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The global electronic drumming e-zine
Verbeuren goes virtual
DTX400 review Pro choices
©2013 Avedis Zildjian Company
ELECTRIC MEET ACOUSTIC CYMBAL Gen16. The world’s first acoustic electric cymbal. Play the hi-hat like a hi-hat. Choke cymbals. Roll with mallets. Stack cymbals. Experience all the dynamics without the latency or audio compression associated with digital sounds. Control audio levels and shape cymbal sounds with up to 99 presets per cymbal. Choose from an array of cymbal sizes and types made at the Zildjian factory. Gavin Harrison of the Porcupine Tree Gen16 AE Cymbals were featured on his recent Zildjian Asia Clinic Tour
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--from-the-editor-is published by
ABN: 61 833 620 984 30 Oldfield Place
Brookfield Q 4069 AUSTRALIA
www.digitaldrummermag.com Editor & Publisher Allan Leibowitz Sub-Editor
Solana da Silva Contributors
Sebastian Beresford Philippe Decuyper John Emrich Scott Holder Bob Terry
Design and layout ‘talking business’
Support digitalDrummer If you like what you’re reading, please make a donation.
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digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
Welcome to another jam-packed issue. In this edition, you’ll find reviews of some of the latest product offerings, including the entry-level Yamaha DTX450 kit, Roland’s new BT-1 trigger bar and Drumasonic’s upgraded VST pack. Our US-based reviewer, Scott Holder, has been busy, also providing a review of the Simmons DA200S amp. It’s a product he has been championing for a couple of years and despite several attempts by him and me to contact Guitar Center, the amp’s importer, Scott was forced to bend one of our review rules and test his own gear. We usually test loan equipment to which we have no emotional attachment, but in this case, he already had the gear and was keen to spread the word. Scott has several other reviews in the pipeline, some of which will appear in the next issue along with our road test of the new KAT Percussion KT2 kit which I am currently putting through its paces. There is plenty of artist input this month, not just from Dirk Verbeuren, our profiled player, but also from a ‘who’s who’ of drumming, sharing their personal recommendations for headphones and in-ear monitors. We got great reader response to our last two headphone/IEM reports and this time decided to take a different approach. We asked a number of leading drummers, most of whom have been profiled in digitalDrummer, to nominate their favourite personal monitoring devices and tell us what they like about them. We augment their comments with some specs for the technically minded. For those who skipped our home page when accessing this edition, I’d urge you to visit www.digitaldrummermag.com. We have just finished overhauling the site to make it easier to read and navigate. For example, you’ll now find the top three news stories and links to the last few back issues right on the front page. The new back issues page itself is much more comprehensive, providing details of what’s in each edition, making it easier to track down particular articles you may be chasing. Remember that the last three issues are available through the current edition, but anything older needs to be accessed through the back issues page. We’ve also included a couple of video links on the home page, and have been changing the featured YouTube clips every week or so. Since video is such a great medium to demonstrate gear and technique, there’s a wealth of material to display. And if readers find something in their web exploration which they would like to share, please let us know. And now, back to the current edition and I hope you enjoy this offering …
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The global electronic drumming e-zine Edition 14
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The first kit
digitalDrummer has tended to overlook the basics of edrumming, but we address that this month with a primer on choosing your first kit by Bob Terry.
Not so basic
Over the last couple of years, Yamaha has been rolling out its next generation of e-drums, literally from the top down. The process has been completed with the release of an introductory-level kit, the DTX400/430/450, which Scott Holder has put through its paces.
Just what the doctor ordered
Amateur drummer Tim Reed was not satisfied with one custom drum kit, so he followed up with a second unique set and then an acoustic snare conversion. The drumming doctor shared his experience with digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz.
As silent instruments, e-drums require earphones to be heard – and not all monitoring devices are equal. digitalDrummer has reviewed a variety of in-ear monitors and headphones in past issues, but this time we’re taking a more personal approach. We’ve rounded up an expert panel of professional drummers to find out what they use.
Big sound at a very small price
Available since 2008, the Simmons DA200S belies the edrum truism of “you get what you pay for” when it comes to amplifying your e-kit. Scott Holder plugs in and powers up.
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More aux triggers
In May 2011, digitalDrummer put eight auxiliary triggers to the test in the first comprehensive head2head in the category. Allan Leibowitz follows up with another two offerings.
Profile: Dirk Verbeuren
While Belgian-born metal drummer Dirk Verbeuren is best known for his frantic blastbeats and double-kicks, he has become a master of MIDI and, thanks to e-drums and VST software, an international collaborator.
How I use e-drums
Sebastian Beresford is one of the breed of new drummers pushing the boundaries by integrating electronics into acoustic set-ups – and vice versa.
Product review: Drumasonic 2.0
There are two kinds of VST offerings – the all-in-one megaboxes and the high-quality limited kit offerings. Drumasonic falls into the second camp.
Cone or column
Do I have to use a cone for a DIY drum trigger? I see some popular makes use foam columns instead.
My monster kit
Scott Koopmann from Upstate New York has the advantage of working as a monitor engineer with rock group Chicago by day, but when he’s off the clock, he rocks to his converted acoustic kit.
digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
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PHOTO: KRAFT MUSIC
The first kit
ded n e t s r ha e m of um s r c i D s l a a digit look the b e r w to ove ming, but onth with m m e-dru s that this ng your s si addre r on choo ry. e r a prim by Bob Te it first k
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BEFORE YOU CAN choose the electronic drum kit that is right for you, you should consider several things. First, you need to determine your budget. Electronic drum kits can range in price from around $500 up to $10,000. Note: I am not talking about toys here - there are many toys out on the market. I am talking about electronic drum kits that can be purchased at music retail stores. Second, you must determine what you will need from your electronic drum kit. There are many uses for electronic drum kits that we will take a look at later in this article.
A little background
Electronic drums have been available since the 1970s. What was once a very crude instrument has now evolved into a very sophisticated, easy-to-use tool. This is true for both the beginner and seasoned professional.
Advantages of e-drums
There are many advantages to using a full electronic drum kit. These include controlling volume, having multiple drum sound and instrument options, as well as the ability to produce high quality recorded drum sounds (regardless of your studio environment). In addition, there are many practice tools included within today’s modules – such as an on-board metronome and software features that can analyse the timing of your grooves, fills and overall beat placement.
Volume: The most obvious (and popular) advantage of the electronic kit is the ability to control the output performance volume. The ability to play with headphones or “turn down” an amplifier is a serious plus for practising drummers who live in apartments. It is even more critical for performing drummers who regularly play in volume-controlled venues like churches, houses of worship, casinos and restaurants. Furthermore, many high-profile touring drummers work for leaders who prefer in-ear monitors and a low stage volume. The full electronic kit works perfectly in this situation. Practice tools: Many electronic drum kits are packaged with an on‐board metronome (click track) that can help you to practise and play in time. Not only can you set this to a specific tempo, but you can also assign it to a wood block, cowbell, or shaker sound too. Most models also contain a type of “Groove Check”
digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
or “Rhythm Coach” that is able to analyse how steadily you are playing - alongside a metronome or sequenced song. Some advanced modules also feature a sophisticated ”Rhythm Gate” which cancels out (stops the playback) of any stroke that you play out of time. Together, these practice tools function as an on-board drum instructor, which can help you progress in a systematic (and analytical) manner.
Instrument options: Electronic drums also have the ability to produce many different drum kit sounds. For example, many modules allow you to choose any shell type used in acoustic drum manufacturing, such as oak, maple or birch. Additionally, these kits also utilise various presets tuned for each music style. These usually include rock, pop, metal, jazz, studio, arena and more. Other presets focus on world percussion instruments, such as congas, bongos, timbales, triangles, wood blocks and maracas. Specialised (and often expensive) modules also offer various chromatically tuned timpanis, marimbas, xylophones and vibraphones. You can also add “on-board” effects (compression, reverb, flange) to each of your drum sounds, preset kits and percussion instruments. As if this was not enough, today’s modules allow you to tweak each sound, re-map any sound to any pad and save them as your own custom kits. Recording in the module: Many kits allow you to record your drumming performance within (and on) the module itself. This is a great feature for creating loops or patterns. You can play these back on stage during performances or use them as entertaining practice tools.
Studio replacement: Most of us do not own (or have regular access to) an expensive and finely tuned recording studio. With today’s technology, you do not need one! With today’s crop of electronic drum kits, you can make a high quality drum set recording in your bedroom, garage, living room or basement. All you will need is your electronic set, a computer and DAW recording software such as Cubase, Pro Tools, Logic or Ableton Live. Many pro drummers have set up this kind of home studio. They record their electronic kit into the computer and upload tracks via the Internet to their clients (who can be anywhere in the world). 7
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Anatomy of an e-kit KICK PAD
HI-HAT MODULE HH CONTROL
Components of the e-kit
Just like acoustic drum sets, an electronic drum kit is comprised of many individual components. These include pads that correspond to each acoustic drum voice: the bass drum, snare drum, toms, hi‐hat and cymbals. There is also a module that acts as the central nervous system of the set-up. Each pad connects to this module by cable. Then (and when a pad is struck), the module reproduces the appropriate on-board drum or percussion sound.
E-drum manufacturers offer kits that include all the components, module and pads that you need to get started. Many companies also offer an electronic kit at each price point – ranging from beginner (inexpensive) to professional (very expensive). This allows the consumer to choose a product based on their individual budget, desire and overall skill level. Module: A drum module is an electronic musical instrument that is similar to a synthesizer. Instead of generating sounds, it models sounds or uses recordings (or samples) of sounds that are recorded into it by the manufacturer (and often by the user). Within the context of a full electronic kit, it also acts as “command central” because it interprets the incoming signals from each pad, processes the signal and then plays a
corresponding sound that is stored within its memory.
Drum trigger pads: Trigger pads are synthetic drum playing surfaces and they are very reminiscent of a traditional practice pad, in both appearance and feel. In a standard kit configuration, each pad corresponds to a traditional acoustic drum voice: the bass drum, snare drum, toms, hi‐hat and cymbals. Each pad is also connected to the electronic drum module by a cable and, when struck, sends a signal to the module to produce the appropriate drum sound.
Playing surfaces: Trigger pads come in all shapes, sizes and materials. The three most common materials used are rubber, mesh and silicone. Historically, rubber is the most widely produced because it is a traditional material used within thousands of practice pads and it is inexpensive to manufacture. In the mid‐1990s, Roland introduced the first meshheaded drum pad. This type of pad feels quite uniform on all surfaces (snare, toms, bass drum) and it offers a much better rebound than traditional rubber. In 2010, DTX Drums by Yamaha introduced a textured cellular silicone pad. This DTX pad allows for feel and tension variations – i.e. the snare drum pad has a tighter rebound and more response than a floor tom pad. www.digitaldrummermag.com
KAT Digital Drum Sets Feature-packed, incredibly playable, surprisingly affordable
Meet the all-new KAT Digital Drum Sets. Generous libraries full of high-quality drum, cymbal and percussion sounds, plenty of preset and configurable drum sets and connectivity to MIDI, USB and dozens of other input and output devices. Choose from two models, the feature-packed KT1 and the high-performance and expandable KT2. KAT kits feature natural-feeling drum and cymbal pads, quick and easy set-up and are among the quietest kits available.
