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One-Upmanship

A self-contained analogue drum synth from ultimate Percussion.


It's often handy to be able to generate electronic percussion effects in the studio but it's not always practical to keep a full electronic drum kit. The One-UP may be the answer.


The Ultimate Percussion One-UP drum synthesiser is a single pad containing all the necessary circuitry to produce a variety of percussive sounds. It's based on the same pad design as UP's complete kits but instead of having several pads feed one master sound generating module, this unit is entirely self contained. Power is provided by a 9v PP3-type of battery, although there is provision for external power via the unused pin three on the XLR output connector. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ultimate Percussion drums, it's worth looking at the pad design.

Construction



The all-important playing surface is made from a tough rubber-like material bonded to a plastic base. These materials have been chosen for their durability and, by supporting this head on a foam base, it produces a fairly natural feel that drummers should have no problem adapting to. A piezo electric pick-up is bonded to the rear of the head and the whole drum is built on a steel subframe. The plastic shell is purely decorative and takes no mechanical stress but it does support the controls, the XLR output socket and the battery holder. The battery fits in a small drawer recessed into the side of the shell and the handbook warns you to make sure that the battery is connected the right way round to prevent damage to the circuitry. As there are no clip on terminals as such, this mistake is easy to make so I hope that the manufacturers will consider fitting a protection diode if there isn't one in there already.

In common with other UP drums, the One-UP may be mounted on any conventional L-bar stand and the clamp is tightened by means of a square drum key through the access hole in one corner of the playing surface. The edge of the drum pad is surrounded by a durable chrome plated steel rim which all in all makes for a very attractive and practical package.

Controls



These are mounted along one side of the triangular pad and are of the low profile kind, and so are unlikely to be damaged by overenthusiastic drummers. A legended strip above the controls denotes their functions which are as follows.

Like most analogue electronic drums currently available, this one uses a mix of tone, filtered noise and a short noise burst to create its sounds. The tone component is produced by a voltage controlled oscillator or VCO, and this has two controls, namely Sweep and Pitch. Pitch tunes the oscillator but the pitch may also be swept and its range of sweep can be set by the Sweep control. The length of the Sweep however is determined by the Decay control which also dictates how long the drum sound lasts before it dies away.



"This drum breaks no new ground in terms of the range of sounds it produces, but it certainly beats virtually everything for dynamic response..."


In the noise department we have only one control: the Noise Filter. This affects the tonal quality of the noise and the Balance control is used to adjust the relative levels of noise and tone that make up the finished sound.

In the case of a true acoustic drum, there's a definite percussive impact as the stick hits the head and this is simulated by a short burst of noise. The level of this impact click may be controlled using the Bite control which only leaves us with the Output Level control, the purpose of which should be obvious.

Playability



One of the first things that comes to light when you start to play this drum is how well the thing responds to even very light stick strokes. Most of its competitors have a fairly limited dynamic range and any feel goes completely to pieces when played softly, but this is not the case with the One-UP. If you set up a snare drum sound, you can almost feel the snares vibrating as you try out a press roll.

Tonally the sound is typically analogue but even though it uses the same ingredients as other analogue percussion synths to create its sound, it still manages to sound different to its competitors in many respects. Because the sounds are analogue, you're not limited to a specific sound or type of drum, and the One-UP can produce snare, bass and tom sounds as well as having a fair crack at wood blocks and cowbells.



"Most of its competitors have a fairly limited dynamic range and any feel goes completely to pieces when played softly, but this is not the case with the One-UP."


To produce a snare drum sound, the tone component needs to be given a little pitch sweep, and then a high degree of filtered noise is added to simulate the snare vibrating against the bottom head. Add a little Bite and you're away. Though sounds are easy to set up on units such as these, it does take a bit of practice before you can get just the sound you want quickly, so the manufacturers have sensibly included a set of trial settings in the handbook.

The sounds themselves are not really representative of an acoustic drum kit, even when you try to duplicate a specific drum sound, but what can be emulated reasonably well is the sound of a pop record drum track in which the miking and processing of the sound have altered its character from that of a live acoustic kit to that of a recorded kit. It's also easy to create the powerful contemporary drum synth sounds, and no matter how many new features manufacturers build into their latest models, the musicians themselves always seem to be most comfortable with a fairly narrow range of sounds established in the early days of electronic drums. The One-UP excels at these sounds.

From an engineers point of view, this drum synth is easy to record and, being battery powered, doesn't suffer from earth loop problems. Also, it doesn't have any snares to rattle so it's ideal for use in place of that awful acoustic snare drum that the drummer for the latest session has just turned up with — you know, the one that rattles whenever the bass player even looks at his guitar.

Conclusions



This drum breaks no new ground in terms of the range of sounds it produces, but it certainly beats virtually everything for dynamic response, which should endear it to electronic and acoustic drummers alike. Though the sounds are not new, they are basically very good and are the ones that tend to get used the most. It certainly would be handy to have one or two of these lying about the studio for those occasions when you need an electronic sound and when someone does turn up with an absolutely dire snare drum, the One-UP could salvage the session. It would probably be impractical to build a complete kit from 1 UPs but buying the odd couple makes financial sense; there's always the mains powered K2X kit if you want a full drum kit.

It's British, beautifully made, easy to use, sounds good and comes in a choice of black or white. What more can you ask?

The One-UP retails at £125 including VAT. Further details are available from: Ultimate Percussion, (Contact Details).


Also featuring gear in this article



Previous Article in this issue

Compromising Position

Next article in this issue

Adventures In Television Recording


Home & Studio Recording - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

Home & Studio Recording - Feb 1986

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Gear in this article:

Drums (Electronic) > Ultimate Percussion > One Up

Review by Paul White

Previous article in this issue:

> Compromising Position

Next article in this issue:

> Adventures In Television Rec...


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