Holiday 2012: Electronic Drum Kits from Alesis, Roland & Yamaha

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This holiday article takes a look at some of the most popular electronic drum kits from three of the most widely respected electronic drum kit manufacturers—Alesis, Roland and Yamaha. These nine kits cover everything from the most affordable beginner kits up through high-end professional kits. While there are several differences including pad types, modules and pedals, all nine of these kits are designed for practicing, performing and for use as MIDI controllers for your DAW software. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, be sure to check the B&H website for a full list of electronic drum kits.

Alesis DM10 Studio Kit

The Alesis DM10 Studio Kit is a professional, six-piece electronic drum kit that follows in the footsteps of the DM10 Pro Kit. It features the same high-end, high-definition DM10 drum module that revolutionized the electronic drum industry. The DM10 drum module is the first module that allowed new drum sounds to be entered into it via USB, which opened up countless ways to enjoy, practice and play along with your electronic drums. The DM10 module is loaded with drum, cymbal and percussion sounds that were mostly built from real samples of classic drum kits and storied cymbals from Turkey, China, the USA and Canada. Plus, the drum module includes several classic drum-machine samples used by popular artists worldwide. The module affords iPad connectivity (via Apple adapter) as well, and you can also play along with CDs and MP3s, thanks to the module’s mix input.

The DM10 module forms high-quality drum sounds by using multiple dynamic-level samples. Essentially, when you hit the pad hard, the sounds layer on top of each other to make a rich, full hit, but when you hit the pad softly with more touch and feel, the sample is soft since there are fewer layers involved. This engineered realism changes the timbre of each sound, rather than just the volume. This technology—created by Alesis—is known as Dynamic Articulation. The module also supports a variety of rim shots, clicks and subtle stick placement hits on the cymbals. You can also use it as a trigger-to-MIDI interface for performing and tracking with software drum modules. It features 12 trigger inputs, which is enough to create custom configurations as well. The DM10 drum module is equipped with 100 preset kits consisting of 1,047 uncompressed 16-bit samples. There are also 75 preset sequencer patterns and 25 user patterns. All kits and patterns can be overwritten via USB.

The rest of the DM10 Studio Kit features four low-noise cymbals including a DMPad 12-inch hi-hat, a DMPad 12-inch crash, a DMPad 14-inch triple-zone ride and a DMPad 12-inch cymbal. It also features a RealHead 10-inch snare, a RealHead kick pad and four 8-inch toms. The snare, kick and toms are all dual-zone pads with Mylar heads for a realistic feel. The DM10 Studio Kit is all held together by the Alesis StageRack, which has a durable four-post design built with industry-standard 1.5-inch tubing. Even Keith Moon couldn’t beat this drum set into pieces. The whole rack is fully adjustable and requires no tools to make most of the adjustments. Plus, the StageRack is large enough to add more drums—even acoustic drums—onto your electronic kit. The DM10 Studio Kit is a solid choice and the Alesis Dynamic Articulation creates a realism that can be heard in each drum, but it can also be heard especially well in the decay of the cymbals, which fade naturally, rather than being “choked” out.

Alesis DM10 X Kit

The DM10 X Kit is another electronic drum kit from Alesis that uses the groundbreaking DM10 drum module. The rest of the kit features a DMPad 12-inch hi-hat, two DMPad 14-inch crash cymbals, a DMPad 16-inch three-zone ride, two RealHead 10-inch toms, two RealHead 12-inch toms, a RealHead kick pad and a RealHead 12-inch snare pad. Besides the Dynamic-Articulation, USB connectivity and excellent preset sounds, the DM10 drum module also features a large contrast-adjustable backlit graphic display and a menu system that is easily accessible. There are six mixer faders as well, which have two banks (A/B) that give you control over the volume of 12 separate voices. Plus, most of the module’s high-end samples are uncompressed, which allows the drummer to add several effects including compression, reverb, EQ and more. You can also back up the entire module’s personal settings via computer so you’ll never lose them. The module affords accurate tracking as well, with an ultra-wide dynamic range.

The X Kit is held together by the new XRack, which is large enough to provide each pad with proper spacing. This makes it play and feel more like an acoustic drum kit. Like the Studio Kit, the X Kit only includes a RealHat hi-hat pedal, which means that you can pick out the perfect kick pedal for your style of playing or you can just use the kick pedal from your acoustic kit. Plus, the XRack is durable, chrome-plated and features a solid four-post design with quick-release clamps that lock each pad in place, while also allowing you to make adjustments in seconds—all without tools. The clamps are easily released by twisting T-bolts. And, the X Kit’s snare pad is equipped with its own fully adjustable snare stand, which like an acoustic drum set, allows you to position the snare at the height and exact location you want. This flexibility and easy adjustability really sets the XRack apart from other electronic drum frames.