KAT KT1 $749.00 (AUST RRP)* KAT KT2 $999.00 (AUST RRP)*
*Prices are listed in Australian Dollars
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3/22/13 11:10 AM
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HEAD-HUNTING: Roland’s mesh, Alesis’ RealHead and Yamaha’s silicone Cymbal trigger pads: Cymbal pads function just like drum trigger pads. They are round (or triangular) in shape and made of rubber or dampened metal. They can also have one, two or three zones (bell/bow/edge). Hardware
Stands and racks: Electronic drum kit manufacturers place their drum and cymbal pads on racks. They do this for a couple of reasons: the kit is completely self‐contained and modular; and it’s easy to set up, use, and store.
Drummers come in all shapes and sizes. Therefore, one size does not fit all when it comes to racks and stands. Most drummers set their kits up to suit their height and overall body type. The racks and stands have positional settings so that you can raise or lower and adjust the angles of the different components. There are no rules, but I strongly urge new drummers to seek proper instruction regarding the ergonomics of drumming. You can develop some bad habits, which can lead
to aches and pains (if you do not pay attention to your posture when you play). Additional Items
Now that we have discussed the full electronic drum kit, let’s take a look at some additional (and helpful) items that you may need. These items generally do not come packaged with your electronic drum kit.
Monitors: Most electronic drum manufacturers offer monitoring systems that are made for and are compatible with - their electronic drum kits. They usually offer a good/better/best type of selection. These monitoring systems are used for personal monitoring during practice and they are not usually intended for a live performance. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a monitor system: The better the system, the better the quality of your drum sound. If you are buying a lowerpriced (or introductory) electronic drum kit, most of the available monitor systems will do the job. However, when your kit has a higher
MONITOR OPTIONS: Drum amps come in various shapes and sizes 10
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sound quality than your monitoring system, you may miss the low frequency projection within your kick drum and low tom samples. For the highest quality reproduction of sound, your monitor system needs to have a woofer (for low frequencies) and dual tweeters (for high frequencies).
Headphones: Again, electronic drums are acoustically quiet and you can control the volume. As with all items, price dictates the quality of the phones. Therefore, you should study (and compare) the frequency capabilities from headphone to headphone. The wider the frequency range, the better the headphones will reproduce each sound of the drum kit. Try as many pairs as you can and let your ears decide which model is for you. Mixing board: Most electronic modules come with a small on-board audio mixer that allows you to achieve a nice balance within each drum set voice. This mixer is usually intended for practice or small venue performance situations. You may also encounter other playing situations where you need to send multiple mixes to the house PA, house monitor system and multiple band members – all at the same time. This is common within many larger live venues and, if this is the case, you will need a mixing board. Professional mixing
boards vary greatly in both price and features. Therefore (and for more detailed information on mixers), I encourage you to consult a mixing professional.
Audio player: If you don’t have one, get one. You will have a lot of fun playing your electronic drum kit to songs on your MP3 player. Most kits have an auxiliary input on the module which will allow you to mix your MP3s alongside the electronic drum kit voices.
Hopefully, this article will give you some things to think about as you shop around for the electronic drum kit that might be right for you. There are many to choose from out on the market. So, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, there is a kit out there that is right for you. You can find more information in my book, “The Beginner’s Guide to Electronic Drums”, published by Hal Leonard Corporation.
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Not so basic
Over the last couple of years, Yamaha has been rolling out its next generation of e-drums, literally from the top down. The process has been completed with the release of an introductory-level kit, the DTX400/430/450, which Scott Holder has put through its paces. 12
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IT’S BEEN OVER seven years since I’ve played on a non-mesh kit with an entry-level module. The DTX400/430/450 isn’t aimed at me, but I put myself in a beginner’s shoes and also considered how the kit compared to something more advanced since that is an indication of how satisfied a user might be in the long run.
The differences in kit configuration depend on snare and kick components. The 450 has a three-zone snare (TP70S), an upright kick pad (KP65) and a kick pedal. The 430 loses the snare, while the 400 loses the snare and the kick rig which is replaced by an integrated electronic pedal. All three configurations have three tom pads and three cymbals (PCY90AT), one each for a hi-hat, ride and crash. The kick pad also has an additional pad input, meaning you can expand the kit and assign it any of the available sounds. For review purposes, I hooked up an old Yamaha PCY10 as a second crash. A “snake” - actually a bundle of labeled individual cables - is included. All are a predetermined length and this assumes you’re a right-handed drummer; if you’re left-handed, you need to switch the crash and ride cables at the module end. Initial set-up from opening the box to laying down smooth grooves took about 90 minutes. The only other thing you need is a throne; otherwise, the kit is plug and play.
The toms and the module come already attached to rack components. The rack is black, light-weight metal. The entire rig, when fully assembled, is remarkably lightweight. After years of hauling around my modest (by many e-drummers’ standards), mesh-based kit with heftier cymbals (CY-14s, PCY130s, Concept 1, etc), the portability and lightweight aspect of the 450 was great.
not the other way around. Finally, the hi-hat mount kept slipping. I’m a hard hitter and couldn’t get the L-rod tight enough to keep the hat from tilting downward toward the snare over time.
When it dawned on me that the module didn’t have a display screen, I was very skeptical about how easy it would be to use. However, my fears were groundless and the manual is clear about what you need to do, and the logic of the navigation is, in some ways, easier to follow than other modules with far more developed screen navigation. The downside is that until you remember what buttons to push to get into a particular area, you do need to have the manual handy. But, as it’s a fairly simple module, there’s not a whole lot of navigation required.
The sound engine is based on the newgeneration DTX900 module, so for an introductory system, it has good overall sounds. There are 10 kits and 169 total individual sounds (or “voices” as Yamaha calls them), ranging from rock to jazz to percussion. The module allows you to do most of the standard things you expect on any e-kit: change individual voice assignments to any given pad, adjust individual pad panning, overall kit volume and individual pad volume. Actual sound editing consists of nine types of preset reverb profiles. That’s very basic, but again, it’s enough for a beginner. As I played on the kit via headphones, I never found myself thinking: “oh, if I could just tweak that third tom a little bit more”.
Ergonomically, there are two notable exceptions: module and cymbal locations. The module’s placement behind the hi-hat makes it awkward to reach. It also limits to a certain degree the placement of the hi-hat cymbal which, in turn, can limit the placement of the snare. The ride and crash cymbals are mounted atop the two vertical rack poles and sit at an angle you can’t adjust. If you want to slide the cymbals around, you can’t; thus, the drummer has to adapt to the component placement and
digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
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The TP70S snare pad has three zones while the tom pad has one zone You can change various hi-hat settings, a kick velocity setting if you use a hi-hat controller as a second kick drum pedal and 25 velocity curves. The hi-hat controller as a second kick drum is an interesting feature, but you give up having a hi-hat foot pedal. This feature is aimed at the DTX400; otherwise, if you want the death metal, double-bass capability, the KP65 pad can easily handle that with the appropriate physical kick pedal.
External connections consist of a USB/MIDI output, a 1⁄8” stereo input and a ¼” stereo output which doubles as either headphones or external speakers. You would need a splitter if wanting to run external sound to an L and R cabinet and still need some other way to have a headphone connection.
Finally, the module can act as a MIDI controller for computer-based VST programs via a USB cable.I hooked this up to my computer running Toontrack’s EZdrummer. For the most part, it was plug and play. The only bug was when doing a firm heel splash at the hinge point of the pedal and the pedal’s base, the hi-hat splashed and the crash crashed on EZD. With a basic VST like EZD, you can’t change the MIDI channel to work around that; something more advanced with MIDI remapping features will fix this. Otherwise, using the module as a MIDI controller worked well; in fact, with a third party MIDI remapping program, you can significantly increase the hi-hat articulation and get okay cymbal swells.
Starting from the ground and working our way up, the KP65 is a solid upright, rubber kick pad. Actually, the KP65 was my first upright kick pad. Since then, Yamaha has slightly changed the shape and rubber composition of
the pad so that it doesn’t get a dimple from constant beating. The pedal (FP6110A) works fine and I found the response good. There’s some debate about the relative “bounce” of a rubber kick pad versus mesh and after embracing a mesh kick many years ago, I was surprised at how little difference I noticed with this trigger.
Next in altitude, the snare. The 7.5” TP70S is an interesting design in which one half of the rim produces rim hits while the other half produces cross-sticking. You can switch them from one side to the other via a module setting to accommodate left-handed drummers.
The main area of the pad is velocity sensitive and sometimes, depending on the snare voice, a bit too sensitive. I would get rim hits if striking really hard on the main pad area. Again, this seemed to be confined to just a couple of snare voices. There is some variation, again bordering more on rim sounds, across the head – but it’s not nearly what you find on higher-priced modules. Ghost notes seem to be a big deal in e-snare evaluations (or a multipad for that matter) and I found the TP70S/module combination did a fairly good job in this area - certainly good enough for a new drummer.
The 7.5” toms are single-zone and made of the same material as the snare. Yes, it’s rubber, but it’s not the rock hard, rubber pad most edrummers remember (and many still use). Like the snare, I found the pads responsive and the sounds are velocity-produced, albeit with less pronounced sound variation across the head than the snare. I used my cymbal test rig to compare bounce and found no significant difference from a
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Yamaha’s new PCY90AT cymbals and the HH65 hi-hat controller Roland PD-7. From a feel standpoint, there wasn’t much difference either.
Comparing stick noise on the tom pads to my PD-7, the Yamaha pads have a much lighter sound without the deep resonance of the Roland pad and were quieter by about 2 dB. All in all, this will be a fairly quiet kit, well suited for small spaces. The PCY90AT cymbals are interchangeable. An offset-mounted, 10” cymbal, the mounting is pretty static. Yes, there is just enough play to keep you from thinking you’re hitting a solid pad, but not much more. Loosening the wing nut in the hope of making the cymbals sway simply results in them drooping downward since they are offset mounted. How this impacts a beginning drummer is impossible to predict since acoustic drummers who’ve made the switch almost always still complain about the swing and play of e-cymbals. While Yamaha hasn’t broken any new ground with these cymbals, they do look better than the old “pie wedges”, are softer and thus a bit quieter, and otherwise work fine.
The cymbals are single-zone and very responsive across the entire playing area but they don’t choke. The ride’s bell voice is velocity-produced, so if you whack the pad hard enough and in the centre, you get a pretty reliable bell voice. However, if you beat the ride hard in general play, you’re apt to get more bell hits than you want. Stick noise on the cymbals is identical to a Roland CY-14 we tested back in February 2011.
Hi-hat articulation is what you would expect from an introductory level module: open/closed, half-open, foot close, the closing hi-hat sound and heel splash (or chick). The
latter was a joy to rediscover in that the hi-hat controller (HH65) was very loose, almost squishy with some lateral movement, making it a very forgiving pedal and perfect for a beginner.
