Klone Dual/Paragon Percussion
The Klone Dual and Paragon Percussion's DVXM — Two stand-alone Drum-synth modules that offer a cheaper way into electro-percussion than the Simmons of this world.
The Klone Dual and Paragon Percussion's System — Two cheap ways into electro drums. Tony Reed hits it off...
It goes without saying that the success of Simmons and its imitators have changed the face of contemporary drumming; but not everyone wants to go the whole Electro hog... or can afford to.
Stand-alone one or two pad set ups, like Pearl's Syncussion (Still a favourite with the Reggae fraternity, and the brain behind the bonk of Soft Cell's Tainted Love), or modular arrangements (Like Simmons early success, the SDS 4) offer an alternative, the range of textures they provide complementing rather than replacing your old analogue kit. (You know — the thing that weighs a ton and annoys the neighbours).
Unfortunately, many of the older units still sounded more like keyboard synths than drums... a pair of new set-ups, the Klone Kit Dual, and Paragon Percussion's System, claim to offer both electronic and 'real' drum sounds. I took a look....
After a couple of false starts, Honky Tonk, the music shop which branched out into manufacturing, have come up with their best package yet, the Klone Dual which sells for £299.
Although the unit has been available for some time, you probably won't have seen it, as the bulk of the production run has been shipped overseas, rather than to U.K. dealers.
Utilising the same basic hardware as the Klone Kit II (i.e. a single custom Capelle triple tom stand) but with much improved electronics, the Dual consists of: Two octagonal drum pads, 11½" across by 3" deep made of A.B.S.-ish plastic (available in Black, Red or White finishes); the 'brain ' of the system (a compact white stero wedge of a box 9" x 7" x 2½"); the aforementioned stand, and all necessary leads, the whole conveniently packed in a handy Le Blonde fibre case. An instruction manual and a set of overlays demonstrating sample sounds completes the picture.
...Wasn't very easy, until I worked out that reading the manual upside-down whilst hanging off the stand probably wasn't the best way to go about things. Right way up, and I first opened up the main tripod stand, adjusting the 'T-bar' that holds the pad and brain booms to the right height, and locking it in place with the Memrilok clamp and the small lever... I didn't like the small lever, or its cousins at the base of the three boom holders...
Essentially, they take the place of the normal 'wing nut' arrangement you find on the telescopic parts of most drum hardware: with the lever 'off', you do up the knurled knob on the fitting as tight as you can with your fingers; pulling the lever to then squeezes the clamp tightly, (hopefully) locking everything in position, whilst allowing quick release. The lever worked fine... but the knurled knob was too small to get any real grip on, so that, even with everything locked in position, it was easy to move the stand about — disconcerting!
A bigger knob, or at least something you could exert real leverage on would be appreciated. Additionally, the weld on the 'T' bar of the stand looked a bit rough — probably just my bad luck, but it's something to check.
Both pads and brain are fitted with threaded steel inserts in their bases, which locate on the conventional 'cymbal holders' at the end of the tom holder booms... you have to be careful here not to overtighten anything, and to ensure that cymbal felts are underneath the pads and the brain, to cushion them from extraneous vibration. In use, Channel 1 showed some signs of false triggering, but on the whole, the 'independence' of each channel was good — it needs to be as there is no sensitivity control for you to trim.
I found that the easiest way to put everything together was to take the booms off the stand proper, fit the pads and brain to them individually, then replace the whole assembly on the main stand. The combination of splined 'elbow' at the pad end of the booms, together with the complete horizontal and vertical movement permitted each boom at the main stand connection allowed virtually any feasible playing position to be quickly and easily set up.
One nice feature is the inclusion of the three large black 'tight lock' levers. The handles are spring-loaded, and can be pulled outward and rotated to the desired position before locking each boom arm in place, or moved conveniently out of the way after tightening.
Electronic connections couldn't be simpler — standard jack-to-jacks run from the underside of each pad to the two inputs at the rear of the brain. Jack outs offer two separate channels, a mix channel, and a headphone socket. Lockable XLRs might have made me less paranoid, but at no time during some pretty vigorous thrashing did the pad leads show any sign of dropping out. Power comes courtesy of a rear-mounting tethered mains lead, and its adjacent pushbutton. With the juice on, the brain's 'modulation' LED lights up, and thus doubles as a power indicator.
Unplugged, the sound of a stick striking the pad surface was not unlike that of belting a biscuit barrel... loud enough, in fact, to make late-night solo's a decidedly anti-social thing, even over the phones. Stick response from the hard black rubber surface wasn't bad... like the S.D.S. 5 in fact... but with the innovations of the S.D.S.8 and Ultimate Percussion's 'floating heads', the days of table top response must be numbered. Triggering from the pads was fast and accurate, permitting, convincing rolls, but the dynamics were limited, like Simmons, to the range quiet to normal, with little headroom for particular emphasis. Adjusting one's playing levels is the only answer...
This is effectively two separate mono synth modules (not unlike Pearl's Syncussion in some respects but not limited to purely synthetic textures), each consisting of Volume; Balance — for mixing the relative proportions of tone (VCO) and noise (VCF) in the final signal, Decay; Tuning — for setting initial VCO pitch; Pitchbend — which sweeps the VCO pitch up or down (simulating the 'bend' of a drum head as it is struck); Resonance — which emphasises certain frequencies above others. (At full setting, the filter produces its own pure signal, which may then be altered by the other controls.)
The key to the Dual's ability to simulate specifically percussive sounds however lies in its comprehensive filter section. Filtermode allows six switchable signal sources to be sent to the filter section for treatment.
