digitalDrummer February 2014

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Edition 17 - FEBRUARY 2014


The global electronic drumming e-zine

e KATalyst BFD3 review

Endre Huszar KAT amps it up

Š2014 Avedis Zildjian Company


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 for more information.


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--from-the-editor-is published by


ABN: 61 833 620 984 30 Oldfield Place

Brookfield Q 4069 AUSTRALIA Editor & Publisher Allan Leibowitz Sub-Editor

Solana da Silva Contributors Scott Holder

Enrico Bertelli

Endre Huszar Rob Jones

Cover Photo

Maro DeCiutiis

Design and layout ‘talking business’

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

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A BELATED HAPPY 2014 and welcome to our fifth year of publication. As we enter another year, I’d like to stick my neck out and make some predictions for the next 12 months. These are based on general market observations, rather than specific tips from insiders. 1. Watch as electronic kits squeeze acoustic sets off showroom floors. We have witnessed significant growth in edrum sales over the past few years, as acoustic drum revenues have stagnated and even shrunk in some markets. In some countries, e-drum sales already account for the majority of percussion revenue. 2. The iPad will gain ground as an e-drum interface. In the year ahead, we’ll see more apps for e-drumming and more ways of connecting e-drums to i-devices and to other equipment via the iPad. Heck, we may even see the Alesis DMdock hit the shelves! 3. Hybrid kits will gain prominence. Before year’s end, we’ll see more triggered acoustic products as drummers discover that range of offerings from independent trigger makers and find out how easy it is to enhance their acoustic kits by connecting them to a drum brain or computer. 4. Brace for a barrage of VST offerings. Fxpansion has upped the ante with its BFD3 offering. Now watch as the other majors do something to make it look like they’re pushing the envelope. And we’ll also see even more products from a range of niche producers churning out custom sample packs for a growing VST audience. 5. Expect the unexpected. I think we’ll see a major acoustic drum company “come over to the dark side” in 2014. When a company like Zildjian, one of the biggest and oldest acoustic cymbal makers, throws its weight behind electronic percussion, surely others must follow. Against the backdrop of those predictions, I suspect 2014 will be a largely “steady as she goes” year for most of the established players. With consumer confidence not quite where they would like it, it’s hard to see the big e-drum makers pushing new product into the market. The existing product lines still have some life left in them, and the big companies will not be ploughing their R&D budgets into major overhauls until it’s clear that customers are ready to spend up big. I suspect retail competition will intensify this year, with online retailers setting the tone. So this year will be a good one for gear buyers. One certainty is that it’ll be a good one for digitalDrummer readers as we continue to cover the products, the players, the performers and the state of play. Have a great e-drum year!


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The global electronic drumming e-zine Edition 17


12 15 20 24 27 4

February 2014


Back in the Saddle

They hung up their stickbags many moons ago, but as Allan Leibowitz discovers, thanks to electronic drums, they’re now at it again.


The best of the best

Roland has emerged as the big winner in the 2013 digitalDrummer Readers’ Choice awards for last year’s offerings. Allan Leibowitz wraps up the results.

NAMM novelties

With major retailers thronging to see what will be on shelves this year, a number of new products made their debut at the annual NAMM show in Los Angeles.

Kat amps it up

In the past, it was slim pickings in the drum monitor stakes. Now, there is more choice, and Scott Holder likes what he’s hearing.

That kit suits you

Electronic percussion is generally associated with a kit of some form, but Enrico Bertelli has been researching ‘wearable’ triggers.


It’s been almost four years since digitalDrummer racked up a bunch of mesh heads and began the world’s first head-to-head testing. This was followed by two additional testing rounds to take in some new offerings and samples Nthat weren’t available earlier. Now we do it again.

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30 36 38 41 44 46


Profile: The KATalyst

Most people may know Mario J DeCiutiis as the driving force behind Alternate Mode and its KAT products, but the inventor is also an accomplished musician who has a regular gig at Radio City Music Hall. He shares the Kat story with digitalDrummer’s Allan Leibowitz.


How I use e-drums

Endre Huszar is a Hungarian musician whose solo project, Endre-eNerd, combines complex improvised musical textures on electronic drum pads and an acoustic kit.


Product review: BFD3

When one of the two major drum VST producers unveils a new version, there is bound to be speculation, expectation and hype, but Fxpansion’s new BFD3 arrived with little fanfare.

Choosing the right music software

With so many different options for music software today, it can be quite daunting for a beginner to know where to start. In the first of a series of software primers, Rob Jones sheds some light on what’s available.


It's a wrap

Rewrapping shells is becoming a popular DIY activity, and Allan Leibowitz put one of the options to the test.


My Monster Kit

Derek Ohlarik from Flemington, New Jersey started small before building his glittering giant.



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They hung up their stickbags many moons ago, but as Allan Leibowitz discovers, thanks to electronic drums, they’re now ...

Back in the


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IT’S A COMMON story: studies, career and family dulled the drumming urge and the kit was eventually sold off. But, as children grow older, the desire to do more than tapping on the steering wheel has led us into the music store. And what do you know? There are now a range of kits that are almost silent on the outside, but which open a world of high-fidelity drumming opportunities inside the headphones.

For almost-50 Brian Smith in Phoenix, Arizona, marriage spelled the end of drumming. Although he’s always had a drum or two around, many years ago, Brian had to choose between the kit or his bride and the drums lost out. “I sold my big acoustic kit when I got married and moved from one coast all the way to the opposite coast,” he explains.

The 61-year-old from Toronto in Canada recalls playing at a graduation dance in the “Summer of 69”, using a second-hand gold sparkle Slingerland kit which had set him back $50. Doug’s musical career came to an abrupt end when his band’s lead guitarist died of an aneurysm at 17.

“I bought a TD-8 Tour Elite. (My daughter) went to sleep around seven o’clock most nights and I would get lost in the headphones from then until well after midnight most nights.

Doug Ross is back in the saddle after a 40year break from drumming.

Fast-forward four decades to a Mike Smith concert. “My wife was watching me airdrum and she instantly knew what to get me for Christmas. She found that her brother had a kit he wasn't using and convinced him to sell it to her and that's what started the whole ball rolling,” he recalls.

He soon tired of playing to CDs, and, through Craigslist, managed to assemble a band that is still together a couple of years on.

“Last year, I decided that I wanted a second kit for rehearsing so I didn't have to break it down and pack it every two weeks. I was doing my annual ‘Christmas shopping for myself’. I just happened to go into the shop on the Roland Day. I was blown away by the quality of the sounds coming from the kit. I ended up taking a TD-9K home, along with a Roland PM-30,” he recalls. The kit is perfect for practice, he observes. “The band tends not to be quite as loud. They don't have to play over the drums now.” digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2014

In 2000, when Brian decided to get back into drumming, he went electronic as a concession to his new-born daughter.

“It was a joyful time for me, I felt like edrums were the coolest thing ever .... I still do.” Of course, the TD-8 kit has come and gone, replaced first with a TD-10-powered Pintech kit, and plans are already shaping up for a DIY kit powered by a TD-30. The big attraction, according to Brian, is the ability to “play quietly and therefore more freely, not disturbing others”.

“I tend to want to play most often at night and acoustic drums make that nearly impossible to do with neighbours and family members so close by. E-drums are truly care-free in that regard.”

Fellow Phoenix resident John Connolly got his first kit in 1964, just when he discovered The Beatles. But that was just a loan kit, which soon disappeared, leaving him drumless until he’d saved enough from lawn mowing to buy a used Slingerland kit. In his 20s, he chased the rock ‘n roll dream, getting together with some high school buddies to “give it a go and see what we could do”.

“I kept at it until 1981. I was pushing 30, still broke and I had a son to raise. I was


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Doug Ross’s first kit set him back $50 - a lot less than his current set

loading up gear at 3am after playing six sets. My sound guy told me that the bass player was moving to Minnesota to be with his girlfriend,” says the 61-year-old. And that was the end of his tilt at fame. “Fast forward a couple decades to 2010 and I found myself ready to start kicking back at the age of 58,” he recalls.

Some extra space in a new home was used to house a second-hand acoustic kit, but John was not happy. “The acoustics in my room were bad, the drums were too loud and I wasn't sure what to do. My exguitar player suggested e-drums …”

Hitting Craigslist, he picked a couple of inexpensive e-kits for about $350 each. “They were old and had hard pads, but, as soon as I sat down with headphones on, I was sold.”

Feeling good about his drumming a couple months later, John re-assembled the high8

school line-up. “We all enjoyed it and decided to do it a couple times a week, a few hours a night.”

Two years on, the old-timers are still rocking on, and John has added a Roland SPD-SX to his arsenal.

He’s mastered the technology and now delves into composition and recording. “I now play drums, keys, horns, guitar .... whatever the piece calls for (thanks to loop triggering.” Benny Bauer of Frankfurt, Germany has been back in the saddle for three years after a 30-year pause in his drumming career.

“I played up to high school, but when I started studying engineering, I didn’t have time for music,” he says.