There are also settings on the module to simulate clutch position, heel splash sensitivity, foot close position (this changes the virtual opening between the top and bottom hi-hat cymbals assuming both are there) and the foot close velocity. The big question on any e-kit - no matter the price point - involves the cymbals: how “realistic” are they, particularly the crash and hi-hat? The crashes, understandably, weren’t nearly as articulate in producing subtle swells as the newer, higher-priced modules, but I was surprised at how well they did. Hi-hat articulation took some getting used to, again coming from something far more complex, but putting myself in a beginner’s shoes, it didn’t take me long to develop a technique that produced decent hi-hat sounds. My only gripe is that I wish the cymbals choked.
The module shines as a training tool. I was most interested in trying this to see just how lousy a drummer I am. And in many ways, I lived down to my expectations.
The best thing the module has is 10 complete practice songs in which you can mute the drum parts - or lower the volume on the drum parts so that they’re “kinda there”, to assist in practising. You can also loop a specific section of the song so you can drill repeatedly until you get it right. www.digitaldrummermag.com
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The next best thing it does is provide instant and very visual feedback, aka “the scoring function”. The number buttons will blink from 1 to 10 as you play in training mode so you can see exactly how you’re doing while you’re doing it. Again, a module with no navigation screen comes up with an incredibly simple, yet elegant way of showing me that I’m a “good” drummer but nowhere near great, excellent or fantastic. Great, eight years of playing in my basement and all for nothing.
The 10 practice songs are directly connected to what I call 10 “training profiles”. These range from jamming “Groove Checks” to pretty intensive timing checks. For example, one of the training profiles (Change Up) throws seven different practice rhythms at you that change every two measures. Another, Rhythm Gate, actually has a pad produce no sound if you don’t strike it in time. It’s brutal, disconcerting as hell, but an amazing training tool. Furthermore, all of these profiles have variable difficulty levels within each pattern and you can even turn off the “play no sound” feature if that keeps throwing you. It also has the basic training tools and ways to tweak them: metronome with changing tempos, assigned sound (click, cowbell, spoken, etc), changing patterns and beats.
How does it play?
I liked it. From the “experienced e-drummer” perspective, I thought going from a mesh kit “back” to a rubber pad kit would be jarring and, yes, the snare feels different, but the toms not as much. The cymbals don’t swing much, but are sensitive. The kick is less bouncy than mesh, but for many people, that’s probably a good thing. And for beginners? If an introductory level kit like this can be fun to play for me, it will be more than fine for someone new to drumming.
And how does it sound?
My approach to judging module sounds is to conduct a “real life test” with my fellow band members. They know the songs we play and how they should sound. I set up the DTX450 for the first two of our six monthly rehearsals for our annual Alan Parsons Project tribute gig and I let them comment on what they heard.
The consensus: for the most part, it sounded no different than my TD-12. Sure, I could show them how it wouldn’t do cymbal swells or how the ride wasn’t as technically dynamic as the TD-12, but when rehearsing together, they still
digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
Drum sound module: DTX400 Max polyphony: 32 notes Drum pads: 4 x 7.5” single-zone rubber (with 430/450K, one pad is replaced by a 7.5” rubber three-zone pad) Cymbals: 3 x 10” single-zone rubber Kick: Controller pedal for 400K, KP65 upright rubber pad for 430/450K Expansion: 1 additional pad No of kits: 10 No of instruments: 169 Instrument parameters: Kit, volume, reverb, velocity curves, gain Effect types: Reverb (9 preset types) Songs: 10 Pad connection: ¼” to 1⁄8” mono/stereo depending on pad type Outputs: 1 x USB-to-MIDI, 1 x ¼” stereo Inputs: 1 x 1⁄8” stereo Street price: $499-$699
weren’t overwhelmed or underwhelmed by the difference. I then had another drummer, one far better than me and whose experience is based entirely on acoustic kits, sit in for a bit. He was double-kicking and ghost-noting all over the place. As I sat about eight feet away listening to him put the kit through its paces, I was impressed not only with the sound but with the ease with which he was able to do nice grooves.
You get a nice sound set for the price. The kit is responsive, has a great teaching profile, is fairly quiet and very portable. The module’s “menu” is simple and elegant – even without a screen display. Any beginner would be very satisfied with what the 450K version has to offer. Downsides are some of the ergonomics and I really wish the cymbals choked.
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Just what the doctor ordered
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Amateur drummer Tim Reed was not satisfied with one custom drum kit, so he followed up with a second unique set and then an acoustic snare conversion. The drumming doctor shared his experience with digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz. TIM REED’S DW-INSPIRED Diamond Electronic Drums seven-piece bubinga kit with gold-plated hardware was a labour of love, both for the very particular customer and for the devoted drum builder. Reed explains that his Roland gigging kit had “all the usual e-advantages (the ability to turn the drummer’s volume down, no mics, silent practice, awesome sound) … but just didn’t crack it when gigging”.
“In my mind, they just don’t look any good. I have had some amazing kits, and they have all had stage presence and beauty which Roland can’t match.” Reed thinks the difference is more than aesthetic: “I think a full-sized kit makes you play differently. If you watch Roland drummers on YouTube, there is a similarity in the way they play – all very technical and often very accomplished, but quite introverted and similar in style to each other. “You need a full-size kit to be a full-size drummer – open, expressive, innovative.”
After a few attempts at building his own edrums, Reed turned to the professionals and settled on Diamond Electronic Drums in Stoke to create his dream e-kit.
Reed was very particular about the build – and Diamond owner Dave Chetwynd welcomed the customer’s involvement in the design specification.
hardware, Reed insisted on 24 carat goldplated trim.
While the materials are impressive, “the icing on the cake is Diamond Drums’ amazing triggers and quality assembly”. And was it just what the doctor ordered? “This kit is a true masterpiece – design, tradition, quality and cutting-edge technology come together to deliver an awesome feel, an open playing soundstage and, frankly, a beautiful looking kit,” he says. Band members and audiences loved the dream kit, but it was not to be the last kit for the Lumpy and the Lumpettes drummer, and not long after its completion, Reed was back with another challenge for Chetwynd.
“(We) play a lot of smaller venues – wine bars and pubs around Hastings and the Big Kit was just too big,” he explains. “With the old Roland pads, I could cut down the footprint and play on a small rack, but not so the Diamond kit.”
Inspired by Bellowhead’s stand-up cocktail kit, Reed returned to Diamond with a new request: an e-cocktail kit. Reed purchased a cocktail kit on eBay for conversion, sending it to Diamond for a red pearl rewrap for “a more sleazy, 50s, loungelizard” look.
The result is what Reed calls “modro”: modernity with a bit of retro.
But the real work was under the skin. ”Dave floated the triggers, and there is no cross-talk whatsoever through my TD-20. Brilliance again from Dave and attention to detail that is Diamond’s hallmark.”
The drums began their life as handmade birch shells which were veneered in gloss bubinga. Not satisfied with gold-coloured
Okay, so in the words of the classic, that’s one for the money, two for the show. So, there has
The kit is inspired by a DW Collector’s Series kit – with a few added touches.
digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
“It is such fun to play, and sparks conversation with drummers and non-drummers alike,” he says.
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to be a “three to get ready”, and in this case, the third project was a conversion of a Spaun natural bubinga/clear acrylic snare which Reed had ordered as a custom build from the US.
“It really is a lovely flawless shell, and Spaun supplied it on time, to the correct spec and naked of all hardware – maybe they didn’t realise we were making an e-drum, but then they never asked,” he notes. Once received, the snare was sent to Diamond.
“Dave thought hard about how he would suspend the triggers to gain the maximum of visibility and at the same time retain the airy quality and floating heads visually.”
The result is the ultimate stealth trigger – scarcely visible, but fully functional.
Three unique projects are not, however, enough to end Reed’s e-pursuit: “I am thinking now that I need another kit, probably taking its design cues from another love of mine – Bentley motor cars …”
And, of course, Diamond will be his first stop. “Dave is a real find. My drums work straight out the box and are simply beautiful.” www.digitaldrummermag.com
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HEAR, HEAR As silent instruments, e-drums require earphones to be heard – and not all monitoring devices are equal. digitalDrummer has reviewed a variety of in-ear monitors and headphones in past issues, but this time we’re taking a more personal approach. We’ve rounded up an expert panel of professional drummers to find out what they use.
digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
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Danny Gottlieb I use three different in-ears and vary them: Ultimate Ears UE 7 Pro, UE 900 and Monster Turbine Copper.
Theyâ€™re all used primarily for live performance with the 12-piece Gary Sinise and Lt Dan Band, but also for iPod and computer monitoring, jogging, etc. All three feel comfortable. The heavier UE 7s are form-fitted, and I like them very much. The others are ear buds and I have to insert them firmly, but they are comfortable.
The UE 7s are made from hard plastic. They eliminate much of the stage sound, but not all. UE customer service has been fantastic and they have made adjustments. But for me, I just cannot seem to fit the plugs in such a way as to eliminate all stage sound 100%.
Click on the images to find out about the artists.
The others are ear buds, and eliminate quite a bit. When it comes to sonic performance, all three sound great. It is really the sound mixer on whom I depend. But for stage sound, they are all great. I have used the UE 7s for two years, the UE 900s for a year, and the Copper for six months. I must clean them all regularly. And I must get my ears cleaned every six months. The UE 7s required maintenance, due to a cable coming loose, and the customer service people at UE fixed them promptly and returned them quickly. I have had no further problems. I have struggled with the in-ear monitor situation for years. I wish I had a set of plugs with 100% isolation, but I do not. I have always had a problem getting the full dynamic spectrum of the drum set from in-ears. A great Nashville drummer, Chuck Tilley, who plays with the band Alabama, recently suggested I use a sub woofer behind my seat to augment the in-ears and I think that may be the answer.
Ultimate Ears UE 7 Pro
Input Sensitivity: 124 dB @ 1 MW Frequency Response: 20 Hz -16 kHz Impedance: 17.5 Ohm Drivers: Three proprietary balanced armatures Noise Isolation: -26 dB Connector: 3.5 mm gold-plated Warranty: 1 year Street price: $850 plus moulds 22
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Johnny Rabb I use Westone ES5 in-ear monitors live with BioDiesel and Collective Soul, in the studio for nice isolation and full range EQ mix and for everything else, including iPod, iPad and home recording. My Westones are a harder mould, which I love. The fit is perfect and I have had no irritation from wearing them for long shows or recording sessions.
These in-ears isolate a lot of stage volume or outside noise. I like the isolation as it means the monitoring doesnâ€™t have to be extremely loud like a wedge.
The best thing about my IEMs is that they provide an all-round great mix. They offer a full range of lows, highs and mids. The low end is completely clear and does not distort at all. I use a lot of dance bass drum and sub bass with total clarity. In other words, these in-ears handle all frequencies. You know they are working right when you donâ€™t think about them until after the gig. When you have them shorting out (other brands I have tried in the past) and blowing drivers, you really can lose focus and get frustrated. I have used the same pair for an entire year full of live shows, studio work and clinics. The durability has been the best I have ever used. I have tried other companies and ended up having many repair and wire issues. These have been totally roadworthy. After each use, I use the included brush/loop cleaner to just get out any loose wax. We all have wax and it does take very easy maintenance to keep your IEMs in shape. Since the ears are so small, the canal from the drivers (speakers) is very narrow. Cleaning literally takes a minute.
