07 DigitalDrummer Aug2011



07 DigitalDrummer Aug2011
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 1
Edition 7
The global electronic drumming e-zine
VSTs rule
New offerings and applications
g le
John M
FIRST LOOK: Zildjian Gen16 AE cymbals
Hart Pro 6.4 Hart kits are handcrafted providing
the highest quality. Available in Hart’s distinguished
all Hand Hammered chrome or classic Piano
Black lacquer shells with HH chrome snare.
Features TE3.2 dual triggering, Pro Ecymbal
II’s, Epedal II hi-hat stand, and heavy-duty
Hartware rack system. The perfect kit to perform at
church, on the road, or in the studio. Low acoustic
volume for stage or at home, without disturbing your
neighbors............................. MAP Price*: $3,849
COU de
DISer Coupon1C0o”
Get the
on Hart
gear at
or Call Erik
Other models available:
The most versatile accessory trigger
pad available. Give your kit a little
something extra that performs in a
big way. You can’t build an electronic
drum set without a Hammer.
Hart Pro 5.3..................MAP Price*: $3,359
MAP Price*: $79
Studio Master 6.4 Key features that set this drum
Kontrol Screen “Mesh” Drumheads Magnum and Maxxum
kit apart are four TE3.2 dual trigger 10” mesh Acupad drums
for toms and new super solid 10” Acupad kick. 13” Hart Pro
TE3.2 dual trigger snare with stand, top-of-the-line bronze Pro
Ecymbal II’s, and the one of a kind Epedal II upright hi-hat
stand. Pair with the module of your choice (sold separately)
for a compact kit that delivers high-end performance
MAP Price*: $2,449
Kontrol Screen drumheads are Hart’s 5th generation of silent mesh drumhead
technology. These heads are simply the quietest, most durable, best feeling, nonacoustic drumheads available. Play the new Maxxum on your snare and bass,
Magnums on your toms and replicate the feel of playing a variation of double and
single ply mylar. Attention to this kind of detail is how Hart continues to raise the bar
for the electronic drumming experience.
Magnum KS Drumhead....................................... click here for sizes & prices
Maxxum KS Drumhead........................................ click here for sizes & prices
Other models available:
Studio Master 5.3 ........................ MAP Price*: $2,139
Studio Master .............................. MAP Price*: $1,789
HART PROFESSIONAL 13” Snare If you’re a digital
Limited Edition
drummer, you’ve probably already replaced your drumheads with Hart’s
Kontrol Screen mesh. Now it’s time to upgrade your kit with the Snare Drum
that represents the superior performance of Hart’s, TE3.2,
state-of-the-art trigger system with KS drumheads. Built
like a tank, this 13” Hand Hammered
chrome snare is a full positional
sensing, dual trigger drum that will
stand the test of time and take
your drumming to the next
level....... MAP Price*: $390
Hart Professional Kit
EPEDAL II Hi-Hat Stand
The Epedal II hi-hat stand is one more example of what sets
Hart Dynamics apart from the rest. This is a fully variable
pedal with up/down and open/close action, plus a super
sturdy, double braced, 3 leg rotating base for use with all
double kick pedals. ............MAP Price*: $299
with Hi-Hat Ecymbal II ...................... $449
What better way for Hart to celebrate
20 years of dedication to electronic
drumming than by releasing the highest quality
custom built electronic drum set ever made. The
drums feature a limited edition Glass Glitter finish,
machined lugs,10-ply maple shells and TE3.2
dual triggering system with Hart Kontrol
Screen mesh heads. Plus, Pro Ecymbal II’s
with Epedal II Hi-Hat stand and custom all
chrome Hart/Gibralter Road Rack. Every
detail of this kit represents the best of the
best. This is a Limited Edition kit, so secure
yours from RMC today.
MAP Price*: $4,549
Hart Pro 6.4 Hart kits are handcrafted providing
the highest quality. Available in Hart’s distinguished
all Hand Hammered chrome or classic Piano
Black lacquer shells with HH chrome snare.
Features TE3.2 dual triggering, Pro Ecymbal
II’s, Epedal II hi-hat stand, and heavy-duty
Hartware rack system. The perfect kit to perform at
church, on the road, or in the studio. Low acoustic
volume for stage or at home, without disturbing your
neighbors............................. MAP Price*: $3,849
COU de
DISer Coupon1C0o”
Get the
on Hart
gear at
or Call Erik
Other models available:
The most versatile accessory trigger
pad available. Give your kit a little
something extra that performs in a
big way. You can’t build an electronic
drum set without a Hammer.
Hart Pro 5.3..................MAP Price*: $3,359
MAP Price*: $79
Studio Master 6.4 Key features that set this drum
Kontrol Screen “Mesh” Drumheads Magnum and Maxxum
kit apart are four TE3.2 dual trigger 10” mesh Acupad drums
for toms and new super solid 10” Acupad kick. 13” Hart Pro
TE3.2 dual trigger snare with stand, top-of-the-line bronze Pro
Ecymbal II’s, and the one of a kind Epedal II upright hi-hat
stand. Pair with the module of your choice (sold separately)
for a compact kit that delivers high-end performance
MAP Price*: $2,449
Kontrol Screen drumheads are Hart’s 5th generation of silent mesh drumhead
technology. These heads are simply the quietest, most durable, best feeling, nonacoustic drumheads available. Play the new Maxxum on your snare and bass,
Magnums on your toms and replicate the feel of playing a variation of double and
single ply mylar. Attention to this kind of detail is how Hart continues to raise the bar
for the electronic drumming experience.
Magnum KS Drumhead....................................... click here for sizes & prices
Maxxum KS Drumhead........................................ click here for sizes & prices
Other models available:
Studio Master 5.3 ........................ MAP Price*: $2,139
Studio Master .............................. MAP Price*: $1,789
HART PROFESSIONAL 13” Snare If you’re a digital
Limited Edition
drummer, you’ve probably already replaced your drumheads with Hart’s
Kontrol Screen mesh. Now it’s time to upgrade your kit with the Snare Drum
that represents the superior performance of Hart’s, TE3.2,
state-of-the-art trigger system with KS drumheads. Built
like a tank, this 13” Hand Hammered
chrome snare is a full positional
sensing, dual trigger drum that will
stand the test of time and take
your drumming to the next
level....... MAP Price*: $390
Hart Professional Kit
EPEDAL II Hi-Hat Stand
The Epedal II hi-hat stand is one more example of what sets
Hart Dynamics apart from the rest. This is a fully variable
pedal with up/down and open/close action, plus a super
sturdy, double braced, 3 leg rotating base for use with all
double kick pedals. ............MAP Price*: $299
with Hi-Hat Ecymbal II ...................... $449
What better way for Hart to celebrate
20 years of dedication to electronic
drumming than by releasing the highest quality
custom built electronic drum set ever made. The
drums feature a limited edition Glass Glitter finish,
machined lugs,10-ply maple shells and TE3.2
dual triggering system with Hart Kontrol
Screen mesh heads. Plus, Pro Ecymbal II’s
with Epedal II Hi-Hat stand and custom all
chrome Hart/Gibralter Road Rack. Every
detail of this kit represents the best of the
best. This is a Limited Edition kit, so secure
yours from RMC today.
MAP Price*: $4,549
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 12/07/11 4:26 PM Page 4
is published by
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30 Oldfield Place
Brookfield Q 4069
Tel: 61 411 238 456
[email protected]
Editor & Publisher
Allan Leibowitz
Solana da Silva
Simon Ayton
Philippe Decuyper
John Emrich
Chris Whitten
Cover Design
Design and layout
‘talking business’
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My favourite reviewer, Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, once said:
“There's no such thing as cheap and cheerful. It's cheap and nasty or
expensive and cheerful!” While that may apply to cars, it’s not always
true for electronic drum equipment. Yes, sometimes, expensive gear
is good and cheap equipment may be rubbish, but often price and
quality are not directly proportional.
And, as we see in our review of snare trigger kits this month, price is
not the only factor. Some of the kits were much harder to put
together than others. And then there’s performance. Some worked
brilliantly with one module but then had the responsiveness of a
jellyfish when paired with others. So to help in the decision-making, we
added some objective (I hope!) scores on a range of criteria.
Evaluating mesh heads was a bit more straightforward – especially
since we have already established some benchmarks in our
comprehensive head-to-head review last year. But again, there are a
few variables: for some e-drummers, silence is golden, while others
count their pennies and some just want to feel good.
This gear-filled issue also includes an extensive listen to in-ear
monitors, a process which turned out to be really enjoyable. Some of
the cheaper bud-style earphones were surprisingly good, but the
canalphones were a real ear-opener.
I was able to assemble a wide cross-section of models, including some
of the popular pro versions, and I was blown away, hearing
performance from a module that I had not previously encountered.
For anyone shopping for headphones, I would certainly suggest that
you consider these instead of the chunky over-ear versions.
Of course, one of the highlights of this issue was the chance to get a
first look and listen to Zildjian’s Gen16 AE cymbals. These are being
hotly discussed on forums around the world – mostly by people who
have neither seen nor heard them! So our first observations, based on
first-hand experience, should add a bit of substance to the
Our seventh issue also includes a substantial VST special report,
featuring the second part of Chris Whitten’s “making of a VST” article.
We also review a few offerings, highlight some new products and
debut a Q&A column by John Emrich, one of the e-drum gurus and a
very talented drummer in his spare time.
Since I started with a Clarkson quote, it’s probably appropriate to end
with one as well, especially as Clarkson is also a drummer in his spare
time. Of his fellow stick artists, Clarkson recently wrote: “Drummers
are a bit like house flies. They're born, they make a noise, then they
die.” Hopefully, not before finishing this edition, so let’s get straight into
it: One, two, three, four ...
[email protected]
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 10:08 PM Page 3
The global electronic drumming e-zine
Edition 7
August 2011
First Look: Gen16 AE cymbals
It’s been the subject of speculation and anticipation and
shipments are about to begin soon, so we look at - and listen to
- the new Zildjian Gen16 AE cymbal pack.
Head 2 head - take two
There have been some new offerings since our last review of
mesh heads and we test some of the newcomers.
Ear, there, everywhere
Compact in-ear monitors offer an alternative to clunky over-ear
headphones. A dozen popular models are scrutinised. We also
offer advice on selecting the right ones and using them well.
John Mahon
Elton John’s percussionist is no stranger to electronic
drumming, combining triggers and acoustic instruments in his
performances. He shares some of his ideas and observations.
Making a Classic
The second part of Chris Whitten’s account of the recording
and production of his Toontrack EZX pack, The Classic.
E-drum guru John Emrich answers some common questions
about equipment, programmes and applications.
For the record
When it comes to recording drum parts, there are several
options for electronic drums, as Simon Ayton explains.
Kits help trigger those acoustics
They’re halfway between ready-made drum pads and do-ityourself triggers and we put them to the test - building them
and then playing them with different modules.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 6
What’s so special?
Forget emulating acoustic drum sounds. As we’ve read often in
the profile interviews, electronic percussion is about exploring
new opportunities. With that in mind, digitalDrummer asked
some e-drum gurus:
What is the most valuable thing you can do with e-drums
that you can’t do with acoustics?
Rail Jon Rogut, Platinum Samples
The most valuable thing is the ability to control the
sound with the least amount of overall expense,
headaches and hassles!
Lorrie Landry, Pintech
Electronics allow you to practice in big cities like
Munich. Since everyone lives in apartments, this is
the only way to do your daily practice routine.
Frank Jooss, Fiddler’s Green
Electronics allow you to have dozens of wellrecorded, authentic sounding kits available at the
touch of a button, using only a couple of square feet
of real estate.
Angus F. Hewlett, FXpansion Audio
The most valuable thing you can do with e-drums is
open your musical mind to more sonic possibilities,
push your musical and rhythmic creativity to higher
levels, and widen your
approach to the music you
play. Electronic drums will
make you a better
drummer and, more
importantly, a better
Tim Root, Roland US
The most valuable thing
you can do with e-drums is
make people dance on a
totally genuine-sounding
and 100% live-played
electronic groove joint,
whether it’s Techno, House, Drum’nBass,
Dubstep, Breaks, Minimal or any other
combination of whatever all those producers/DJs will
be coming up with this summer and beyond. When
playing these styles on acoustic drums, a nondrummer audience might nod their heads. But when
that live electronic impact kick sound moves subwoofers and e-snares and claps trigger high
frequency speakers, they move their bodies.
Michael Schack, SquarElectric
I want to bend the envelope of what is expected and
really treat the instrument as a different sound
source. I choose to use 2box drums because I can
import my own sounds and build my own weird and
wackily wonderful kits. As a percussionist, it is
important to be thinking of creating sounds in a
totally free way and it is this mentality that really
excites me to the endless possibilities of digitally
transformed drum sounds.
Pete Lockett, percussionist
The obvious answer is that it
gives you the ability to edit the
drummer’s performance after he’s
left the building without having to
hire a ringer (I jest). Another
advantage is that it gives you
access to a world of Drum Virtual
Instruments like BFD2, Superior
Drummer 2.0 and Addictive
Drums where, odds are, the
drums were recorded in a
(famous) room, with a great (or
legendary) engineer using
microphones and equipment
the average drummer
couldn’t afford.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 7
THE SCANDINAVIANS ARE having another go, the
Germans are poised to get in there, and now the
Italians are about to enter the e-drum market.
Mark Drum has announced plans to debut in
October, with its YES1 kit, dubbed “the first
acoustic-hearted professional electronic drum kit”.
And where 2box went orange, Mark Drum has opted
not for Ferrari red, but rather for yellow.
A sneak peak at its launch kit reveals a 10” meshhead snare drum and rack toms – but not your
regular mesh drums. Instead, the company is
boasting about its “Smart Pad” triggering system in
which “signals are processed directly inside the
There are five piezo sensors in the snare and three
in the toms. The ride boasts a staggering 10
triggers, while the crash and hi-hat have four each.
The kick pad is a reverse action rubber number,
reminiscent of an old Roland trigger.
The YES sound module has a 2GB CF card, 12
professional kits, eight standard inputs and four
extras. Of course, there’s MIDI In and Out as well as
a metronome.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
Like Roland’s flagship MDS-25 rack, the cabling is
contained in the rack, but unlike existing hardware,
the pads actually plug straight into the rack with
RJ11 cables.
There’s no word yet on availability or pricing, but the
project has some heavy-weight backers. Mark Drum
is a project of M&P, a partnership between Mogar
and Parsek. Mogar Music is part of the Monzino
1750 group which distributes Ibanez, Zoom, Tama,
Zildjian, Mesa/Boogie, Music Man, Nord and Laney
in Italy.
Parsek is best known in the Italian market for its
Mark Bass brand.
The YES model (YES means “The Yellow Sound”),
according to a company release, “is the result of an
accurate and outstanding R&D activity undertaken
by Parsek’s engineering team”.
“YES is only the beginning of a new, exciting and
challenging adventure, which may foresee an even
closer co-operation between the two companies in
the years to come,” according to the partners.
*Apologies to Italian speakers. Latin was never my
strong subject!
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 13/07/11 8:20 AM Page 8
Gen16 AE cymbals
It was the talk of the NAMM show when it
made its debut in January. It’s been hyped,
anticipated, pre-ordered and delayed, but
Allan Leibowitz got his hands on a test set
ahead of the first batch of retail shipments.
CYMBALS HAVE LONG been identified as the
weakest link in the electronic percussion arsenal, so
there’s been enormous interest in the first e-offering
from a traditional cymbal maker. Even more so since
the new kid in town is one of the iconic names in the
cymbal craft.
So does the Gen16 range live up to its Zildjian
The starter pack comes in three versions: the AE
368 (13” hi-hats, 16” crash, 18” ride), AE 480 (14” hihats, 18” crash and 20” ride) and the AE 38 (13”
hats and 18” ride) – all supplied with pickups, a fivechannel processor, a cable snake and a mount. I
had hoped to try the big boy, but pre-production was
limited to the smaller kits, so I was able to get hold
of the 368 set which retails for $1,249 (the others
have a recommended price of $1,099 for the 38 and
$1,349 for the 480).