Complementing Filtermode are Filter Frequency, which sets the point at which the tone of a filtered signal changes, and Filter Sweep, sweeping the filter up and down (changing the tone of a signal over time, aiding the synthesis of 'real' sounds).
For the purpose of the review, I tried the unit through my own Carlsbro Cobra Bass amp, using the separate outs through a mini mixer. With filter mode set to VCO on channel 1, it was easy to achieve the usual range of Syndrum sounds (remember them). Resonance added a nice bite to the start of each note, and a little downward pitchbend made the sounds more obviously drum-like. Adjusting the balance from filter to VCO and back again offered a range of tones, from a pure 'musical' effect, with full VCO setting, to a sharply percussive sound, with the balance knob hard over on 'filter'.
Moving Filtermode on to Impulse produced hard tom sounds with a lot of attack, but the lack of a white noise component on this setting limited the drum effects available.
The Low High and Bandpass settings introduced a mixable white noise component into the sound, enabling a range of 'Simmons' tom and snare sounds to be easily achieved, together with the usual range of white noise effects. Careful adjustment of Pitchbend and Filter Sweep are necessary to make the best of these sounds.
Phase is not the continuous sweep found on effect pedals, but a fixed phase which resets with each new strike — once again, a feature designed specifically with percussion sounds in mind.
The ability to modulate Channel 2 from a variety of sources greatly extends the range of 'effect' and keyboard' sounds the Dual is capable of; fast mod. settings allow bell and metal tones to be achieved, slower, A.D.T. and vibrato effects. Modulated white noise gives you "helicopter" fluttering. Square wave offers alternating pitch (sirens) and, in combination with filter sweep and retriggering, pseudo random and hold... and so on... The best way to-explore these... sounds is by trial and error. Suffice to say, this unit is capable of the full range of Syndrum sounds, most monosynth sounds, and some very passable Simmons sounds.
The generous trigger input range allows the brain to be triggered from a variety of sources other than the dedicated pads. I successfully operated it from my KPR 77 drum machine (Trigger and audio outs) and by shouting into a cheap microphone!
Such adaptability offers owners of cheap drum machines a host of new textures, and the 'conventional' drummer the option of triggering synth textures from an acoustic kit... then mixing the result in any number of ways. When you consider that one of the main selling points of the (admittedly vastly superior) SDS 7 is just this 'acoustic'/synthetic balancing act, I think you'll begin to appreciate some of the finer points of this relatively inexpensive unit.
In conclusion; the hardware, and especially the pads could have been better; and it would have been nice if you could have externally clocked the Mod. rate for enhanced 'rhythmic' possibilities — but the range of possible sounds, coupled with the inherent flexibility of the unit make it ideal for musicians wanting a piece of the electro action... on a limited budget.
A new name in Electro Percussion, Paragon say they have delayed their entry into the market in order to learn from the mistakes of their more reckless competitors. Has the strategy paid off? We'll see...
The basic system consists of a Brain, providing two independent channels of sound, and two tom pads, but all components of the system are available separately, so it would be possible to just buy the module (for triggering from drum machines and so on. A separate bass pad is available for a conventional 'Kit' arrangement.
In contrast to the Klone's disturbing lightness, the Paragon pads have a reassuring solidity and weight. Construction is similar to Simmons; the irregular-hexagon shaped pads consist of a resilient (and replaceable) black PVC playing surface, backed by hardboard, so it's table top time again. The pads are bordered by steel rims, with a standard Premier tom bracket and an XLR socket let into the flat rear surface. (I was given a prototype - production versions will have a vacuum-moulded 'bowl' on the underside).
The lockable XLR's quieted the unease I had initially felt about the Klone's unsecured trigger connections, and stick response from the pad, though hard, was fast and responsive over the centre area, albeit a little uncertain towards the edges.
Paragon suggest using their pads for manual triggering of drum machines, and the durable, professional feel they have make this a distinct possibility.
It looks professional: all the electronics are contained in a standard 2U rack-mountable steel box complete with feet for stand-alone use, and finished in black with white graphics. The rear panel offers (reading left to right) a chunky white rocker-type mains switch, a tethered mains lead, a fuse, A and B XLR sockets, an auxiliary out jack socket (for monitoring, etc) A and B XLR trigger inputs, and two additional jack socket inputs.
The front panel is correspondingly spartan; divided vertically into two identical sets of pots, you get: (l to r) Noise Pitch, Peak (Resonance), Decay and Level, and beneath those, VCO Pitch, Sweep, Decay and Level, together with a Sensitivity control linked to a trigger—indicating L.E.D. A Mains-on L.E.D. at the extreme right of the panel, beneath the screened logo completes the picture.
As with the Klone, the unit triggered reliably from pads, a drum machine trigger and audio outs, — even a microphone, with judicious use of the Sensitivity control. Both pads and trigger ins can be operated at the same time if required.
The standard range of Snare, Syndrum and effect sounds were all easily created, the Sweep control offering an authentic drumhead pitchbend; and the ability to independently control all parameters of both noise and tone offers a fair degree of subtlety....
But... unlike the Klone, you are stuck with only one variant of white noise (No filter section) and one Waveform (???). No modulation is available either, so bell and metal tones are out of the question.
When you consider that the retail price of the brain and two pads — without stand is £249.55, I feel that the unit at the moment must be seen as over-priced in relation to a competitor like the Klone. Time will tell which of these two products has actually got its marketing strategy right.
Gear in this article:
Review by Tony Reed
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