Sensitivity: 120 dB @ 1MW Frequency response: 8 Hz - 20 kHz Impedance: 20 Ohm Driver: Five balanced armature drivers with a passive three-way crossover Inclusions: Deluxe monitor case, cleaning tool, desiccant drying compound, cleaning cloth, bottle of Oto-Ease Warranty: 2 years Street price: $900 digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
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Jonathan Atkinson I’m using the ACS T1. I’ve been with ACS for about five years, having previously used models by Shure and Ultimate Ears.
I’m using them solely for live work, where I have to use in-ears for long periods and comfort is one of the main reasons I use them. The casing is a soft silicone, rather than the hard plastic used by other brands, so they have a little bit of give. It means they have a more consistent closed seal. Because of the softer design, the seal is about as good as it gets, so isolation is probably the best available. However, that does mean you’re totally at the mercy of your monitor engineer. Sound-wise, the ACS are really great. I know that Ultimate now have something ridiculous like six drivers in their new models, and I’m sure they sound wonderful, but I really have no complaints at all with the ACS. I use them in a variety of live settings and they always sound great - pretty flat and not hyped in the top or low end. Mids are pretty smooth too. Sadly, even though they are not cheap, all IEMs should probably be considered ‘consumables’, like sticks and heads. Whichever brand you buy, whether cheap or monstrously expensive, they only have a limited lifespan. I am super careful with mine, but I usually reckon on a pair lasting a year to 18 months (that’s roughly 150-250 gigs). Every time you put a pair on, you are causing a little stress to the cable and connections, and because of the size of the connections (very small), it’s inevitable that over time connections can become loose. Fortunately, ACS are great at looking after repairs (I know Ultimate have a great repair policy, too).
I clean my IEMs religiously after each gig. One of the main problems you’ll get with them is wax build-up and also moisture in the drivers. Regular cleaning will hugely help the lifespan of your IEMs. I always carry a couple of spare pairs of IEMs, just in case!
ACS T1 Triple Driver In-Ear Monitor
Frequency Response: 16Hz - 20 KHz Noise Isolation: -26 dB Impedance: 70 Ohm Active drivers : 3 Connector: 3.5mm gold-plated, with step-up adaptor. Inclusions: Carry pouch, rugged case, wax pick, icomfort cream Warranty: 1 year Street price: $985 24
THE headphone company
Don Dexter Agency ÂŠ
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Kenny Aronoff When I do sessions (recording in the studio), I use Ultrasone HFI 580s. I like them because they fit snugly on my head - not too tight, which is great for isolation.
I want to hear the music in my headphones but also my drums that are not in my headphones. These headphones are also designed so the sound is not directed right into the ear canal, but toward the other areas of the ear. This is supposed to help with ear protection.
They have plenty of low end, which is important for me since I play drums. They capture all the frequencies and make everything sound amazing. They also sound good at all dynamics, soft to loud and the speakers can handle real loud volumes without blowing up. I love them.
I have used them for about 10 years and they keep improving them. I have no maintenance with them. I play music really, really loud so sometimes I will blow a speaker out, but that is very rare these days. I also use Ultimate Ears UE 11 inears with four drivers for live music and occasionally in the studio as well. The four drivers create an amazing dynamic and frequency range. Also, I use the high-end Klipsch headphones for travelling on a plane or when I want 100% isolation. They fit very, very snugly to create isolation and have a little switch on the left side to isolate out the loud noises.
Ultrasone HFI 580
Frequency range: 10 Hz -22 kHz Impedance: 32 Ohm Sound pressure level: 101 dB Driver: 50 mm Connector: 3.5/6.3 mm screwable gold-plated plug Inclusions: Transportation bag, demo CD, instruction manual Warranty: 1 year Street price: $200 26
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I have been using Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro-80 headphones in the studio and I am very happy with them. They are extremely comfortable and sound great. They stay put, which is a big plus for those times when emotion kicks in and you start to move with the music. The covers come off of the earpieces and can be cleaned, which is nice.
On the live side of things, I have been using Westone ES5 in-ear monitors and could not be happier. The highs and mids are crystal clear and it is really easy to distinguish multiple guitar and keyboard parts. The bass is not hyped - but it is not absent either. I do not get fatigue from working in them for a long time because the highs and mids are not harsh. I wish I could get speakers that sound this good, but I probably could not afford them if they exist. I use custom moulds which are fitted to my ear and theyâ€™re very comfortable. After a show, you wipe them down with the cloth provided and occasionally recharge the desiccant, which is in the case, in the microwave and they are trouble-free.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
Transducer type: Dynamic Frequency Response: 5 Hz â€“ 35 KHz Sound pressure level: 96 dB Impedance: 80 Ohm Noise Isolation: 18dB Connector: 3.5 mm gold-plated with 6.3 mm adaptor Warranty: 2 years Street price: $189 digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
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Bryan Hitt I use Ultimate Ears UE 11s. These are custom-moulded monitors with two low drivers, one midrange driver and one high frequency tweeter with a three-way crossover. Each custom mould is handmade to perfectly fit your ear. The fit is one of the most important considerations. If the moulds are too big, they will be uncomfortable. If they’re too small, you will lose the seal and thus the low end. This will also allow ambient noise to come in. Since switching to UE, I haven’t had any of these problems.
Although the durability of professional quality in-ear monitors is exceptional, we still want to keep up with the best possible monitoring options. The last set I had for four years. They are still working fine, but a new model with better bass response came out and I liked them (coupled with paranoia over accuracy and longevity). I primarily use in-ear monitors for live performance but I also use them in the studio for recording. As a matter of fact, I find them indispensable for practising! Not only do they protect the invaluable hearing that I have left, they provide the perfect environment to practise with my drum machine, click track or recorded tracks. I use a small mixer to run the sound sources through when practising or in a clinic situation and usually mic the bass drum, high-hat and ride to bring them out in my mix.
From a comfort standpoint, I find the UE 11s to be very comfortable for extended use.
The UE 11s offer excellent noise isolation (from the noise onstage, including my drums). Starting with the drums so quiet, I’m able to monitor the entire band at a lower volume, thus protecting my ears from excessive noise levels. The isolation is so good that I have to pump some of my drum sound back into the mix.
Ultimate Ears 11 Pro
Input Sensitivity: 119 dB @ 1 MW Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 16.5 kHz Impedance: 18 Ohm Speaker Configuration: Four proprietary balanced armatures with an integrated three-way crossover Noise Isolation: -26 dB Input Connector: 3.5 mm gold-plated Warranty: 1 year Street price: $1,150 28
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Buddy Gibbons I discovered Future Sonics at NAMM in 2004 and I’ve been using them exclusively ever since. I currently use the Atrio line for my iPod/iPhone, and for all my live gigs and 90% of my studio sessions, I use the MG6 Pro.
The MG6 Pros are extremely comfortable because they are custom-moulded by Future Sonics. I had a small fitment issue when they first arrived, but I sent them back to FS, a correction was made, and I had them back in my possession within just a few days.
The MG6 Pro will isolate up to 24 dB, and believe me when I tell you, they work! Ultimately, the reason that I went with the MG6 Pros was simple: they just sound better than everything else on the market. The low end is very present, but it’s not boomy. There’s a nice smooth curve through the mids, and the high end doesn’t ever make my ears tired. They are incredibly natural sounding, with no annoying boost anywhere in the frequency spectrum. They’re smooth - very smooth.
Future Sonics MG6 Pro
Input Sensitivity: 114 dB @ 30Hz Frequency Response: 18 Hz – 20 kHz Impedance: 32 Ohm Internal Speaker Configuration: 13mm proprietary miniature dynamic transducers Noise Isolation: +/-20 dB Fit guarantee: 30 days Warranty: 1 year Street Price: $900 digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
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Russ Miller I have used two different kinds of IEM over the years. I had the custom-moulded Sensaphonics model, but I switched to the Shure models after about a year or so. The moulded ones would feel a little uncomfortable after long usage. Also, I had them go for repairs too many times. After the moulded ones, it was the Shure E-5s for a long time and then I switched to E425s, which I have had for about two years or more.
I use them all of the time now. I had a few hearing tests that freaked me out, so I switched to IEMs for everything. I use them in conjunction with the Porter & Davies Tactile Monitoring systems. Between the P&D system and the IEMs, I’m really spoiled. It sounds like a record all of the time - as long as the monitor engineer is on it!
I’m really accustomed to using IEMs now. I don’t have them very loud. I don’t use the click loud in them either - I usually set the click level to be the same as the hi-hat in my ear mix. They actually eliminate about 25-30 dB naturally. But, as soon as you feed music into them, the acoustic level of the drums is gone. You have to have the drums fed back through the ear mix.
The Shure E-425s are dual bass drivers. They sound great, like a high quality pair of studio headphones. The only thing missing is the feeling of the air getting moved by a 15”-18” woofer from a stage monitor. This is where the Porter & Davies system comes in. Everything below 100 Hz gets sent to the “thumper” in the throne. It fools your brain into thinking you are hearing the 100 Hz frequencies and below. You are not hearing them but only feeling them. It makes for a complete sonic range experience though. The quality of the drivers in the Shure IEMs is fantastic. I have had this pair for over a year or more and I use them every single day. They are in my stick bag and go to every session and show that I do. I use them in commercial studios, even if they have high quality studio headphones available. The IEMs are a much better “closed field” sound. They came with a small cleaning tool. It’s gross, but it gets the ear wax out of them! Also, a dab of Armor All cleans them really well. Just don’t get it inside of the driver cavity.
Sensitivity: 109 dB Frequency Range: 20 Hz – 19 kHz Impedance: 22 Ohm Driver: Dual high-definition microdrivers Connector: 3.5 mm with 6.3 mm converter Warranty: 2 years Street price: $299 30
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Daniel Schlep I use the Sennheiser HD 380 Pro (headphones) and the Sennheiser IE80 (IEMs).
Both models are great for several types of work. The HD 380 Pro is a large model, which I always use for studio work or at some DJ/drums events.
It’s a comfortable solution and does not produce any pressure on your head, while it flattens the external sounds, so I can use it with e-drums and acoustic drums as well. It reproduces the music quite realistically since it has been made for professional studio work. I’ve been using this model for a year and a half. The IE80 is a small model, which I use for live gigs, especially when other headphones are too large – for aesthetic and practical reasons. Since this IEM system comes with lots of accessories, you can customise it to your special needs and get a comfortable and professional solution that puts the beats and bytes right into your ear. It comes with a number of tips, so you’re sure to find some that provide a perfect fit. It’s able to boost sound levels with a special equaliser adjustment on each side. I’ve been using these for around a year now.