What’s in the box
The 9 kg box contains two smaller boxes – one with
the four gleaming silvery disks: the low-volume
cymbals are made of nickel-plated sheet metal alloy,
perforated with hundreds (maybe thousands) of
holes. They look and feel substantial, with a buffed
shiny finish.
The other box has a compact controller about the
size of a Pearl r.e.d.box module, three pickup units,
a five-strand, colour-coded cable snake ending in
3.5 mm stereo jacks, a few bags of mounting bits
including a hi-hat clutch, and some set-up
The compact, stylish pickups contain two condenser
microphone heads, and are designed for use
specifically with the AE cymbals. They are real mics,
and, as we’ll discuss later, are subject to feedback
and extraneous noises, although Zildjian stresses
that noise gates are applied to each in the controller.
Getting started
Set-up was reasonably easy, with sleeves
positioned onto regular cymbal stands, the pickups
placed on them, followed by the cymbals and
neoprene stoppers. If you’re using Roland cymbal
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 13/07/11 8:20 AM Page 9
Out of the box: the DCP and some of the Gen16 cymbal range
stands, make sure you use the short sleeve, or else
you won’t be able to attach the top nut fitting.
There’s a bit more fiddling around with the hi-hat,
but it’s certainly no more difficult to set up than any
other two-piece electronic hi-hat rig.
Then everything is plugged into the controller. If you
follow the colour-coding, you’re forced to place the
controller in what I term “traditional position”, on the
left-hand side, because the hi-hat cable is the
shortest. I’d prefer the controller on the right, but
that’s not a big deal. Of course, you can ignore the
colour-coding, but that can create some confusion
as the controller is similarly coded.
Once everything is plugged in, it’s a matter of firing
up the controller and playing with settings.
In action
The first thing you’ll notice, especially if you’re used
to rubber-covered e-cymbals, is that these guys are
not quiet. A strike that registered 65 dB on a Roland
CY-13R notched up 89 dB on the 18” AE ride. The
difference on the crash was even more pronounced,
with the AE registering 94 dB, compared to 71 dB on
a Roland CY-12C – and it continued to resonate like
a regular acoustic cymbal – in contrast to the CY12’s deadened hit. A hi-hat chick that measured 79
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
dB on a VH-12 elicited 96 dB from the 13” AE hats.
But there’s no doubt that the ring of the Zildjians is
far more pleasing than the thwack of the Rolands.
The bottom line is that despite Zildjian’s claim of a
75% reduction in sound, quiet practice is not
practical with the AEs – so much so that Ms
DigitalDrummer Jnr declared: “You’re not going to
play those at home!” So the home audience verdict
is that these may be fine for gigs, but not acceptable
in our unsoundproofed practice room.
Plugged in
There’s been lots of speculation about “the
controller”, not helped by the fact that Gen16 also
recently released its first VST products, with many
people assuming the AE cymbals are triggers that
generate the Digital Vault sounds. Wrong!
Think instead of a semi-acoustic guitar with a pickup
and you’ll start to understand the AE system.
Each cymbal has a stereo microphone under the
bell, picking up the actual sounds of the metal
cymbal. These are then processed and shaped by
the Digital Cymbal Processor (DCP), just like an
amp is used to shape and add effects to the guitar’s
sound. But there are no samples, merely electronic
processing of the real cymbal sounds. And not just
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 10
the cymbal sounds – if you cough next to
the hi-hat, that’s what will be amplified.
Similarly, if your pedal squeaks or if you
hit the cymbal stand, expect that through
the front of house. And the mics will even
pick up the stick noise on your mesh
head drums if the volume is turned up.
Those using the AEs with a drum module
have two output options. You can either take
separate left and right feeds from the module into
the DCP where they can be mixed with the cymbal
sounds or you can go the other way, and take the
separate left and right feeds from the DCP into the
“mix in” input of the module. Of course, if you have
the capacity on your external mixer, you can take
separate outputs from both the module and the DCP
and mix them on the desk - a preferred option.
Sounds like?
The brain of the system, the DCP, has five inputs,
designated for hi-hats, ride and three other cymbals
from Zildjian’s range of crashes, splashes, chinas,
Each input has 20 presets which, according to the
maker, allow you to shape the cymbal sounds. Now
this may be the root of some of the confusion out
there, especially with some of the online demos
throwing around terms like “this setting creates a
sound like a Zildjian K”. Yes, there is sound shaping,
but nothing that I heard jumped out as any specific
cymbal sound and I’d challenge any buff to match
the tones to real Zildjian offerings. The sounds are
merely tweaked versions of the base cymbal sound
– some more resonant, some deeper, others more
trashy, a few of them brighter and there are even
some e-cymbal-type sounds. Imagine a mixing desk
where you can alter the pitch, attack and decay and
you get a sense of what’s happening inside the
If you’re expecting COSM-style editing capability,
forget it. There’s no scope for editing the pre-sets –
what you get is what you’re stuck with. The only
tweaking possible is panning for each cymbal and
reverb for the overall mix.
Auditioning through headphones, I was
underwhelmed. The sounds were mostly thin and
anaemic and inferior to the module sounds to which
we have become accustomed. Plug the DCP into an
amp – even a humble PM10 - and the sounds
blossom and fill out. The processor adds depth and
body to the shine of the acoustic sounds, producing
very pleasing tones.
There were a couple of hi-hat settings that would fit
in well with my current repertoire, with the ability to
dial up larger-sounding cymbals as well as some
more delicate ballad-style tones. Admittedly, some
of the settings were a bit synthetic. It also required
quite a bit of additional bass on the amp to produce
rock-style hats.
The 18” ride, also thin in Direct Out signal, chunked
up with amplification, but I didn’t really hear too
What’s good
What ’s bad
Great looks
Limited sound palette
13" AE Hi-Hats w/Pickup
Fantastic playability
16" AE Crash w/Pickup
Articulation range
Limited editing
Natural bell action
Limited inputs
Future updates
Needs amplification
Risk of feedback
Potential bleed
18" AE Ride w/Pickup
AE Digital Cymbal Processor
AE 5 Channel Cable Snake
AE Digital Cymbal Processor
Mounting Kit
Recommended price: $1,249
Disclaimer: digitalDrummer tested a pre-production 220v-powered sample which had an
audible hum not evident under 110v. Gen16 has committed to resolving this issue.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 11
much variety
among the pre-sets.
Most of the “stock” sounds
were giggable, and the
responsiveness and range of
articulations across the surface was
refreshing, as was the bell response – once you
learn to stop using the e-cymbal bash technique.
Similarly, the amplified “stock sounds” of the crash
were far richer and deeper than the headphone
output implied and it certainly produced convincing
Unlike e-cymbals, where a change of module is
required to switch from sticks to brushes, mallets or
rods, the effect is immediate with the AEs. Of
course, that presents a bit of a challenge if you’re
using an e-kit since the drum pads won’t respond to
different stick options in the same way.
Comparisons with the tweakability of e-cymbals are
inevitable, and here the AEs will disappoint since
there’s no scope to edit the default sounds on the
controller. Perhaps we’re spoiled by e-cymbals, but
if you want a chain effect with AEs, for example, you
have to physcially add a chain. Of course, the USB
slot indicates that sound tweaks are almost certain
to be offered for download in the future, but these
will only be variations on the current patches.
While the sounds may be limited, the
responsiveness of the hats, the realism of the chick,
the almost infinite degrees of openness or closed
positions, the fantastic rebound and the articulations
across the surface all feel and sound natural.
Stocks were in short supply, so I wasn’t able to test
the splashes, chinas or effects cymbals, but no
doubt their performance will be something like that
of the crash.
The verdict
The Gen16 AE range is certainly something very
different in the percussion space – something which
smacks of innovation and carries a brand name
synonymous with quality. But while you may not be
able to go wrong with Zildjian in the acoustic market,
this range is not for everyone. With street prices that
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
rival existing e-cymbals, the
Zildjian Gen16 AE range is not
a budget alternative but a
serious investment, especially for
those who already have a bunch of
cymbal triggers.
As a hybrid acoustic/electronic product,
the AEs aren’t suitable for all uses either.
Admittedly, quieter than their acoustic forebears,
they are significantly louder than their rubbercovered peers and even their sound-dampened
metal counterparts.
They’re more suited to stage work, where the sonic
signature is less of an issue and they can strut their
stuff. They’re ideal for smaller venues and certainly
look the part, especially when the violet lights are
switched on (they can be switched off if you don’t
want to show off), with great stage presence.
While they may lack the range of sounds available
to regular e-cymbals - either via a module or through
VST samples - the AEs have some sound-shaping
capability and can provide a varied palette if
required. The quality of the output, however, is
totally dependent on the final amplification – far
more so than e-drums, where the shaping is done in
the module and the amp just makes it louder.
The strengths mainly centre on the playability of the
cymbals. Those used to a fairly limited open/closed
range on e-hi-hats or a paltry three zones on the
ride will revel in the infinite variations of the AE hats
and the fantastic articulations of the ride and crash,
not to mention a bell that doesn’t require Arnold
Schwarzenegger’s wrist action for triggering.
The biggest challenge for Gen16 is overcoming the
misconceptions about samples – and the current
information offerings which liken the sounds to
existing Zildjian models are not helpful. If you
remove the expectation of being able to dial up
exact replicas of acoustic cymbals, you’ll no doubt
enjoy the AE range – and audiences should do
likewise if the sounds are properly amplified.
You’ll certainly enjoy the feel and playability – and
those stunning futuristic looks!
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 12
--gear-TD-9 is fine for
Australia’s leading musical export, The Wiggles,
found that a TD-9 made child’s play of touring.
Allan Leibowitz caught up with the man who
chose the kit.
WHILE THE YOUNGER audience members were
concentrating on the hot potatoes and Dorothy the
Dinosaur, e-drum fans noticed a dramatic change in
The Wiggles’ drum set-up.
After decades of touring with a Gretsch kit, the
world’s biggest kids’ band has gone electronic,
unveiling a Roland TD-9 kit during its recent North
American tour.
Front of house audio engineer Arnie Hernandez
says drummer Anthony Field (the blue Wiggle)
began thinking about moving to an electronic kit a
couple of years ago as he “wanted to incorporate a
more diverse array of percussion sounds in the
“Even though we’ve been adding a lot more
percussion instruments to the on-stage arsenal
(shakers, tambourines, whistles, etc.), what really
appeals to Anthony about electronic kits is their
versatility and the tremendous array of sounds
available that he can access without losing the
space on stage that all those instruments would
otherwise take up,” Hernandez explains.
Field was led to the Roland TD range by his friend
Noel Heraty, the percussionist for Riverdance, and
the TD-9 was integrated into the first North
American tour of 2010.
The audio engineer sees a number of benefits in the
electronic kit. “From an artistic perspective, the
creative possibilities that are opened up by having
so many drum kits and sounds brings a huge array
of options for The Wiggles, and allows them to go
‘all the way’ in the direction they take the audience
from song to song,” he explains, citing “Marinoa
Lullaby”, an aboriginal song which features ethnic
instruments such as the digeridoo and claves. “The
e-kit is set to the ‘Ambient’ drum patch, and so
completes the texture for that song.”
He notes that this could not have been achieved
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 13
Anthony (above) and Sam on the TD-9 in Canada
with the old Gretsch cocktail acoustic kit.
The TD-9 is also extremely versatile, so it can keep
up when the show “goes smack into ‘80s rock,
disco, pop and ballads”.
Hernandez notes that the e-kit goes a long way to
complete the feel for each song.
“Another benefit for us is artist visibility. Children
respond highly to body language and the
transparency of the electronic kit allows anyone
playing the drums to continue interacting with the
audience, which is particularly important to Anthony.
“As you can imagine, the children’s angle of view to
the stage from the arena floor is quite low so, even
for the acoustic kit, it was important to set it up in
such a way that the children could see the person
playing the drums.”
“Had Anthony known how
much fun it is to play with all the
different settings, he may well have wanted a higher
model drum brain to get even more sounds and
even the ability to further customise, but there’s no
doubt that the TD-9 hardware package meets
everyone’s needs,” says the roadie. “The mesh
heads certainly feel nicer to play than solid rubber
pads and I’m sure everyone that plays the kit
appreciates that.”
With a bit more experience, he says, the band might
have given some thought to some of the limitations
such as only having a left and right output, unlike
the direct outs of the TD-20, for example.
For touring logistics, the TD-9 is easier because it
takes up far less space than its acoustic
predecessor “so transport is better in that regard
(with) fewer cases to move or lose”.
Another potential pitfall for the rigours of touring is
the TD-9 cable harness which Hernandez says
“clearly needs to be handled with care, but this
hasn’t been a problem so far (touch wood)”.
The TD-9’s two outputs are fed into DI boxes which
are split to the FOH and monitor consoles “in exactly
the same way as all the other instruments”.
“The TD-9 frame packs into a narrow custom
roadcase that also holds some hardware and the
throne, and the rest goes into the soft case that
shipped with the kit which, in turn, fits inside a
standard ‘drum hardware-size’ case,” he adds.
Hernandez says one difference that separates the
e-kit from the way other instruments are used on
stage is that in addition to normal stage monitoring,
“we’ve given the drummers the option to put
headphones on”.
It’s notable that one of the world’s leading
entertainment groups and one of the highestearning enterprises in Australia chose a mid-range
rather than a top-end kit. Hernandez describes this
as “prudence”, saying the TD-9 “struck a great
compromise between price and features”.
“Anthony is the only one that uses them, but you
can tell he really gets into the drums. His love of
drumming really shows,” he says.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
The Wiggles’ newest recruit, Yellow Wiggle Sam
Moran, also uses the kit.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 14
For their shows, The Wiggles largely use stock TD-9
patches. Hernandez says the on-board mixer has
been adjusted to compensate for Anthony’s and
Sam’s playing, along with some reverb changes, but
the cymbal and drum sounds have not been
changed aside from some pitch-tuning settings.
“There is one kit which is set up rather differently,
but that’s because Sam plays the kit while wearing a
huge inflatable fruit! He has to stand while playing
and so can’t physically reach the snare pad and hihat – at least not comfortably - so those sounds are
programmed to be played from toms 1 and 2.”
Hernandez says the e-kit was easy to incorporate
into the act. ”The initial set-up was simple and
straightforward. The hardware all made sense and
the sound module menus (were) easy to navigate,”
he recalls.
“I’ll admit having read the manual first, but that was
early on in the research stages when we were still
deciding which one to buy. Once it arrived, I
physically matched it to the Gretsch kit and even
had it sounding close - all in less than two hours.
“With practice, the set-up time has been trimmed
and it’s now quicker than setting up the Gretsch,
thanks, in part, to some home-made memory locks”.
Given their extensive touring activities, The Wiggles’
TD-9 kit is set to become one of the most travelled
of its ilk. Each year, The Wiggles perform live to
nearly a million people worldwide. In 2010, they
toured the USA, UK, Asia, Canada, New Zealand
and Australia.
The Wiggles, which had their genesis in 1980s
Australian band, The Cockroaches, this year
celebrate their 20th year as children’s entertainers,
having sold more than 23million DVDs and
videos and 7million CDs globally.
In 2003, they
performed 12
sold-out shows at
Madison Square
Garden in New York
and performed to
over 250,000 people
in November 2005.
Their US fans include
John Travolta, Sarah
Jessica Parker, Matthew
Broderick, John Fogarty,
Shaquille O’Neal, Chris
Rock and Courtney CoxArquette. They have also
toured the UK three times
and were acknowledged by
the Australian government as
“Exporters of the Year” for their
contribution to the economy.
TD-9 Update
SINCE THE WIGGLES started using their TD-9 kit,
the range has had a boost, with a module upgrade
and some enhanced triggers.
The o
ld Gre
The most obvious improvement is an
additional 30 acoustic snare and bass
drum sounds, taking the tally from
522 to 552. Some of the new bass
sounds include a new “muted bass”
effect which is triggered when you
hit really hard – like burying the
beater in an acoustic head. It’s
very effective, but quite offputting when you’re not
expecting it!
The new version also almost
doubles the number of kits,
from 50 to 99 (although 10 of
them are blank “user kits”).