Alesis DM6 USB Kit

The last Alesis electronic drum kit that we’ll look at in this holiday article is the DM6 USB Kit, which features a new DM6 drum module with 108 high-quality drum, cymbal and percussion sounds. One major difference between this kit and the other Alesis kits mentioned above is that the DM6 USB Kit features natural rubber drum pad and cymbal surfaces. Now, you might think this would give the kit a less realistic feel, but having played both the Mylar and rubber kits, I find the more economical rubber surfaces to be at least as accurate, with a response that resembles an acoustic set just as closely as the Mylar surfaces. So, it’s really a matter of taste because both surfaces are excellent. The Mylar and mesh surfaces are usually quieter as well.

The DM6 USB Kit includes a DMPad kick pad with stand, a DMPedal single kick pedal, a DMHat Pedal hi-hat pedal, a DMPad 12-inch hi-hat, a DMPad 12-inch ride, a DMPad 12-inch crash cymbal, three DMPad 8-inch single-zone toms and a DMPad 8-inch dual-zone snare pad that can support two sounds, such as a snare sound in the middle and a rim shot or cowbell sound around the edge. Although this kit does include a kick pedal, it’s still compatible with any other single or double kick pedal, so you can use your own from your acoustic drum kit or purchase one that matches your style of play more accurately. The DM6 USB Kit is held together with a strong and lightweight aluminum rack with industry-standard 1.5-inch tubing, which ensures that you’ll be able to add on with Alesis or other brands’ clamps, mounts and accessories. Plus, it comes with all the hardware and cables needed to set up and start playing immediately.

The DM6 drum module, while not as expansive as the DM10, still features several tools including a USB output for MIDI drumming. Plus, the module also features 10 preset kits and five custom slots where you can create custom kits. The module is equipped with a headphone output for practicing in private and an amplifier output for hooking up an amp and drumming loudly. You can connect your iPod or CD player as well, which you can then mix into your drum track with the module’s stereo input and play along to your favorite songs. The DM6 module also features a metronome and built-in sequencer with 40 preset music tracks you can play along with. You can even connect your iPad and use the drum kit with apps. However, an Apple 30-Pin to USB Adapter or Lightning to USB Adapter (both sold separately) is required.

Roland HD-3

Roland is another long-time electronic drum kit manufacturer with a solid reputation. Drummers of every playing style and genre will find something attractive about Roland’s HD-3 V-Drums Lite electronic drum kit, which offers an affordable and versatile introduction to the popular Roland V-Drum series. The HD-3 kit is designed for all levels of drummers and gamers. It’s powerful enough and expressive enough for skilled drummers, while still offering a compact footprint and user-friendly interface that’s ideal for beginners and gamers that want to slide the drum kit out of the way when they’re done using it.

The HD-3 module features 20 patterns and 20 preset kits with user-friendly, dedicated select buttons and an easy-to-read backlit LCD. It also features a metronome with three selectable sounds, 10 volume levels and a tempo range from 40 to 250 BPM. There’s a headphone jack, a stereo amp output jack, a MIDI output connector, a trigger cable connector and a mix input jack. The mix input jack allows you to connect a CD player or MP3 player so you can play along with your favorite tracks using either headphones or an amplifier. The module controls include ten kit buttons, an easily accessible volume knob, a metronome button and more.

The HD-3 kit is part of Roland’s V-Drum series, which means that it features renowned cloth-head tom pads that respond surprisingly like acoustic drum heads. The kit also features a cloth head, dual-trigger snare pad with two zones for multiple sounds. The ride cymbal pad is also a dual-trigger pad, which supports subtle changes in sound, depending on where you strike the pad. The HD-3 is outfitted with a beater-less kick pedal as well, which affords both low acoustic noise and tight, responsive playability. The other advantage to having the HD-3 kit is its compatibility with other V-Drum series accessories including Roland’s PM-03 Personal Drum Monitor, the DAP-1 V-Drums Accessory Package and the TDM-1 Secure-Performance Drum Mat.

Roland TD-11K V-Compact Series

The next step in the popular Roland V-Drums is the TD-11K V-Compact Series, which features the same SuperNATURAL sound engine with Behavior Modeling that was originally featured in their flagship TD-30KV kit. Now the TD-11K provides a more affordable option with the same innovative sound technology and ultra-fast triggering response. The TD-11K’s combination of affordability and drummer-friendly technology makes it a good choice for a host of applications including practice, teaching, recording and live performances. Plus, the TD-11 drum module’s sound library features a sweeping range of musical genres that is sure to keep a wide variety of users occupied for both performance and practice drumming.