Sennheiser HD 380 Pro
Frequency response: 8 Hz –27 kHz Impedance: 54 Ohm Attenuation: up to 32 dB Sound pressure level: 110 dB Connectors: 3.5 mm straight (6.3 mm jack adapter included) Inclusions: Carrying case Warranty: 2 years Street price: $199 digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
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For headphones, I use the Shure SRH840 and Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headsets in my home studio, the Audio-Technica phones being quite common in studios around town. For maximum isolation (either to protect my hearing if hitting the drums hard, or to prevent any click-track sound from leaking into the recording environment, etc), I trust and rely on my Direct Sound Extreme Isolation EX-29 headset.
For in-ear, I am now using a terrific in-ear monitor system (Ear Monitors EarStar) designed and made by the EarBay company in France and I’m very happy with them so far. Their moulding technique and design technology combine to offer the best fit I’ve experienced. The in-ears are made of special acrylic resin designed for reinforcement of low frequencies and there are several driver options available. The sound quality is excellent, the construction really great. I also use their custom-moulded ear plugs for noise suppression (on stage and when I travel!).
Ear Monitors EarStar
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 18 kHz Impedance: 35 Ohm Attenuation: -28 dB Sound pressure level: 120 dB/MW Drivers: Three transducers with double bass Connectors: Gold-plated connectors Warranty: 1 year Street price: €900
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John Mahon I just started using the new Yamaha Pro 500 and they are pretty smokin! I use them in my home studio and I started taking them on the road for working in my hotel room and just listening to music. They are really heavy and beautifully made.
They have a very balanced sound, incredible fidelity - and even have a volume/mic cord that comes with them.
My stage situation is very tricky. I need to monitor my vocals very well. That’s easy, but monitoring the soft percussion bits is difficult. I’m not behind plexi - so my mics will pick up the nearest loudest thing, which is usually Elton’s monitors or the guitar rig.
I find myself pulling one IEM out to hear my things like triangles and shakers, then pop it back in for vocal parts. It’s a little dance, but it’s the best solution I have come up with so far. On stage, I have been using Ultimate Ears. I have tried Sensaphonics the new ambient model, too.
With these, I can dial in the amount of ambient stage volume - but it is a fine line getting them right. The volume knob should be more accessible. They are perfect for playing percussion but when the band gets too loud and Elton gets loud, I revert back to my UEs. They have more high-end fidelity than the Sensaphonics (at least to my ears). UEs do not have quite the isolation that Sensa does. It’s close, but Sensaphonics go very deep in the ear too and they are a soft material, which makes them more comfortable on long gigs.
I am about to upgrade to the new UE 18 Pro for stage and I will get the ported model if I need to hear more stage volume. The UEs are very durable - I’ve dropped them and stepped on them still working.
Sensaphonics 3D Active Ambient
Frequency Response: 20 Hz -16 kHz Maximum SPL: 500 Hz Isolation: up to -37 dB Ambient Microphone Input Overload: 140 dB (@ 500 Hz) Driver type: Proprietary Street price: $2,000+ digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
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Janelle Burdell Before I went out with the national tour of Little Shop of Horrors, I would have said Sony MDR-7506 Professional, without a doubt. With a near flat response, I’ve seen them worn around the neck of legendary engineers while mixing some of the greatest records. As a sound designer, I need true, accurate and consistent response.
On tour, the environment that we worked in each week changed dramatically as we were no longer tied to a pit. For example, in Austin, Texas, the band was in an entirely different building. Night after night of being surrounded by plexiglass and wildly reflective surfaces, volume was posing a serious threat. Fortunately, everyone was on Aviom personal monitors. Yet getting the click up over the wash of sound inside of my head was rough. All touring musicians’ ears were ringing. So the company purchased the UltraPhones. These are actually Sony 7506 Professionals built into a hearing protection ear muff and designed by Steve Miller Band drummer Gordy Knudtson. This improved the situation, but they’re actually a bit heavy and clunky for me. For IEMs, I have been using the Sensaphonics 2X-S made of softgel silicone. These allowed me to lower my master volume.
I can’t wait to try the Sensaphonics 3Ds on tour with Squonk Opera!
Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 20 kHz Impedance: 63 Ohm Driver: 40 mm Noise Isolation: 29 dB Plug Size: 3.5 mm (6.3 mm adaptor Included) Warranty: 90 days Street Price: $220 34
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Although I tried different generations of inear monitors, I always came back to using headphones. Headphones give me strong isolation or the option of allowing in some of the stage/drum atmosphere by slipping off one ear. I use them for all occasions: live gigs, studio jobs and travelling
I travel with a small Mackie VLZ3 Mixer with which I can handle a mono or stereo monitor mix – always hard-wired - plus a stereo playback with a separate click track. Wherever possible, I order a fat subwoofer behind me, for the air pressure of my kick drum. My headphones options include a Technics RP-DJ1200, used for live performance. They feel good, have very good isolation and sound fat. They’re extremely durable and I still use a 15-year-old model. (This model has recently been replaced by the RP-DJ1205.) I use a Sennheiser HD-25 for live performance and studio, but they’re not so comfortable with spectacles. Their isolation is good and the sonic qualities convey a big picture. Spare parts are readily available. Finally, my Ultrasone HFI-680 is used for live performance and music listening. They’re very smooth and comfortable.
Frequency response: 5 Hz – 30 kHz Impedance: 32 Ohm Sensitivity: 106 dB Driver: 41mm Connector: 3.5 mm Inclusions: Carrying pouch, AIR plug adaptor Warranty: 1 year Street price: $179 digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
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How to use ‘em ACCORDING TO PRO drummer Jon Atkinson, clarity is the key for IEMs. “With all inears for live work, what you are looking for is accuracy, and no smearing of frequencies (hence the use of multiple drivers), so that you get the highest clarity (particularly in the midrange, where things can get a bit congested with too many instruments fighting for the same space) without needing to push levels too high.” He points out that this is a completely different requirement from ‘hi-fi’ sound reproduction where often the top end and low end are boosted. Atkinson stresses that with IEMs and live performance, “you are totally at the mercy of the monitor engineer”. “A great engineer can make the gig a joy, and a poor one can make it pretty tough.” Another thing to keep in mind is the challenge faced by the engineer when band members have different brands of IEMs.
“If one of the band members is using something which hypes certain frequencies, then you can be in all sorts of trouble fighting over the EQ of certain instruments. That’s really worth avoiding if possible, and actually make your monitor engineer’s job much easier,, he says.
Russ Miller finds IEMs invaluable when playing electronic kits. “Acoustic drums give me back the sound from in front of my face, (while electronic kits) project the sound from wherever the speakers are set up. The IEMs surround me with the sound of the e-kit. Especially when using the seat monitor system, the electronic kit comes to life! 36
“The biggest complaint for me with the pad kit, is that my ‘sound’ is coming from somewhere other than from right in front of me.
“The biggest thing with the IEMs is that they open up new possibilities, both positive (using a click live on stage without the audience hearing it) and negative (removing the ability to ‘mix’ yourself into the ensemble on a small venue stage). You can’t just ‘present your part’ to the band and audience and let the FOH guy ‘mix’ it, just because you can’t hear the stage levels. You have to really think about your presence in the ensemble and play dynamically. “It takes a minute to get used to this, (but) in the long run, it’s worth it. You get real spoiled, real quick!”
Atkinson advocates a policy of being ready for disaster with IEMs. “If you’re out of the country on a longish tour, the last thing you want to do is try and get your in-ears fixed and returned to you should the worst happen. “I have an elderly pair of Shures which have custom moulds, but I also have a pair of Sennheiser generic IEMs (the ones which get sent out when you rent the Sennheiser In-Ear system). They are cheap and cheerful, and have got me out of a hole on more than one occasion,” he recalls.
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Big sound at a very small price
Available since 2008, the Simmons DA200S belies the e-drum truism of â€œyou get what you pay forâ€? when it comes to amplifying your e-kit. Scott Holder plugs in and powers up. 38
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IN ADDITION TO being great value as an edrum monitor, the DA200S can be used as a decent PA for small venues. Some people like it so much, they buy a second one. I know, I’m one of them.
The front panel has 6.3 mm left and right inputs plus a 6.3 mm stereo Aux input. The result is you can literally amp your entire rhythm section through a single cabinet; yes, the DA200S makes a decent practice and small club bass amp. Sound for these inputs is controlled by two separate volume knobs, one for the L/R drum inputs and one for the stereo Aux input. The sub-woofer has a separate volume knob and the overall cabinet has a master volume knob; you will never want for gain control on the DA200S. A three-band EQ allows control over frequencies centred at 50Hz/800Hz/10kHz with a +/- sweep of 12dB. All the knobs have dimples so if you need to adjust something on the fly, it’s fairly easy to do with a drum stick. Finally, two 3.5 mm stereo connectors, one input for audio sources like a CD or an MP3 player and one output for headphones (which turns off the internal speakers) round out the package. The back panel has yet another volume knob, this one independent from the front “master” knob, in that it sends a variable level to a mixing console rather than the master’s stage level. A ground lift button helps alleviate potential 60 hZ buzz problems. Outputs consist of two pairs, one 6.3 mm and one XLR. The
former sends 30 watts to unpowered, external speakers; it’s wired in series with the internal midrange speakers. The latter is controlled by the aforementioned volume knob and can also connect to even more external speakers although it’s probably not wise (not to mention needed) to try and hook four external speakers up to the DA200S.
Simmons claims this is a “200 watt” amp and that’s true, depending on how you determine wattage. The 12” sub-woofer is driven by a 100 watt amp. The speaker is downward firing through a slot port. A separate 50 watt amp drives two L/R mid-ranges while a third 50 watt amp drives two L/R tweeters. The result is a cabinet that blasts a surprisingly good, broad stereo signal. There’s your 200 watts.
One advantage of waiting, in this case years, to write a review is that we had plenty of experience putting the cabinet through its paces. I’ve used the DA200S in every conceivable way over the last three years: single cabinet monitor, double cabinet monitor, single and double cabinet PA, single cabinet as a sub-woofer and all of the above with satellite speakers attached. The first thing that jumps out at you is … quiet. I’ve noticed that most powered cabinets in this price range have some kind of hiss to them; not the DA200S. I’ve described this in the past as “quiet at rest”. It’s an important feature that
ews ... Get the latest edrum news at www.digitaldrummermag.com/news ... Get t
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contributes to an overall sound quality that is very crisp. The mids and highs are exceptionally clear and I don’t even have to caveat that with an “at this price” statement.
The lows are better than you would expect from a powered cabinet “at this price”. Yes, it doesn’t compete with a dedicated sub-woofer with something like an 18” speaker, but it far outperforms any other 12” powered cabinet I’ve listened to for low-end response. You can tweak this somewhat with the onboard controls, but I’ve also found you can tweak it further with a sound board with a dedicated sub-out control.
Another discovery about low-end is that it can be very dependent on the kick sound you pick. When I was reviewing the multipads (dD November 2012), I hooked up an Alesis PercPad. One of the kick sounds was lacklustre but another had a booming bass response on the DA200S with no change in settings. The same is true when I’ve run my TD-12 through the DA200S: some kicks just boom more than others. Obviously, you can tweak the settings on the module, but it’s clear not all kick sounds are created equal from the factory. Regardless, at some point you will find a kick sound that has plenty of oomph and depth; I’ve found my roto-tom settings on the TD-12 (and a faux profile I used on my old expanded TD-10) really came alive when routed into the DA200S.