The new additions include
some Latin and World kits,
a melodic steel drum kit,
brushes, a ballad kit,
some jazzy set-ups, a
few more electronic kits
and a beat box
arrangement, among
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 15
The new CY-12 C (above), CY-13R (right) and
the KD-9 (below)
While there’s no change in the number of preloaded
songs, the module gets a significant boost – and
one that takes it ahead of its bigger brothers, the
TD-12 and TD-20, by gaining MP3 playback.
Previously, the TD-9 could only play .wav files from
its USB interface, but now the popular MP3 format is
also playable.
The upgrade is available on USB stick in various
markets, while some Roland distributors are asking
customers to send their modules in for the “turbo
boost”. Unlike some previous upgrades, the TD-9
Version 2 tweak incurs a fee, which varies from
country to country.
The Wiggles’ kit also missed out on some new
trigger pads which were launched earlier this year in
the kit overhaul.
One of the key changes is the new KD-9 kick pad
that replaces the old rubber-covered KD-8. The new
pad has a fabric head – denser and more solid than
mesh. Although the playing surface is the same – at
13 cm – the triggering sensitivity across the surface
is more even, making it far easier to use double
pedals. The feel of the new material is very much
like an acoustic bass, without the bounce of mesh or
the harshness of rubber, and the new pad is also
marginally quieter than the KD-8.
of the CY-8. Best of all, it has a 360-degree choke
and more consistent triggering
The second addition to the kit, the CY-13R, is a
three-zone cymbal, with separate jacks for the
bow/edge and the bell. It is an improvement on the
CY-12R/C, with a lighter, more sleek design and
excellent response and feel. I was, however, a little
disappointed in the bell triggering using the standard
setting and found that I had to hit quite hard and
very accurately with the
shoulder of the stick to get
consistent bell sounds.
The other big difference
is found only in the new
upscale TD-9KX2 kit
which now includes
the VH-11 one-piece
moving hat which
mounts on a standard
acoustic hi-hat stand. The
VH-11 is a huge leap
forward from the
static CY-5/FD-8
combination, with a
real hi-hat feel.
The CY-8 cymbals of the original TD-9 kit have also
been upgraded in the version 2 kits, replaced by
dedicated ride and crash triggers.
The CY-12C is not only bigger than the model it’s
replacing, it also has a significantly enlarged strike
zone, a vast improvement on the rubberised wedge
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 16
Since the last digitalDrummer mesh head
review, there have been a few new entrants to
the market. Allan Leibowitz had little choice
but to take out the test rig and try the newbies.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 17
NOT QUITE SOMETHING old, something new and something
borrowed, but this wrap-up includes a couple we overlooked, an
updated model and a new offering from the land of the Samba.
Testing was done on the same rig used in the original test – a
heavyweight drumstick pivoting on a nail on a vertical rod. Noise
measurement was done via the same Realistic Sound Level Meter,
with a brand new Hart mesh head used to calibrate the
measurements against those obtained last time. The rebound
measurement was done, again, by connecting the snare to a Roland
TD-20 module and taking a line recording from the module. The
recordings were loaded into Nero Wave Editor and the waves
measured until they fell below a minimum value. The duration to that
zero point is noted in the table.
Again, there were two noise level measurements: one from a
controlled drop and the second in free play, at maximum velocity.
The results, in alphabetical order, were as follows:
Dutch company 682Drums includes dual-ply
mesh heads in its range of DIY products. The
PRO-XS mesh heads come in a range of
sizes, with the 12” version well-priced at
The heads come in black only,
emblazoned with a white
“682DRUMS” logo. It looks very
well made and feels robust and
Mounting is easy with a snugfitting hoop, and a generous
amount of give in the mesh
allows you to really tighten this
guy down. The mesh is very fine,
indicating a strong, durable
The heads, when tightened, had a
realistic feel, good rebound and
excellent positional sensing.
So, is there any compromise with a head
that’s right at the bottom of the two-ply price
list, coming in considerably cheaper than its
nearest rival? It appears that there’s no deficiency
in the feel or performance, and even on the sonic side,
the heads certainly hold their own. Among the quietest of the
dual-ply heads, the 682Drums product gave a dull thudding tone accented
by the two-ply buzz when struck.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 18
Billy Blast
Okay, so we may have been underwhelmed
by Billy Blast’s “string vest” single ply, but
the new three-ply Ballistech II takes the
quirky US online trader into the big
Sure, at $25, it’s more than twice the
price of the original, but this white
head is rugged, good-looking,
durable and realistic under the
At first glance, there seemed little
point to the third layer – besides
avoiding Roland’s patent
restrictions, but it did give the head
more substance and a mylar-like feel.
Interestingly, the controlled strike gave
an almost identical noise reading to that
of the original single-ply Blast head, but
this one was a tad quieter on full-strength hits
– around the mid-range of all the samples.
The heads are characterised by a low-pitch thwack,
but the addition of a third layer seems to have largely
eliminated the two-ply buzz, giving this head a unique sonic
signature. The third layer also appears to provide some muting, with less rebound than
some of the other samples – although more than its predecessor. It did not, however,
detract from positional sensing, which was spot-on.
This head looks built to last, so all up, it’s a hands-down winner over its predecessor.
German trigger maker ddt makes a range of double-ply and single-ply
heads, but we only looked at the dual-layer since the single
wasn’t available in our test size of 12”.
At €21.90, the snow-white, tight-weave mesh head
is not cheap, but it is well made, snug fitting and
feels great.
Past users say the new generation of ddt
heads is a significant improvement on the
early versions which were also available in
black, and if you were previously
disappointed, it may be worth trying
On the drum, the ddt head feels robust,
with excellent rebound (the most
pronounced in the current batch) at
reasonable tightness levels.
Positional sensing was spot-on.
The heads were fairly quiet (especially by
two-ply standards) in both controlled and
forceful play, but do exhibit the characteristic
dual-ply buzz – albeit to a lesser extent than
some rivals. They have a mellower tone than
many of the dual-ply rivals.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:33 PM Page 19
Electronic newcomer RMV, one of the largest acoustic
drum names in Brazil, now offers a range of “Still
heads”-sd white single-ply tight-weave heads. The
heads are generally sold in packs of four (a 10”,
12” and two 14” for around $120), but may be
available individually in some markets at
around $30.
In appearance, they’re probably closest to
white versions of Pintech’s single-ply
head, and coincidentally, sonic
performance was also similar, although
the Brazilians were a tad quieter.
The RMV heads were also a bit bigger
than other samples, but they are also
quite tight, with little slack, so the fit on the
drum is not compromised.
They feel tough and sturdy and appear to
be doubled over at the hoop, so there is a bit
of roughness from the exposed ends.
On the drum, it was easy to get good tension and
smooth rebounds, and these heads were among
the quietest in the overall testing – both under
controlled strikes and at full bore. They did, however,
have a much higher-pitched tone than most of the other
samples – which shouldn’t be a problem to middle-aged players
losing their upper-range sensitivity.
Mesh head performance (current models in blue)
Noise level
Ballistech II
Drum-tec Design
Hart Magnum
Hart Maxxum
Pearl Muffle Head $10
Pintech SilenTech $37
Roland by Remo
$ Street price
# Position Sensing Capability
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
* Tightening required
Pos Sensing#
+ Sustain in seconds
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 21
Ear, there
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
In a previous review, we
auditioned headphones. Now
Allan Leibowitz gets close and
personal and puts listening
devices inside his ears in this
digitalDrummer head-to-head.
(Or should that be ear-to-ear?)
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 22
BIG CLUNKY HEADPHONES never look good - even less so on stage. But
e-drummers increasingly rely on headphones to monitor not only their own
sound, but also that of the rest of the band.
More gigging drummers are moving to discrete in-ear monitors, of which
there are two main types. Earbuds or earphones are headphones that fit in
the ear, but outside of the ear canal. These are generally associated with
personal audio devices.
More advanced – and expensive – in-ear monitors (IEMs or canalphones)
are earphones that are inserted directly into the ear canal. This latter
category has the advantage of also acting as an earplug, cutting out
extraneous noise.
While the technical specifications can be baffling, there are a couple of
things to consider.
Firstly, look out for the type of transducer used in the device. The
diaphragm-type used in earbuds tends to favour bass response at the
expense of highs. Armature-based transducers, associated with hearing
aids, have more highs and are often used in two-way
arrangements – one for the highs and one for the
lows. The more expensive units have multiple
drivers for smoother, more balanced sound
Impedance is the important factor, with all
headphones falling into either the high- or
low-impedance category, with around 500
Ohms being the tipping point.
Low impedance earphones generally plug
straight into the headphone socket; higher
impedance units usually need an amplifier.
So low-impedance units will sound louder,
especially when plugged into a drum module.
digitalDrummer assembled a bunch of
earbuds and IEMs to find which work best for edrums.
These findings are totally subjective, much as any
individual purchase decision in this category will be based on how the
product feels, sounds and isolates noise.
Testing included extended playing with a TD-20 kit, primarily using the
inbuilt patterns, and a variety of kits from stock patches to VExpressions
kits. A/B testing was done using an output splitter. The tone and colour of
all earphones is obviously shaped by the audio device to which they’re
attached, but the module was chosen as a test bed because many edrummers will spend much of their time listening to that source.
I won’t bamboozle you (or myself) with specifications and tedious technical
comparisons. This is not an audiophile review but more of a plug-and-play
assessment of what to expect when you stick them in and fire up the
module. The samples are listed in ascending price order.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 23
Woodees iESW101B
I’d never heard of Woodees, and had it not been for a
glowing review on Headroom.com, I would not have included
this $50 (street price) offering in the review. Indeed, the
manufacturers went to great lengths to stress that it’s not a
professional product, but is rather aimed at the consumer
market – hence a new iPod/iPhone version.
The neat package contains a set of wood-bodied earphones, four pairs of silicon buds
(including an extra-small version) and a little black felt carry bag. There’s a 1.2 metre
cable, ending in an in-line 3.5 mm gold-coloured jack. They even throw in a clip to
keep the cable from rubbing against your clothes.
I got a close fit using the small buds which created a good seal and enough isolation
to cut out a lot of background noise.
Rated at 105 dB and 16 Ohm, these little guys had plenty of grunt, with the volume
dial cranked back to 10 o’clock on the TD-20 module.
The reproduction was very convincing – crisp highs, mellow mids and deep, rich bass
notes, combining in a clear, vivid performance. They produced a clarity that allowed
the module to show its essence, with little colouring, and were particularly kind to the
cymbals and snares.
I didn’t expect much, especially after the maker’s warning, but it didn’t take long to
warm to the Woodees which are said to benefit from the resonance of natural wood –
just like speakers. While Woodees get mixed reviews as personal stereo earphones –
mostly because of the variety of genres over which they are tested - for $50, this is a
no-brainer. If you want to spend less than $100 and still come away with something
that does the job, this one’s for you.
Sennheiser IE4
Billed as professional earphones designed for Sennheiser’s wireless
monitor applications, these were certainly the most low-key in
terms of packaging. They ship in a simple clear plastic bag with a
cardboard label on one end, but these are the entry-level
offerings in a range where the flagship costs six times as much.
The IE4 comes with a 3.5 mm right-angled jack, requiring an adaptor
for most modules, and a 140 cm cable which is a bit on the short side for
Designed to sit tight in the ear, these earphones ship with three different-sized ear
sleeves - interestingly, with the smallest size pre-installed. I found the smaller buds
comfortable and easy to wear. And there was no rubbing noise when the cable
brushed my body or clothes, which is another advantage.
If ever there’s an indication that you can’t judge a book by its cover, the IE4 packs a
punch that totally outclasses its basic black plastic looks. Rated at 106 dB, and with
an impedance of 16 Ohm, these guys deliver in droves and needed to be dialed back
to around 10 o’clock.
The treble almost shimmers with brightness, there is a powerful mid-range which
really lets the toms sing, but the bass is somewhat subdued at the bottom of the
spectrum. Floor toms have heaps of oomph, but the IE4s just missed some of the
thump in the kick.
For the street price of around $60, you don’t get any fancy packaging, carry case or
jack adaptor, but you do get a good solid sound reproduction in an easy-to-wear
offering that provides quite good sound isolation, thanks to a snug fit.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 24
The AKG IP 2 in-ear headphones, bundled into the IVM 4
wireless system, are now available as stand-alones.
They’re no-fuss earphones, supplied with three different
sleeve sizes (interestingly, this was one of the few where
the medium suited me best – for most others, the small
was the most comfortable).
Isolation is excellent, but this model does suffer from
interference from body contact, with the cable noise
amplified into the ears.
The cable, incidentally, is ron the short end of the length stakes, at 115 cm, and
the interface is a right-angle 3.5 mm mini-jack.
Rated at 121 dB at 16 Ohm, these earphones were fairly hot, with the volume
needing to be pared back to 11 o’clock.
Performance-wise, they were well balanced, with good lows, highs and mids,
and excellent detail delivered with realism.
Well-packaged and shipped with a neat cloth pouch, they are excellent value at
$80 – but beware of counterfeits as these earphones are widely knocked-off.
Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE
If there were a ‘bang for buck’ award, the DTX 101 iE
would be a strong contender in the under-$100
category. Its red finish is a tell-tale sign that it’s
designed for personal stereos rather than professional
performance, but the 12 Ohm in-ear headphones pack
one hell of a wallop. They’re rated at 102 dB, but I had to
turn the level down to around 8 o’clock, and still there was
heaps of volume. Most notable was the decent bass
reproduction, but the compact 101s also delivered a good amount
of mid-range, some crisp treble and excellent separation and detail. I
found the reproduction reasonably uncoloured.
These guys come with a 1.2 metre cable – about average for the selection – but
it does include a re-inforced section where the separate strands meet the main
core, a good measure to prevent further separation of the cables. The jack is a
consumer-type, right-angled 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack.
Sound isolation is good, with three different silicon end tips. In my case, the
small was a snug fit and blocked most of the environmental noise. The pads are
soft and malleable and more comfortable than many others in the class.
The DTX 101 iE also comes in black or silver and ships with a mesh carry bag
which seems far too big for its purpose until you try and wrap up the cable.
There’s some heavy-grade cable hiding beneath the surface and it doesn’t like
to be curled up tight. Overall, this model punches way above its weight and
reinforces that you don’t have to spend more than $100 for an easy-to-listen-to,
quality product.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 25
Bose MIE2i
Okay, not quite an in-ear monitor, this is more like iPod
earphones on steroids. And because Bose has a cult
following, it was worth including this designed-for
iPhone/Pod/Pad pair in the review.
Equipped with a 3.5 mm jack, the 115 cm cable is just a
tad too short for many module positions.
These guys are not really sound-isolating because they don’t
actually fit into the ear canal, rather they sit just outside it. Personally, I
found the isolation sufficient to block out the most annoying of the stick sounds,
with the added advantage that you don’t get an amplified sound when the cable
brushes your body – something common with many in-ear designs.
The second-generation MIE offering has new StayHear silicon tips with little wings
to “nestle inside the bowl of the ear while also naturally conforming to the ear’s
upper ridge”.
The tips are supplied in three sizes, and I have to say that none of them actually
“nestled” in my upper ridge. Nonetheless, they were comfortable and easy to wear.
Bose is secretive about specifications, but I suspect these have low impedance as
they delivered plenty of volume and had to be set at around 12 o’clock on the TD20 module.
The sound palette was broad, with good clear bass reproduction, solid mid-range
and bright highlights, with a good overall balance.
At $130, the MIE2i ships with a stylish leather-look zippered carry box about the
size of an iPod. And it has the added advantage of a built-in microphone and
three-button remote which is handy if you also use your earphones with your
mobile devices.
Audio-Technica ATH-CKS90LTDII
The limited edition ATH-CKS90L certainly looks the part.
Its dual-chamber design really stands out, and is meant
to boost bass and mid-high ranges.
The earphones come with four – not three – different ear
sleeves and there are two notches on the body for
different bud positions.
The two notches mean you can alter how deeply these fit
in your ears, and it certainly made a huge difference when I managed to get a
snug fit.
The Audio-Technicas come with a relatively short cable at 60 cm, but they do ship
with a 60 cm extension cable ending in an L-shaped 3.5 mm stereo jack.