Besides a diverse sound library and a SuperNATURAL sound engine, the TD-11 drum module also features professionally recorded backing songs in a variety of musical styles and a USB function that affords direct connectivity with computer applications for MIDI drumming, data storage for backing up your custom kits and files, and audio playback of WAV and MP3 files. The TD-11 module also supports several practice features including a Quick Record / Quick Play function and a unique COACH function that provides lessons to improve the skills of all drummers, no matter their ability level. The module is equipped with a large, easy-to-read LCD with an icon based user interface as well, which supports easy and quick operation.

The TD-11K V-Compact Series drum kit includes three PD-8A single-zone tom pads, two CY-8 cymbal pads, a CY-5 cymbal pad for hi-hat, a cloth-head KD-9 kick pad and a mesh-head PDX-8 V-Pad snare pad with Roland’s dual-triggering technology that provides accurate rim and head shots for added authenticity. The expanded 10-inch rim area on the snare pad affords easier and quieter rim shots, while the three 8.5-inch rubber tom pads provide fast and dependable triggering. The hi-hat features a 10-inch playing zone and natural swing movement. Plus, it also provides dual zones for separate bow and edge triggering. The FD-8 hi-hat controller also affords accurate hi-hat sounds with clean and natural transitions between open and closed positions. And, the cloth bass drum head provides acoustic drum-like dynamic response with accurate triggering and great feel. It also supports smooth playing and feel—even when using a double kick pedal.

Roland TD-9KX2 V-Tour Series

The Roland TD-9KX2 V-Tour Series electronic drum kit is also a member of the V-Drum line and this advanced kit offers several enhancements to the already popular V-Tour Series. The most noticeable upgrade has been to the TD-9 sound module, which features new acoustic snare and bass-drum sounds, as well as new preset kits with greater musical diversity that should appeal to a wider range of drummers. The TD-9 module had previously only supported WAV file playback, but the updated TD-9 now supports MP3 file playback as well. This should give you a few more options when you want to play along with your favorite tracks.

The TD-9KX2 drum pads have also seen improvements this year. The new KD-9 kick pad has a better dynamic response and more accurate triggering. It also supports a new muted bass drum sound (when used with the TD-9 module). The sound is similar to the way an acoustic bass drum would sound by leaving your kick pedal beater against the head of the drum. The CY-12C V-Cymbal Crash has also been updated with more accurate weight-balance and sensitivity, which affords a more natural swinging motion and more accurate triggering. You’ll notice better choke control as well. The CY-13R V-Cymbal Ride has been upgraded too. This new electronic ride cymbal should provide more acoustic-like ride cymbal performance. Like the crash cymbal, the new ride will provide a more natural swing motion and more accurate triggering. Plus, the bow area has been enlarged, so the three-way triggering should be improved for the bow, as well as the edge and bell.

The other drum pads in this kit are largely the same as the previous model. The three 8-inch V-Pad tom pads feature mesh heads, which provide an acoustic-like feel and dynamic response. They also benefit from Roland’s latest dual-trigger technology. The 10-inch V-Pad snare pad, which was hugely popular already, has a new sensor mechanism as well, which provides more accurate triggering. It’s equipped with a mesh head and it supports Roland’s latest dual-triggering technology, which yields more consistent and accurate sensing between the head and the rim of the pad. The VH-11 V-Hi-Hat has the flexibility to mount on most standard acoustic hi-hat stands. This means you can just transfer the one from your acoustic kit or pick out your own favorite hi-hat stand. The rest of the kit is held together by Roland’s MDS-9 drum stand. The MDS-9 features a durable four-leg design with new ball-joint snare and cymbal mounts.

Yamaha DTX400K Electronic Drum Kit

Yamaha has a reputation for making both quality acoustic and electronic drums, and the budget-friendly DTX400K electronic drum kit is designed to bring the feature-rich DTX drumming experience to the people. Aimed at beginners and up, the DTX400K kit features a DTX400 drum module with 169 voices to choose from, including 23 snares, 21 kicks, 36 toms, 31 cymbals and 42 percussion instruments. The module is equipped with 10 preset kits as well, which include sounds from Yamaha’s acoustic series, as well as voices from their DTX 900, 700 and 750 kits. The module also has sounds from the DTX-MULTI 12 drum machine. Plus, you can replace all the preset kits with your own custom kits. If that's not enough, the DTX400 drum module can be connected to your computer to control VSTi drum sounds and record into your DAW.