Like many frustrated percussionists, Benny often found himself peering into windows at music stores, but the prospect of an

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acoustic kit in his apartment was never realistic.

Then a colleague who knew Benny’s drumming background asked for advice about a kit for his son, who was just starting out. “He showed me a review of electronic drums in a drum magazine, and I was surprised to see how affordable they were. I remember seeing Duran Duran on TV with their Simmons kit that cost thousands – and here were kits for a few hundred,” he remembers. Benny, a stickler for detail, set about doing some research and found a bargain 2box kit with added extras a few kilometres away and when the friend’s son turned his nose up at the orange kit, Bauer decided to buy it for himself. The seller was another ‘mid-life crisis’ drummer who had owned the kit for a few months and decided to upgrade to a custom acoustic-styled set – and the two men regularly talk e-drums together and are planning a pilgrimage to the next edrum meeting organised by the Simmons Museum.

“I had forgotten how much fun drumming is,” he says. “I sit down after dinner for a quick session and next thing, it’s almost midnight and my wife is telling me to stop ‘that tapping noise’.”

The 50-something drummer has no plans to join a band. “I am satisfied plugging in my MP3 player and accompanying Queen, The Police and the Rolling Stones.” An anonnymous 45-year-old Alabama resident (he clearly fears being stalked) started drumming at 17 with a five-piece Pearl Export set which he played for six years until he got out of the navy.

“I didn't have much time to play and I also lived in an apartment, which didn’t suit the acoustic set,” he says.

“I've been wanting to get back into playing the drums for a very long time. Every year or so, I would visit a music shop and play on a demo electronic kit. Over the 18 years, the e-kits were getting better and I knew that an e-kit was the only option for me,” he points out. “The house I currently live in doesn't have a basement, so I needed a kit that would not upset my wife.

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John Connolly got his first kit in 1964 - a far cry from his current Roland rig.

“When a co-worker had a used TD-9 to sell, I decided to take the plunge and have been happily playing since.”

While many returned drummers lament the loss of their old acoustic kits, they embrace the advantages of e-kits such as the ability to play almost silently, the capability to dial up different drum and percussion sounds and the integration of recorded music into the mix.

Another resurrected drummer had a similar story: “I've had my e-kit for about 10 years now and it's great being able to play whenever I want.” Our nameless drummer agrees: “I think I'm able to play a lot more because of the edrums.”

And some drummers find themselves spending more time behind the kit than they did before.

As one reborn stick artist wrote on a forum recently: “I was afraid the drums would just collect dust, but I've been playing several times a week. Sometimes it's only 30 minutes at a time, but I always feel better after playing.

“I think that’s one of the great benefits to having an e-kit. That it’s so easy to plug in the iPod and start playing without having to bother anyone,” he adds. 10

Editor’s note: Hearing these familiar stories reminded me of my first acoustic kit – a 1970s Star (now Tama) King of Kings kit in Peacock Pearl (above). I’m sure it would sound awful today, but fitted with electronic triggers …

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THE JAPANESE E-DRUM giant scooped five awards after digitalDrummer readers gave it top honours in the module category, e-snare and e-cymbal stakes, multi-pad device and auxiliary trigger categories.


Roland has emerged as the big winner in the 2014 digitalDrummer Readers’ Choice awards for last year’s offerings. Allan Leibowitz wraps up the results.


The best of the best

er m e m u oic r lD ’ Ch a t gi ders i d a Re

The Roland TD-30, launched in 2012, was voted drum module of the year, beating a strong charge by last year’s winner, the Drumit Five 2box brain. In our August 2012 review, we noted that the TD-30 module is “logical, user-friendly and generally allows you to make changes with a single button or slider”. We applauded the “SuperNATURAL sounds with Behavior Modeling” and were particularly impressed with the new ambiance control. The module also got a tick for connectivity, especially its internal MIDI interface and wireless access. Roland’s new-generation PD-X triggers took the honours in the drum pads category, ahead of the Yamaha XP range in one of the most crowded categories. Introduced at the tail-end of the TD-20 lifecycle, the new triggers were described in our review as superb in combination with the new Roland flagship module. In the review, we noted the “accuracy of the triggering across the whole kit. From the lightest of strokes on the snare to energetic rolls on the edge of a crash, the response is immediate and exact”. The new pads are compact and stylish – and for those bent on pimping, their wraps are easily replaced. Roland’s CY cymbal range got the gong in the e-cymbal category – but under strong competition from Zildjian’s Gen16 AE range. Bear in mind that for much of last year, Zildjian was using the acoustic pickups which have now been augmented by the Direct Source pickups. Nonetheless, for those who want to trigger module or VST sounds, Roland’s improved cymbals represent pleasing aesthetics, especially in the new gunmetal finish, excellent responsiveness and much improved bell triggering.


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Roland’s SPD-SX took the top multipad device award, narrowly defeating its SPD-30 stablemate. In our initial review of the SX, we noted that “its usefulness for a performance lies in the ability to have a slew of customised samples, or even the onboard percussion instruments, available in a small package to either the acoustic or e-drummer. The added ability to tweak those samples on the fly might also appeal to live performers or DJs because it is very easy to do.” The Japanese electronic instrument giant’s last win was in the auxiliary trigger category, where its BT-1 has certainly shaken up the market. The model was included in digitalDrummer’s May 2012 auxiliary trigger update, where it impressed with its “comprehensive and versatile mounting system” and its engineering which allows it “not only to provide additional sounds, but also to prevent triggering of the drum on which it is mounted”. Of course, that is helped by “a new trigger setting in Roland’s latest-generation modules … designed to eliminate crosstalk while allowing maximum sensitivity of the aux trigger”. American drum company ddrum was voted the best maker of add-on triggers. The company’s Redshot and Pro triggers performed extremely well in digitalDrummer’s external trigger shoot-out, happily accommodating more modules with plug and play installation. Since that review, the company has added two more advanced offerings, the DRT (Dual Redundant Triggers) which feature a ‘spare’ sensor and a switching mechanism; and the Chrome Elite with “improved wiring harness and transducer for even better tracking, reliability and longevity”. digitalDrummer is yet to review these. ddrum’s reign was challenged this year by new entrant Wronka, whose EasyTrigger internal add-on came in second.

Toontrack held onto its VST crown, with its Superior Drummer product voted the best VST on the market. SD2 also came out on top in the inaugural Readers’ Choice awards, but this year it had stiff competition from the new BFD3 from Fxpansion. BFD3 came in very close to SD2, even though it had only been on the market for a couple of months at the peak of voting, and it no doubt picked up some support from users of the previous version which also ran a close second last year.

In a year in which there were a significant number of new offerings, Zildjian’s Gen16 AE system won the best new product accolade for its Direct Source pickups. The August digitalDrummer review said the revamp of the cymbals’ frontend take 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.”



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Just like last year, the e-drummer of the year category was hotly contested, with a number of worthy nominees. The popular choice was Belgian dynamo Michael Schack. The Drums’nDJ artist is known for pushing technology to the limits in his live work with Netsky and SquarElectric and as an international Roland artist/demonstrator, both solo and with V-Topia. As a consulting artist for Roland Corporation, he also provides technical feedback and creates preset material for Roland drums and percussion products. Schack is passionate about e-drums, releasing a special “play along” version of his latest SquarElectric album and, more recently, signing up as an instructor for online training provider drumeo. Schack has been profiled in digitalDrummer and has contributed to the magazine.

Hall of Fame

Readers this year also voted in two special categories – the best product of all time and the e-drum Hall of Fame. The Roland mesh head was judged the best product, with readers saying it revolutionised electronic percussion. According to an account on the Roland website, in 1997 the instrument maker began its hunt for “something like film or skin as head material” for its pads. One of the design team stumbled across a small trampoline, which used a mesh-type material for the bouncing mat. This became the inspiration for the drum head which was eventually produced for Roland by Remo.



digitalDrummer congratulates the winners and also thanks all the readers who took the time to cast votes in our online ballot. Thanks especially to those who nominated me personally for both the e-drummer of the year and the Hall of Fame – honours which I must graciously leave in the hands of more deserving nominees!


Dave Simmons, the man behind the original Simmons line, was a clear favourite in the e-drum Hall of Fame category for the person or company with the biggest impact on electronic percussion. Simmons produced his first electronic drum in 1978 - the SDS-3, which featured four drum channels and a noise generator. Simmons then collaborated with Richard James Burgess of Landscape to refine the sound design – and the physical form of the drums. Burgess introduced the SDS-5 to Spandau Ballet before the SDS-V was introduced commercially in 1981. That kit, with its famous hexagonal pads, became the soundtrack of the ‘80s, used by bands from Duran Duran to Rush. As Simmons told digitalDrummer in May 2011, he was a better inventor than businessman and failed to see the market shifting. The SDS-2000, produced in 1989, turned out to be the last kit the company produced before ultimately closing in 1999. Simmons, who left the industry at that stage, is currently in a legal battle with the US retail giant Guitar Center, which acquired the rights to the Simmons name and uses it on its own line of electronic instruments.