Performance-wise, this product didn’t quite live up to its promise. The output was
on the lower end, with the need to push the pot past 1 o’clock. The listed output is
106 dB at 16 Ohm.
Sure, there was lots of detail and clarity and plenty of high notes, but the bass was
somewhat subdued. (Ironically, I’ve seen reviews which praise the bass and
lament the lack of top end, so this may have something to do with the module
output profile). Isolation, on the other hand, was excellent, thanks to the variety of
tips and dual positions which really did ensure a snug fit. And good cable isolation
prevented any body contact sounds.
The packaging is impressive, as you’d expect with the $150 price tag, and the
earphones come in a very stylish leather pouch with magnetised clamp.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 26
Etymotic ER4S
If ever there was proof that the biggest surprises
can be hidden in the smallest packages, it’s these
compact giant-killers. The earphones
themselves are tiny – probably a third the size of
the Shure professional line and smaller than
anything else tested. But the performance is
astonishing, thanks mostly to a snug in-ear fit
achieved by using one of a range of tips. The
canalphone ships with two different-sized three-flange silicon tips, three
sizes of silicon buds and two foam pieces – and you’re instructed to get
them as far into your canals as possible for maximum performance and
isolation. I found the triple-flange buds the most comfortable and quietest.
Even though they’re rated at 110 Ohm, I had to dial the module back to 11
o’clock and still got a full burst of crisp, clear, balanced sound: crystal
tingling treble, resonant bass and plenty of solid sound in between.
The reproduction was uncoloured, with many kits sounding almost like
recordings of acoustic kits. This must be what Roland engineers were
hearing when they tweaked the TD-20. What’s even more amazing is that
this sonic accuracy is achieved with just a single driver.
Moderately priced at $299, they‘re not too far off their more upmarket rivals
on performance, comfort and isolation, especially if you choose the right
tip. The correct choice and insertion also means you virtually can’t even
feel them when they’re in.
The 150 cm cable is almost industrial in its ruggedness, with a serious
connector where the main cable divides into the finer braided pairs linked
to the actual buds. You’ll need the shirt clip to counter the weight of that
removable cable which ends in a right-angled mini-jack, and a quality 6.5
mm adaptor is supplied.
The ER4S, rated at 122 dB, comes boxed in a serious plastic case, with a
stylish compact pouch also included.
One thing to bear in mind with the Etymotics is that they come with special
anti-wax filters, but these do need to be replaced, so you’ll have to budget
for replacements down the line. They go for $15 for a six-pack.
Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 vi
Ultimate Ears began life as a custom maker of earphones for
musicians and the pedigree is evident in the Triple Fi 10 vi.
Although this model is clearly a consumer product because
the packaging stresses aspects like iPhone compatibility,
the 10 vi is certainly no slouch on stage. It packs a huge
punch, even with the module volume dial pulled
back to 9 o’clock, thanks to its low impedance
(32 Ohm).
The Ultimate Ears product is among the largest units
tested, probably 30% bigger than the Shure SE 535s. It has a
reasonably sturdy 120 cm cable, ending in an inline mini-jack. Because
this model is cellphone-compatible, there’s a discrete microphone and a
control button in the cable.
The key to this model’s performance is its advanced three-driver design
with an integrated passive crossover to send frequencies to the
appropriate driver. This translates into thunderous bass, tingling highs and
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 27
good, solid midrange. There’s some exaggeration at the low end and while you
can almost feel the bass drum and low toms through the earphones, this may
be a bit deceptive, because that’s not what you can expect through the PA.
There’s been some criticism of the bulky size of the Triple Fi 10 range, which is
due in part to the inline position of the ear tips, as opposed to the right-angle
placement on the Shure line, for example. Personally, I didn’t find them too big
or bulky, but I did find it hard to achieve a tight seal. UE seems to have skimped
a bit on the tips, providing three sizes of silicon tips and a couple of foam tips –
a far cry from the choice of the lower-priced Etymotics, for example.
Unfortunately, Ultimate Ears has also chosen a larger bore format, limiting the
choice of tips. While the difficulty in achieving a tight seal didn’t impact on
performance, it did reduce the isolation effect, and a small amount of stick noise
did bleed through.
The Triple Fi 10 vi comes with a compact, sturdy carry case and a bunch of
adaptors including a gold 6.5 mm adaptor, an attenuator and a cleaning tool.
At $400, the Ultimate Ears are well worth considering, but you really do need to
make sure that you can get a good seal.
Westone UM3XRC
At under $400, the Westone UM3X should be on every top-end
shortlist. The compact high-tech earphones are supplied with a
neat crushproof case, probably the widest selection of
tips, from flanged to soft and medium silicon and
malleable Comply tips, a cleaning tool, a 6.5 mm jack
adaptor and an attenuator attachment.
There’s an option of a clear body, revealing the three
drivers and circuitry inside and making the earphones look
really hi-tech.
At 130 cm, the cable isn’t the longest, but it is fully detachable (in the case of
the RC review sample) and replaceable, with longer leads available from the
manufacturer. The cable is a moderate weight braided pair that feels like it can
take the demands of gigging and the attachment to the earpieces is firm and
With an impedance at the higher end of the samples, at 56 Ohm, the Westones
were surprisingly hot (they’re rated at 124 dB), with the module dialled back just
past 9 o’clock. At moderate levels, the UM3X delivered heaps at the extremes,
with lots of thumping bass and tingling treble, and I found the midrange just a
tad more muted than the more expensive Shures – but certainly not lacking.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 28
The bass was solid without a hint of distortion, even when pumped up. The
overall reproduction was extremely clean, clear and detailed, with excellent
separation, thanks to the three balanced armature drivers and the passive
three-way crossover. The UM3X showed dynamics and subtlety in the module
that was certainly not evident with any of the closed headphones I had tried
With the widest selection of tips – and probably the best quality out there, with
significant differences between the sizes, comfort was exceptional, especially
coupled with the compact earphone design which made for a flush fit in the
ears. The combination of tip choice and small earphone body made these
extremely close to custom-fit earphones in the comfort stakes. Of course, with
the snug tip fits, isolation was superb, and there was absolutely no stick noise.
Overall, the UM3X was an excellent balance of features, fit and performance
and certainly rivals the more expensive Shure model in our collection.
Shure SE 535
Okay, we’re getting to the pointy end, price-wise, and the
performance reflects the added cost. The Shure SE 535 is
a serious contender and the $500 price tag gets you a box
full of stuff – eight different tips sure to fit anything
including a Klingon, a stylish hard carry case and a bunch
of adaptors – and of course, the professional earphones with
detachable cable – all 1.6 metres of it.
Isolation and comfort are superb, thanks to the tip choices
which range from foam sleeves, to silicon buds and a triple
flanged option. There is no cable noise, in fact there’s next to
no external noise.
Rated at 119 dB and 36 Ohms, these guys performed best at 12 o’clock on the
module – a higher volume setting than most of the others. But there was heaps
of punch and totally accurate reproduction. Thanks to three drivers in each unit,
I heard bass notes I didn’t know the TD-20 could produce, mid-range was clear
and detailed and the highs were flawless. In fact, it was almost like being inside
the module – no distortion, no colouring, just instrument sounds. I can honestly
say that the modules had never sounded better - even with high-end
professional closed headphones.
The clear-shelled SE 535 is comfortable and reasonably compact, significantly
smaller than the UE sample, but more substantial than the Etymotic. It is roadready, supplied with a sturdy, compact zip-up case big enough for the main
units, a bunch of tips and the supplied cleaning tool.
The SE 535 may lack the clout and low-end thump of the Ultimate Ears Triple
Fi, but it more than makes up for it in balance and accuracy. Sure, the price tag
is hefty, but the quality is undeniable, and it’s no surprise that so many
professional musicians use SE 535s on stage, especially with Shure’s wireless
monitoring system.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 30
JH Audio JH16Pro
Including the flagship product of JH Audio in this
review is a bit like putting a tailor-made suit
alongside department store clothing, because each
JH16Pro is custom-made for the customer. The
process starts with an impression made by the local
audiologist (a useful contact for your later years, when
all that live gigging catches up with you!). The moulds of
your ear cavities are then shipped to JH Audio’s labs where
acrylic shells are produced to your specification, and you can
choose between clear and several colour options and add graphics or letters.
You can also choose the “engine”, and the review pair were built to the top-ofthe-line JH16Pro specs. This means a staggering eight drivers for each ear –
two dual lows, a dual mid arrangement and a single dual high set-up.
The IEMs were shipped in a tough custom box with my name engraved into it,
with a velvet-like carry bag and a hearing aid cleaning tool. It was supplied
with a 1.2 metre see-through braided cable (personally, I’d have preferred
them longer, so remember to specify that when you order).
The fit was perfect (there’s a 30-day rebuild period after purchase and if they
don’t fit, JHA will try again), resulting in an almost impervious seal that
delivered amazing sound isolation.
The company quotes impedance of 18 Ohms and output of118 dB, and on the
module, that translates to a rich full sound rather than a surge of power. The
volume needed to be dialled to around 11. At that level, the earphones
delivered what can only be described as a seamlessly blended soundscape,
with detailed reproduction of everything from the lowest bass drum to the
gentle jingle of a tambourine. There was no artificial bass boost, but rather a
full, enveloping tone that wrapped around the back of the head. The extra
drivers and the integrated three-way crossover ensure that all the frequencies
are covered and there are simply no gaps or surges in the reproduction. If the
other pro offerings were like being inside the module, the JHAs were like being
in the control room when the module sounds were being recorded – utterly
faithful to the original instruments.
These are serious in-ear monitors for serious musicians (or audiophiles), so
you’d expect a serious price. How serious? Well, the 16Pro range starts at
$1,149, and goes up as you add customisation and extra bits.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 31
The bottom line:
In-ears are a great solution for e-drummers, with most of the models tested
eliminating much (in some cases, all) of the stick and pedal noise. There is,
however, a big difference between the lower-end buds and the top-end
canalphones which effectively seal the ears and totally block outside sound.
Reproduction was excellent overall – with many models outperforming top-end
traditional headphones. And all were easy to wear and less obtrusive than their
bulky over-the-ears equivalents. Of course, some people will not like putting
things in their ear. It is important to ensure that you choose the right tip and the
appropriate size to ensure isolation and comfort. The better (more expensive)
models tended to offer more choice in tips, with the pro models obviously in
overkill area. And there are always after-market options as well.
Of the models tested, there’s no doubt that the multi-driver JHA 16Pro was the
overall performance leader, and if you’re a professional using your IEMs on a
daily basis, you wouldn’t think twice about going totally custom – especially if it’s
tax-deductable. Eargasmic as they were, for the average punter, it’s a big
premium over the Shures or Westones, and it’s quite hard to quantify if they’re
twice as good. And for the more budget-constrained who may be tempted by the
Westones, Shures or Ultimate Ears, the step down to Etymotic ER4S is actually
smaller than the price saving implies. The Etymotic held its own on all fronts
(even down to the disconnectable cables – if that’s important to you). Some
might favour the more substantial look and feel of the bigger models, but for me,
less was more and the ER4S was plenty, although obviously it doesn’t equal the
clarity, detail and broad soundscapes of its more expensive rivals .
One lesson I learned during testing was that draping the cables over the back of
one’s ears rather than letting them dangle down your face cuts down on
amplified cable noise. It may look odd, but it sounds much better.
I’m loathe to say that earphones are a personal choice and what sounds good to
me might not ring true for you, so instead I’d suggest that anyone in the market
for new in-ear monitors make sure they at least listen to a couple of models –
and avoid untested purchases, whether online or in a store. Of course, it may be
hard to find stores that allow you to put their stock into your waxy ears and you
probably can’t try your friends’ earphones either. And, clearly, it’s even more
difficult to audition custom devices that require a mould and one-off production.
You’ll also need to decide where your priorities lie. Are you interested in
dedicated e-drum earphones, or are you likely to use them with your stereo, on
flights or with your iPhone? The kind of uncoloured reproduction you’re looking
for as a drummer might not be appropriate for your heavy metal CDs, so there
will have to be some trade-off if you’re looking for broad application.
The other tip is not to limit your search to a narrow price range. You
may well find that the top-end prices are justified by their
performance, but on the other hand, you may be pleasantly
surprised by some of the cheaper options. And be aware
that with some models, the purchase cost may not be the
total cost of ownership. You may be up for filters or
replacement tips and while these may only cost a few
bucks, they may not be easy to find – and certainly will
not be readily available if you suddenly need one during a
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
digitalDrummer would like to thank the manufacturers who
provided review samples, especially those who shipped them great
distances. Thanks also to the local distributors who helped out!
Of the bud-style earphones, the beyerdynamic DTX 101iE was a pleasant
surprise, combining clarity and clout in an affordable package. And the entrylevel Woodees punched far above their weight, delivering surprising detail and
depth for a very modest price tag.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 32
Sound advice
THEY MAY LOOK similar to earbuds, but in-ear
headphones are nothing of the sort. Commonly
called ear canal headphones, in-ear monitors
(IEMs), earphones or simply “in-ears”, these little
headphones sit deep in the ear canal and offer
phenomenal sound quality and isolation, far
surpassing other noise-reducing designs. They also
protect your hearing by isolating outside sounds,
leaving you to concentrate only on what’s coming
through your headphones. Thanks to the plethora of
models and brands available, there are sure to be
some in-ears for your budget and monitoring
demands. Here are several considerations to make
when choosing an in-ear headphone.
Fit: It’s very important to obtain a proper fit with inear headphones so they remain stable. Different
brands and models have unique ergonomics, but all
are designed to fit as many people as possible.
Look for a model that includes a selection of tips in
various sizes and materials, and be sure to try all of
the included tips to find one that works best for you.
Carefully read the included manual, as the specific
insertion instructions will ensure a proper fit. Cable
routing is also important; some are designed to be
routed behind the ear and are ideal for drumming.
Many models also include clips to keep cables
securely fastened to clothing; this will dampen cable
noise and prevent tangling.
Sound: While most models in the $100+ price
range sound very good, different brands tend to
have their own subtle sonic signatures. Outstanding
clarity and detail is a hallmark of in-ear headphones,
so prepare to be amazed. When it comes to bass,
most models offer a respectable (and appropriate)
amount, but if you consider yourself a bass-head,
then there are probably some specific models best
for you. One important consideration is to look at the
number of drivers of an in-ear headphone. Typically,
the more drivers, the higher the fidelity of the sound.
Many mid-priced models have separate drivers for
low-frequency and high-frequency, known as dualdriver, and still others feature triple drivers for lows,
mids and highs. The pinnacle of multiple drivers can
be found in the fully customised Jerry Harvey Audio
JH16s, sporting an astonishing eight drivers per
Custom Models: If you’re looking for the best
sound and fit experience, it’s likely to lie in a
custom-moulded model, where special moulds are
made of your ear canal by an audiologist. The
advantage is supreme comfort and a level of sonic
quality that is simply unsurpassed. They start at
around $400 and run up to $1,200, but for musicians
wanting the very best with no expense spared,
they’ll be blown away by the immersive accuracy
and intense realism these phenomenal tiny
headphones offer.
Whether you spend $100 or $1,000, a wonderful
world of high fidelity awaits. But the choices can be
a bit overwhelming, so it’s essential to talk to an
expert and to try before you buy.
Ivy Burford, www.headphone.com
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 33
on percussion and vocals...
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 34
Percussionist, drummer and vocalist John Mahon
has been playing with Sir Elton John since 1997.
He’s appeared with the pop giant in more than
1,000 shows in over 60 countries. Mahon spoke
with digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz from
his home in Los Angeles.
digitalDrummer: John, tell us a bit about how you
got into drumming.
dD: And why the move to percussion as opposed to
kit drumming?
John Mahon: I got into drumming by joining a drum
and bugle corp when I was about 12. My father was
a policeman and took my brothers and I to the
Police Boys Club. From there, I joined the school
marching and concert bands and then my parents
bought a drum set for me. It was not the highest
quality. I remember the tom mounts breaking and
the toms rolling across the stage - on two different
songs, no less - when I joined a rock band.
Hilarious! The roadie bolted them back on during the
intermission - brilliant!
