Electronic drums have been in mainstream production since the mid-1970s. A lot has changed since then and there has been some mammoth leaps in electronic drum technology. From baby-faced beginners to tour-weathered musicians, electronic drums are utilised by many and offer a great alternative to an acoustic drum kit. Although technology has come on leaps and bounds we still get asked, ‘Are electronic drum kits any good?’ So hopefully this blog will address some doubts and questions.
Many drummers out there would love to practice at home but run the risk of an ASBO (or whatever the modern equivalent is) with an acoustic set. Do you have some noise-sensitive neighbours? Or have you downsized and don’t have much room? If you have any of those problems, you should consider an electronic drum kit!
What to look for when buying an electronic drum kit?
There are a few different things you need to consider when buying an electronic drum kit; What type of heads does it have? What quality of module does it have? Are the rack systems adjustable? Does it come with a proper bass drum pedal and pad?
The drum heads are either going to be firm rubber, on the more affordable kits or made of mesh, on the more expensive kits. Mesh heads better replicate the feel of an acoustic drum skin and give a better bounce than firm rubber pads so are usually preferred by players.
The module on an electric drum kit is essentially the brain of the kit. The module is where all of the different drum kit sounds are stored and this is where you will control all of the functions your kit may offer. If you have a good quality module, the more authentic and life-like the sound it will produce. You’ll also get more features and outputs on expensive modules that affordable ones don’t offer.
All points above are things you should consider when buying an electronic drum kit, which we will detail when discussing different models. The better quality of drum head and module a kit will have will equate to a higher checkout price and although it will play and sound better a £5,000 kit is sometimes not suitable for a complete novice.
The Roland V-Drums.
Joining the market in 1997, the Roland V-Drum (Virtual Drums) is now considered the go-to if you’re wanting to purchase an electronic drum kit. There are a lot of options out there, which can be a bit daunting at first, sometimes too many options is suffocating! That’s where we step in. Below you’re going to find a list of different Roland V-Drum models for all skill levels and budgets. Let’s not waste any more time!
The TD-1K is the most affordable in the Roland V-Drums range. Although the lowest price point, there are still a lot of things to love about this kit. All of the toms and the snare on the kit are adjustable, so if you’re particularly lanky you can get as comfy as you like whilst playing.
You can choke all of the cymbals with your hands, just like on an acoustic cymbal, which is a nice touch. The cymbals are also velocity-sensitive, the harder you play on the ride it will start producing the ‘bell’ sound that you would expect to hear on an acoustic kit. The Hi-Hat and kick drum pedals are both virtually silent and when activated there is hardly a sound produced. Perfect if you don’t want to annoy your downstairs neighbours. The pedals are also separate from the main body allowing you to move them to whatever position you feel comfortable.
The pads on the TD-1K are made from rubber, as expected in this price range. The module is on the more basic side of things, which makes it very user-friendly and is perfect for a novice who wants to start playing immediately. There are 15 kits to choose from and although on the basic side the module has a built-in USB-MIDI interface which will allow you to plug into a computer to start recording without any other additional hardware.
The next step up in the V-Drums range is the TD-1DMK. The are 3 main differences between the TD-1DMK and the TD-1K. The first difference is the drum heads. The TD-1DMK is equipped with dual-ply mesh heads on the snare and toms. The mesh heads give you a closer feel of an acoustic snare or tom.
The second difference you get with the TD-1DMK is the rubber bass drum pad. Unlike the TD-1K, there is a physical bass drum pad, which is triggered by a standard bass drum pedal (which you have to buy separately). This also better replicates the feel of an acoustic drum kit, so the TD-1DMK will last you longer in your drumming journey than the aforementioned TD-1K.
Lastly, the TD-1DMK has an all-metal frame, which is taken from the more expensive TD-17 series. It’s quite a bit more sturdy and there will be a lot less wobble. On the other hand, the module on the TD-1DMK and TD-1K is exactly the same, there is no upgrade there. You have to spend a little bit more for an upgraded module but if you are wanting better hardware than the TD-1K and a kit that will give you a bit more longevity, the TD-1DMK is the one for you.
The TD-07KV offers the same dual-ply mesh drum heads as the TD-1DMK. The snare drum is the same PDX 8-inch snare pad and has the same three PDX-6A 6-inch single-zone tom pads as well. Where the TD-07KV differs is the technology inside the drum heads. There are 2 playing areas on the snare, a head area and a rim area which will trigger whatever sound you choose to assign to it. The sensors are more sensitive on this kit than the TD-1DMK and TD-1K which will better articulate the dynamics in your playing.
The bass drum pedal is Roland’s KD-10. The KD-10 has a cloth material head that is attached to a tower unit. Again, this is to better replicate the feel of an acoustic bass drum. The KD-10 bass drum pedal is still rather quiet and you shouldn’t get too many noise complaints. The cloth material does well to absorb the sound of the beater.
*Note. On all of Roland’s mesh drum kits, you can adjust the tension of the mesh heads with a normal drum key.*
You’re also getting a much better module in the TD-07KV. There are potentially 50 different drum kit sounds on offer, although there are only 25 ready-made presets you can cycle through. The other 25 channels are blank and you can edit and design your own drum kit sounds and save them in the empty banks. There are a lot of funky kits you can create since there are 143 different instruments you can assign to the different pads. The module is also equipped with Bluetooth connectivity which will allow you to stream music from any device that has that capability.