Yamaha also has a reputation for getting involved in music education. And, it’s this experience that Yamaha drew upon to develop improved training functions for their electronic drum kits. Not only has the training material been expanded to include all levels of drummers, it has been updated with 10 onboard routines that feature warm-up sessions, games and rhythm exercises. There’s even a Groove Tracker that helps absolute novices pick up and play along with the drum beat. There are challenges that test your skills and a Voice Guidance system that speaks to you about your results and encourages you to keep training. You can even use the Musicsoft Downloader to import songs and beats to use with the training functions.

The DTX400K kit features a 7.5-inch snare pad, three 7.5-inch tom pads and a KU100 silent kick unit. The kit’s 10-inch hi-hat pad and hi-hat controller pedal support open, closed and foot splash hi-hat hits. The kit also features a 10-inch ride cymbal pad and a 10-inch crash cymbal pad. You can play along to 10 built-in songs or you can download more via USB. There’s a headphone jack as well. And, another valuable feature is the DTX400K’s expandability. You can easily upgrade to the three-zone XP80 DTX-PAD snare pad. You can also add extra cymbals or a real kick pedal and the KP65 kick pad. You can also upgrade to the HH65 hi-hat controller if you want to start playing half-open hi-hat voices.

Yamaha DTX450K Electronic Drum Kit

Like the DTX400K, Yamaha’s DTX450K also features the DTX400 drum module. It supports the same 169 voices, 10 preset kits and kit customization. What sets this kit apart from the more affordable DTX400K are the drum pads. The DTX450K features a TP70S three-zone snare pad, which supports a center snare head shot, an open rim shot and a closed rim shot. A three-zone snare offers nearly the same possibilities you’d find with an acoustic snare drum and it offers much more musical expression than you’d get with a single-zone or two-zone snare pad. Plus, for added versatility, the DTX450K includes the HH65 hi-hat controller. The HH65 gives you the ability to play open, closed, half-open and foot splash hi-hat hits. The other big difference is the kick pad. The DTX450K includes the KP65 kick drum pad and a traditional kick pedal for more authentic, acoustic-like response from the kick drum. The rest of the cymbal pads and the three tom pads are similar to the pads in the DTX400K kit.

This kit and module also support all the Yamaha training functions and features. Yamaha’s experience making acoustic drums clearly informs their electronic drum pad production. As I mentioned earlier in the article, I find drumming on rubber pads to usually be at least as accurate as cloth, Mylar and mesh pads. So, the fact that Yamaha uses rubber pads on their budget-friendly electronic drum kits makes sense, because they’re more affordable and highly accurate. It’s this knowledge that ensures you’ll get more bang for your buck. And, like the DTX400K, the DTX450K is also expandable so it can grow as your skills expand. You can upgrade to the DTX-PAD snare pad or add an extra cymbal. Plus, you can use the kit with your computer to control VSTi drum sounds and record into your DAW software.

Yamaha DTX500K Electronic Drum Kit

The last electronic drum kit we'll look at is Yamaha’s DTX500K. It features a DTX500 drum module that includes 50 preset kits, covering a wide range of musical tastes. 20 user-editable kits can be created from the 427 onboard drum and percussion sounds. The module also has 63 preset songs, which you can practice playing along to, with or without the drum track. You can solo the bass track or play along with the full band. Plus, you can use the auxiliary input to play along with songs from your iPod, CD player or MP3 player. The module features effects as well, including digital reverb, EQ and more. The DTX500 module features Yamaha’s training tools as well, including Groove Check and Rhythm Gate. It also supports MIDI connectivity and an integrated metronome.

The DTX500K kit features the DTLK9 drum pad set that includes a 7.5-inch snare pad, three 7.5-inch tom pads, a high-hat pad, two cymbal pads and a KP65 kick pad unit. The kit’s HH65 hi-hat controller pedal supports open, closed, half-open and foot splash hi-hat hits for more versatility when playing. The kit’s ride cymbal pad and a crash cymbal pad both feature a space-saving design, and their rubber surfaces provide accurate stick rebound. The kit supports upgrading as well. When your skills increase and you require more accurate triggering, you can upgrade to the DTX-PADs, which support three-zone triggering for more accurate feel and acoustic-like playability. The whole kit is held together by the RS40 rack system. It comes pre-assembled for easy setup and it provides a durable, lightweight frame that can handle the rigors of even the most intense drumming. Plus, the frame is foldable for easy storage.

Although Alesis, Roland and Yamaha produce several electronic drum kits for a variety of styles and abilities, they are not the only manufacturers of electronic drums. B&H also carries electronic drum kits by Pyle Pro, Acorn Behringer, ddrum, Adagio and more. For a full list of electronic drums and electronic drum accessories, be sure to stop by the B&H website. Plus, if you have a musician on your holiday shopping list, the Pro Audio section of the B&H website features thousands of gift ideas for virtually any type of musician imaginable.