JM: I’m still a kit player too, but I have always
played a little percussion: tympani in high school,
studied some mallet and played some hand drums.
But it is my singing that really pushed me in that
direction and also my interest in electronics. I had
my own band for a while that I fronted and sang all
the leads.
dD: What about your pro career, how did that start?
JM: I really started playing gigs for money when I
was in my teens. My brother had a band and I was
always playing somewhere every weekend. Of
course, I had day jobs too but when I hit my 20s, I
started to study more seriously and play full time in
jazz and top 40 bands. (You could do that back then
and make a living). DJs pretty much killed the
working club musician.
I used a mix of Simmons drums and triggers so I
could be more up front and visible. I was often
getting asked to sing backing vocals in bands that
already had drummers and needed percussion and
electronics - loops, samples, etc... Seemed like a
good fit for me.
dD: We’ll get onto electronics in a bit, but first I have
to ask about working with Elton. How did that come
JM: I was playing with Chuck Negron of Three Dog
Night at the time. Doing percussion, electronics and
backing vocals. My name was suggested to Davey
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 35
A bit of this, a bit of that: Mahon mixes acoustics and electronics
Johnstone, Elton’s musical director, by Bob Birch,
Elton’s bass player. Bob and I go way back to the
early ‘80s in Los Angeles. I did a small audition on
vocals only and flew to Nice, France for rehearsals
for a show in Germany. I guess Elton liked me and
here I am 14 years later.
dD: Let’s talk a bit about electronic drumming. What
was your first bit of electronic gear?
JM: In the ‘80s, you could not listen to pop music or jazz (listen to Herbie Hancock’s Future Shock)
and not hear electronics. I loved the big crazy
sounds and the drum machines with quantising
were addictive. Wow, I think my first setup was the
Simmons 7 kit. It was analogue mixed with digital.
You had to actually open it up and insert the sample
chip - like “Phil Collins toms”. Then you could mix in
some analogue with it. Pretty bad-ass really and
expensive! Yamaha also had a trigger interface that
I used on acoustic drums with the Simmons. I even
carted a big audio system around with them.
I’ve been through a variety of gear. I used Dauz
pads, Roland’s three-way pad, the Roland Pad 8,
the DrumKat, with pedals and all. Then the
Zendrum, which I still use.
I have had lots of different Yamaha DTX electronic
kits - they just kept getting better.
I worked with the original Linn Drum, and did some
records, all on the Linn 9000. That was a great
machine. I had a Roland 808, Yamaha RX11 and
RY30 and an Akai 2000 and 2500.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
dD: What does your current arsenal include?
JM: I’m using MOTU’s BPM and NI’s Battery. In my
home studio, I programme and trigger with the
Yamaha DTX 950 or the Multi 12. Sometimes, I
even bust out the Zendrum because it’s just cool! I
would much rather play a part than programme a
beat if I can. If I programme, I do it on the Akai 2500
but I’m going to get the Akai MPD32 because I don’t
use the 2500 to programme as much anymore. I do
some acoustic triggering using Ddrum acoustic
triggers into the DTX. I jump back and forth between
Logic and DP7. Don’t ask me why!! It’s crazy.
dD: What electronic gear do you use in Elton’s
shows and what does the band think of it?
JM: Now, I use the Yamaha DTX 950 and DTX Multi
12. I mostly use the sounds in the DTX, or have
custom samples. For a while, I used a Roland
Fantom for samples before Yamaha upped the
memory allocation in the DTX. I’m using a MalletKat
Express and Yamaha Motif XS rack for sounds. I
have six pads laid out flat in front of me – sort of like
a tympani - and a kick pad on which I programme
everything from massive booms to a tambourine
sound. I’ve also been triggering a 28” Yamaha
marching kick and 15”x10” snare for a mixed sound.
That was for the Union CD shows. As for the rest of
the band and the tech crew, I think what they like
most is that sounds like tympani and effects are all
stereo direct to the mixer. No mics - we have quite a
loud stage scenario, so it is difficult to mic live
instruments. Our sound engineer is always happier
with fewer live mic inputs.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 36
dD: What are the benefits of electronics over
acoustic percussion pieces?
dD: Do you use electronic percussion in your studio
projects as well?
JM: With electronics, you can have an endless
variety of sounds to choose from. When recording,
you can have MIDI and audio recorded so you can
easily make changes if you need to in the computer.
You can record with one song and go back and
replace the MIDI drums with a completely different
sound. All these new electronic drum sets are
designed to play along with and can be superb
learning tools. And, of course, there is the volume
factor: if you are somewhere where disturbing
someone is an issue, electronics are a great
alternative. All that said, there is nothing like playing
an acoustic instrument. It is just an alternative,
another tool at your disposal.
JM: Like I mentioned before, I am always
incorporating electronics, whether I programme via
the Akai pads or play in parts on the DTX drums. I
find that mixing acoustic percussion with electronic
drums provides a warmer feel than going allelectronic. I like using the Roland HandSonic in a
pinch and the Korg Wavedrum is amazing.
dD: I know you’re a Yamaha endorsee: what
impresses you most about their gear and what does
your endorsement entail?
JM: These guys are all masters and great masters
never stop learning and never sit back on their
laurels. With percussion, there is always the search
for a new sound or new instrument. When I’m on the
road, I always pop in stores to see if I can find
something out of the ordinary. It can be a problem
getting things shipped - like the 36” bass drum I just
found in Bismark, North Dakota. Not sure what I’ll do
with that monster yet! I’m sure if you are reading
this, you are like me - when you get sticks in your
hand, you want to hit anything that looks like it might
make a cool sound. I used to work in a hardware
store and I would disappear into the paint
department. It was heaven!! But with electronics,
there are so many sounds at our fingertips - with no
tuning or fussing around either. Looping sounds
creates a whole other instrument, too. It’s like
playing a cymbal that just keeps cooking along.
JM: I started with a Yamaha acoustic drum
endorsement. Their drums have always been the
benchmark for others to follow - the highest quality.
Then it just expanded into electronics. Their stuff is
very reliable, and they have an ever-growing sound
pallet. So I now use many of their products. They
have sweet tambourines - and the Motif keyboards
are all amazing. From one end of the spectrum to
the other, the quality is always top notch. My
endorsement means a direct line to Yamaha
equipment that I might need. Say I am in another
country and something breaks, I have a network to
go through to help me all over the world. Yamaha
provides equipment for the Elton John Tour and
gives me an artist break on personal equipment.
They have always been there when I needed them.
dD: Why is it that percussionists are increasingly
using electronics? We have profiled Pete Lockett
who is now developing patches for 2box and
previously featured Tom Roady who is the cover boy
for Zendrum and seems to have tried everything
electronic under the sun. And we also heard from
Germany’s Oli Rubow who combines all sorts of
electronic and acoustic bits. So as a percussionist,
perhaps you can explain the fascination?
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 37
dD: What about the future of e-drums: what
innovations or developments are you looking out
JM: The future of e-drums is going to be pad feel
and velocity response getting better all the time. The
pads have to be a joy to play. Maybe we’ll see edrums develop a game controller-type vibration to
mimic acoustics. The new Zildjian electronic
cymbals introduced at the 2011 NAMM show are
breaking ground and I think we are seeing more edrums being a little acoustic in there too. I’d like to
see this cross over into hand drums - congas that
are acoustic/electric. Drum sets are going to go
completely dual-purpose with the skins being both
great drumheads and triggers.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
dD: And finally, what does the future hold for John
JM: Well, the future is going to be touring with Elton
John. We have a busy schedule for 2011. I am
always composing in my spare time. Bob Birch and I
wrote some songs for Jose Feliciano last year. Hope
to do more of that. So besides some two-wheeled
fun, I’ll be learning, song writing, producing and
.... trying to get some practice in!!
dD: John, thanks for your time and good luck...
JM: Thank you for asking to interview me. It’s
interesting to think about what it is I do - instead of
just doing it. And thanks to all the fans that come out
and see the Elton John Band. We really do
appreciate your support.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 38
Maki ng a Classic
In the May issue, Chris Whitten shared some of the
background to his first VST pack. This month, he
picks up after the round of recordings in the UK.
and agreed with Toontrack from the outset that
producer Peter Henderson and I would perform a
first edit, essentially separating the individual hits we
needed from all the chatter, coughs, splutters and
creaking doors, etc. I would also ask Peter to
remove any strokes that sounded badly performed
from a drummer’s perspective. We then tried to
group all the individual hits together as
‘articulations’, as the drum software companies call
them. In other words, rimshots, centre hits, flams,
ruffs, hi-hat tips, hi-hat edge, ride bell, ride shank
and more. Then, we grouped them in terms of
velocity of hit: soft, full volume, etc. After that, hard
drives were copied for safety and the main drive
was sent by courier to Toontrack in Umea, mid-north
Over the next couple of months, Toontrack did some
more work on the edits and assessed what we had
and how it was all going to come together in the final
product. They’d done this once before as they’d
recently released a new product called Superior.
Peter and I really had no idea how the software
worked or how hundreds of samples became a
virtual instrument.
Finally, in February 2005, Peter and I flew to Umea
to hear the software in action, witness the final
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 39
programming tweaks and give it our final seal of
approval. We also found out the drum library we’d
created was too big for one software package, so
we had to choose which drums and cymbals to
include, and which to set aside for a follow-up
Somewhere along the line, I’d started referring to
the sample collection as ‘Custom & Vintage’, largely
based on the range of instruments and equipment
we’d used; a custom-ordered cymbal by Steve
Hubback, a vintage Ludwig kit, and the
vintage EMI TGI
console, for example.
We all agreed ‘Custom
& Vintage’ was an
appropriate and
agreeable name, so the
Toontrack graphics
department went to work
on packaging and
On returning from Sweden
I packed up my house and
studio and emigrated to
Australia (another story).
‘Custom & Vintage’ was
officially released in April
Fast forward to 2010 and after
many discussions, Peter and I embarked on another
project, aiming to try and apply what we’d learned
with more great kits and another unique console.
This time, we chose a Helios. Like the EMI, it is very
highly regarded, made in small numbers and hard to
find in working condition, in bookable studios.
However, unlike the EMI which imparts a thick,
coloured coating to the drums, the Helios is warm,
but crystalline, particularly noted for being gloriously
smooth on cymbals.
So the hunt was on for a great sounding studio with
a working Helios console. We found one in New
Jersey - Shorefire Recording Studios, formerly
owned by E Street Band bassist Gary Tallent. This
find was especially good news for me as I figured
we could somehow engineer a way to grab a Noble
& Cooley kit of mine stored at the Cooley factory in
Granville, Massachusetts.
After much schedule-juggling, we managed to
arrange a four-day session. The logistics included a
visit to the factory to collect the kit and a trip to
Manhattan to pick up cymbals and to check out a
Craviotto drum kit at Maxwell’s drum store.
On the first morning of four booked at Shorefire, I
started by re-heading and setting up my Noble &
Cooley Horizon drum set. Peter started setting up a
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
comprehensive array of microphones. The
Toontrack team of Mattias, Henrik and Nils arrived
from a couple of days of meetings in Manhattan.
Going Back To My Roots
OK, so I made a concession to the niche, vintage
vibe from which I was attempting to escape. I
bought a set of Remo CS Black Dot heads for my
N&C concert toms. You
couldn’t record concert
toms (single-headed
toms) without one of the
most popularly used
heads of the 1970s.
The last time I’d used
them was probably in
the 1970s, and they
sounded awful, but I
didn’t know how to
tune drums back
then. This time,
they sounded
pretty good - if I
say so myself.
Apart from the
black dots, I’d
decided to learn
from ‘Classic and Vintage’ and
concentrate on heads and tunings I knew.
Having said that, I installed an Evans EQ4 head on
the Horizon 24” bass drum. I’d used one before as it
has a less dampened sound than my usual EQ3
head. However, once we mic’ed the kit, we were
unsure about the bass drum tone and I ended up
putting the EQ3 back on.
The unfortunate thing about working with rare,
vintage recording equipment is that it doesn’t always
work as you’d hoped it would. As a result, during the
day, some mics and some recording set-ups were
abandoned in favour of two we could rely on to
deliver: a standard contemporary close mic’ed kit,
and a classic four-mic set-up, both to be recorded
simultaneously. The ‘four-mic’ was partly inspired
by the Helios console. Legendary producer Glyn
Johns had made the four-mic set-up his trademark,
especially working in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s with
artists such as Led Zeppelin and The Who on the
Helios console at Olympic Studios, London. Also,
Peter and I wanted to explore a simpler, more raw
virtual drum instrument, especially as that strippeddown sound had become fashionable again among
younger bands and recording engineers. Towards
the end of day one, with the mics all positioned
correctly and the drums all tuned, we commenced
the sampling process. I won’t go back over that
process again: tedious to do, and tedious to read
more than once, I think.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 40
So what’s it like?
As before, on the C&V sessions, Mattias was happy
to accept our artistic direction, gently guiding us and
helping us remain on track towards the vision we’d
set out to achieve. I was happy to let Peter make the
decisions in the recording process and he was
happy for me to tune and play the drums as I saw fit.
Ch Ch Ch Changes
After the retro tom heads, I installed my regular tom
head of choice on the N&C Horizon kit: Evans G2
coated. On day two, we made a start on Shorefire’s
own Yamaha Recording Custom kit, which fulfilled
my need to sample something mainstream and
popular, especially as I installed Remo Coated
Ambassador heads throughout.
We decided to rent the Craviotto kit from Maxwell’s
in Manhattan. When it arrived, I just checked the
tuning for any rogue dissonance. I didn’t want to
actually change the tuning as I presumed the store
sent the drums out sounding their best. Also, one of
the features of a good virtual drum instrument is
variety. If I tune three kits on three consecutive
days, it’s likely I’ll subconsciously tune
them too similarly.
I’ve got to admit the sessions were
even more demanding and stressful
than the 2Khz sessions six years
earlier. One of the problems was the
vintage nature of the recording
equipment, including some fantastic
rare and expensive German
microphones. Occasionally, one would
develop a fizz. Of course, with the
drums being banged and crashed and a whole rock
band thrashing away, it would be unfortunate, but
not disastrous. However, when you are recording
dozens of pianissimo cymbal hits, it is a disaster.
Worse still, often these mic breakdowns were barely
noticeable - except when you soloed the mic and
turned the volume right up. So, on more than one
occasion, I’d spent an hour meticulously sampling a
kit piece only to discover I had to do it all over again.
The Sound of Silence
The studio also turned out to be less than perfect for
a super critical sampling session. To be fair, only the
elite studios can boast such perfect soundproofing
that when a cockroach sneezes, it isn’t an issue.
We just had to be careful, and in truth, the
extraneous noises were few, especially after dark.
But on our final night, with the clock ticking on our
available time and a slew of fantastic cymbals still
unrecorded, the local council decided to have an
end-of-summer fireworks display. So we took a
break and had a cup of tea until the display fizzled
out. A short while later, as I was in the middle of a
We’ve read Chris’ account of what went into it,
so what can we get out of Toontrack’s The
Classic EZX?
Firstly, this sample pack and MIDI collection is
playable with Toontrack’s EZdrummer VST and
doesn’t require the full-blown Superior
Drummer solution.
While this means 16-bit samples instead of 24bit, there’s certainly no compromise on sample
scope or realism.
The selection of kits is excellent. The Noble &
Cooley, Yamaha Recording Custom and
Craviotto Ash kits add great contemporary
sounds to the EZdrummer arsenal and you can
easily hear how these kits would be ideal for
the creator’s work with Paul McCartney and
Dire Straits. There are some good punchy
sounds as well as more subtle tones.
The cymbal selection is outstanding, with
some cut-through rides, crisp hi-hats,
full, warm crashes and bright splashes.
The devil, they say, is in the detail, but in
The Classic’s case, the detail is the
major strength. Whitten has provided
some fantastic articulations, especially
on the cymbals, and the realism is
striking. The ride, for example, has ride
tip, ride shank, bell tip, bell shank, edge
and mute articulations.
The dynamics on the snares and toms are
magnificent. They don’t just get louder as you
hit harder, you can almost feel the increased
One of the appealing aspects of this sample
pack is that it easily provides two very distinct
feels for all the kits at the click of a mouse,
thanks to its two different recording settings.