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NAMM novelties The winter NAMM Show in Anaheim is the traditional launching pad for music product debuts, and Allan Leibowitz went there to check out what’s new.

IF THERE WAS ever an indication of the tough economic times, it was the smaller displays and scaled-back artist appearances by many of the manufacturers. Another sign was the scarcity of new products, with only a handful of electronic percussion debuts around. On the flip side, interest was strong, with more than 96,000 people attending NAMM – and lots of attention devoted to electronic percussion displays.

Zildjian used NAMM 2011 to debut its acoustic electronic cymbals, and this year further enhanced the range with a new collection of reduced-volume cymbals. The Gen16 Buffed Bronze Series features subtle changes to the bell profile and a new bronze finish to produce a fuller, warmer tone than the original nickel-plated models. Zildjian will continue selling the original


cymbals as it releases the new bronze products. The range will include 13” and 14” hats, a 12” splash, 16” crash, 16” china, 18” crash/ride and 20” ride, with prices roughly double the nickel equivalents.

The Gen 16 sample range also gets a revamp, with the launch of the Zildjian Digital Vault Orchestral & Field Cymbal Expansion Pack. This VST pack includes hand cymbals, tamtams, crotales, gongs, and more, played with multiple striking devices and hundreds of articulations.

This collection is optimised for BFD2, BFD Eco and most recording software as well as general MIDI which can be used with any GMcompatible drum software or hardware. In line with current trends, this Digital Vault pack will only be available via download.


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Roland reflected the rising interest in hybrid kits by showing its recently announced TM-2 Trigger Module, a new electronic percussion module with onboard sounds, the ability to load user samples via SCHD cards and two stereo trigger inputs for a variety of Roland pads and drum triggers. Battery-powered and compact, the TM-2 is aimed squarely at drummers using hybrid kits that bring acoustic and electronic elements together.

The TM-2 mounts onto a hi-hat stand or drum rack using standard hardware.

Built-in trigger inputs allow players to connect two pads or trigger devices at once. Nearly any pad in Roland’s line-up can be used, including those that support dual triggering. Ideal options for a hybrid application include the BT-1 Bar Trigger Pad and KT-10 Kick Trigger Pedal. The TM-2 also works well with Roland’s RT-series acoustic drum triggers that mount on kick, snare, and tom drums. Both inputs support dual-zone triggers, and the BT-1’s crosstalk cancellation function is also supported. The TM-2 has over 100 ready-to-play sounds and users can import additional sounds, loops and backing tracks via an SDHC card slot. The device also has a MIDI output.

The Japanese e-drum giant also showed off its newest bass drum pedal, the KT-10. The beaterless KT-10 has a reverse-action trigger mechanism that makes the pedal not only compact in size, but also far quieter in operation than a kick pad played with a standard pedal and beater.

Roland is also pitching this pedal at the hybrid market, claiming it is ideal for use alongside an acoustic kick pedal in a hybrid drum set. After the October upgrade of the DTX500 module to the DTX502, there was some expectation that Yamaha would roll out new DTX702 and 902 modules at NAMM, but that did not happen.

The Japanese instrument giant seems to have devoted its attention to its acoustic drum line, with a new range launched at NAMM. Also on hand was Yamaha’s US head of acoustic and electronic drums, Steve Fisher, former head of rival Roland US. Fisher was quick to point out to digitalDrummer that “we’re working on things for the future”.


Fisher maintains that the current line consists of great products, none of which is outdated. “When we issue the next range, we want to make sure it’s substantially new. Adding a few features or a couple of improvements doesn’t make for a new set,” he adds – but remains tight-lipped about timing.

Alesis had a few new offerings for edrummers. The Samplepad Pro is an eight-pad device with enhanced connectivity that allows users to load their own sounds via an SD card slot. It has 10 ready-to-play kits with over 200 drum and cymbal sounds. Beside the eight rubber pads with their blue LED illumination, the pad also has two additional inputs, plus kick and hi-hat trigger/switch inputs. For those who want a compact module, the Samplepad Pro is also produced in a padless version as the Sample Rack. This accommodates eight trigger inputs plus kick and hi-hat and also has the ability to load user sounds via the SD card slot. Of course, there’s also MIDI In and Out. Alesis also entered the two-part hi-hat market with its Pro X hi-hat, a 12” single-zone top and bottom cymbal pairs promising “authentic hihat playability and feel”.

There was also a couple of new monitoring options: the new TransActive 400 amp and the DRP 100 headphones.

After very few new products in past years, America’s ddrum had a large e-drum showing this year. Besides its external triggers, two new kits were on display, the DD3X and the DD5X, both rebranded Medeli (the maker of Alesis, Pearl, Simmons and KAT modules and kits) offerings. The higher-end version has the added ability to save to SD card. VST players will be interested in the DDTi trigger interface, another alternative to Alesis’ Trigger/iO and Roland’s TMC-6 trigger to MIDI converters. Also on show were two ddrum amps – the DDA50 and DDA200 – again strikingly similar to the current Simmons and KAT line-ups.

There was plenty of interest at the KAT Percussion stand in the next-generation highend kits which will combine Aquarian’s inHead or onHead with Alternate Mode’s DITI interface (renamed EVE), powered by a Muse Receptor variant known as ADAM (Advanced Drum Audio Module) and running Addictive Drums.

While the specifications are still being tweaked, the company is confident the kit, with its

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Left to right, from top: Chris Ryan demonstrates the new Gen-16 cymbals, Roland’s hybrid array, Yamaha’s Steve Fisher, new colours for 2box, Jambé’s John Worthington and Mario DeCiutiis, Aquarian’s electronic offerings, Aerodrums’ Yann Morvan and Richard Lee, ddrum’s expanded range and KAT Percussion’s next generation.




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size shells and robust hardware, will be on sale this year.

KAT also showed off its midrange offering, the new KT3 kit. The six-piece kit has 11” white floor tom and snare drum pads, 9” kick and rack tom pads, 12” hi-hat cymbal, two 12” crash cymbals, a 14” ride cymbal with an all-new bell trigger. The sounds are also a step up from its smaller siblings – as are the play-along tracks. The KAT also featured a new multipad offering.

A revived Pintech, under new ownership, was selected as “Best in Show: Company to Watch” at the NAMM Show. The company used the show to debut its PDK1000 kit, consisting of a 10” snare, three 8” toms, a 14” cymbal, two 10” single-zone cymbals, a bass pad, rack and cables for under $800 – including a Pintech module. On the drawing board at the moment is a range of brass cymbal triggers which will be released shortly.

2box was represented at the Hoshino stand in a modest display. At show time, shipments of the kits and modules had already started landing in the US and a rep indicated that interest among dealers was strong. The Tama and Ibanez importer also had a couple of colour options on show for the 2box pads, although no decision has yet been made to move away from the polarising orange finish. Italy’s Mark Drum, which made its debut two years ago, was conspicuously absent, with company officials saying they were exploring new head options after falling foul of Roland’s US mesh patent.

Aquarian had a display of KAT inHead and onHead trigger solutions, with an assurance that the full size range is now available for both FSR-based head offerings. The heads were displayed with a range of modules, as well as Alternate Mode/KAT’s ADAM/EVE combination. There was also a glimpse into the future with a prototype Jambé, a hand-held iOS-powered multizone percussion instrument that is aimed at the next generation of drummers,


percussionists, DJs and home composers. The product is a collaboration between Alternate Mode and SensorPoint and should be available some time this year.

IK Multimedia, the company behind the iRig MIDI interface, launched something completely different – the iRing. The ring device, worn on one’s finger, is a motiontracking controller for iOS music apps and more. It allows musicians to control sound effects and other parameters of their favorite apps, in real time, using hand positions.

The ring unit works with mobile devices’ front-facing camera and allows the musician to use gestures instead of mouse clicks or keyboard shortcuts.

New NAMM entrant NowSonic showed off some innovative solutions, including what could be the first MIDI interface for iOS and more traditional connections.

The iM/One is the first hybrid MIDI interface for mobile devices such as iPad, iPhone and iPod touch that also works with PCs and Macs, obviating the need for separate USB and iOS interfaces. The included iPort cable (Apple Dock Connector to USB-3.0) is designed to be used with any iOS device. The downward compatibility of the USB-3.0 standard also allows connection to a computer. It’s worth noting that Alesis’ DMdock was still on show, although the product seems to have slipped to “proof of concept” status. For those who thought air-drumming was a joke, a pair of Irish innovators are having the last laugh. Aerodrums is an air-drumming instrument that runs on a computer and “understands your drumming intent by watching you drum through a high-speed” camera. The first version of Aerodrums only runs on Windows and requires a Playstation 3 Eye camera, but a Mac version is planned. The system will also eventually be compatible with VST samples.

