At last someone has taken the obvious step of installing a set of pickups in a full size drum kit, and connecting these to an inexpensive analogue voice board to produce a budget-priced electronic drum kit. In this case the kit is a Remo RPS-10 practice set and the design is by Richard Straker of the music shop - turned manufacturing company, Honky Tonk Music.
The Remo Kit has of course been available for some time, generally used together with the foot pedal and cymbals from a conventional kit for purposes of (relatively!) silent practice. It consists of five pads on metal brackets, each screwed to a central vertical pillar having a wide base for balance. The 'bass drum' pad is a little smaller than the others and attached to the pillar itself, whereas the four horizontal pads represent low (floor) tom, snare, high tom and mid tom. On an additional central support intended for cymbals sits the electronic module itself, in a box about 10 inches across. This contains the voice circuitry for the five basic sounds.
Each of the five pads contains a crystal pickup connected via a 3 way locking socket. The matching plugs are attached to colour-coded leads, White for Bass, Red for Low Tom, Green for Mid Tom, Blue for High Tom and Yellow for Snare Drum; the leads feed directly into the electronics module so there's no chance of connecting up the pads in the wrong order.
The pads themselves use tuneable drum heads which in this context don't affect the pitch of the sounds (which is done electronically) but do allow variation of stick response. This gives a wide selection of possible playing 'feels', making use of the Klone Kit seem natural and easy for the conventional kit player.
In fact the electronics of the kit do respond in terms of volume and pitch bend to the velocity of the drum stick. Each of the five instruments can be tuned using the top row of five rotary pots, while the middle row controls damping or decay length. This allows variation, as the instruction sheet points out, from "synthesiser drum sounds achieved by reducing the damping effect (turning clockwise), to natural acoustic drum or solid studio sounds produced by increasing the damping effect (turning anticlockwise)". Obviously the longer the decay, the further the latitude available for the force-sensitive pitch bend to operate.
The exception here is the snare drum, which instead of a damping control has a mix control for the amount of snare sound (treated white noise) added to the basic skin sound. If no snare sound is added, the Snare Drum becomes another tuneable Tom-Tom.
The bottom row of controls are individual level controls for the five sounds. To the right of the main rows of controls there is an On/Off Volume rotary and an LED mains on indicator.
Inside the control box is a single PCB holding all of the discrete components. The drum voices are based around Twin-T oscillator circuits with 'sensitivity' presets for each, to allow the response of the pads to be adjusted.
Noise is generated by a reverse biased transistor, gated by a transconductance amplifier and added to the snare tom sound.
The pots are hardwired to the PCB but the internal construction is fairly neat and should be reliable in operation.
The final major feature is an individual audio output for the Bass drum, which is not affected by the overall volume control. This obviously gives wider possibilities for EQ'ing and effects, although the basic sound is a good heavy thump which doesn't require much treatment beyond reasonable amplification.
Pete Brewer of Honky-Tonk explains that various options were taken into consideration during the design period. The sounds are intended to be a compromise between synthesised effects and an accurate imitation of acoustic drum sounds. If the former are required, use of an envelope follower, octave divider, flanger or chorus are recommended, in which case the bassdrum sound can be taken off separately so that it need not be affected. If the latter are required, use of EQ and reverb together with the existing control functions can help. It's emphasised that a full-range amplification system, designed for keyboards or bass guitars and therefore able to cope with very low frequencies, is preferable to do full justice to the Klone.
It's good to see an inexpensive, good quality product being developed and manufactured not by a giant corporation but by an independent and imaginative retail concern. The Klone Kit is going to fill in a lot of gaps in a market which is expanding in many directions simultaneously, because it can cheaply fulfill several functions — practice, studio work and live performance, for instance — with equal ease.
The Klone Kit is available via Brian Butcher, Manufacturers Agent, (Contact Details). Suggested retail price including VAT but excluding the Bass Drum pedal is £299.