The Classic offers a choice between a
contemporary multi-microphone version and
the “4 mic setup” which feels tighter and is
reminiscent of some of the big ‘70s recordings.
The Classic certainly adds something fresh to
the EZ line and is among the most detailed and
responsive VSTs I’ve heard to date.
It’s an essential add-on for any EZdrummer
collection and must be equally tempting for SD
owners. And I’m not just saying that because
Chris is reading this…
Allan Leibowitz
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 41
sequence of low-volume tip strokes on the final
cymbal we would have time to sample, an angry
seagull apparently landed on the roof just above the
studio. It started to squawk loudly. Oh, what this
vegetarian, animal-loving drummer would have
given for a gun! Luckily, it flew off after a few
minutes, but it felt like someone had it in for us,
especially as we’d had none of these problems on
previous evenings. After completing that final
cymbal, our time was up, except for a couple of
hours packing everything up, that is. Did I say the
drum sampling game is glamorous?
Gonna Write a Classic
These days, Toontrack has developed custom tools
to edit and format all the samples into its software
products like EZdrummer and Superior. You still
need skilled people like Mattias to make them sound
their best, and there are also artistic and commercial
decisions to make. Peter and I always hope to
record more than we need, and offer more choices
than can be catered for. So, everyone - Peter,
myself, the Toontrack team and the beta testers have a say in how the final product ends up.
One hot topic was a name for the product. This time,
I wanted to keep my lip buttoned. I’d come up with
‘Custom & Vintage’, a name based on the drums
and cymbals recorded and recording equipment
used. However, potential buyers seemed to focus on
the word ‘vintage’ and ignore the word ‘custom’,
presuming the samples were aimed at the retro
music scene, which they are not. Anyway, a couple
of the Toontrack guys suggested ‘Classic’ and this
morphed over a few days into ‘The Classic’.
Everyone seemed to like it, so it was duly named.
One final duty befell me, to record and edit a ‘Best
Of…’ MIDI library to include with the sampled
drums. For this, I’m indebted to Roland Corp
Australia. I’m not a regular e-drummer. In fact, I find
it a hard discipline to master. Roland’s Simon Ayton
had offered to help out if I ever needed to create a
MIDI library for Toontrack and so I decided to take
him up on it. Amazingly, he offered to let me work at
their offices for as many days as I needed, and to
use one of their TD-20s, already set up and ready to
The next task was to go through my career CDs and
decide what to reproduce in MIDI form. Which songs
would people want to hear me play, which grooves
would be most useful to our customers? I knew
everyone would expect ‘What I Am’, the Edie
Brickell and the New Bohemians hit. I decided to
choose at least one song from the main bands I’ve
been associated with. I never recorded with Dire
Straits, but everyone loves ‘Money For Nothing’. I
played it over 300 times on tour, not counting
months of rehearsals, so that went on my list. So did
the biggest hit from the ‘Flowers In The Dirt’ album I
recorded with Paul McCartney: ‘My Brave Face’.
Plus songs from Julian Cope’s ‘St Julian’ album, the
World Party album ‘Goodbye Jumbo’, and the hit
‘Where In The World’ by Swing Out Sister.
With all that recorded and edited, the next part was
waiting for ‘The Classic’ to hit the shelves. I only
hope Toontrack’s customers enjoy using the sounds
as much as I already am. Maybe someone will
record a hit record with them and tell me on the
Toontrack forum, “That’s your snare!”
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 42
--vst-Product review: Abbey Road IV
ALL VST PACKAGES require a host programme,
and Native Instruments provided digitalDrummer
with a copy of Kontakt 4 for the testing of its Abbey
Road Modern Drums product. This was a bit like
providing an Airbus A380 for the testing of its coffee
machine – the host programme was way overengineered and far beyond the understanding of a
humble drummer. Even more so since the Abbey
Road series ships with NI’s free Kontakt Player host.
But if I ever need highly detailed samples of a
French Horn to a four-part harmony choir, at least I
know where to go now.
Even the kit representation in the main screen is
highly detailed.
So, onto the drum part…
The main page includes a fantastic drummer’s view
of the kit together with some adjustments that cover
drum tuning and microphone mixing. Users can also
tweak the attack, hold and decay of sounds and
choose articulations in the bottom panel. This page
includes the mapping controls which allow users to
select their MIDI input parameters and this includes
presets for most e-drum modules and VST hosts, as
well as a learn function.
The Abbey Road pack is the fourth in a series
recorded at London’s famed studio. Like the
previous offerings, this collection is based on a lessis-more approach. It consists of only two kits: a
Drum Workshop (DW) Collector’s Series from the
mid-90s (the white kit) and a Pearl Reference kit
from the mid-2000s (the sparkle kit). So, unlike
some other VST packs, there’s no wholesale
swapping of drums or cymbals – although there are
three snare choices in each kit.
Instead of variety, there is plenty of depth, with over
40,000 24-bit, 44.1 kHz samples in a 17.4 GB
The detail includes up to 27 velocity layers for each
articulation and up to six variations of drum hits at
the same velocity for added realism. Most of the
articulations for drums and hi-hat include separate
left- and right-hand samples.
The Abbey Road name is synonymous with
recording and engineering technology, so it’s no
surprise that the NI pack has a heavy focus on
sound reproduction. The samples were recorded
with a mix of cutting-edge new equipment and
Abbey Road’s respected vintage collection.
The interface reflects the control booth focus, with
lots of dials and sliders reminiscent of a 1960s
recording studio.
The mixer page is like a trip to the famed studio,
with a range of analogue-looking dials and sliders to
control the levels of the various microphones, as
well as panning and output routing. This is where it
gets fairly technical for stick artists and you get into
routing individual tracks to various outputs. For me,
this was a step too far!
The options page is probably also out of bounds to
the average punter, but for those who venture forth,
this is where you can tweak the velocity curves and
adjust stuff like snare bleed and randomisation.
digitalDrummer’s VST approach
Like most of our readers, our reviewers are drummers, not producers or
recording engineers. We’re looking for plug-and-play solutions - programmes
that work out of the box.
When I test a VST, I’m looking for something easy to install and run. I’m looking
for a product that allows me to start playing without too much fiddling around.
Of course, I’d like some degree of tweakability, but I don’t want to spend hours
fiddling with parameters.
To test, I use a Dell Studio 1555 dual-core 2.2 GHz notebook running Vista, with
2GB of RAM. I test VSTs using a Roland TD20X-based kit and with a Zendrum,
both connected via USB using an M-Audio Midisport 1x1 interface.
To monitor the output, I use the laptop’s soundcard and high-end in-ear
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 43
The Abbey Road series features great sounds and enormous editing capability
In action
After the mammoth task of loading Kontakt and its
six disks, Abbey Road was simple to install.
The interface is easy to navigate and after selecting
the Vdrums preset, the software found all the drums
and cymbals right off. There was a bit of tweaking,
with the floor tom and ride not triggering too well in
default settings, but by altering the response curves,
it was quickly remedied. Once set up, response was
excellent around the kit, from rim shots to cymbal
chokes and variability in the hi-hat. The ride bell
took a bit more tweaking - that’s probably more to
do with the sensitivity of the CY-15R.
The sounds were uber-realistic and enveloping,
especially when auditioned through high-end in-ear
The DW kit had lots of presence and some rocky
low-end punch, especially when played with a
roomy mic setting. The Pearl kit was brighter and
more poppy, with some shimmering cymbal tones.
I found little latency, and playing was smooth and
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
responsive, the snares a real joy. All the drums had
excellent detail, making for hyper-realistic playing.
Clearly, the default sounds are just a starting point,
but for me, the handful of presets would certainly be
giggable and suitable for any rock/pop recording.
Someone more adventurous would no doubt be able
to lift the kits to an even higher level and there’s
plenty of scope for obsessive tinkerers.
At around $120 for just two kits, this package is not
cheap. But it is certainly among the most detailed
sample collections you’ll find, and you’re getting
exactly what you pay for, rather than a bunch of filler
sounds. Abbey Road also doesn’t come with any
groove samples, so it’s clearly a drummer’s offering
rather than a producer’s pick.
Its excellent sounds, quality and depth of sampling
make it a valuable addition to any sample library,
especially for anyone who plays modern classics.
Just one word of warning: this is a very big pack, so
unless you have very, very fast Internet access and
a generous download entitlement, go for the hardcopy version rather than the download.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 44
--vst-Product review: Addictive Drums
lumped with Toontrack’s EZdrummer and
FXpansion’s BFDeco, but the main difference is that
it requires a host. In my case, I tried it on a Windows
laptop using the free SaviHost which is extremely
easy to use.
What most people find instantly appealing about AD
is its tiny footprint of less than 2GB.
Where the other lite VSTs have smallish base kits
with a couple of toms and around three cymbals, AD
has 12 kit pieces. Of course, you don’t have to use
them all.
The stock pack has three full kits - a Sonor
Designer, DW Collector’s Series (both with kick,
snare and five toms) and a Tama Starclassic (with
three toms). On the cymbal side, there’s a choice of
three hi-hats, four rides, nine crashes and three
splashes two chinas from the Sabian and Paiste
collections. There are also some extra bits like a
Pearl Signature Ferrone snare, Masterworks Piccolo
snare and Masterworks kick.
The application opens in the Kit page, where you
can audition and tune the kit pieces using intuitive
and easy-to-use controls. Unlike the rival VSTs, the
kit representation in AD is inanimate – you can’t
“play” it, but you can audition individual pieces by
clicking on their images on the kit page. And, where
both rivals take a while to load instruments, with AD,
it’s almost instantaneous and you can change
sounds on the fly, even while listening to a groove –
and that’s impressive.
AD’s second page, the Edit screen, allows you to
alter the effects – tune the instruments, modify mic
placements and change other parameters – much
like the activities in other VSTs’ mixer screen. In the
FX pane, one can change the two included reverb
settings. This is probably an unnecessary window,
which most rivals merge into the mixer screen, but it
has some nice graphics, so it’s good to have.
The last pane is the Beats option where literally
thousands of beats and fills can be selected. Edrummers probably won’t spend much time here
because we can make our own beats, but this page
also provides access to the map window where
MIDI mapping is possible. There are presets for all
the popular modules (including the 2box, which is
not yet mapped for some VST products) and a
“learn” function where triggers can be assigned to kit
pieces and articulations.
So, set-up is really easy, even for the VST novice,
and there isn’t much stuffing around before you’re
ready to play.
The stock kits are excellent bread-and-butter drum
sets which get quite a lift from the various
adjustment presets. The kits tend to favour heavier,
rock applications with some very handy retro-style
sounds, a stadium-like live kit and a couple of
techno offerings in there for good measure.
The starting line-up is limited, but like rival VSTs,
there is, of course, a range of add-on kits – or
ADpaks, as xlnaudio calls them – and the current
crop includes Retro, Jazz (Brushes and Sticks),
Funk and Reel Machines (featuring the sounds of
classic Simmons kits which can’t be named because
someone else now owns that trademark!).
And what’s it like to play? I was initially a bit
distracted by the latency, but was able to tweak the
ASIO driver settings to get a decent balance of
sample depth and delay. Once that was addressed,
I found the application very responsive, with an
impressive range of dynamics. One of the most
impressive features is the velocity-sensitive cymbal
chokes which are hyper-realistic compared to most
of its competitors. The playability was certainly
enhanced by the quick changes on the fly –
something which would be important to gigging
drummers who don’t really want to be watching kits
load up in the hope they’ll be ready for the next
Overall, Addictive Drums is a very neat solution,
offering some detailed samples with a small
footprint. There’s plenty of tweaking scope for the
amateur (I’m really not that into infinite mixing
options) and it’s an easy-to-use solution with a
gentle learning curve. As a drummer rather than a
producer, AD is hard to fault.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 45
--vst-Product review: Virtually Erskine
IT’S GOOD TO see a new
sample offering optimised for
lower-end VSTs, and the
newest collection from Cymbal
Masters and Platinum
Samples, Virtually Erskine, is
designed for the BFDeco entry
product as well as its BFD2
For those unfamiliar with Peter
Erskine, whose website simply
describes him as “Drummer.
Composer. Professor”, he is
perhaps best known for his
four-year stint in Weather
Report. He has 500 albums
and film scores under his belt,
and has toured and recorded
with Steely Dan, Diana Krall,
Chick Corea, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, the BBC
Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, the
London Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles
The Virtually Erskine library consists of two
collections, sold separately. The first is the Sound
Library, the second is a collection of MIDI Grooves.
All the grooves and samples are played by Erskine
and meticulously recorded and produced by John
Emrich, not only an e-drum guru, but also a
Zendrum virtuoso and digitalDrummer contributor.
Emrich did the recordings in Erskine’s own personal
studio to capture his signature sound, something
that is evident in a stunning promo video which
shows the original kits and the samples played side
by side.
The recordings are done mostly with Shure
overhead mics to which Emrich added one stereo
room mic. He didn’t bother with the Amb3 channel
because “it was not needed to capture Peter’s
signature sound”.
I tested the Sound Library together with its
companion Brushes Pack, trialling both on a TD-20based kit and a Zendrum.
The Sound Library is designed for
smaller kits. When you have as
much talent as Erskine, you don’t
need a ton of gear, so the
samples cover bass, snare, two
rack toms, a floor tom, hi-hat, ride
and two crashes.
There are two kit set-ups, both
DW - The Jazz Series and the
Collectors VLT rock kit.
With the smaller jazz kit, you can
choose between an 18” or 20”
bass drum, the two snares
common to both kits, a 14”x4.5”
wood jazz series snare or a more
aggressive 14”x6.5” stainless
steel snare.
The rock kit is built around a
22”x16” kick and a three-tom line-up of a 10”x8”, a
13”x9” and a 16x16” floor tom, all sporting Evans G2
The Zildjian cymbal samples include 14” New Beat
hi-hats, an A Series 14” Thin Crash and a K Series
18” Dark Crash, a 22” Swish Knocker and a few rise
choices - 19” Armand Ride with rivets, a Zildjian 20”
Prototype, a 21” Armand Ride and a 20” Left Side
These are two very different kits, one smooth and
subtle, the other punchier but still crisp and
The samples are richly nuanced, with a wide
spectrum of articulations that are especially useful
for the Zendrum. There are drags and flams, crossstick and side-stick samples, for example, providing
the snare with plenty of depth and variety – even
more so when the anti-machinegun option is
selected to ensure the same samples aren’t
triggered twice.
At $80, the sample library is very keenly priced.
However, it’s available only as a download and at 5
GB, that can be a challenge, especially for those
with slow Internet connections.
For review suggestions, contact
[email protected]
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 46
New products
Metal ADpak by xlnaudio
This pack for Addictive Drums features a Ludwig Classic Maple
drum kit recorded by metal guru Ross Robinson (Korn, Slipknot)
in Los Angeles.
The 18-piece drum kit is characterised by thunderous toms, a
heavy kick drum, a sharp but balanced snare drum and vicious
Zildjian cymbals.
The Metal ADpak includes 30-plus mix presets tweaked by
professional metal producers and musicians such as Roberto
Laghi and Björn Gelotte (In Flames), David E.K. (Fuge), Martin
Preikschas and many others.
To accompany the new kit, xlnaudio has also released the Diabolic MIDI
Pak, featuring the work of Daniel Erlandsson from Arch Enemy and covering
a wide range of metal styles and grooves in different tempos and variations.
Price: $59
Information: www.xlnaudio.com
Military Cadence by Platinum Samples
Platinum Samples has teamed up with digitalDrummer columnist
and retired Chief Musician from the US Navy Band in Washington,
DC John Emrich to release the Military Cadence Multi-Format
MIDI Groove Library.
Military Cadence features drumline grooves, snare rolls and a full
collection of rudiments formated for BFD2, BFDeco, EZdrummer,
EZplayer, Superior Drummer 2.0, Addictive Drums, Cakewalk
Session Drummer, as well as General MIDI which can be used
with any GM compatible drum software or hardware.