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Kat amps it up

In the past, it was slim pickings in the drum monitor stakes. Now, there is more choice, and Scott Holder likes what he’s hearing. 20

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KAT PERCUSSION HAS jumped into the edrum amplifier/monitor market with two modest-sized, powered cabinets: the 50W KA1 and the 200W KA2. The amps are direct competitors to the Simmons DA50 and DA200S monitors, while offering something more powerful than Roland’s PM-10, more affordable than Roland’s PM-30 - or both, in the case of Yamaha’s MS-100DR. Since I own two DA200S monitors, the temptation to do side-by-side testing was just too great, so much of this review was done with both KATs and a single DA200S hooked up to my drum kit. Not only did it give us a chance to see how the two 200W cabinets matched up, it also provided an opportunity to see what difference wattage made when putting the KA1 up against the two 200watters.

The outside

The KA1/2 share many common controls and features. On the front panel, each unit has ¼” left and right mono inputs, a ¼” stereo Aux input, one 1⁄8” stereo connector (for input from audio sources like an MP3 player) and one 1⁄8” mono output to headphones. Both have a three-band EQ for frequency control at 50Hz/800Hz/10kHz and two separate gain knobs, one for the L/R inputs and one for the stereo Aux input. All of these knobs are “dimpled” for manipulation by a drum stick. Thus far, they and the Simmons DA200S are virtually identical. The KA2 has an “attack” knob (KAT also refers to it as the Crack knob and it’s labeled “Presence” on the unit itself) that’s designed to tweak the upper mid-range frequencies. This is exactly the opposite of the


DA200S, which has a separate controller for the sub-woofer and highlights the different approaches and, ultimately, different sounds each 200w cabinet produces. Like the DA200S, both units can amp the entire rhythm section through a single cabinet, although the smaller KA1 might not provide as much “oomph” in anything other than a small room. The KA2, again like the DA200S, will make for a nice practice and small club bass amp.

The KA2 has a balanced (stereo) XLR connection on the back panel, along with a volume knob independent from the master gain on the front panel. This allows for an independent signal to be sent to a mixing console or even another speaker, an approach not unlike the DA200S. It has a ground lift switch associated with this connection: it disconnects pin 1 on the XLR connection to help eliminate the dreaded 60hz “hummmm”.

The inside

The KA1 has a 10” woofer and 2.5” tweeter, almost identical to the Simmons DA50. The KA2 has a 12” woofer and a 1”x1” compression driver. The use of the latter is an interesting difference from the tweeters used on the DA200S. The compression driver is much more efficient in handling power and its sound dispersion is far more controllable than most tweeter designs, thus the KA2 is lighter than the DA200S but still packs the same punch across all frequencies. Admittedly, there’s an apples-to-oranges comparison here in that the DA200S has dual tweeters and midranges in order to create a stereo field where the KA2 is more of a classic mono stage monitor.


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The performance

Both the KA1 and KA2 are quiet at rest, a feature I’ve grown to embrace in any PA cabinet not just e-drum monitors. There’s no hiss, which means clear sound quality. One of the great things about the KA1/2 series is that they provide a different overall sound to a kit than the Simmons line and that might be preferable to some. We’re not saying one is good, one is bad - just that each is different.

Every e-drummer wants to know about the low end, so I ran a variety of kits through them from two modules, a Roland TD-12, a Yamaha DTX450 as well as from an Alesis PercPad (primarily for kick sounds). Immediately, I found that as the volume levels increased, the KA1 moved from the low end towards the mids and highs. So, if lows or ear-bleeding volumes are important to you, something like the KA1 won’t work – but then, nor will any low-powered cabinet with a 10” woofer. The KA2 had no such problem with lows. I would play some kick sounds on one module and compare the KA2 and DA200S and the former could rattle my basement just fine. In fact, the KA2 has a deeper resonance on the lows than the DA200S, even with the latter’s sub-woofer control maxed out. Both sounded different from each other across the audio spectrum. I liked the sound of the low end on the KA2 a bit better than on the DA200S, but slightly preferred the mids and highs on the DA200S. Again, neither is “better” than the


other, just different. The fact that the KA2 can pound out this much low end without sacrificing the quality of the mids and highs, and do it all in a lighter package, is impressive. Remember, not all kick sounds are created equal. I sent a variety of kick sounds through the KA1/KA2; at lower volume levels, the KA1 handled all of them. The KA2 handled all of them with the volume knob turned up; the response to some kick sounds was downright rattling.

The Attack/Crack/Presence setting increases the attack amplitude of the upper mid-ranges while not changing the decay rate. Translated, that means as the Presence knob is turned up, the audio becomes more “in your face”, decidedly so if you max out the setting. The snare and cymbal sounds are crisper as the setting is increased, but can easily become shrill if pushed too far. With the setting maxed, the high end is definitely accentuated, while mostly preserving the low end. However, there’s a risk that everything in between gets lost. There will be a sweet spot in there somewhere but I found I preferred the Presence setting set to zero; again, this will be very subjective.

Interestingly, moving back and forth between headphones and e-drum monitors, I found that the KA1 completely mimicked the sound of my Sennheiser eH2200 cans. The KA2 and the DA200S each sounded different from the headphones, a typical e-drumming experience.

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A snare, for example, sounded a little bit different on each amp and the headphones.

The KA1 probably won’t work as a stage monitor if you’re playing anywhere with a loud PA or sizeable room. In a small room or basement for practising and band rehearsals, again assuming you don’t rehearse at earbleeding levels, it will be fine. The KA2 should easily be able to handle any likely stage monitoring scenarios and your band mates should even feel some low-end thump.


The KA2 is every bit as powerful and dynamic as the DA200S, so I came away very impressed. It weighs less and, to many ears, I’m guessing how it presents low end will be considered better than the DA200S. Its street price is $70 more than the DA200S, but it’s still a very affordable, dedicated e-drum monitor that can also double as half of a small PA. The KA1 obviously doesn’t have the power of the KA2 and, thus, has fewer potential uses outside of a personal practice monitor. But it does that remarkably well considering how it literally duplicated the headphone sound from any module.

Both offer a much-welcome addition to what has mostly been a sparse market for dedicated e-drum monitors in any price range. Even better for non-USA customers, both units are available with different voltages and plugs so you don’t need to purchase a converter!



Output: KA1: 50W @ 8 ohms, 500mW @ 32 ohms— Headphones, mono KA2: 200W @ 8 ohms, 500mW @ 32 ohms— Headphones, mono Frequency Response: KA1/2: 20Hz—20kHz Hum/Noise: KA1/2: -55dBV (Controls turned down), 50dBV (Controls turned halfway) Input Impedence: KA1/2: 10K Ohms Input Levels: KA1: -20dBV (Input 1 to get full output). 14dBV (Input 2 to get full output), -20dBV (Aux input to get full output), -10dBV (1/8” Line In to get full output) KA2: -16dBV (Input 1 to get full output). 10dBV (Input 2 to get full output), -10dBV (Aux input to get full output), -10dBV (1/8” Line In to get full output) EQ: KA1/2: 50Hz, 800Hz, 10Khz KA2: Crack/Attack/Presence 3.5kHz Power Requirements: KA1: 85W at full output 10W when idle KA2: 400W at full output, 14W when idle Speakers: KA1: 10” (254mm) Woofer (8 ohms rated 100W RMS), 2.5” (64mm) tweeter (special design piezo) KA2: 12” (305mm) Woofer (8 ohms rated 200W RMS), 1” x 1” (25.4mm x 25.4mm) compression driver (20W neodymium magnet, phenolic diaphragm) Inputs: KA1/2: Two mono ¼”, one stereo ¼”, one stereo 1⁄8” Outputs: KA1: one stereo 1⁄8” KA2: one XLR Balanced (stereo), one stereo 1 ⁄8” Dimensions: KA1: 15.5” deep, 15.5” wide, 16.25” tall (394mm x 394mm x 413mm) KA2: 16.5” deep, 18” wide, 19” tall (420mm x 455mm x 480mm) Weight: KA1: 31.4lb./14.3Kg KA2: 44.25lb./20.1Kg Street price: KA1: $220 KA2: $370 23

That kit suits you

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Electronic percussion is generally associated with a kit of some form, but Enrico Bertelli has been researching ‘wearable’ triggers.

BODY PERCUSSION CONSISTS of producing sounds and music with one’s own body, a concept deeply rooted in cultures all over the world. From the armpit music in Ethiopia, to the hambone of the southern states, almost every culture has a relevant variant. Body percussion is enticing because it can be produced anywhere, at any time, regardless of any external condition. Drums always require some extra set-up, are noisy, physically demanding and always in the wrong room.

The MIDI revolution has allowed us to resize the gear and come to terms with complaining neighbours who may not appreciate our efforts. Combining electronics with body percussion opens up even more possibilities. As soon as I started investigating the history of wearable drum kit suits, I discovered some intriguing DIY achievements.

Throughout the ‘80s, many artists have created

Throughout the ‘80s, many artists have created their own versions of MIDI-based wearable drum kits. Among the first prototypes was Laurie Anderson’s, used on Smoke Years (1986), closely followed by Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. Meanwhile, others started sticking sensors into the human body and created the biomusic. Sensorband was the first to perform with Biomuse, the system invented by Benjamin Knapp and Hugh Lusted, who also initiated this trend of electronic music.

