Friday, October 12, 2007

Roland Drum Kit

The news

Recently I've got my "Roland TD-20 Pro" drum kit. Finally!.. 8-)

Why "Roland"

The decision was made actually after really long research and sniffing around over all kits available. Basically there was two kits competitive against each other: Roland V-Drums and Yamaha DTX. Everything else is just really a joke in compare to those two.

I used many ways and criteria shuffling together to find the kit: get features first, then price; get price first, then features and so on. At the very end of each iteration I always end up with Roland — wanted it or not.

It is the very true: you get exactly what you pay for. If you pay a little, you will get cheap thing and as result you will barely enjoy cheap stuff. Roland kit is great example of this rule. This kit offers you excellent design and extremely close feeling to real acoustic kit. It is built that solid and pads are mostly metallic.

Sound is very natural and really very close to real acoustic kit. Once you close your eyes and listening, you will have hard time to distinguish it from real drums. Pads are very responsive and never (again: NEVER) cross-talk to each other, no matter how strongly I hit them. Even I hit stand — it still never cause a cross-talk from one pad to another. Sweet.

Hi-hat is a killer of all other manufacturer's hi-hats. Here is nothing much to say: simply resembles real hi-hat with real touch and feel. Apart from you can open/close it, you can also tightly close it (sound changes as on real hi-hat) and you can semi-open it, or open for 3/4 or 1/4... It all realistic. If you play very sensitive jazz or you need semi-opened hi-hat for your hard rock — you will understand what I am talking about.

Cymbals are awesome. They are very responsive. They never overlap each other's sound. Their bell/bow/edge/chop techniques are just natural in its behavior.

Mesh pads itself feels like real drums. I expected a bit effect of "tennis racket", when stick is bounced back too fast and too strongly. However, it is not like this at all. Amazed.

Why not something else

So the only competitor from other companies was the only one line of e-drums: "Yamaha DTX". I've tried shortly look at Alesis and other vendors, but left those products very shortly.

Seriously reviewed was three models: DTXPlorer, DTXPress III and DTXPress IV. I have to say, for it is not bad kits either if you looking with policy of "price first, then features". All DTX modules are really sophisticated, having nice and clean interface to operate them. You can never read any documentation about the module synth and just start working with that very quickly.

DTXPlorer. Very basic. Pads are single-triggered, except hi-hat, double-triggered. Module is very simple, sounds are basic, editing is minimal.

DTXPress III/IV. Still basic. Pads are same as DTXPlorer, just snare is tree-zone pad. However, I disliked "natural" hi-hat of Yamaha DTXPress IV. First, it is too noisy as for practice — neighbors will not enjoy your playing, I am sure. I also not-so-much liked snare. Snares are zone-defined, not trigger-driven, where different sounds are mixing together to produce third sound in result, depending on the velocity of the triggers on the pad. It means, that you can attach different waves to different zones and whatever you play — they will respond with originally attached sounds. This is cool, cheap hack to simulate rim-shots and so forth, but yet not enough to feel real drum kit, if you need to...

Additionally, DTXPress IV expected to be better than DTXPress III, as never version of the same level. However, the MIDI is only "OUT", but "IN" — gone in piece... How to trigger this kit from an external sequencer?!

DTXPress III actually discontinued...

DTXTreme II. Discontinued. I never been able to find this one somewhere and put my sticks on it. But as far as I can see, hi-hat is the same, all pads are three-zones triggers and sounds are pretty same as in DTXPress IV, with the only ability to make samples. This winter Yamaha maybe will introduce any better kit?

My personal overall summary for all existing Yamaha drums are below.

  • Pads has nice responsive rubber.
  • Nice sounds.
  • I love those large cymbals! I want them for same size for Roland kit! Why Roland makes cymbals so ridiculously small in diameter? 15" for Ride? 8" for Dark China?.. You kiddin me?...
  • Pretty cheap!
  • Very noisy kick pad.
  • Very-very noisy tom pads.
  • Very-very-very noisy hi-hat pad.
  • Sounds still has plastic taste at their background and, frankly, too "Nintendoish". So far...
  • No MIDI "IN", only MIDI "OUT". That sucks.
  • Quite minimum in editing sounds, quite small memory.
  • 32 note polyphony sounds sad. Even after editing the kit to increase polyphony, still when I've played DTX IV, I found that in some cases next sound erases previous one. So if to hit a cymbal (crash or chine, for example) strong-then-weak, it is quite often happes then previous strong sound was totally erased by following weak one. That sucks too.
  • Who use those GMs?..
If you:
  1. Living in your own house
  2. Need a kit for just practice or not serious gigs
  3. Consider a price first of all and looking for "cheap first"
...then DTX line is for you. It is good kit for beginners and advanced hobbyists.


The very top minority is kit's price. Yes, it is expensive. It is VERY expensive...

Another minority that this kit is not an "unfold-connect-play" while assembling it. For me, to assemble mine, took "just" 7 hours in a raw from the pile of new boxes brought from the shop, to end up with clean room and assembled kit working. Size of this hardware is also not small. Drum set is quite bulky to move, heavy to drag and big enough to occupy majority of the space in the room. Once installed, forget about beautiful feel of your well-designed room: kit widely contains massive amount of black striped pieces of rubber, blocks of metal, heavy-looking main frame for all pads and quite bulky synthesizer (drums brain). All these details will strike out your home feelings entirely. If you are married: try setup your wife to do not enter your room ever (for her own safety to do not get shocked). :-)

Maybe some more minority will be synthesizer navigation and how it works. For me, who IT guy, it is well-understandable and pretty fine. But for those, who not "well-computerized" this module might look bit odd and difficult to learn. Navigation is not that simple and module itself is not that intuitive to understand without reading the manual. Good side of this module that it can do really a lot! — exactly enough for upcoming 5-10 years to work with.

Well, but majority of the instrument is actually everything else you can think about. This electric kit brings you much more that you can expect from an electric kit actually.

Moreover, if you want really good kit, you will spend approximately same amount of money for same real custom acoustic kit, frankly talking. Along with the disadvantage practicing at home for the acoustic kit is actually an acoustic kit, you will also have to beer with the fact for acoustic cymbals are changing their sound with the time, cracks etc. To get same amount of sounds, you will need to buy new apartment only for the kit and running around, while performing. :-)


Roland kit is pricey. But if you look for professional e-kit for gigs, quiet home practicing, studio records, live perfomance — there is nothing else better-or-same... Roland kit is winner here, hands down.

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