It’s a collection of 285 live, military cadence grooves and rudiments recorded
as a real performance on an electronic drum set, composed and recorded by
Price: $19.99
Information: www.platinumsamples.com
Number 1 Hits EZX by Toontrack
This EZX expansion for EZdrummer, according to its creators, is “a
fusion between organic, electronic, high-tech and vintage - a sound
library that covers classic sounds but carries them into the new
decade, a collection of drums that would sit right away in any
contemporary pop, dance, house or hip hop mix”.
Produced by sound designer Niklas Flyckt (Britney Spears, Robyn,
Kylie Minogue, Girls Aloud, Rachel Stevens), it is a one-stop-shop for
instant drum production for contemporary pop, dance, house and hip
hop music. It has the popular Linn, TR 909, TR 808, DR 55 sounds as
well as Flyckt’s characteristic acoustic run through his signal chain of
SSL, tube vintage compressors and hard-to-find outboard gear.
Price: €69
Information: www.toontrack.com
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:48 PM Page 47
With growing interest among e-drummers in
VSTs, there are many little details that can make
the difference between fighting with technology
and mastering the tools. E-drum guru John
Emrich has kindly agreed to answer some of the
common questions.
Question: I notice that my VST has all
these mic setting and mixing options. I’m a
drummer not a sound engineer, so can I just
ignore all of that and choose some drums
and play?
Answer: Yes! All of the popular VST drum
programmes include presets. You can have
great results right away. All of the hard work
involving selecting mics, placement, and
proper recorded gain structure has been
taken care of. Don’t be scared of building
your own presets; it’s easy. This is a great
way to experiment and learn a little about
processing. All that really matters is that it
sounds good to you.
Question: I’m using ASIO drivers, but I
can’t seem to play audio from my computer
like music tracks to accompany my VST
drums. Am I doing something wrong, or do I
need some more gear to enable me to hear
both the VST sounds and audio from my
sound card?
Answer: ASIO drivers are an important
subject to understand. ASIO stands for
Audio Stream Input/Output. It is a driver
protocol for Windows-based machines that
allows the end-user to connect their
programmes to sound card hardware. It is
important to make sure that you have an
ASIO driver that allows for flexibility and
reduces latency. I recommend getting a free
copy of ASIO4ALL.
Playing audio, like that from a CD, at the
same time that you wish to play a VST drum
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
programme means you have two
applications sending info to your audio
interface. Some programmes will allow you
to have both going at the same time, but it
depends on the programmes. A better
option would be to get your hands on a
software Digital Audio Workstation
programme. Many of the well-known
software DAWs like Cubase AI5 have free,
feature-reduced versions. There are also
programmes like Reaper that cost very little.
Using a DAW programme like Cubase or
Reaper has a couple of benefits. Both of
these can work with ASIO4ALL and the
computer’s onboard sound card. You can
load in audio files that you want to play with
and learn a little about working with a DAW.
It really is simple. This will also allow you to
record yourself for fun. The key is that now
both the music and the VST drums are
running inside one programme and your
audio interface is only dealing with one
Another solution worth looking at is a
simple, inexpensive Audio/MIDI interface. I
recommend this route because it will be
better suited for your needs than using a
computer’s onboard sound card. This will
also generally give you better results
dealing with latency. The cool thing is that
most simple interfaces will include a free
version of a DAW. This kills two birds with
one stone.
○ Send your VST questions to
[email protected]
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:34 PM Page 48
For the record
When it comes to recording drum parts, there
are several options for electronic drums.
Simon Ayton runs through some of these.
IT WASN’T REALLY so long ago that multi-tracking
drums into a desktop or laptop computer was a
major ask for any machine, while purpose-built
multi-track machines were costly and offered little
editing possibilities themselves.
expanding computing power at our disposal to
record at potentially triple-digit sample AND bit
rates. But having the power to crunch those huge
numbers doesn’t necessarily aid the creative
process for an inspired drum part.
MIDI proved a great aid for keyboard players and
engineers, allowing the inter-connection and control
of instruments from different makers. It also allowed
large and complex arrangements to be recorded
and endlessly copied and edited using minimal
Let’s get straight to the positives and negatives of
recording electronic drums via MIDI and via audio…
Nowadays and off into the future, we’ll no doubt take
for granted that for modest dollars we’ll have ever48
Recording via Audio Outputs
Thumbs Up: Plug the kit into audio interface with
two leads (stereo, of course!), choose sounds,
decide on tempo, set recording level and then go for
it. I got it in one take, so time for another beer!
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 49
Thumbs Down: Listening back, the rest of the band
reckon I could have played it better. Kick drum too
quiet and not enough snap so gets buried in the
guitars. Snare also too quiet and could use a bit of
reverb. What was I thinking with those toms and
where’s that ride cymbal gone? Recording level also
too hot and some parts distorted. Need to organise
another recording session.
Recording via the MIDI output
Thumbs Up: Plug kit into MIDI interface with one
lead. No need to set recording level, decide on
sounds or even final song tempo. Start recording.
Recorded several takes as it hardly takes up any
hard drive space.
Got a great take but the timing of a couple of parts
wasn’t perfect, so fixed this using the note quantise
in the recording software. Found the perfect drum
sounds for the track using a combination of sounds
from the drum brain and some from virtual drum
software and was able to adjust their levels just right
for the song. Changed my mind in the mix and did
another version with different tom and snare
Thumbs Down: Need to know the difference
between MIDI Out and MIDI In.
Reality Check
Recording electronic drums - or for that matter any
audio mixed together, even in stereo - is a bit like
baking a cake. No matter what, once it’s baked, you
can’t change the amount of sugar or flour in it.
Even if your drum module allows multiple outputs
and you have recorded the drum kit instruments on
separate tracks, you still won’t be able to easily
substitute, tune or alter the sounds beyond their
original form without much work.
When recording via MIDI, you may still want to
bounce/mix the software drum sounds or the kit’s
audio output down to a stereo track for the final mix
with the rest of the music, but this can be done at
the very last stage - once all the creative polishing
and editing work has been done and the
performance and sound is as intended.
Great drum joy is to be had from pumping the MIDI
performance back into the kit’s MIDI In, amplifying
the sound into a room and micing the result to add
into the final mix too!
By the way, even a kit with only left and right outputs
can be recorded onto separate tracks one MIDI
instrument part (kick, then snare, then toms, etc.) at
a time.
Also, whereas recording audio consumes much
hard disk space, the data saved in MIDI recording is
miniscule in comparison. Entire multi-take MIDI
recordings can be sent via email easily as MIDI files
which remain completely editable at the receiver’s
end using whatever electronic drum hardware or
software they have.
For a blow-by-blow explanation on setting up for a
recording, laying down tracks and mixing the result,
I recommend you check out ‘Long Distance
Drumming’ (digitalDrummer, January 2010).
There’s also comprehensive info to be found on the
Internet on MIDI recording and most music
sequencing programmes have extensive help on the
subject , so uncurl that MIDI lead and give it a go!
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 50
Kits he p trigger
th se acoustics
They’re halfway between ready-made drum
pads and do-it-yourself triggers. They’re kits
that allow you to transform an acoustic shell
into an e-drum, and as Allan Leibowitz
found, they vary in price, ease-of-use and
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 51
digitalDrummer scoured the four corners of the globe to assemble a range of DIY kits.
Each was installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions into a 14” acoustic shell.
This size was chosen in the wake of our external trigger review because it sorts the men
from the boys. It’s relatively easy to trigger a small head, but with the larger sizes,
sensitivity can drop off at the extremities, and positional sensing – that change of the
tone as one moves from the centre of the drum towards the rims, emulating acoustic
drums - is more troublesome on bigger surfaces.
The converted drums were tested as snares, using a Roland TD-20 module with the
TDW-20 expansion card and the latest firmware, an older TD-6 and a 2box module.
Our digitalDrummer scorecard measured each kit against a number of criteria and in
each case, the top score is five and the worst is awarded one point. For ease of
construction, five points means easily done without tools or craft skills; four indicates that
some tools are required; three implies the need for removal and or replacement of some
drum parts (other than heads), two indicates the need for drilling or soldering and one
connotes the need for drilling/part replacement and soldering. The performance score is
an average (out of five points) across the three modules on which the triggers were
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 52
On the 2box, a fair amount of sensitivity boost was
required, while the threshold also had to be dropped
significantly, but once that was done, response and
dynamics were very good across the entire head.
Rim response was slightly subdued.
The 682Drums kit is certainly among the easiest to
install and the company also sells mesh heads and
rim silencers, so it is a one-stop-shop solution.
Price: € 55 ($79)
Ease of construction: 4
682Drums DT2-PRO
Non-invasiveness: 4
Late last year, digitalDrummer reviewed the nondestructive kit from European company 682Drums.
Performance: 3.66
The kit consists of a piezo and cone mounted on a
metal plate and attached to a sturdy black ribbon.
The ribbon is draped over the edges of the shell and
held in place by the head and rim – no other form of
attachment is required.
The 6.5 mm output jack can be mounted in the air
vent hole, or simply attached at the bottom of the
shell in bare-bottom drums.
682Drums also does a dual-zone version, with a
separate sensor that attaches to the shell. This is
not just a stick-on sensor, like the Quartz version,
but a solid-looking metal bracket which attaches to
one of the lug screws.
I found installation relatively easy, thanks to the
detailed instructions. Armed with my experience
from a previous review, installation of the ribbon was
easy when I used masking tape to hold the ribbons
in place as I centred the cone. No soldering is
required, and the kit includes bullet connectors to
link the sensors and the jack, neatly colour-coded
and snug fitting.
In TD-20 testing, the trigger needed a slight
sensitivity boost to get good responsiveness at the
extremities, but once tweaked, responsiveness and
dynamics were very good. Interestingly, like the
Quartz kit, the polarity of the head trigger needed to
be reversed (ie. the red connected to the black) to
get full positional sensing. Rim response was good
on the TD-20 without any adjustment, but ironically,
not quite as good on either of the other modules,
where adjustment was harder.
For the TD-6, it was necessary to revert to the
original polarity. Sensitivity needed to be
significantly boosted and threshold dropped to
achieve acceptable triggering, but even after
tweaking, the TD-6 struggled with some of the softer
hits at the extremities. Perhaps some adjustment of
the cone height might have improved the triggering,
but since the height worked fine for the TD-20 and
even the 2box, that’s debatable.
ddt Truss system
There probably isn’t an easier e-conversion kit out
there. The ddt Truss system consists of a one-piece
bridge that mounts straight onto the bearing edge
with no screws or attachments of any type. The
bridge is set at a perfect height for the inbuilt trigger
cone in the middle of its span, and it overlaps the
outside of the shell to reveal a stereo XRL jack on
the one side and a discrete counterbalance section
on the other.
Installation is totally simple: remove the acoustic
head, position the truss on the shell (preferably
between the lugs), slip a mesh head over it (and ddt
makes excellent white dual-ply heads as well),
replace the hoop and slip on a ddt rim silencer (sold
separately). The ingenious system is totally simple
and completely reversible and one has to wonder
who would take up ddt’s custom install option.
The rim trigger is built-in and kits are available in all
sizes from 8” to 22”. All kits include a quality 4.5 m
XLR–jack cable.
Set-up was as simple with only minor tweaking
required on the TD-20 module. The stock PD125
setting worked better than the 125X, but did require
a couple of clicks of sensitivity boost and some rim
Triggering was responsive across the whole head
and around the entire rim. Tracking and dynamic
response were excellent, although for some reason,
positional sensing worked far better in PD125 mode
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 53
than with the PD125X setting. The module’s position
detecting meter hardly moved in X mode, but
followed the triggering in the 125 setting.
On the TD-6, there was also a need for a slight
sensitivity nudge, although the rim setting needed
no adjustment for good triggering.
The ddt trigger was plug and play on stock pad12
setting on the 2box, with excellent responsiveness
across the head and the rim.
The downside: this is clearly the most expensive
option available, but if you were triggering a good
quality acoustic kit, you probably wouldn’t bat an
eyelid. Also, to its credit, the kit comes with a threeyear warranty.
Price: €159 ($225)
Ease of construction: 5
Non-invasiveness: 5
Performance: 4.3
Musician Near You rail system
This kit is available online from the US and consists
of a rail attached to two brackets which overhang
the bearing edge. It’s a budget version of the ddt
Truss and requires no hardware removal. There are
just two screws to tighten once the mounting
brackets have been fully extended. In my case, I
needed to bend the fittings with pliers to get them to
fit over the edge.
The trigger assembly ends in a Neutric stereo inline
jack which may or may not fit in your drum’s airhole.
If not, you’ll need to widen that until it fits – or use a
bottomless shell.
One installation tip you won’t find in the instructions:
make sure you position the hooks over your lugs. I
tried the rail between lugs and the hooks distorted
the mesh head hoop on three different heads,
making it impossible to tighten. However, when
aligned with the lugs, it came together easily (there,
just saved you 15 minutes and maybe the vendor
will add that to his instructions!).
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 54
For some reason, the instructions advise you to
move the trigger pyramid assembly off centre, which
I did.
When connected to the Roland TD-20 module, the
trigger responded well with PD125X settings,
needing only one click of sensitivity boost and about
the same rim gain as most of the other kits.
Performance was surprisingly good. The trigger was
responsive all the way to the rim. Triggering was
even all around the rim, and tracking and dynamics
were very good. Positional sensing was up there
with the other samples, the only slight issue being a
difficulty in getting ‘distant” hits on the side closest to
the trigger and a slight loss of response on the
opposite far corner. Again, I’m puzzled by the offcentre position.
It’s almost as if the unit was designed for the TD-6
because it needed absolutely no adjustment on this
module. Response and dynamics were very good almost to the extremities of the head, and rim
triggering was excellent.
On the 2box, quite a lot of tweaking – reduced gain,
reduced threshold and alternation of the curve - was
required to produce passable, but not brilliant,
triggering and the rim response was useless unless
struck very close to the sensor.
At $30 plus postage, this is one of the cheapest
solutions and its other clear advantage is that it has
minimal impact on the shell – none if you’re using a
bottomless shell or if you have a generous airhole
(or your shell does, at least).
Price: $30
Ease of construction: 4
Non-invasiveness: 4
Performance: 3.33
Pintech AcousTech kit
American e-drum maker Pintech has been
producing its conversion kits for many years, usually
performing conversions in-house. However, growing
demand from international distributors and from
DIYers has seen the company offer the kits as a
self-install product.
The kit is based on the components used in
Pintech’s ready-made drums and includes a bridge
assembly, head and rim piezos and a foam column,
and buyers are able to specify cable length and jack
One word of warning: read the instructions before
jumping in or you may end up with the bridge upside
down! Installation requires the removal of the top
screw from each lug and mounting the bridge, which
comes in three sections and fits a range of shell
sizes by simply sliding the two end bits under the
middle section. The piezo and sensor column are
then attached, using the premounted adhesive
strips, and the jack is then threaded through the
airhole, which may require widening of the opening.
The rim sensor is mounted on a metal strip that
needs to be attached to a lug screw somewhere
near the bottom of the drum. No soldering is
required, with all the electrical bits simply clipping
together – and actually staying clipped in! Just make
sure you have attached everything correctly by
tapping the sensors before putting back the mesh
head (which is available from Pintech) and the hoop.
On the TD-20, triggering was excellent on default
PD125 settings. Positional sensing was spot-on,
and the tracking and dynamics were faultless.
However, the rim trigger was quite hot and rim
sensitivity needed to be reduced a fair bit.
The Pintech trigger was fairly comfortable on the
TD-6, needing just a bit of sensitivity reduction, but
that did reduce the responsiveness at the very
extremities of the head, so it was a bit of a
compromise between dynamics and use of the
whole playing surface, especially as the rim
triggering was quite hot and miss-hits at the edges
easily triggered rim responses.
On the 2box, it was a battle to dial this trigger in.
Ironically, rim response was great, but I had to
virtually push all the adjustments to the limits to get
reasonable triggering, and the best results were
using the Kick 2 settings. This resulted in very
limited dynamics, with every stroke basically
sounding like the drum was being bashed full bore.
Besides the trigger kit and mesh heads, Pintech
also sells rim silencers.
Price: $56
Ease of construction: 3
Non-invasiveness: 4
Performance: 3.5
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 55
dynamics were good, but rim sensitivity was a bit on
the low side.