I have not come across many performances based on electronic body percussion, but I hope to spark some more interest with this article. As a matter of fact, since the appearance of micro-computers, sensor-based DIY instruments have become accessible to any enthusiast capable of a bit of soldering and programming.

Lucas Werthein and Kyle McDonald built a percussion suit in Brazil in 2011 in a project called EletroAxé. The suit had 10 sensors consisting of piezo sensors, controlled by an onboard Arduino processor.



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How it’s done

To get started in electronic body percussion, you’ll need:

MIDI drum brain: eBay, a second-hand shop or some friends bored with their instrument will be the perfect source. The cheaper and older the brain, the more fun it will be to tweak. I got mine from the returns department of a big music shop which was piling them up and didn’t know what else to do with them. Piezo sensors: These are the key part of the instrument – and also the smallest and the cheapest! You will find them in any shop that sells electronic components. Get them nonencased, pre-soldered and as big as they come. A bigger sensor means a wider contact surface, able to accommodate a less accurate strike, especially considering that the ‘pads’ will be hidden under your clothes.

few into a shirt, which allows for a quick set-up and tear down, but you can also use any shirt with many pockets. Why not use your trouser pockets, too?

You now have two choices: you can use the module sounds or connect the MIDI-drum brain to the computer via audio output or via MIDI. There are a number of VST options, and if you are a keen Ableton user, I would suggest you read the article I wrote in the February 2013 issue, titled Big Performance from Small Kits. It will direct you to a link from which you will be able to download a performance-ready patch to enhance the communication between your newly designed kit and Superior Drummer 2.

Cabling: I used speaker cables because they were handy, but any sort of dual-core cable will do. Just consider that you will have eight or more running under your shirt, so, the thinner, the better.

Casings: The piezo sensors are very fragile and need a semi-rigid pad to receive the strike correctly and deliver a usable message to the MIDI brain. Personally, I used self-adhesive pads like those used for chairs and furniture to protect the floors. Get some big enough to The EletroAxé sensor pads are engineered for durability and strength. cover the piezo entirely, but which can still fit in your trouser or shirt pockets. Connectors: 1⁄4” jack connectors.

How to piece the kit together

First of all, let’s start with the piezo sensors. Sandwich a piezo between two self-adhesive pads; that will be your drum pad. Now solder the cable to your speaker cable and create a connection with the 1/4” jack on the other end. You will want to get a cable long enough for you to move freely - I used 3 metres. The number of jacks, cables and sensors depends on the brain you are using. I would suggest avoiding the hi-hat control socket, because it sends command controls, as well as a MIDI note. Once you have all the cables done, test the sensors to make sure that everything is working and start wearing them! I stitched a


Future Developments

The solution described above is obviously not the only one. If you are a DIY enthusiast, I suggest you also try and work with Arduino. The process is the same, but the sensors connect directly to the Arduino board. Do include some resistors in the circuit because the voltage produced by piezo sensors could be enough to fry your board. If you are a Linux user, you might want to experiment with the Yun, which has WiFi included. Another fascinating option is the LilyPad, which can be sewn directly onto your shirt and uses a conductive thread to connect with your sensors. And when you do build your own e-body percussion suit, be sure to share pictures with digitalDrummer.

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HEAD 2 HEAD It’s been almost four years since digitalDrummer racked up a bunch of mesh heads and began the world’s first head-to-head testing. This was followed by two additional testing rounds to take in some new offerings and samples that weren’t available earlier. Allan Leibowitz again set up the test rig to put three new offerings through their paces. Here are the results:



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ddt Velocity

Germany’s ddt performed well with its original two-ply mesh head, but now the product has been further refined, with a tighter weave and whiter fabric. The result is a less transparent head that has not lost any of its performance attributes. The head feels great under sticks and is very quiet, especially under heavy hitting conditions. Rebound is similar to the previous model and overall responsiveness is excellent. The company claims the new tighter weave means more durability for the well-constructed head which has a relatively heavy hoop and overall sturdy feel. If we have to nit-pick, the one negative would be the oversized logoare andnot V2as legend which tendRemo’s to dominate The heads sturdy as the morethe famed mesh offering, and even the aesthetics – especially on smaller-sized heads. However, hoop feels much lighter than many of the other products out there. And this, the main logowith is atthe least slightly tool smaller than the original combined practice designation, might indicate a potential durability version. issue. But, given their budget pricing, it won’t break the bank to replace them if - or On a positive heads are better-priced than the range they when - theynote, stopthe performing. are replacing, coming in a couple of Euros cheaper than their predecessor ! for the 12� version.




Noise level


ddt Velocity Pintech Reaction Remo Silentstroke 682Drum 682Drum (white) Arbiter Ballistech Ballistech II ddt Drum-tec Design Hart Magnum Hart Maxxum Pearl Muffle Head Pintech SilenTech RMV Roland by Remo Triggerhead Tuff Mesh^^ Z-Ed Z-Ed Twin Z-Ed Triple XM

!20 $29 $14.50 !12 !12 ÂŁ9 $12 $25 !22 !22 $40 $40 $10 $37 $30 $40 !18 $13 ÂŁ7 ÂŁ9 ÂŁ10 $10

2 1 1 2 2 1 1 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 3 1

74-88dB 75-91dB 77-90dB 72-86dB 74.5-84dB 81-95dB 78-93dB 78-91dB 78-89dB 79-91dB 75.5-89dB 77-92dB 75-94dB 76-89dB 75-87dB 77-88dB 75.5-82.5dB 79-85dB 78-86dB 76-88dB 72.5-85dB 75-90dB

2. 2. 2. 2.155 2.055 2.109 1.619 1.952 2.322 2.147 2.017 2.030 2.175 2.273 2.043 2.251 2.051 1.602 1.949 2.218 2.285 1.983

Heads in black feature for the first time. +Rebound measured in seconds. ^^ DIY head. 28


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Pintech Reaction Series

Pintech, under its new owner, has revamped its single-ply black heads, with a new name (inspired by its performance on the initial digitalDrummer head2head) and stylish new logo. The hoop, the only one featuring rubberised reinforcing to prevent stretching and/or tearing, is sturdy and generously sized, which will be helpful on oversized drums. The head performed well, maintaining its low impact noise profile and steady rebound, although very slightly reduced from our initial sample. The impact decay is very smooth and steady, which translates into a controlled, realistic playing sensation. The head has a good tight weave, but, like other black heads, is a bit more transparent than some of the white offerings out there. Also worth noting: this is one of the few heads which actually comes with installation instructions. They have also been priced more competitively, with the 12” version down almost $10 from the originals.

Remo Silentstroke

Remo’s claim to fame is its pioneer status in the mesh head game, having produced Roland’s heads since the first mesh patent. The head maker last year launched its own range of singleply heads which are being marketed as silent practice tools. They are not as silent as their Roland peers, but are far more bouncy than their name-brand siblings. Indeed, Remo has stolen ddt’s “rebound ace” title – but only just. The head feels natural in both controlled and heavy hitting and triggered well. Featuring what looks like the same tight weave as the Roland heads, the Remo heads are significantly less see-through than most other white single-ply offerings. The heads are not as sturdy as the Remo’s more famed mesh offering, and even the hoop feels much lighter than many of the other products out there. And this, combined with the practice tool designation, might indicate a potential durability issue. But, given their budget pricing, it won’t break the bank to replace them if - or when - they stop performing.

In April 2010, digitalDrummer published the first mesh head comparison. To read how we test and the initial report, just follow the link. digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2014


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KATalyst Most people may know Mario J DeCiutiis as the driving force behind Alternate Mode and its KAT products, but the inventor is also an accomplished musician who has a regular gig at Radio City Music Hall. He shares the Kat story with digitalDrummer’s Allan Leibowitz.


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digitalDrummer: How did you get started as a percussionist?

Mario DeCiutiis: My entrance to music was when my uncle gave me a drum set while still in grammar school. I fell in love with drums then and knew from that early age that playing music was going to be my life’s occupation. By high school, I was already playing in garage bands, and by junior year, I was coaxed into learning to play vibes so that I could audition for college as a music major. I got a partial scholarship to NYU, studying classical percussion with Morris Lang from the New York Philharmonic. Not long after that, I wanted to get into the jazz world. I switched to Queens College, took up jazz performance and electronic music and studied vibes with David Friedman. In 1979, Radio City Music Hall was revamping its orchestra, and was looking for young players. The contractor got a tip about a band called “Good Vibes”. That night, he heard us and contracted the entire band for the rhythm section for Radio City. I have been


there ever since, playing thousands of shows an amazing experience for sure.

dD: What prompted the move from performance to invention?

MdC: Playing funk in those days was a frustrating experience for a vibes player. My fingers would literally bleed, trying to keep up with the volume of the screaming guitars and saxophones. But I loved the music. I was learning about Musique Concrete, real tape looping and control voltage using Buchla and Moog synthesizers in college, and I wanted to apply that technology to my playing. Back then, all I could find was Electro Harmonix gizmos to hook up to the vibe pick ups – fun, but not entirely satisfying. dD: That leads, no doubt, to the KAT story. How did that begin?