With the TD-17KVX we are definitely getting deep into the intermediate range. The TD-17KVX has two CY-12C’s which is a 12-inch, dual-zone crash cymbal, it gives you the bow and edge zones when hit and is chokeable. The ride cymbal is the CY-13R, which is 13-inches across and gives you 3 different sound zones, bell, bow and edge.
The hi-hat pad is a big upgrade compared with the TD-07KV. The VH-10 hi-hat pad is a stand-alone hi-hat pad and is actually mounted on a traditionally acoustic kit hi-hat cymbal stand. It feels great to play and is a very natural feel.
The snare on the TD-17KVX is a 12-inch PDX-12 snare pad. It is super sensitive and has different sensors that detect headshots and rim shots separately allowing for an accurate representation of your playing. The Kick drum pedal is the KD-10 which is really sturdy and doesn’t slide or wobble around.
The TD-17 module is still very user-friendly although there is a lot more on offer compared with the previously mentioned modules. There is bass and treble knobs which will allow you to EQ the sound to your preference. The Ambience control will allow you to emulate different venues, from smaller rooms to large halls. The coaching functions on the TD-17 module can track your progress and allow you to improve your technique. Like the TD-07 module, there is Bluetooth connectivity.
On the VAD306, Roland have attached shallow wooden shells to the mesh heads. The half-size drum shells save you a little bit of space compared with a full-size shell and are ergonomically designed to fit smaller spaces. Roland state that the cutdown shallow shells give a very familiar acoustic drum kit feel from the playing perspective and we agree with that, they feel great.
The kit itself is equipped with a PDA-120LS 12-inch snare drum pad, two PDA-100L 10-inch tom pads, 1 PDA120L 12-inch tom pad, 2 CY-12C 12-inch crash cymbals, 1 CY-13R 13-inch ride cymbal, a VH-10 hi-hat and a KD-180L kick drum. All of the cymbals are mounted on traditional cymbal stands, which you could use on an acoustic kit if you wanted to. It makes for sturdy playing which feels instantly comfortable. Sturdiness is bolstered even more with the double-braced metal stand that the toms and snare drum is mounted to, there is a nice premium quality feel with the VAD306.
The module on the VAD306 is a familiar one as it uses the module from the TD-17 series. So there is no upgrade there, but there are drum kits in the same series that will give you an upgraded module (check out the VAD503).
At the very top of the shop, the cream of the crop and the kit that’s going to bust your bank account is the VAD706. The closest thing you’ll get to an acoustic kit, the VAD706 is equipped with full-sized drum shells made from wood with a maple veneer. The mesh heads on the snare and toms are triple-ply, instead of a double-ply giving the drums a super-natural feel.
The kit is set up exactly as an acoustic drum kit is, all of the cymbals are on individual cymbal stands and the drums themselves are on double-braced chrome stands. The sensors in the drum pads and cymbals use Roland’s flagship technology. The sensors are so accurate they can emulate a ground-out sound. If you put your hand on the cymbal after you’ve struck it, you can dampen out the sound just as you can on a metal cymbal, different from choking it. It’s a lot more sensitive.
Getting down to the specs, the VAD706 is equipped with a PDA100 10-inch rack tom, a PDA120 12-inch rack tom, a PDA140F floor tom, a KD-222 kick drum, a PD-140DS 14-inch snare, a CY-18DR 18-inch ride cymbal, a VH-14D 14-inch hi-hat and 2 CY-16C-T crash cymbals. Phew. All of which are part of Roland’s premium grade V-drums hardware.
The module on the VAD706 is the TD-50X which is Roland’s flagship V-Drum module. It is equipped with features like Prismatic Sound Modelling and PureAcoustic ambience technologies. Both of which allow you to dial in very natural (or unnatural if you’d prefer) drum sounds. It is chalked with plenty of outputs, perfect if you were playing live through a big PA system. There are over 900 sounds on board, more than you can shake a drumstick at. I’ve barely scratched the surface with this module, so go and check it out on YouTube if you are needing a lot more details and some examples. You won’t be disappointed.
Below we’re going to answer some frequently asked questions we are usually asked about electronic drums.
Can you use an electric guitar amp with electronic drums?
No. We would not recommend it. An electric guitar amp is designed to deal with a much smaller frequency range compared with an amplifier for electronic drums. At quieter levels, you’ll be able to get away with a bass guitar amplifier or a keyboard amplifier as both are designed for a much wider frequency range. Ideally, you would use either a drum monitor or PA to amplify an electronic drum kit.
Can you play electronic drums without an amplifier?
Yes, you can. Although you will need a set of headphones. Most, if not all, electronic drum kits should have a headphone input on their module so you can stick a pair of cans in and practice away quietly. However, you will not hear the drum kit if you don’t have a pair of headphones or an amplifier connected. You don’t usually find internal speakers on an electric drum kit.
What do I need for an electronic drum kit?
Apart from the drum kit itself, you will need a few things which don’t usually come with the kit:
– A set of drumsticks. A standard set you would use on a traditional acoustic kit will work.
– A drum throne. In other words, a stool to sit on.
– A bass drum pedal. If your kit has a bass drum pad, you will need to buy a separate bass drum pedal.
– Headphones or a suitable amplifier. In order to hear the sounds you are triggering.
Are electronic drum kits good for beginners?
Electronic drum kits are good for beginners for a number of reasons. They will allow a beginner to practice in relative silence, a lot of modules have coaching and lessons in built, they are a good space saver and there are different sounds inbuilt in the module which will give the experience of different kits.