Of course, the price tag and non-invasiveness make
this an appealing option, especially for those just
testing the water and not wanting to spend too
Price: $25
Ease of construction: 4
Non-invasiveness: 4
Quartz trigger harness
Performance: 3.66
Canadian DIY supplier Quartz Percussions recently
added a suspended trigger system to its line-up.
The $25 dual-zone kit consists of a trigger assembly
attached to three Velcro straps, a stick-on rim piezo
and a jack fitted with spade connectors. Quartz does
two versions of the system – one with a cone for
snares and one with a flat-topped column for toms.
We tested the former.
The assembly takes a few minutes and requires the
removal of the head and hoop, placement of the
harness on the reverse side, tightening the straps
and putting the head back on. Finding the right
position for the plastic buckles is a bit hit and miss,
and I had to try a couple of times to get the right
tension. Some drilling may be required for the jack
mount, although it may just fit in some of the more
generous airholes.
The sensors are connected to the jack with spade
fittings which are easy to apply, but did come loose
a couple of times during testing. I guess I need to
learn to push harder!
When connected to the Roland TD-20 module, the
trigger responded well with PD125X settings,
needing only one click of sensitivity boost and about
the same rim gain as most of the other kits. We also
needed to reverse the polarity from the
recommended connections to get positional sensing
to work, but work it did. And adjusting the polarity
was a cinch, as the connectors simply clip into the
sturdy 6.5 mm jack assembly. Overall, performance
was very good, with good response, tracking and
dynamics and sensitivity to the very edge of the
head. Rim triggering was excellent and, in fact,
needed to be adjusted downwards.
On the TD-6, the trigger needed a bit of a sensitivity
boost and increased threshold levels to produce
accurate triggering across the head. Rim sensitivity
was a bit on the low side.
The Quartz kit also needed a sensitivity boost and
threshold adjustment on the 2box’s stock pad12
setting. Once dialled in, responsiveness and
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
TSK Trigger System
This kit is available from German online dealer
Handlesbau and ships totally unassembled – a
bunch of frame arms, a cradle-type assembly, a
couple of piezos (one attached to a cone) and an
XLR socket.
It looks easy to put together, but in fact this project
took a couple of hours.
If you follow the instructions, the process starts with
drilling holes between each pair of lug holes for the
mounting arms. There is another way of doing this,
but it’s subject to some legal wrangling, so we don’t
go there.
With the arms attached, the platform is then
screwed into the arms and the piezos attached. The
cone goes on the top and the rim sensor either on
the bottom or on the shell. Here, we struck the first
challenge – the rim sensor wire was too short to
reach from the centre of the platform to the jack, so
we needed to solder additional lengths on.
Additional hurdles for the craft-challenged would be
soldering the leads to the XLR sockets – even
though the jack is actually numbered. And then
there’s the issue of drilling a hole for the chunky
connector. Although the makers do supply a
template, many wouldn’t have the tools to do it
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 56
neatly, nor would they necessarily want to
permanently take a big chunk out of the shell –
especially if there’s a chance the kit may again be
used acoustically.
In our case, we opted to use a standard quarter-inch
stereo jack instead.
The final step is adjusting the cone height – a
relatively easy task, using the nuts on mounting
bolts to raise or lower the “table”. The difficulty is
believing the instruction that the cone height should
not exceed “1mm beyond the drum edge” – way
lower than the traditional wisdom of at least an
eighth of an inch (or 3mm).
When it was all wired up, the snare needed almost
no module tweaking from the 125X setting on the
Responsiveness was excellent across the head –
even at the extremities, and positional detection was
spot-on. Tracking and dynamic response were
excellent, and rim sensitivity was great without any
adjustment. So, the cone height instruction was not
as bizarre as it might seem. And that’s because the
cone is a little shorter than most and blunter at the
tip. The material does produce a slight hot spot on
the cone tip, but it was certainly playable without
being distracting.
The snare was harder to dial in on the TD-6 module,
and even after tinkering, performance was less than
Similarly, on the 2box module, no acceptable level
of triggering could be obtained, even after extensive
adjustments, using a range of pad settings. In short,
the snare was just too hot.
The manufacturers admit this is not a kit for DIYphobics and stress that they’ve left out some labour
to keep prices down.
Price: €39,95 ($57) for the platform and €9.95 ($14)
for the six arms.
Ease of construction: 1
Non-invasiveness: 2
Performance: 2.6 (due to the low score on the
Performance: 4
The verdict
This review probably revealed more about the
trigger tolerance of modules than about the DIY
kits themselves. The enormous tweakability of
modules like the TD-20 means that acceptable
performance can be achieved from almost any
trigger. The 2box module is very fussy and
some triggers just couldn’t be made to work
acceptably in the time allocated for this project.
Perhaps the next software upgrade will make
the unit more accommodating.
The ddt Truss system ticks a lot of the boxes –
easy to install, excellent performance across all
three tests, no impact on the shell and
availability of matched heads and rim silencer,
but it comes at a hefty price.
The Pintech system is a solid performer that’s
relatively easy to install and looks built to last –
at a reasonable price. It uses the same design
you’ll find in Pintech’s drums, and has
replaceable components if anything ever goes
wrong. But it won’t suit 2box owners.
The two suspended trigger systems – Quartz
and 682Drums – are relatively versatile and
easy to install at reasonable prices and with
good performance, depending on the module
with which they’re expected to work. I preferred
the connectors and sturdy rim sensor on the
Dutch offering, but the Canadian certainly wins
on price.
The TSK trigger really performed on the TD-20,
but at a cost and with some DIY skills required
to install. It would also not be much use for
2box owners.
And if you’re using a TD-6 module, there
certainly is no need to look beyond the budget,
easy-to-install Musician Near You kit. Some
people have turned their noses up at this
product, but it was certainly no slouch in
digitalDrummer’s testing, especially paired
with the older module.
So, for those who want to use acoustic shells,
there’s plenty of choice and a number of good
performers at all pricepoints. These triggers
generally performed as well as or better than
external triggers because they are centrally
located on the head, rather than mounted near
the rim. They are also out of harm’s way and
can’t be struck and damaged during play. But
they may require some drilling of the shell,
which might not be acceptable to some.
Highest quality 24 Bit sounds.
4gb of internal Memory. Use
Mesh, Rubber or Real Heads.
Edit all sounds on your MAC or
PC. Create your own sounds
from the software provided or
upload from other sources via
USB. Trigger different sounds
from the rim or the head. Eight
assignable outputs.
2BOX Kit shown with
real Drum Heads fitted.
Individual items now
on SALE separately.
2BOX Module,
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 58
Positional sensing
made easy
Whether you’re building a trigger from scratch or doing a
home repair, digitalDrummer can help. Philippe
Decuyper will find the answers to your DIY dilemmas.
Just email your questions to
[email protected] This month’s question
is from Kaushik Nilakant: “I am a little lost over how
positional detection/sensing works on Roland drum
modules, and how the configuration of piezos contributes
to that effect.”
THE THEORY BEHIND positional sensing has been
overviewed in a previous issue of digitalDrummer.
To recap, let’s say that a piezo placed in a crossbartype trigger with mesh head receives more bass
frequencies (long waves) if a strike occurs next to it.
If this piezo is placed right in the centre of such a
trigger, it will then get more bass on a centred hit
and less bass from the edge.
Let’s get into details now…
In order to detect the position of a hit, a module
must analyse the produced waveform. It needs to
know how much bass there is in the signal from a
piezo which is used as a microphone.
Analysing frequencies can be done using various
methods. Some methods are very precise but need
a lot of costly mathematical operations (if you are
curious enough, you can search the web for “Fast
Fourier Transform”). The basic requirement is fast
response to avoid latency.
Roland owns a patent (US patent #7385135) which
describes the extremely fast method it uses:
“Namely, when detection (of the) signal of the
head sensor in the case when the head,
composed of a net-like raw material, is ...
observed, there is such a characteristic that a
first half-wave time changes dependent on a
position of percussion point in a certain
frequency band.”
Ouch! What does it mean?
It means that what’s coming from a piezo must be
cleaned up to be useful (“a certain frequency band”)
and that the module just needs to know how long it
takes for this clean signal to go from 0 volts to 0
volts as soon as a hit occurs (“first half-wave time”).
We can then imagine how our module works:
Our piezo starts to produce enough electricity…
-> a hit is occurring
…wait until the signal goes back to 0 volts.
-> then we can know how strong this hit was
(from the voltage “peak”) and how far from the
centre it was (from the elapsed time).
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 59
The signal produced by our piezo must be filtered so
the module can detect position from this signal.
Practical considerations for the DIYer
The cleaner the piezo signal, the more effective the
detection of the position.
Even if a piezo is a bad microphone, we can help it
to co-operate with a module.
Like a guitar, shielding the wire to
which our piezo is attached will
reduce useless noise. If you do
not use a shielded wire to connect
your piezo to the trigger’s socket,
interlacing both negative and
positive wires can also help to get
a cleaner signal.
Roland triggers feature an inverse
polarity, so it is usually a good idea to
link the ceramic part of your piezo to
the “sleeve” (ground) part of your jack
socket, and the brass part of your piezo
to the “tip” (positive) part of your jack
socket. This way, the first half-wave
produced by your piezo will be negative,
which may be important in the context of
the waveform analysis job performed by
your module.
Piezo transducers have different
properties and some may not get the exact
frequencies a Roland module needs to detect the
position of your hits. You’ll need to change a piezo
for a different one if positional sensing does not
work with it.
Positional sensing from the rim piezo
As far as I know, Roland modules do not appear to
work this way. Some may think it is implemented like
that because some Roland modules are able to
differentiate “open” and “shallow” rim shots.
However, the rim piezo is usually used as a binary
switch (rimshot or not
Velocity and position are
always processed from the
head piezo.
Some non-Roland and
many home-made modules
or software add-ons may use a two-piezo
position detection approach,
probably because:
• The first half-wave method needs
the piezo signal to be filtered
properly (extra filters and fine
tuning needed).
• Roland triggers are produced
in series with the same type
of piezo featuring specific
properties (Roland module
algorithms are made to
work with Roland triggers)
while home-made or other
brand triggers may not
provide the signal a Roland
module expects to work with.
• The first half-wave method is patented by Roland.
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 60
This month’s monster is a custom-built Diamond Electronics Drums kit
crafted for Jeremy Godwin in Sydney, Australia.
Academically qualified musician Jeremy
Godwin exchanged “hundreds of emails” with
Diamond to get everything customised. The
specifications covered everything from the birch
shells to the burr veneer, the size and location
of the lugs and a first for Diamond – removable
Hybrid Kit Setup:
Dual-zone toms: Two 8”x6”; two 10”x7.5”;
12”x9” and 14”x12” (all Birch core with Maple
inner/outer face )
Snares: 10”x6.2” and 12”x5.5” 4-ply vertical
grain Birch core with 2-ply Maple inner/outer
face, both with snare beds
Bass: 20”x18” 4-ply vertical grain Birch core
with 2-ply Maple inner/outer face and Poplar
veneered Maple Hoops
All drums with outer ply of Poplar Burr Cluster
Snare drums fitted with gold Trick throw-offs.
All drums fitted with gold iso mounts and drumtec 2-ply mesh heads .
Roland VH12 hi-hat
Roland CY15R ride
Kit-Toys 14” crash (x2)
Kit-Toys 13” crash (x2)
Kit-Toys 12” crash (x2)
Audio Hardware:
Roland TD-20X module, M-Audio Fast Track
Ultra 8R Audio/MIDI interface
Pearl 503c three-sided curved rack
Pearl RH-2000 Remote Hi Hat
DW 8002B Longboard Double Kick Pedal
If you have a monster, email [email protected]
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 61
Jeremy with his kit (above).
All the drums feature a unique
removable trigger system for easy
conversion to an acoustic kit (right).
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
For their own safety,
digitalDrummer advises impulse
purchase-prone readers to avoid
this feature.
Lots of gold hardware on the snares
and toms (below).
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:36 PM Page 62
gear Guide
The Cowpaddy
Electronic Drum Accessory
The Cowpaddy is an Accessory Drum Trigger
that can fit just about anywhere without
having to rearrange your set. The
Cowpaddy is made of a foam that is
rubber coated, so its easy on the
Wrists and Hands. With 1/4" Mono Jack
Cable or the Optional Stereo "Y" cable, it can
be used as the Main or Auxiliary Trigger from any Dual
Trigger input on your Module. The Cowpaddy can be
attached to any Rack Mount L-Rods or Cymbal stands up to
1/2" in Diameter. Choose between a single Cowpaddy or a
special Dual Cowpaddy
Drum Trigger Accessory,
complete with "Y"
Cable. And now the
Hand Drum, Dual Cowpaddy
Cowabongo allows you to have a Hand Drum incorporated
with your Electronic Set.
To order, email [email protected]
Acoustic elegance
Stealth electronics
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 11/07/11 9:22 AM Page 63
gear Guide
VDrumLib allows you to create
custom drum kit libraries for your
Roland V-Drum module. The same
simple user interface is employed for all
of the following Roland V-Drum
TD-3, TD-6, TD-8, TD-9, TD-10,
TD-10EXP, TD-12, TD-20 & TDW-20
VDrumLib is trialware, so it is FREE
for you to try. If you wish to continue
using it beyond the 10-day trial period, a
license can be purchased for US$19.99.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:36 PM Page 64
gear Guide
To order in Australia, click here
digitalDrummer cable label
sheets are running out at just
$5 each (including postage).
Your ad here
for less than $200
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:36 PM Page 65
--contributors-Let’s hear it for the band ...
digitalDrummer is a combined effort, bringing together the expertise and experience of electronic
drummers, industry professionals and experienced writers. Here are some of the people who
made this edition happen ...
Simon Ayton is the V-Drums and percussion specialist for Roland Australia. He
began drumming in 1983 and trained as an audio engineer. Simon’s drumming
can be heard on more than two dozen albums and film soundtracks, ranging from
metal to electronic and folk, and he is currently working on two new solo albums.
He shares his intimate knowledge of module-tweaking and amplification.
Philippe Decuyper, a.k.a. PFozz, is the founder of the Edrum For Free website.
He has consulted to Toontrack since 2005, specialising in electronic drums, and
is also the founder of eaReckon, a small independent audio software company
which launched in 2009 and recently debuted its BIoXpander MIDI solution.
PFozz answers readers’ DIY questions in each edition.
John Emrich specialises in live and studio drumming, music production services,
drum programming, original scores and arrangements, sound design and jingles,
remote recording and event support, digital editing and mixing and product
development, and has been responsible for many award-winning sample libraries
for the BFD2 platform as well as sound development for drum modules.
Allan Leibowitz founded digitalDrummer in 2010, drawing on a long-time
interest in percussion, many years of media experience including stints reviewing
everything from sports cars to restaurants, and a love of gadgets. His interest in
e-drums is not just academic and he tests gear in the real world as a drummer for
gigging tribute/oldies band, City Limits.
Chris Whitten is a British session drummer who has recorded and toured with
Paul McCartney and Dire Straits. He has also recorded with Tom Jones, Johnny
Cash, The Pretenders, ABC and The The. Whitten has just completed The
Classic EZX for Toontrack. Now based in Sydney, Australia, he has also worked
on film and television scores.
digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2011
ddAug2011v2_Layout 1 9/07/11 1:35 PM Page 57
Missed a review?
Using the search function and the archive option, you can
search back issues for any content, including our reviews
and head-to-head comparisons.
Here is a summary of our reviews to date:
January 2010:
October 2010
Yamaha DTX M-12
Roland HPD-10
Korg Wavedrum
Roland TD-8
682Drums e-conversion kit
Amps and Powered Speakers
Double pedals
April 2010
Notation software
February 2011
Diamond Electronic Drums 12” snare
Crappy Triggers external triggers
Jman cymbal conversion kit
E-cymbals (stick noise)
Cymbal VSTs – Bosphorus vs Zildjian
Mesh heads
May 2011
July 2010
DrumIt Five 2box kit
External Triggers
Auxiliary triggers
E-cymbals (crashes)
Your definitive guide to e-drum gear