As mentioned, the stereo field is quite wide for a single speaker. If you plug in two small satellite speakers, you get a monitor set-up not unlike what both Roland or Yamaha offer. However, particularly for small practice spaces, this is overkill. The internal speakers provide such a crisp mid and high-end sound and the stereo field is so wide already that external speakers tend to make everything sound
harsh, unless you tweak the settings.
On stage, its strong sound makes it perfect as a personal stage monitor. Depending on positioning, it can almost act as a drum monitor for the entire band, mainly so they can feel the thump of the kick and the depth of the toms. For large stages, a second one would probably be needed, one on each side behind the band. Toss in some possible satellites and it’s hard to see how such an array couldn’t meet the needs of any band on a large stage. I’ve never met an e-drummer who didn’t think about using his e-drum monitoring system as an entire PA. Yes, I’m guilty of that. Surprisingly, the DA200S, or a pair of them, can work well in this function if you don’t expect them to fill an outdoor arena with sound. For one performance, we used a single DA200S as a sub-woofer alongside two ancient Peavey 15” cabinets. The difference with and without the DA200S was striking: everything had a timbre and depth that was totally missing from just playing through the Peaveys. It was that performance that convinced me to get a second DA200S and, ever since, that pair has been used for our rare live performances. The venue is an old church that measures about 30 feet wide by 60 feet deep with a 25 foot tall ceiling (holds about 100 people) and we have no trouble filling that space with sound. Anything larger and the DA200S-as-PA won’t handle it, but if you’re playing in the back yard, you’ve got plenty of headroom to annoy your neighbours.
I’ll be blunt: I love the DA200S. You get a big sound for a little price. That’s the key, little price. Street price is $299, but you can almost always find it for 5-20% less, depending on
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what kind of sale Guitar Center is running that month.
Yes, something like the venerable Roland TDA-700 is tougher and pumps out so much sound that you could use two of them as a band PA in mid-sized clubs and not embarrass yourself. But it cost (when it was produced) three times as much as the DA200S and weighs almost twice as much. For a personal e-drum monitor, there’s nothing else made that does as good a job as the DA200S - whether on stage, in your garage or downstairs in the basement. The only complaint is the handle across the top: it’s designed to ease carrying the thing, but it’s mostly useless. While there have been a few reports of faulty units, problems presented themselves early and within the warranty period. Otherwise, the DA200S has been reliable. The DA200S was unavailable for much of 2012, leading us to believe it had gone out of production, but it’s again available in 2013. It’s still only sold in the USA and getting one shipped overseas is expensive - plus you would need to provide your own power converter.
Output: 50W @ 8 ohms (x2)—Tweeters, stereo 50W @ 4 ohms (x2)—Midranges, stereo 100W @ 8 ohms –Sub-woofer, mono Frequency Response: 20 Hz—20 kHz Hum/Noise: -60 dBV (Controls turned down) -55 dBV (Controls turned halfway) Input Impedence: 10K Ohms External Outputs: External speakers (x2), 30W XLR balanced line outputs EQ: 50 Hz, 800 Hz, 10 kHz Power Requirements: 400W at full output, 14W when idle Speakers: 12” (305mm) Woofer (8 ohms rated 150W RMS), 2x6.5” (165mm) Midrange (4 ohms rated 65W RMS), 2x2.5” (64mm) Tweeter (8 ohms rated 50W RMS) Dimensions: 16.5” deep, 17.75” wide, 20” tall (420cm x 450cm x 508cm) Weight: 57 lb./25.8 Kg Street price: $299
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More Aux triggers In May 2011, digitalDrummer put eight auxiliary triggers to the test in the first comprehensive head2head in the category. Allan Leibowitz follows up with another two offerings.
The trigger: Drum-tec Trigger Tube (€45) Form and size: A 3.5 cm diameter, 16 cm tube with a 9 cm x 3.5 cm rubber strike surface on the top. Zones: Single
Performance: This trigger is an almost exact clone of the Pintech Nimrod. Set up in almost any trigger setting on a Roland TD-30 module, the pad needs a slight sensitivity boost to respond well with good dynamics. It also triggered well on a 2box module, but again sensitivity needed to be increased. It also worked well with a DTX700 module.
Response was even across the strike surface, but also triggers along the entire body, where it is obviously ‘hotter’. The Trigger Tube is relatively silent on the strike zone, registering just under 70 dB, and has a fairly neutral tone. What we liked: Well made, compact, realistic feel, triggers well and quietly.
What we didn’t like: It is supplied without any mounting hardware or cable, so you’ll need a 3.5 cm mount and a mono patch cord.
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The trigger: Roland BT-1 ($99)
Form and size: 17 cm curved trigger, 3 cm wide and 5 cm deep. The entire exposed surface is rubber-coated. The trigger is designed to fit above a drum rim, attaching to a tension rod, and a separate adapter is included for fitting to an l-rod. Overall, this is the most comprehensive and versatile mounting system of all those reviewed to date.
Zones: Single, but to work to full effect, a stereo input is required.
Performance: This trigger is designed not only to provide additional sounds, but also to prevent triggering of the drum on which it is mounted. Roland has included a new trigger setting in its latest-generation modules for the BT-1 designed to eliminate crosstalk while allowing maximum sensitivity of the aux trigger. For example, one can assign a cross-stick sound to the trigger and switch between head and rim shots on a snare and the additional cross-stick sound on the bar. The trigger performed beautifully in BT1 setting on a TD-30, although some crosstalk adjustment and sensitivity tweaking was required.
Used purely as an aux trigger on a 2box module, it performed flawlessly on a range of trigger settings. However, crosstalk rendered it almost useless when mounted on a rim as the slightest hit triggered full-blown rim sounds on the drum at the same time.
The BT-1 was slightly above average for stick noise, registering around 75 dB, and that was due to some resonance of the drum on which it was mounted. Mounted on an l-rod, the level dropped slightly and the sound was a deader ‘thwack’. What we liked: Fantastic design, excellent build quality, innovative mounting system, full owner’s manual, supplied with stereo cable. It is unique in its ability to be used on drum rims without crosstalk (on appropriate modules with the latest firmware).
What we didn’t like: At $99, it’s clearly at the costly end of the spectrum. To function properly, the BT-1 requires a stereo input, so reduces the total number of triggers available. Also, the crosstalk reduction function works best with latest-generation Roland modules.
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k r i D ren u e b r e V
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While Belgian-born metal drummer Dirk Verbeuren is best known for his frantic blastbeats and double-kicks, he has become a master of MIDI and, thanks to e-drums and VST software, an international collaborator. From his US home, Verbeuren spoke to digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz.
digitalDrummer: Let’s begin with how you started. How did you get into drumming?
Dirk Verbeuren: I got into drumming at about 14 or 15 years old. I started listening to metal around then and I was listening to pop music and rock when I was growing up – and I had a hip hop phase as well before that. So I was always into rhythm. But it really started when I got into metal and I was fascinated by Slayer and Metallica and Napalm Death and all those bands back in the late ‘80s. Then my parents bought me this old second-hand drum kit and I just never stopped playing after that. I played that thing every day. I played on my own for about two or three years and then when I was done with high school, I didn’t really want to continue school, so I convinced my parents to send me to a music school in France, where I lived at the time. It was called Music Academy International (MAI) and it was a bit like the MI in Los Angeles. It covered all kinds of modern music from jazz to Afro-Cuban to rock. And that’s where I took my first drum lessons and was lucky enough to learn a lot from some amazing teachers there. And that was the starting point for becoming a professional drummer. dD: So how important is it to have a solid grounding in theory and music reading for a drummer?
DV: Thinking back on when I was playing on my own, knowing the theory and also touching upon styles of music that I hadn’t been familiar with really opened my mind. It really showed digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
me possibilities of the instrument that I wasn’t aware of. So it was fun starting out by playing along with songs that I liked. But without the lessons and the reading and writing, I don’t think I’d be where I am now. It definitely gave me an edge over a lot of drummers and gave me session work. You know, you get session work where you have to step in at the last minute and you have to be able to read drum parts. So really, anything you can get to hone your craft is a good thing, and taking lessons and learning different styles is definitely very helpful.
dD: So how did you transition from studying to professional playing?
DV: While at the music school, I started my first band Scarve and I pushed on with that band for many years, did some demos and it took us about six or seven years to finally release an album. In the meantime, I toured with some other French bands - nothing big, but it gave me some experience of playing live and touring. And with Scarve, we pushed on and ended up releasing four albums between 1999 and 2006. And one of those albums got the attention of Soilwork who then asked me to play with them. I was very involved with Scarve at every level – including the business side, and I was determined to have that band as professional as possible and that prepared us to move ahead and me to move ahead as well. dD: Was Europe a good place to be starting out professionally, or do you think you’d have done better in the US?
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advantage for me is the perfect clarity of sound, perfect volume control, a
mixing desk, FX.
DV: We used to joke in Scarve that had we been Swedish, we would have been bigger. I do think that certain countries like the southern European countries don’t have the biggest reputation when it comes to metal music, whereas the UK, Sweden and Finland do. People in general may be weary of metal from France – probably less so now because there’s a bunch of cool stuff in France now, but back then we were suffering from that and things may have been easier somewhere else, but who’s to say? dD: Okay, let’s talk about electronic drums? Do you use them at all live? DV: Not really. I’m not a big trigger fan, so I don’t use triggers live. I have used a trigger microphone on my snare, but as a mic, not to replace any sounds on stage. On albums, sometimes triggers get used on the kick and the toms, maybe for a bit of extra punch on the fast parts, but in general when I play acoustic, it’s fully acoustic and when I play electronic, it’s fully electronic. dD: So when do you play electronic?
DV: I moved to the US in 2005 and where I had had a rehearsal space and an acoustic in France, I found myself in a situation where that wasn’t affordable or possible. Obviously, I wanted to keep on practising, so I bought a second-hand v-drum kit and started experimenting with that. At first, I just used it to keep my chops up and then I did some album recording. And then a few years later, Fredrick,
the guitar player from Meshuggah, told me Toontrack was working on some metal software and wanted me to go into the studio and record some beats. That was my first experience of Superior Drummer, and it really changed my whole perspective on electronic drumming.
dD: And what e-gear are you currently using?
DV: I’m still using the same kit – a TD-10, and I have Superior Drummer 2.2 on my computer with a simple MIDI/USB cable. The biggest advantage for me is the perfect clarity of sound, perfect volume control, a mixing desk, FX. You can basically do everything you could do in a million-dollar studio, pretty much. You can fine-tune every detail without having the knowledge of a sound engineer. With just some rudimentary knowledge of a mixing desk, you can work it out pretty easily. It’s very useroriented and extremely simple to record yourself and to build different digital kits and you can switch between kits in a second. And of course, because it’s silent, you can play in a house with neighbours. You just sit down, switch on your kit, switch on your computer and you’re good to go. dD: So are there collaborations where you work in MIDI or swap sound files?
