M&A K-1/B Drum Kit
Innovation in the field of electronic percussion continues with the K-1B and the slightly cheaper K-1, which has a small mounted bass pad as opposed to the larger free-standing unit on the K-1B. M&A have established a solid reputation in the past for their middle-range studio mixers and their first excursion into the field of instruments is consciously aimed at the Simmons market.
Luckily, as well as being considerably cheaper than the Simmons Kit (still indubitably the leader in its field) the K-1 has a visual appeal all of its own. The distinctive rounded-off triangular pads are painted red (on the underside of their transparent polycarbonate playing surfaces) with a black wood-and-metal finish, and the whole kit has the advantage of being compact and relatively lightweight. The electronics can be mounted on a single microphone stand, while the pads themselves come in two sets of three which all mount on a standard Premier dual tom stand.
The snare pad mounts horizontally onto the upright itself, and a special footpedal is provided for the hi-hat. In the K-1B kit there's also a larger free-standing bass drum pad, for which a conventional bass pedal is needed. Connection from the snare, the bass drum and the two sets of pads is by a locking XLR-type plug to a similar socket on the electronics panel.
The electronics section includes direct outputs for each of the sounds, together with stereo outputs with individual Treble and Bass equalisation and panpots on each sound. Each sound also has an individual Volume control, but the control layout for each particular sound is otherwise quite different.
The Bass Drum section has Tune, Resonance, Attack and Sensitivity controls. Because the polycarbonate playing surface is extremely rigid its associated foam-mounted piezo pickup responds very quickly; this response can be reduced or increased as desired. A click tends to be transmitted directly from the piezo to the audio output, and while this can be quite interesting in some applications it can be reduced, and the general initial impact of the sounds diminished by using the Attack and Sensitivity controls.
Tuning is over a relatively narrow range, keeping the Bass sound to fairly low frequencies, while the Resonance control give useful variations of tone without giving any over-the-top effects. Similar comments apply to the Toms, which don't produce high-pitched 'disco drum' effects. The Toms have an Attack control similar to that on the Bass Drum, and also a Resolve Time control which could more simply have been labelled Decay. As the Tom sounds decay they bend slightly to simulate the change in skin tension of an acoustic drum.
The Snare drum can be tuned but has a Balance control - between pitch and white noise - rather than a Resonance control. After 18 months of development with a Resonance control included, market research found that drummers spend much of their time trying to avoid resonance on an amplified snare sound!
Snare and Hi-Hat also have a Quality control consisting of a high pass filter for tone modification. Each of the two cymbals has Quality, Attack, Decay and Sensitivity controls, and the electronics console is completed by a power switch and indicator and a fuse holder.
The Hi-Hat pedal contains a piezo itself, and so in addition to cutting the sound's decay to a short 'closed' effect, it can trigger the Hi-hat sound with just a foot movement. All the sounds are also sent to a Monitor output suitable for headphones, which can be used to adjust and tune the kit without sound going to the amplifier or PA.
The metal casing of the electronics module is neat, reasonably lightweight, and designed to be suitable for rack mounting. Circuitry is based on a clever utilisation of quad op-amps, with white noise zener-generated. PCB construction is reasonably neat, with a power supply installed in one corner of the module; the transformer is mounted on the single large PCB which also includes the circuitry for the summing mixer.
The controls are in the form of large carbon presets, which unfortunately are of an open design and so may be prone to noise. Additionally the presets are not fitted with a knob (a reasonable enough economy measure) and this makes them a little difficult to adjust quickly and accurately by hand. On the other hand, the intention of the kit's design is to set up an ideal sound at the start of a set and to avoid modifying it as far as possible, so this needn't be a drawback.
The K-1 is very comfortable to play, with a good balance of fast attack and response on the foam-mounted pads, and a compact layout with everything close to hand on both kit and control console. Response is fast enough to play fours and eights even on the Hi-Hat, although the design of the tensioned polycarbonate strip on the Hi-Hat pedal is such that a sharp blow could break it.
The Bass, Tom and Snare sounds are powerful enough although consisting only of simple oscillator frequencies, with a mix of white noise on the Snare. The Cymbals and Hi-Hat consist of white noise only, and so can't be very closely imitative. Although the drum sounds can simulate an acoustic kit reasonably well, the quality of the cymbal sounds is such that the K-1's overall feel is inevitably that of an electronic unit, and so the styles of music for which it would normally be used are relatively limited.
Reasonable amplification allows the K-1, with its Treble and Bass equalisation, to produce very striking and impressive drum sounds. The kit is being developed constantly, recent additions including stabilising pins on the Bass drum pad and new piezo pickups which are totally enclosed and screw directly to the inside of the pad. The advantages of being able to break down the kit in about five minutes and pack it into a single flightcase are incalculable, and once set up the K-1 is visually striking and a great asset to any electronically-based band's sound.
RRP of the K-1 kit is £598 and of the K-1B kit £658 including VAT. Contact Seabright Supplies, (Contact Details).