We saw a preview of the new Strike Pro kits with mesh heads and wooden shells last year, and they should finally be shipping. The finished product looks better than the early sample, and the new Strike module has over 1,700 multi-sampled instruments, a 4.3” color, backlit LCD screen, and an onboard sampler! These are among the best feeling electronic drum kits thanks to the mesh heads and cymbals that feature a softer feel than typical plastic triggers. The fully loaded, six-piece kit with hi-hats and four cymbals, includes a chrome rack, snare stand, and hi-hat stand, all for under $2,400, making it a pretty significant alternative to Roland’s vDrums in a similar configuration… for thousands more.
Dialtune offers an innovative solution that enables completely uniform tuning of a drum head with one simple turn of a drum key. Unlike the standard method of adjusting each lug nut around the rim of the drum head, this new mechanism uses a high-tension wire snaked around the drum to each lug, tightened uniformly from a single drum key, and providing equal tension across the entire drum head. The end result is a quick, one-step tuning process, and it also speeds up replacement of a damaged head. Installation simply requires a screwdriver to replace your existing lugs with the new system.
The DW Purpleheart snare was a thing of beauty, and this year, DW’s Custom Shop showed off a spectacular kit made from this unique hardwood. Sure, you can get a great sounding DW kit in the familiar maple, oak, walnut, SSC configuration, etc., but we like that this kit has a particularly distinct (unique) sound. According to DW, this wood, which has a naturally purple hue, is more dense than oak.
Another clever introduction was the Lowboy Hi-Hat, a 5000-series piece of hardware that enables you to place an hi-hat, tambourine, or other rhythmic accessory in your kit without taking up much prime real estate. We’re sure many players will find creative uses for this mini-hat.
Italy’s Techra has created some really nice drumsticks in the CarbonPRO line (and other series). As the name suggests, they are made from carbon fiber, which offers perfect weight balance and 2-3x more durability than wooden equivalents. They feel great, and we’re looking forward to testing them in the studio to see how they hold up compared with our favorite wood.
The new, fifth-generation Mapex Saturn kit features a number of updates, most importantly: SONIClear bearing edges, designed to provide an expanded tuning range thanks to more precise mating to your drum heads, and SONIClear suspension mounts. The drums have beautiful figured tops, and we were happy to see that they ship with two-ply Remo Emperor Clear batter heads and a Powerstroke P3 batter head on the kick, so you may not need to factor a whole new set of heads into your initial purchase.
They’re back! We almost tripped over ourselves when we rounded the corner and saw an entire wall full of colorful cymbals. Welcome back, Color Sound! If you’re looking for a little splash with your splash (or crash, hi-hat, ride…), check out the new Color Sound 900 series, which are based on the traditional-finish 900 Series. Supposedly the colorization results in a slightly drier sound with slightly less sustain and a more focused attack, which could be desireable for some players. Guaranteed to be a big hit at your next ‘80s gig, or when you go on tour supporting Katy Perry.
The best just keep on getting better. And while $7,000 is still your ballpark price for enjoying the best that electronic percussion has to offer, Roland’s latest evolution of their full mesh vDrums kits, the TD-50KV and TD-50K, are fantastic.
The biggest change is the updated TD-50 sound module (available separately for $2,400), which adds some great features in addition to upgrading the overall sound quality, depth of editing, and detailed performance nuances. Users can now load their own drum samples onto an SD card and trigger them from any of the pads. The brain can connect to your computer via USB and transmit up to ten channels of audio, and there are eight individual outputs and a pair of XLR outputs for live use and analog recording.
The fourteen-inch PD-140DS Digital Snare has a new multi-element sensor and three-layer mesh head that connects via a digital link to the brain, and delivers more detailed response than the previous generation. A new ride cymbal also provides more playing dynamics, and you can purchase an optional acoustic kick drum with built-in trigger if you’d like your vDrums kit to look more acoustic. We last reviewed the then-flagship TD-20SX kit and look forward to a fully in-depth review of Roland’s latest vDrums evolution.
Need something special in your kit? Special effect cymbals were all the rage with Sabian this year. Some of the unique cymbals introduced included the AAX Aero Splash, AA Mini Holy China, XSR Fast Stax, and the B8X Ballistic Crash, the last of which looks precisely like what might happen if your drum cymbals could catch a bad case of the mumps. The holy patterns are sure to make for interesting visuals on stage, but the sound is definitely going to be a matter of personal taste. There are nine new designs to check out, and we love that companies are now purposely matching cymbals in stacked cymbal sets.
The stars in their lineup this year were the Star Series: Star Bubinga, Star Maple, and Star Walnut, each featuring the latest Tama hardware and spectacular finishes. These flagship drums have thinner shells than the Starclassic line and a refined bearing edge that has a rounder peak than Tama’s traditional bearing edge. Another beautiful detail: the inside of the drum shells are hand finished with oil for a beautiful look.
Happy 50th Birthday to Yamaha Drums! Hot on the heels of our review of the introduced-last-year Recording Custom kit (review here), we were treated to the limited edition, 50th Anniversary, drum set. It’s based on the Absolute Hybrid Maple series and comes either featuring birdseye maple or curly maple. The comemorative kits have gold lugs and a cool 50th Anniversary badge (and custom artwork on the bass drum head). Priced with an MSRP of $12,000, we don’t expect everyone to race out and purchase one, but… don’t you just want to?
Zildjian didn’t have many new cymbals, but did offer some useful genre-based boxed sets containing a set of hi-hats, two crashes, and a ride: Rock, featuring A Zildjian cymbals; Country, featuring K Zildjian cymbals; Worship, featuring K Customs; and Gospel, featuring A Custom cymbals.
The other product line of interest was the L80 Low Volume cymbal line. What started as the Gen X cymbals has evolved into a line of cymbals specifically designed for extremely low volume output. As their name implies, the L80 cymbals are 80% quieter than equivalent traditional cymbals, and totally useful if you want to practice in an apartment, condo, or other space where volume can’t be tolerated. As with the Gen 16, the cymbals are as beautiful as they are functional.