DV: Absolutely. I’ve recorded a number of MIDI collections for Toontrack called Library of the Extreme. There’s three volumes of that and each one has over a thousand beats and fills which I created and recorded on e-drums. I’d
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also been doing session work, but then I started pushing the fact that I can add drums if people just send me the sound files. Nowadays, bands from all over the world contact me on a fairly regular basis to record, and it’s awesome because I don’t have to leave my house. They send me their stuff, I record it and send it back to them, make some changes if needed. I do all my editing too – sometimes dynamics need to be adjusted or double triggering removed, so I have total quality control over the end-result. And then I just mix down .wav files or sometimes they want MIDI. It’s really a great business for me and something that may have been possible with acoustic drums, but it would have needed a lot more investment and lot more knowledge on my part.
dD: When you send a .wav file, is that the final output that will appear on the recording?
DV: Yeah. When I’m working on the song, I just mix down MP3s with whatever files they sent me and the drums are there so they can listen. You know, some people are sure of what they want and some will say ‘just keep it like that’, others will suggest changes or whatever. Then I can just go back and change those parts and once it’s final, most of the time I’ll mix down the digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
files to .wav files. And with Superior Drummer, you can actually separate out the bleed – and then they can be mixed just like acoustic drum tracks in the studio. In some cases, when I’m working with people I know and who know Superior Drummer, I’ll send the MIDI files so they have the option to change, say, the snare sound or making other adjustments in the software.
dD: And do you use the software to correct your playing or would you go back to the kit and play it again?
DV: When I work on something, whether it’s Soilwork or an underground band that nobody knows, I want to be able to listen to it and be happy with it and if I just edited it to sound right, I wouldn’t be happy with myself. When I’m recording, I always work to get the best possible takes that I can. Sometimes, that can take a long time for difficult songs, but I will take that time just for my own pride in the endresult. It would be easy to kind of half-arse everything and just fix it by editing MIDI, but I don’t do that.
dD: And you’re not tempted to go back to your Toontrack MIDI files and copy and paste things you have done before? 47
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DV: No, absolutely not. I actually did use my own MIDI libraries to work on some demos for Soilwork because the new album is a double album and we recorded 26 songs for it. So, when we were doing all those demos and preproductions, it was a lot of work and for certain songs we just used library material before recording them on acoustic drums. But other than that, no. Again, it’s that thing that I want to be able to look back on what I did and feel proud of that.
dD: Okay, so you don’t cut and paste them, but do you hear other people using them in their recordings?
DV: You know some bands have sent songs they’ve made with them and some have even hired me to record for them after they’ve used them in demos and stuff. That’s kind of cool. But I haven’t heard any big bands use it and record with it, but I know bands like Nile used them for doing demos for their latest album. If it can help people, especially because things like blast beats and double-kick beats are so hard to programme, that’s great. dD: Your story highlights the economic realities. Drummers need to find multiple revenue sources, even if they’re successful recording artists…
DV: You know Soilwork is not a huge band. We’re established and have our fan base, but we’re by no means millionaires and we have to record albums and tour. And when we’re not doing that, it really hurts and we all have to have alternate ways to make a living. And with me, that’s the Toontrack stuff and drum clinics, which I’m very happy to be doing because it keeps things fresh and I love everything drumrelated. dD: And what’s next on the schedule for edrums?
DV: I’m working on a new MIDI library for Toontrack oriented to more basic metal beats. So, basically anything that’s missing from their libraries which are death black, thrash metaloriented. This will be more simple stuff that fits with any style of metal and that you can combine with the rest to have everything you need. I’m currently recording for a band from Japan, a band from Ukraine, a band from America – all kinds of different things. And I’m hoping to do some clinics with e-drums. I’ve been talking to Toontrack because I think it would be fun to get out there and show people what Superior Drummer can do.
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.
Here is a summary of our reviews to date:
Reviews: Yamaha DTX M-12 Korg Wavedrum Roland TD-8 Comparatives: Amps and Powered Speakers
Reviews: Diamond Electronic Drums 12â€? snare Crappy Triggers external triggers Jman cymbal conversion kit Comparatives: Mesh heads Headphones
Comparatives: External Triggers Racks
Reviews: Roland HPD-10 JamHub 682Drums e-conversion kit Comparatives: Double pedals Notation software
Comparatives: Drumsticks E-cymbals (stick noise)
Review: DrumIt Five 2box kit TuďŹ€ Mesh Comparatives: Auxiliary triggers E-cymbals (crashes)
Reviews: Gen 16 AE cymbals Native Instruments Abbey Road IV The Classic Addictive Drums Virtually Erskine Comparatives: Drop-in trigger kits Mesh heads In-ear monitors
Reviews: Pork Pie thrones Studio Drummer Comparatives: E-snares
Reviews: Midi Knights Pro Extreme Drum Triggers kit Comparatives: E-rides Mesh heads
Reviews: ddrum Hybrid kit Korg Wavedrum Mini BFD Eco 1.5 Platinum Studios Rock Legends Quick Pack Comparatives: Drumsticks
Reviews: Roland TD-30KV Roland SPD-SX Steven Slade Drums 4.0 r-drums conversion kit Comparatives: Mesh Heads
Reviews: Mark Drum YES kit trapKAT 5KS Comparatives: Multi-pads
Reviews: Hart eCymbal III Wronka EasyTriggers Trigerra Krigg StarDrums Comparatives: iPad apps *For reviews prior to August 2012, click here.
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How I use e-drums Sebastian Beresford is one of the breed of new drummers pushing the boundaries by integrating electronics into acoustic set-ups – and vice versa.
I FIRST STARTED playing drums when I was four and began mixing electronics into my set-up when I was 15. Things have certainly come a long way since those days where you would get injuries if you played your e-drums for too long. RSI, tennis elbow and carpel tunnel were common ailments from hitting the hard rubber surface for hours on end. Thankfully, manufacturers have worked hard over the years to give us the equipment that now leaves us injury-free and allows our creativity to flow uninterrupted.
I have spent many hours working behind my kit, re-designing the layout and figuring out ways to be able to bring ideas into life.
For the past three years, I toured with the electronic pioneers and revolutionaries Leftfield, replacing former member Paul Daley. Their initial conversation with me was to approach the gig as a percussionist rather than a drummer.
I designed my tour kit as a hybrid, using mainly ddrum shells with the ddrum3 module, still considered as one of the best drum modules ever made. Its response is fantastic, its durability unbelievable and the sound quality fantastic.
I use a Yamaha RH135 hi-hat pad along with a Dauz 8” pad, a Korg Wavedrum, a 10”x3” Pete Erskine snare and an assortment of Sabian crashes and a ride. All other pads and triggers are ddrum.
The snare pads (I have a few) run through a Kaoss pad, allowing me to ‘effect’ the sound while the samples/loops/noises are sent through a Boss GT3 guitar FX pedal which sits on the right of my kick drum pedal. It is hooked up to the ddrum module and as I select each kit using the RD1 controller, it selects the appropriate FX set up with all delays, reverbs, phasers or anything else designed for the relevant track via MIDI. It also allows me to add to the FX chain, if desired. www.digitaldrummermag.com
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In the next issue
Using only four outputs from the ddrum3 keeps the channels to a minimum, with a lot of the levels being decided in the rehearsal studio and then stored within the relevant modules. The acoustics are mic’d as usual with a Yamaha sub-woofer on the kick (as well as a ddrum redshot trigger), the toms as a pair, the snare top and bottom, along with stereo overheads and ride mic.
Building the sounds was fun. I would be sent the samples from the track and assign them around the kit. Then, in rehearsals, we would decide between us whether they were working for the live arena. If not, we would simply make new ones or begin manipulating what we had. Once we were happy, I was allowed to start introducing some of my ideas into the mix. I began to introduce short musical loops and samples which I could control using various parameters within the ddrum3 module such as velocity sensitivity ‘effecting’ the frequencies of the sound – basically the harder or softer I hit a pad, the more or less the frequency of that sound gets manipulated. The kit has travelled around the world for three years and has performed impeccably. Sure, like any show, there have been those moments but nothing of any great drama. With a new album in the making and a new tour being discussed, I’m sure the kit will evolve even more but have no doubt it will remain a simple and reliable design.
I’m also working on a solo project ‘b.i.d’ using only e-drums triggering audio and video live. It has been something I have been developing over many years and now, with the advances in technology - in not just e-drums, but also in computer software - a drummer’s input into any project is blown wide open. With e-drums such as the Yamaha DTX950K or the DTX12M, I see drumming heading in a whole new direction – and not before time!
digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
Profile: John Emrich Few drummers are as deeply involved in the art and science of e-drums as John Emrich who is as comfortable behind the desk as he is making music with sticks or fingers.
Kick the habit Lately, there has been a surge of product development in bass triggers and we line ‘em up and kick off the first ever head2head.
KAT’s KT2 kit The first comprehensive review of one of the offerings from KAT Percussion, a collaboration bet ween KMC and Alternate Mode.
Tweaking the 30 To make the most of the advanced triggering capabilities of Roland’s TD-30, it’s necessary to move beyond the default settings. Jeremy Hoyle offers some pointers.
All that and more in August ...
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Product review: Drumasonic 2.0 THERE ARE TWO kinds of VST offerings – the all-in-one mega-boxes and the high-quality limited kit offerings. Drumasonic falls into the second camp, although the current offering is way more generous than the launch pack which had very limited kit pieces and choices. I’ll preface this review by repeating the digitalDrummer VST evaluation criteria: we look for a plug and play package that allows drummers to quickly and easily produce realistic drum sounds from their choice of triggers. Sure, mixing and sound production capabilities are nice, but most of our readers are drummers, not producers, and are looking for easy to use options.
What’s in the box
As is becoming the norm these days, it’s a virtual box. Drumasonic is delivered by download – almost 6 GB worth, which is a bit of a wait in some places.
Once you’ve got all the data, it’s reasonably easy to unpack and install, but this VST does require Kontakt Player to work. Player is free and also available for download. Once installed, it should just pop up as a Kontakt Library, with two options – damped room and large room.
And for owners of the original Drumasonic, the two versions can co-exist, so you won’t lose any of your previous sounds or settings when you upgrade.
As a plug-and-play guy, I’ll admit a partiality to VSTs which contain a playable graphic representation of the kit. I like to click around the image and hear the sounds of the kit pieces. Sure, there’s no real ongoing benefit from this type of graphic interface, but I like them – and Drumasonic doesn’t have one.
Instead, you see what looks like a mixing desk – and a complex one at that. But if you dig in, you’ll find four tabs which open four screens which are typical of VSTs: the Instruments Page, the Articulations Page, the Effects Page and the Groove Page.
