Electronic Drum Kit
If you ever hankered after an SDS7 or an SDS9 but didn't have the cash, or if you toyed with the SDS800 but weren't knocked out by the all-analogue sounds, then the latest SDS1000 is good news. It's the first truly credible budget-priced electronic kit. Simmons tried to make a budget kit with the SDS800, but it seemed a bit of a back-pedal. The SDS1000 is much more convincing. It's partly an update of the 800, but less fiddly to program, and it's partly a cheaper version of the SDS9, displaying some of the 9's best features but selling at a little over half the price. Further, it pioneers some new features indicating the direction in which Simmons intend to take their ranges.
The most obvious of these is the neat rack-mounting control unit. Previous Simmons kits have had drummer-friendly table-top 'brains' (the term for the control units). The rack-mounting unit is in line with the other just-released Simmons products, taking the evolution of drummer-as-electronics-consumer a step further, but it also reveals Simmons following Roland: the Roland DDR30 unit already comes rackmounted. Since Simmons have been first in just about every other electronic percussion development this indicates a spot of healthy competition; also reminiscent of Roland is the 1000's most notable feature, the inclusion of no less than four digital snare samples.
Although the relatively narrow fascia of the control unit means a compactness of layout, the 1000 is simplicity itself to use. First there are pad trigger (dynamic) sensitivity controls and output volume levels for each of the five drums. Then there's an option of two master output levels: left and right, or mono.
After the headphone socket comes the selecting and programming section. This is a condensed version of the SDS with fewer parameters, but still sufficient to alter and fiddle with the preset drum sounds to get your own favoured versions. These are then slotted into the five factory preset and five user-programmable kits (the 9 has 20 of each).
The more exotic features of the 9 are absent: auto-trigger, programmable echo, and copy-tom (enabling you to program one tom and transfer the sound to the others at different pitches). But the useful footswitch for changing kits is present, as is the 'second skin' feature which mimics the effect of a double-headed tom.
The bass drum is the software-generated SDS9 type, which I can personally vouch for as ace; the three analogue toms are again similar to those on the 9, ie pretty close to real toms, and in fact with rather briefer decay on the factory presets than the 9's.
But the snares are something new. You start with four selectable samples to fiddle with, all of which are excellent The first two are high-ish and low-ish real snares, the third a trendy gated snare, and the fourth a deep-ish 'Simmons electronic' snare. What you don't get are the cross-stick and rim-shot samples of the 9. The dynamic sensitivity - how it reacts to how hard you hit it - has been further developed and really is getting impressively near to the real thing. Now you can tap the pad very softly and you'll get a very soft sound back, but I still find it less convincing when it's dealing with big thwacks - the volume seems to reach a maximum before your own ability to whack the pad harder. No doubt they're working on it
The major absence is MIDI. This obviously keeps the price down and, realistically, many budget electronic users aren't going to need MIDI in any case. Later on you may want to use MIDI (perhaps to fire the Simmons sounds from an external sequencer, or to drive a synth from the pads to get tuned percussion) and then Simmons can offer you the Trigger MIDI Interface (TMI) to convert the 1000 and indeed any of Simmons' older pre-MIDI kits to MIDI capability. All you need is another 250 quid.
For £650 you do get five standard floating-surface pads, with control box and leads. You don't get any stands. This leaves you with the option of finding some budget double-tom stands, or perhaps of investing in Simmons' new purpose-built 'cage rack' (another £100) which allows for future extension, too. Either way, allow for the extra in your calculations.
As with any developing field, the continual introduction of new or updated models can be confusing, even financially disastrous. However, the SDS1000 looks and sounds a good bet: it combines good digital 'real' and analogue 'electronic' sounds in a system which allows for updating and incorporation into future Simmons' developments. And at a very attractive price.