MdC: Enter Bill Katoski. Modern Drummer back in 1984 ran an article about this guy in Massachusetts designing an electronic mallet instrument, pre-MIDI. I called the magazine


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and they gave me his number (different times). I drove up and we became instant friends. I was the first percussionist that he met who knew about synthesizers and what was needed to make a great mallet controller. Within a year, the first malletKAT was born, and Bill, Maria (his wife) and I started KAT Inc from our basements. We did that together for 10 years. In 1995, KAT Inc hit hard times due to manufacturing difficulties and bank loans. Essentially, the banks killed KAT. We were all heartbroken. Luckily, Bill (being the genius that he is) immediately landed another great job, but not in the music business. For me, the malletKAT was glued to my hip. It was my instrument for expression. I negotiated with the banks and created Alternate Mode. In 1996, I decided that I didn’t want Alternate Mode to consume as much time as KAT did. I wanted to play more - way more. So I made the scary decision to get rid of distributors, reps and stores and just sell direct. For me, it was the absolute best decision as I managed and continue to dance between both the music playing and business worlds.

dD: Can you run through the product evolution: what did you start with and what did you add to the line - and when? 32

Mario in the orchestra pit

MdC: The malletKAT came out first in 1985. Then, the drumKAT in 1988. We started to sell tons of electronic pads and triggers, selling Dauz Designs and Drumtech and Trigger Perfect. This gave rise to the MIDI KITI, a powerful trigger to MIDI interface. The malletKAT needed major overhauling as new technology became available, so the malletKAT PRO was born, maybe 1990. The last major KAT product was the trapKAT. Alternate Mode for the first 10 years or so was just riding on the waves of KAT. We did, however, introduce the drumKAT Turbo, the malletKAT Grand, malletKAT Express and trapKAT PRO. I managed to keep the software engineers working part-time, so all of the KAT products continued to get software upgrades. That’s what was so special about us. You didn’t need to buy a new instrument. All you needed was a software chip. Several years ago, I decided it was time to shake things up in the drum world. Frankly, all of the technology that was coming out of the “big boys” to me was boring and recycled product. I wanted to make major significant changes to the electronic percussion community. I couldn’t do it alone. I needed capital and an engineering team. So for the past five years or so, lots of new

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technology has been under development. Finally, we are getting close to letting it all rip!

dD: Before we talk about new products, it’s worth noting that KAT creations have found their way into the hands of some of the biggest names in drumming and percussion and people get a special glint in their eyes when you mention them. How did you manage to interest so many people in the products of a tiny company?

MdC: I believe it’s because of the detail of the programming and the willingness to use more expensive, expressive FSR technology. Every software feature was decided not because of the ROI, but because of the desire to make the world’s most expressive musical instrument possible. I consider myself a player first. I needed an instrument that would be capable of producing the widest vocabulary for expression. Honestly, I did it for me first, and then hoped others would get it. It’s because our controllers are so full of the capability to capture nuance that they have attracted the world’s greatest players all of these years. dD: It’s been said that if anything, the KAT products are too sophisticated and too powerful for the mass market. Have you ever thought of dumbing down the gear to appeal to a broader market? MdC: It is true that power demands some responsibility in how to use it. Yes, it is also

true that one sometimes needs a thick skin to really dig into the software. I really apologise for that. I wanted maximum malleability and didn’t want to be restricted by someone else making the rules to make it easy. But, that being said about these legacy products, I have learned that there is a way to make it incredibly powerful and easier at the same time. Remember the early microwave ovens and how hard it was to program? Not anymore, and they are way more powerful. There is an entirely new line of product that will soon be released that will be the most powerful AND the most intuitive to use. dD: Let’s talk about inHEAD and onHEAD. Why did you feel the need to go in this direction?

MdC: Several years ago, I partnered with the inventor of FSR technology, Frank Eventoff. We created a company called MIDItroniX. Our first real product together was to develop the inHEAD/onHEAD - along with Aquarian Drumheads. I have always felt that many drummers didn’t like electronic drums because they needed to move air when they played. They wanted to have real drums around them when they played. They wanted to hear acoustic drums when they played. Many of these drummers don’t like the feel of mesh heads or rubber pads because they have to dig in when they play. The inHEAD fills this need and opens up the electronic drum world to a

Are you ready to unlock your full potential on the drums?

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I believe that staying in touch with my playing roots helps me make better products because I really know what’s needed.

whole new set of players. The benefits for the inHEAD should be apparent. It is the world’s first true electro-hybrid drum. In a studio, the drummer can feel totally comfortable playing on the acoustic kit, but in the recording room, MIDI is being recorded. This allows for editing and sound replacement, etc. On stage, the musicians could be hearing the acoustic kit, while the house gets a reinforced drum sound without any need for micing because the inHEADS are controlling a VST plug-in drum synth. The onHEAD or PED (portable electronic drum) is just the logical extension of the same idea. Use your own acoustic drum set, but enjoy quiet playing while sending out MIDI. You save a ton of money also because you already have your own drum set as the stand! Both products are using FSR technology, so there is total elimination of crosstalk and false triggering, a problem that plagues piezo-based products (the rest of the world). The other interesting thing is that soon there will be multi-zone inHEADS and PEDS. This will be another major leap in electronic drumming evolution: multi-zones on a single playing source with superior triggering and no crosstalk.

dD: Both those products have been really slow to get to market. Why is it so hard to get them up to full production when you have clearly managed to get your previous products out quickly? MdC: Believe me, if it was easy to do, it would have been out years ago. On a surface like a drumKAT, there is a hard metal substrate that limits the amount of excursion to the sensor


itself. The magic in the inHEAD is the FSR, which is essentially conductive ink. Yes, ink! Now imagine a drumhead bouncing in and out, over and over. New ink technologies needed to be created that could withstand the terrible beating of drum playing. Same for the mylar. Besides sounding good, it needed to bond with the FSR. We managed to make it work great for the snare drum because the head is nice and tight (limited excursion), but on a loose tom, the wide movement caused unacceptable breakdowns. This has led to delays, but the good news is that we have learned volumes, have created new patented technologies that make it work and this will soon be just a hiccup of the past!

dD: What’s the thinking behind the new collaboration with KMC for KAT Percussion – and what do you actually contribute to that arrangement besides the KAT name?

MdC: Licensing the KAT name to KMC is the most exciting opportunity for me yet. For over a decade, I have wanted to make cool new products but didn’t have the corporate muscle to pull it off. KMC now gives me that chance to develop new products for them. They have the funding and marketing to make this happen, plus a sales force of a superpower. Soon, you will see new powerful, creative and innovative products coming from KAT. The Alternate Mode influence will be obvious! dD: When you started out, electronic percussion was quite rare – now, there are scores of offerings from players big and small. Do you find it easier or harder to do business in this more competitive and aware market?

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MdC: I have to stick with the formula. Make the absolute very best product that I can. Make decisions that favour the product, not the price. I ask myself: ‘what do I want it to do for me as a musician?’. That’s all I can do. There is a reason why the malletKAT has been around for over 25 years! dD: It’s interesting that despite all the work on the Alternate Mode side, you still have time for a professional performance career. What are you doing at the moment performance-wise?

MdC: I believe that staying in touch with my playing roots helps me make better products because I really know what’s needed. I don’t need a marketing survey about a product, I already know. Playing a gig like Radio City Music Hall really cuts into Alternate Mode time, but it’s too important a gig to let go. Working there was like getting a master’s degree in performance because of the wide range of music we were hired to play. For the first 28 years, it was all acoustic percussion. Now, they are using malletKATs, panKATs, drumKATs, Receptors and Mac laptops for percussion. The orchestra continues to be a learning tool for me as well as a great playing experience.

Playing local jazz gigs is another important part of my life. I would be a real grumpy guy if I didn’t have time to play and improvise. dD: Any last thoughts about electronic percussion?

MdC: Things have really changed recently regarding electronic percussion. For starters, computers are now starting to replace drum machines and hardware synthesizers. That means gigabytes of sounds instead of megabytes. That means unbelievable realism. That means unlimited potential. Controllers are getting more sophisticated. That translates into a richer vocabulary for expression. The use and manipulation of loops and loop control is a paradigm shift for drummers. Young drummers are learning to play with loops and interact with them in ways the older generation of players have no experience with. New territory is upon us. Finally, the DJ world is a unique opportunity for electronic drummers. The technology available for drummers today enables them to DJ as a drummer. That means work again for musicians! If musicians can’t get work, making cool instruments no one can afford is not going to do anyone any good!

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How I use e-drums Endre Huszar is a Hungarian musician whose solo project, Endre-eNerd, combines complex improvised musical textures on electronic drum pads and an acoustic kit.

MY APPROACH TO e-drumming is rather unorthodox, so I couldn’t take the easy route during the development of my set-up. There were no readily available solutions on the market which fitted all my needs, so many parts of the system had to be either custombuilt or heavily modded.

