TED Digisound Digital Processor
synth drums, actually
'The Ted Digisound Digital Processor'. Quite a mouthful for such a small and straightforward device. This must be a company with its sales sights set firmly in the direction of our dear American cousins who have also demonstrated a certain peculiar flair for inventing words which sound impressive but mean nothing. Each of Ted's products is essentially the same. A unit which contains one digitally stored sound which can be triggered by tape, metronome, transducer or finger.
A method which seems designed to improve the quality of budget or home recordings and to rescue the drummer who wants his bass drum to sound like a Linn but hasn't quite cracked the consequent tuning problems with his (let's face it lads) quaint acoustic set up. And at sixty nine quid a throw this must be an attractive proposition to both electronic drum dabblers and converts alike, even bearing in mind the lack of sound variation on offer.
The Digisound requires an external power supply and the company makes two, the DG2, which will drive two units, or the DG10 which will accommodate ten units, though the brochure does point out (quite sportingly I thought) that other types of power supply will do the job equally well, providing their specifications are compatible.
I received two units for this test, a bass drum and a synth tom but the famous brochure also spoke of snare, tom tom, handclap, triangle and conga sounds being available along with 'many other exciting voices' (Frank Ifield?). They also offer to digitise your own sounds into a unit if you contact the firm (in the Netherlands) for recording instructions and then send a tape of the required noise (the ribbit of a particularly appealing frog perhaps). This echoes the Linn method, which involves sending a tape to California, where you are obviously in no position to exert much quality control and where disappointing results have been achieved with my own snare and cymbal sounds. Overall there must also be a question mark against the value of digitising an analogue sound in the first place.
And so to the bass drum unit itself. As I said last month (in the Cactus review) the bass drum is the least varied sound in the modern drum kit and is thus ideal digitising fodder. Since it's also the element played with the least dynamics, sounds least convincing on cheaper rhythm units and causes drummers most grief at gigs, it will come as no surprise to discover that the Ted bass drum makes a good, workable sound (plenty of attack at the front of the sound, plenty of bottom end in the tone). It matters not that the pitch control is only really effective between its eleven and three o'clock settings because such is variation enough for most ears, unless you want a bass drum that sounds like a finger popping out from the side of the gob or someone trying to start a reluctant tractor.
Creating a mighty thwack with a mere tap of the unit's computer keyboard style trigger button will bring a tear to the eye of the drummer who has always longer to sound as though he (or she) has legs like oak trees, leaves the said appendages free for a spot of simultaneous, riot-inducing tap dancing and opens the way for demo tape composers to inflict thunderingly impossible bass drum patterns on any unsuspecting A&R man or relative within listening range.
With the trigger mike and its four feet or so of cable the fun really starts. Obviously it's designed to be attached to your own acoustic drum, or tappable piece of wood if you don't happen to own this bulky item, but imagine the artistic satisfaction to be derived from boogalooing across the stage of your local pub gig during the disco breakdown part of the number, nutting this small, circular transducer on every second and fourth beat and miraculously producing a tremendous thump through the PA right on time. If nothing else patrons oblivious of this electronic breakthrough will subsequently treat you with new respect.
If the trigger mike works well and the trigger button on the bass drum is robust and pleasant to the touch, its counterpart on the synth tom is a more suspect affair, much the same in style to those found on the Prophet synth with a sharp on/off click and the distinct look of a facility which won't stand much hard use. Perhaps this is an early version of the unit which has since been superceded by the button found on the bass drum unit.
The sound itself is the only one in the range to be created synthetically, in this case in an attempt to reproduce the sound of the Simmons SDS5 with its distinctive, fizzing tone bend. All of which is very well in the mid and upper part of the range, but it's most unconvincing at the lower end, where the lack of adjustment on the pitch filter prevents use as a floor tom. Plenty of ping pong at the top end but none of the bowel moving bass that characterises the Simmons. Similarly it would be presumtuous to expext the unit to offer even the limited touch sensitivity of the SDS5, so unless you're willing to grapple with the unit's output control as you trigger a mind-bendingly appropriate fill, you can forget dynamics in a live playing situation, though this drawback is less critical in recording use, where you can stop and take your time with such important matters.
Then there's the question of fashionability. The SDS5 sound is already something of a cliche on record, so a new unit which sets out to reproduce this sound and no other can expect only a limited lifespan and the canny drummer is always wary of rash use of the old capital.
Which brings us to prices. Each unit retails at £69.95 (including VAT) the power supply at £19.00. The trigger mikes and cables cost £2.95 each and the three pin din connector cables £3.50 each. The sealed memory block is guaranteed for eight years (good) and Ted claims a remarkably efficient signal to noise ratio for the digitised sounds themselves, 72dB. Apart from the synth tom trigger button the units appear strong and equally well made and would appear to be of most practical interest to the budget conscious music maker, with the important proviso that what you hear is what you get, so listen critically to each sound and try to envisage how much use you can make of it before lashing out. I would have been interested to hear some of the other units in the range and of these two would give the bass drum the thumbs up and the hooter to the synth tom. One final question: Who is Ted?
TED Digisound Digital Processor: £69
One Two Testing - Jul 1984
Donated & scanned by: Simon Dell
Review by Andy Duncan
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