The Instruments Page, as you’d expect, contains the kit set-up. Here you choose from three bass drums, six snare drums, five toms, four hi-hats, five rides, nine crashes and various percussion instruments. You also get to choose the microphone set-up from a bewildering array of choices. There are also some presets which quickly and easily reshape the kit sounds. The Articulations Page hints at the huge bank of samples behind this package. Here you can do the MIDI tweaking, matching the samples to your triggers. There are a large number of preset MIDI maps for the major e-drum modules – Roland, 2box, Yamaha, etc. - and the ability to ‘MIDI learn’ your trigger layout. It’s also easy to adjust velocity, volume, pitch, panning and other parameters for your triggers
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articulation for a Roland module and a 2box kit used for testing. And when a Zendrum was connected (with Roland mapping), it was absolutely plug and play.
and various articulations, including brushes and rods versions. A useful tip here, especially when playing live, is to turn off any unwanted articulations to reduce memory usage.
Drumasonic requires Kontakt Player and can run as a stand-alone in Kontakt or in a host like Reaper.
The basic plug-and-play drummerâ€™s eyes will probably glaze over in the Effects Page â€“ a myriad of options more familiar to recording engineers. Thankfully, there are a bunch of presets that make it easy to change the FX with a mouse click and avoid all the messing around.
Because of the large number of samples, Drumasonic does take a while to load â€“ as do many complex Kontakt instruments.
There are two kit set-ups in the offering, a large room and a damped room, each of which presents as a separate instrument in Kontakt. That means thereâ€™s a bit of a wait if you decide to switch from one version to the other. But, the good news is that itâ€™s worth the wait, and once the â€œroomâ€? is loaded, you can change kit pieces on the fly.
The last page controls the Grooves, and this version of the pack includes a bunch of grooves which, obviously, have little appeal to real drummers. However, if you have sprained a wrist and need to grab a groove, thereâ€™s lots of choice â€“ plus the ability to import grooves from other programmes.
Drumasonic is easy to install and activate once downloaded. Watch out for the separate activation email which contains your licence file. If you overlook that, youâ€™ll find the programme comes to an abrupt halt as it has a time-out built in to avoid piracy. Using the options on the Articulations page, itâ€™s straightforward to map the MIDI â€“ simply choose the appropriate map from a drop-down menu and youâ€™re set. You can tweak it with the intuitive MIDI learn function and only minor adjustments were required to dial in the hi-hat
Drumasonic 2 is testament to the â€œmore is lessâ€? philosophy. There arenâ€™t many instruments or kit pieces to choose from, but all of them are terrific. The large room essentially has one version of each kit piece â€“ and itâ€™s a good one. And even with that one kit, thereâ€™s some variety through the various nuances available in the presets. With names like â€œIn You Faceâ€? and â€œEven Biggerâ€?, the differences are dramatic â€“ and effective.
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The damped room has a few choices in the kit pieces. There are some fantastic maple, birch and steel snares, a few good hats, rides and cymbals, but the kick and tom offerings are a bit meagre. Again, the sounds available are excellent, but possibly not as varied as some buyers might like.
That said, there’s a kaleidoscope of sounds available through the presets. And again, the damped room collection is far more varied than the large room set. There’s everything from pop and rock kits to drum ‘n bass, techno and hip hop and funk. And I’d venture to say that the average covers band drummer would find enough for the most varied set list. And of course, for those who want to get their hands dirty, there are more manual tweaks than you could ever use.
The collection of sounds out of a few kit pieces in two basic studio settings is impressive. The individual kit piece samples are rich and varied. There are great nuances like sympathetic snare buzz and the option to switch between sticks, rods and brushes.
Q&A VST with john emrich
While the graphic interface may be no-frills, the sound-shaping capabilities are enormous and producers can have a field day crafting the precise atmosphere they require. And even those who just want to plug and play can tap into the huge production capability through the easy-to-use presets.
On the downside, it’s a large download and not available on disk (and that’s unfortunately becoming the norm these days). It also requires Kontakt Player, which some people dislike, and that means that updates are somewhat limited by having to fit in with Native Instruments’ timetable.
The kits are relatively slow to load, even using some of Drumasonic’s footprint reduction tips, but once loaded, it is quite quick and easy to switch from one preset to another.
Sure, you won’t find a Neil Peart kit or a 1960s Beatles kit and some potential buyers might be put off by the relatively small number of instruments included. But after a very short time, it becomes clear that, through technical wizardry, not only does Drumasonic produce a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but that purse can change colour and shape, if required.
The bottom line: Drumasonic has packed a huge punch in this offering. While €159 may seem a bit expensive for a single kit in two room settings, the package is so much more expansive and, in reality, you are getting more than four dozen kits via the presets and an almost infinite number of user kits, limited only by your imagination.
I can see this becoming the go-to package for many e-drummers. And don’t take my word for that. There’s a free LE version which shows you just what Drumasonic 2 is all about. Grab that and try it for yourself.
Q: I’ve heard horror stories about VSTs for live use. What could I do to ensure reliable live performance?
Most of the horror stories I hear come from people who won't admit they have very little experience with computers in a musical situation. What usually happens is that they get on a gig and instead of concentrating on playing, they are messing around with settings on the computer. That almost always ends in disaster. It is better to get a great preset (or two) put together at your home studio and not mess with it on the gig.
I get this question a lot. As a developer, I have more drum samples than anyone on the planet, but when I gig, I use one set-up in BFD2 that has most of the 32 kit pieces loaded. I only have the samples I need on my gigging hard drive. I just change note numbers on the Zendrum or DTX900 to get a few different sounds and leave the programme alone. When I turn on my Mac, it automatically boots up with BFD2 and my gigging preset ready to make music. The second time I usually touch my Mac on a gig is to shut it off at the end.
When you have great sounds, it changes everything. You do not need to scroll through 500 bass drums when you have a couple that actually sound great, ready to go. Same approach as an acoustic set: how many snares do you take to a gig?
○ Send your VST questions to email@example.com
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Cone or column? Do you have a DIY question? Philippe Decuyper will solve readers’ problems in each edition of digitalDrummer. Whether repairing existing equipment or building your own, Philippe will find the answers. Just email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. This month’s question comes from a subscriber in Ontario, Canada, who asks: “Do I have to use a cone for a DIY drum trigger? I see some popular makes use foam columns instead.”
AS MENTIONED IN a previous article, the active part of most electronic drum triggers is a piezo transducer. One challenge for manufacturers is to create the perfect housing for this tiny electronic component.
The other challenge is creating an efficient link between the playing surface and the transducer. A piezo is too fragile to be directly hit by a drum stick.
Back in the ‘80s, triggers were first made from large, thick metal plates to which piezos were attached. It was a nice way to protect the delicate component while enlarging the playing surface. Most rubber pads are still built this way.
Later, manufacturers began to design pads that looked and felt more like “the real thing” by using a drum head. The mesh head has emerged as a popular playing surface, but you can’t just glue a piezo to the head. This is where another important part of the trigger comes into play: a piece of foam. I have experimented with different kinds of material from rubber to silicone, but nothing compares to foam. However, you do need to use the right type of foam. Here’s a tip: if a block of foam quickly recovers its original shape after you squeeze it, it may be a good candidate for a trigger. So why don’t all manufacturers shape their pieces of foam the same way?
Mostly, because once a company spends years getting something to work, there is a good
digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
chance a patent will be registered to protect the crucial aspects of the idea. Roland uses a cone. Hart, Pintech and some others opted for a column.
From a DIYer point of view, shaping a cone from a block of foam is far from easy. Some techniques have been explained on web forums, but some of them are dangerous for your fingers. Shaping a cylinder is easier. You can, for example, slightly heat a tube of metal (please wear appropriate gloves!) to cut the foam. If you want something in between, you can also cut two cylinders of different sizes and stick the smaller one on top of the large one.
Basically, a cone or a small cylinder on top of a large one will easily “push” the centre of the piezo. If you hit your drum head in its centre (on the “foam spot”), a precise, strong vibration will then be transmitted to the piezo. A column will excite the transducer in a different manner.
These factors can have an impact on various things like “hot spot” issues or positional sensing capabilities.
In summary, the quality of foam and the assembly which takes place under the piezo are at least as important as the shape of the foam element. As a DIYer, you may also get far better results from a column than from a cone because a perfect cone is quite difficult to machine at home. 55
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Scott Koopmann from Upstate New York has the advantage of working as a monitor engineer with rock group Chicago by day, but when he’s off the clock, he rocks to his converted acoustic kit.
The kit: A converted Pearl Export Series with custom crossbar triggers. Drums: Two 8", four 10", two 12", two 14” and two 16”, using Quartz triggers and Humm Drum three-ply mesh heads. Cymbals: Kit-Toys: Three 12" (two-zone, chokeable), 13" (w/choke), three 9" splash and two Pintech crashes Roland VH-12 hi-hat Module: MegaDrum (56 Input) Dedicated Laptop for drum libraries Custom voltage divider rack M-Audio Mobile USB Audio Interface Custom cabling
Scott’s story: I began playing drums at age 16, after realising I couldn’t play the guitar and sing at the same time. I then swapped roles with my brother in a Dave Matthews cover band.
I have recently built a project studio in my home, and really wanted to assemble my own electronic drum kit, as I was not happy recording drums with a MIDI keyboard. My plan was to make this as DIY as possible - without breaking the bank.
Videos of this kit in action can be seen on YouTube. www.digitaldrummermag.com
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Scott with his A2E kit, powered by a 56-input MegaDrum (below).
PHOTOS: Picture Perfect Photography
For their own safety, digitalDrummer advises impulse purchase-prone readers to avoid this feature. digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
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gear Guide DIY KITS
Simply the best
DIY just got easier thanks to the new Quartz Percussions harness-mounted trigger system. The dual-zone model includes a 35mm trigger mounted on an adjustable harness and a 35mm piezo connected to a ¼” female stereo jack. Mono versions and column -type shape triggers are also available for the easiest conversion of toms and bass drums. The harness system builds on the success of the reliable and popular Quartz cone triggers, precision-made for perfect triggering. See us on YouTube or find out more and place your orders at www.quartzpercussions.com
Need wireless MIDI that just works?
Diamond rack Buster Jazz up your rack with the most affordable hand-built kit around.
Five-piece kits from £799 - £1,299. And they sound as good as they look! www.diamondelectronicdrums.com
ddmay2013_Layout 3 10/04/13 7:56 AM Page 59
BUY AND SELL
E-KICK Got gear to sell?
O U R EEXTRA X T R A KIC KICK K I C K DDRUM RUM YYOUR XTRA
K KICK ICK H HERE ERE MESH HEADS
We’ll buy your used e-drum gear for a great price with no messing around. Why waste time and money listing on eBay or your local classifieds when we can seal the deal with one call? Whole kits, single triggers, modules, hardware we buy it all. Sell to someone who knows the market and guarantees a fair price and prompt payment. Email us at email@example.com
And if you’re looking to buy, go to our eBay store, jjdrumz.
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
digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2013
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gear Guide MESH HEADS
Taking mesh heads to the next level The new three-ply
Ballistech II Mesh Heads are quieter, more respo nsive an d to ugher. Made to fit all acoustic drums in a
wide range of sizes - from 8” to 22”
Unlike any hea ds yo u’ve trie d before, the Ballistech II Mesh Hea ds play
an d feel like tra ditio nal dru m hea ds.
Perfect for silent practice or e-drumming
Billy Blast Drums Available only from
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. 60
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