I was lucky enough to witness the most exciting three decades in the evolution of electronic music and jazz fusion from the mid-70s, so it was a natural step to be interested in using electronics in my acoustic drum kits from the moment I started to perform live in the ’80s (my first e-drumming equipment were a pathetically


inaccurate Casio DZ-1 trigger-to-MIDI converter and a Roland S-220 sampler around 1988). Like most drummers, it started with simply triggering some cheesy samples and sound FX. The rudimentary technology in those days didn’t allow us to aim for more. Later, I started to use hardware sequencers and computers on stage, but I soon realised their restrictive nature in an improvised musical context. (Here’s the last example of me using hardware samplers on stage in the old school way). I founded my fusion band, the 9:30 Collective in 1994 and that was my first project where I

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could start experimenting more intensively with new approaches to the interactive use of sequencers on stage, but I always wanted to do something more complex and take full control of the electronics without sacrificing my musical freedom and spontaneity. After spending several years making partially successful attempts to create such a set-up, Ableton’s launch of MaxForLive and the contribution of Mark Egloff of Ableton finally made it possible for us to develop the ultimate e-drum system for building complex improvised musical textures on electronic drum pads while playing the acoustic kit. The set-up consists of some custombuilt and customised hardware and software pieces, which enable me to control all aspects of the creative process, including the recording of musical building blocks, layering, mixing and processing them in real time.

Unlike most conventional e-drum kits, in this new set-up, the pads are hardly ever used for triggering individual samples: they’re mostly used for controlling Ableton Live (the sequencing host of the system), launching clips/scenes, controlling effects, muting/soloing mixer channels, recording loops and controlling the vocoder I occasionally use. We developed a series of MaxForLive plugins for the performances; one of which was made for synchronised loop layering (which is a truly great technological achievement and the whole system couldn’t have been built without this element); one was designed for MIDI note remapping for each part in the live set (the trigger-to-MIDI converter uses a single note assignment through the whole performance); another plugin gives me visual feedback of the playback status; there’s one for launching the next, previous and current scene; and there are a few smaller plugins for other purposes. (A detailed explanation of the most important plugins can be found here). digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2014

Occasionally, I use NI Komplete instruments (hosted in Live) for one-off sounds (mostly Kontakt with some custom scripts). The only software piece running outside Live is Bome’s MIDI Translator, which makes ’undo’ available from the control pedals in the looping set-up.

The hardware set-up contains some custombuilt pieces, too. For the on-the-fly looping, I use two Korg Wavedrum WD-Xs, three heavily modded Alesis Control Pads and two Behringer FCB 1010s. The Control Pads have two LEDs for each pad, which are controlled from Live and give me a visual indication of what the specific pads are used for in the various song parts. In the acoustic kit, I use three custom-built multipads with eight pads. Using B-Band UKKO Contact mics for the acoustic drum eliminates the need for dedicated drum triggers. They’re not sensitive to crosstalk, so their signal can be routed into the trigger-to-MIDI converter via the channel direct outs of the drum mixer. Three additional drum pads are used to control the playback transport, making up a total of 55 triggered playing surfaces. All trigger signals are collected by a 56-input Megadrum trigger-toMIDI interface which is connected into the MIDI In of an RME Fireface 800, which is the audio interface of the set-up. It might seem strange to favour MIDI over USB, but for my application, reliability and the ability of hotplugging are more important than the extra speed offered by USB. (See: My hardware). Although this set-up would make it possible for me to perform solo, I’m more of a team player, so I have a full band on stage for my new solo project, Endre-eNerd. The new e-drum set-up makes it possible for me to control the sequenced material completely freely and spontaneously, as if we had a DJ with us on stage who can read my mind. The creation of the set-up helped me to take e-drumming to a higher level, but, obviously, the system is continuously evolving as new ideas arise and it’s great to discover new possibilities in edrumming.


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Product review: BFD3 by Fxpansion WHEN ONE OF the two major drum VST producers unveils a new version, there is bound to be speculation, expectation and hype, but Fxpansion’s new BFD3 arrived with little fanfare. On the market for a few months now, the new programme – and it is much more than an update of the previous incarnation – has been extremely well received. As Allan Leibowitz found, it’s not hard to see why.

What’s in the box

BFD3 is big. It’s a 38 GB download which decompresses to 55 GB in a full installation, and a massive 162 GB of library data. That compares with just 14 GB in the previous version, although it spread to 52 GB when uncompressed.

Thankfully, for those of us in the download dark ages, there is a hard copy option – in this case, a stylish boxed USB stick. The VST is very easy to install, register and authorise, especially if you’re a BFD2 user and already have an Fxpansion account. I tested the boxed set on a mid-level MacBook Pro, saving the samples to an external drive, and was up and running relatively quickly.


Look and feel

The first shock with BFD3 is that the glossy kit images are gone, replaced by engineering sketches. For me, pictures you can click on to audition the sounds are an important component of any VST, and even though these images are no eye candy, they still work. And I’m happy to sacrifice an HD visual experience for improved performance, so I don’t mind Fxpansion diverting processing power away from the pictures and towards the sounds. The architecture has also changed – and changed for the better. Going from left to right, there are three panels that take you from the general to the specific to the detailed. The first panel is a browser where you can select and audition presets, kits and individual drums and grooves.

The generous centre panel combines the graphic kit representation with a mixer. It can also be used to display the effects window, the groove editor and the MIDI maps.

In Kit mode, the main panel consists of a bird’s eye view of the kit, and as you select a kit piece, it changes hue and displays revolving circles to show it is “active”. You also get an image of the drum or cymbal, together with

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some details about the size, manufacturer, beater, damping, etc.

And when a kit piece is active, you can also modify it in the third “modelling� pane. Besides the usual pitch and trim controls, a couple of new modelling options make their debut in BFD3. One allows for very realistic tom resonance tweaking, while the second enables detailed modification of cymbal swells. BFD3’s MIDI editing pane is also redesigned, with an easy-to-use, intuitive key mapping interface that includes a robust ‘learn’ function, simple articulation mapping and the ability to create velocity splits. This was particularly useful when I tested the VST with a Zendrum.

The sounds

Of course, with the new interface, there are also new sounds.

There are several new kits, based on a DW Mardi Gras Sparkle kit, a Mapleworks Custom, a Gretsch kit, a Pork Pie set and a Ludwig Stainless Steel, with a variety of snares and cymbals thrown in. Combined with an array of presets and tunings, the stock kits are versatile enough to cover almost any genre, from delicate brushbased jazz to thumping rock and metal.

A couple of the kits are available in stick, brush and mallet versions. All are, of course, hyper-realistic, with rich layers and articulations and smooth transitions

from light to heavy hits. There are up to 80 velocity layers on the snares and 65 on the hihats, with even the kicks boasting 60 layers.

Besides the stock samples, users upgrading from BFD2 can import all of the sounds they have grown to love, with each requiring a onetime conversion on initial import – a quick and painless process.

And it’s even easy to import your own samples. I needed a tree chime, and rather than splash out on John Emrich’s percussion pack for a single sound, I found a free .wav sample, which was easy to import and tweak. Even before you get into the effects and modelling, almost all the stock sounds are gigready and most e-drummers will probably never have to venture into the tweaking panels.

One area where tweaking may be required is in the number of drums and cymbals in individual kits. While BFD3 can handle up to 64 pieces, some stock kits are quite minimalistic, but it’s easy to add drums or cymbals and, in the case of toms, to tune them to fit in with the stock set-up.

In action

The kits load relatively quickly – even when you select full-size samples, and while you can’t quite change with the speed of a module, it’s certainly possible to switch between songs, as I did at band practice.

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The stock MIDI maps for various modules are excellent, and I found little need to mess with the MIDI allocations for either the Zendrum or a Roland TD-30. The hi-hat articulations were smooth and realistic, and even the cymbal choke mapping was spot-on.

There are stock MIDI maps for most Alesis kits and pads, Alternate Mode’s DrumKAT and TrapKAT, the old Clavia DDrum, KAT Percussion’s KT1 and KT2, the Korg PadKontrol, pretty much every Roland module since the TD-8, all the new Yamaha DTXs and the Simmons SD1000.

And overall

BFD3 is an easy-to-use comprehensive drum sample solution with high-quality sounds and terrific responsiveness. For anyone who has had any exposure to


VSTs, it is intuitive, well thought-out and works perfectly out of the box.

The average e-drummer will probably never go anywhere near pushing the boundaries of this VST – and the beauty is that you don’t have to dig deep to get impressive performance. At $349 for the full version (although there are generally discounts around), BFD3 is not an impulse buy, but for serious drummers who demand quality samples in an accessible format, it represents a sound investment.

For current BFD2 users, the $199 upgrade price will be forgotten soon after you fire up the new version. In short, Fxpansion has raised the bar and devotees of other major VST brands must surely be thinking of changing camps unless their product gets a major overhaul soon.

