD-8

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Aaron’s story:

I dumped acoustic drums back in 2005 when it became apparent that my dream kit was only possible through electronic drums. Inevitably started playing around with MIDI, live sampling and effects and the kit just kept growing. The FD-8 runs through the TMC-6 into both the TD-20 and the VF-1 and alternates between being a second hi hat pedal and/or its own trigger or as a realtime effects modulator via the VF-1. The FS5U pedals change kits and FX presets. My favourite part of the kit (besides the TD20 brain) is the Gen16 hi-hats. For me, they complete the instrument . See Aaron in action on his YouTube channel, Mad Drumming Guy. www.digitaldrummermag.com


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Aaron with his kit (above) and his module array (right)

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2013

Share your kit 43


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gear Guide CUSTOM KITS

AUXILIARY TRIGGERS

The Diamond difference

Take your creativity to the next level. Design your own finish with our custom, durable quality print wraps. Any colour, any design, any image. At last, drums as unique as their owners. www.diamondelectronicdrums.com

WIRELESS MIDI

DEALER

ELECTRONIC TRIGGERS

Need wireless MIDI that just works?

www.midijet.com 44

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gear Guide MESH HEADS

The best heads for electronic drumming, made by Aquarian Drumheads, are now available in Australia. Featuring Hart’s proprietary heavy-duty mesh, providing virtually silent operation. It’s a noticeable difference that you can feel.

To order in Australia, click here

DRUM TRAINING

CABLE MANAGEMENT

GET ORGANISED

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

www.digitaldrummermag.com

E-CYMBAL KITS

The leading DIY acoustic-to-electronic cymbal conversion kit is now available in 2box versions. Stealth Drums’ popular kits can now be used for crashes and splashes and for the most responsive three-zone ride on the market. The kit contains all the parts you’ll need plus easy-to-follow instructions.

digitalDRUMMER, 2013

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www.stealthdrums.com 45

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Missed a review?

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Using the search function and the archive option, you can search the past three back issues for any content, including our reviews and head-to-head comparisons. Or you can use the Back Issues tab on the website.

ORDER NOW: The entire digitalDrummer back catalogue on DVD - Only $30*

*including shipping


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digitalDrummer August 2013  

Global magazine for electronic percussion enthusiasts.

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