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Choosing the right music software


With so many different options for music software today, it can be quite daunting for a beginner to know where to start. In the first of a series of software primers, Rob Jones sheds some light on what’s available.

FIRST OFF, YOU may have heard of the term DAW, which stands for Digital Audio Workstation. Most applications that allow you to create music fall into this category, but not all. Technically, a DAW is software that is compatible with third-party plug-ins, meaning instruments and effects (normally in VST or AU format) made by other manufacturers, which can be used inside the software to create or process musical parts. For example, two popular DAWs are Ableton Live and Logic Pro, which have their various unique features, which I’ll explain in later editions. Reason is another popular choice, although this isn’t a DAW, so it only allows instruments and effects made for Reason to be used within it. However, the latest update of the software introduces Rack Extensions, which is a new system that allows other manufacturers to make devices for Reason, thereby opening up the software massively.

Other platforms include Pro Tools, which also began life as a ‘closed’ application, with the software originally requiring the manufacturer’s own soundcards and audio interfaces to function. The latest version of the software, however, accommodates interfaces and control surfaces made by other companies. Pro Tools also has its own instrument and effect formats, called RTAS and AAX, which weren’t so widely supported initially, but now have support from all of the big third-party software manufacturers. Finally, Native Instrument’s Maschine is a developing system, which functions as a plugin inside a DAW, or in standalone mode. The first version of Maschine was capable of making decent music in standalone mode but


had a lot of limitations, whereas the latest version (2) has been expanded to the point where it’s now on a much more comparable scale, although it’s still more restricted than a DAW.

One thing to remember is that each of these applications is completely capable of producing professional-quality music and it’s simply a case of knowing them well and finding a workflow that suits you best. In my subsequent articles, I’ll break down each of the most popular applications in more detail, but here I’ll give you a brief summary of their main features and benefits.

Ableton Live: My personal DAW of choice. Since day one, the primary focus has been on flexibility and ease of use, with automatic synchronisation of audio files being implemented from the start. One distinctive feature of Live is the Session View Grid, where audio and MIDI clips can be jammed with, either to perform/DJ or come up with ideas for a song. Although some people find its appearance offputting, the simplicity of the GUI combined with its ultra fast workflow make it among the top choices of producers today.


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Logic Pro: Having recently upgraded to version X, this DAW has just undergone a pretty significant makeover. Although many of the new features in this latest version are clearly targeting less advanced users, with the revolutionary Drummer facility making it easy and fun for a beginner to create beats, there is still plenty there for an experienced producer. Logic has always had a great range of instruments and effects, as well as a superb audio engine, so these latest developments make it another solid option for someone wanting to get into music production.

Reason: This unique application has undergone several major transformations since its early life as MIDI-only software, where music was created by sequencing and mixing virtual instruments within a single rack. The first big update added a huge Mixer, as well as the ability to record and mix audio, both originally features in a separate app called Record that merged with Reason. Following this, Rack Extensions greatly expanded the instrument and effect options, therefore making it fully comparable to DAWs on the market. Pro Tools: Renowned for its use in postproduction and high-end studios, this software isn’t so often the choice of the bedroom producer. The opposite of Reason in many ways, its early usage was largely purely audio. However, it also has equally comprehensive


MIDI capabilities and a large range of instruments and effects. So, with its expanded third-party manufacturer support, Pro Tools is definitely another quality platform for the modern music producer.

Maschine: The most recent of platforms, Maschine is a powerful groove production studio, which runs as a plug-in or in standalone mode and is able to produce beats or other musical parts in a tactile and hands-on way. Its standalone capabilities had been more suited to performance initially, but recent updates have made this a very viable option for producing music with this awesome software/hardware combo alone.

These are some of the most popular choices for music software available today, but there are several not mentioned here that are also worth checking out. For example, Cubase is one of the oldest DAWs and is still loved by many, and FL Studio (originally Fruity Loops) is perhaps one of the fastest growing in popularity. Reaper is an affordable and popular choice, while Presonus’ Studio One has garnered several industry awards recently. However, the five listed above are the ones I have the most experience with and, therefore, the ones I will describe in more detail in my future articles, starting with Ableton Live.

ď Ž Rob Jones is course content manager at Producertech Ltd. (

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Your definitive guide to e-drum gear

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It’s a wrap Rewrapping shells is becoming a popular DIY activity, and Allan Leibowitz put one of the options to the test.

DRUMMING IS NOT just about how it sounds. Looks are important, and even though beauty is in the eye of the beholder, fashions come and go, and what looked good yesterday may not be quite so appealing today. This is especially true of drum finishes. It’s even more relevant to DIY e-drummers, many of whom pick up a cheap acoustic kit to electrify. And most of those kits have either been knocked around or weren’t that goodlooking for a start.

The options to date have included removing the wrap and staining or painting the shell – or finding another wrap to apply. Those approaches involve either time and effort or significant expense – or both. A quality wrap can cost more than the shell to which it is applied.


However, advances in printing and laminating technology have opened the door to cheaper, easier-to-apply and aesthetically unconstrained wrap options. One of these is Bum Wraps, a small business founded a few years back by Murray Gornall, who wanted a make-over for his kit when his band won an online band contest to open for Kiss. Gornall had access to a graphic design shop through his day job, and he teamed up with design manager Justin Brown to provide a creative alternative to costly wraps. Bum Wraps has really simplified the process. The website contains a large number of ‘stock’ designs – everything from abalones to wood finishes. There’s also the option of custom designs using your own artwork – and detailed explanations of the graphic requirements.

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There’s also a detailed price list and ordering instructions.

The ordering process is easy to navigate, with drop-down menus for the various drum sizes and shipping options.

I tested the process using a custom design based on my very first kit. I emailed a high-res JPEG image, selected the appropriate sizes and a little over a week later, the wraps arrived in a box which looked way too small for the wrap. But it was all there, neatly rolled and protected by firm cardboard.

Bum Wraps did a great job of reproducing the design, with the wrap looking sharp, vivid and clear.

The wrap stock is strong and coated in a clear film. It is slightly thinner than top name-brand wraps, but certainly thick enough to constitute a decent scratch-resistant layer on the outside of your drums.

One advantage of the slightly thinner format is that the wrap is far more pliable than traditional products and therefore easier to apply. This comes in handy when punching holes for the lugs. It comes precisely cut to size – taking into account the gaps for the bearing edges – and with double-sided tape on one end. There are also clear instructions on the website and link to a customer video on YouTube. You’ll need a few tools such as screwdrivers for removing your drum hardware, and I can’t overemphasise the need for some decent clamps. It is so much easier to get a snug fit when you can secure the wrap to the shell properly.

Importantly, Bum Wraps can be applied over existing wraps, which is helpful for those drums which have been glued to their outer skin. There are two fiddly bits in the installation process. The first is removing the backing from the double-sided tape – but if it’s any consolation, it probably means that the join will be strong as nails.


Unlike traditional wrap, which is glued to the shell, Bum Wraps have a small piece of overlap which ends in an adhesive strip. So the wrap attaches to itself, leaving the shell (or original wrap, if you’re going over it) unaffected.

The second challenge is punching holes for the hardware before you reinstall the lugs and other bits. The guys recommend shining a light from the inside to identify the holes and then pushing a Philips screwdriver through the opening. It’s done a bit differently in the video, where a craft knife is used to cut out the wrap from inside the shell, working through the holes. I found it easier to use a craft knife to make an incision from the inside and then work a screwdriver into the hole from the outside, bending the wrap material as you turn. I have had some experience with wraps, and it took me about 45 minutes to apply the first one. If you’re doing a batch of shells, I’d suggest starting with the smallest one so that you’ll be more experienced when you tackle the more demanding ones, like big bass shells. Prices start at $10.99 for enough for a 6”x4” shell, and a standard kit will cost under $200 – much cheaper than most other options. And, depending on your design, the result could be priceless.

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Derek Ohlarik from Flemington, New Jersey started small before building his glittering giant.

The kit: A converted Tama Starclassic with custom 6" and 8" concert toms


Wronka internal triggers on the toms, ddrum Pro trigger on the snare and Pearl TruTrac on the bass drum


Gen16 16" and 18" chinas, 20" ride, 13" hihat Yamaha PCY155 x 2 Roland CY-8, CR-12RC Modules: Roland TD-9, TD-6 and two Zildjian Gen16 DCPs VST: Superior Drummer 2.3 with Metal Foundry Rack: Gibraltar 46

Derek’s story:

I started with a small TD-9KX kit and added a TD-6V as I acquired more pads and cymbals. I purchased one of the first Zildjian Gen 16 sets released, and the hi-hat action just blew me away – as well as the cymbal swells and a great ride. Later, the Direct Source pickups really solved a lot of early feedback issues and increased the immediacy of the sound. Then, I decided to go to a full acoustic conversion. I also purchased Superior Drummer and immediately the experience of sampled acoustic drums won me over. Like the Gen 16 cymbals, I cannot go back to the Roland sounds.

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your kit

Derek (right), a couple of driver’s seat views and his module stack (below).



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