The Kit & Accessories
The popular Kit is now expandable, we look at two of the new modules, The Clap and The Tymp.
Following E&MM's recent visit to MPC Electronics, our 'roving reporter' returned clutching a collection of 'add-ons' to the ever-popular Kit which have been released following our in-depth review of the basic Kit unit some time ago. Interest in MPC products has, of course, increased due to their innovative design, the Music Percussion Computer (M.P.C.) which enables you to play with real drum sticks (unlike the Kit) and features comprehensive computer control.
However, it is gratifying to see that MPC have not forgotten the Kit devotees, who will no doubt wish to expand the capabilities of their machine with the Synkit, Tymp and Clap (not forgetting the useful new Power Pack!). But first...
The Kit and accessories' design are based around circular pads mounted over piezo pickups which, when played by your fingers, trigger the respective sounds with a certain degree of touch sensitivity. The basic unit features Bass Drum, Snare, Hi and Lo Toms, Open and Closed Hi-Hats, and Cymbal pads. The Hi-Hats can be set to play automatically (and therefore acts as a built-in metronome) with a variety of open and closed (factory preset) hi-hat rhythms, but these patterns can be added to manually and the tempo and volume adjusted to suit. Individual levels for each drum sound can be set using the front panel controls and individual line outs are available which, when used, preclude that sound from the main 'Mix Out' (useful for giving one sound a 'special treatment').
A foot switch facility on the back panel enables the Bass Drum Pedal/Hi-Hat on/off accessory to be connected.
Two mini-jack Trig Out sockets (triggers being obtained from the Hi and Lo Toms respectively) are also included which connect to the Trig In sockets on the accessories. An extra socket, marked 'Trig-Out Clap', has been added to the newer models, and this enables the Clap to be triggered automatically when the Auto Hi-Hats are in use. In 4 or 8 beats to a bar mode, the Clap triggers on beat 3 and 5 respectively. However, by selecting 8 to a bar at a fast tempo (ie. simulating 16ths) it will appear to trigger on beats 2 and 4.
The Kit's accessories are designed to compliment the main unit and they adopt the same stylish finish. The 5cm diameter pads match the Hi and Lo Toms in size and the add-ons can be triggered from these via Trig Out 1 or 2 from the Kit. The back panels on each of the accessories contain Trig In, Output, and 9V Supply sockets - the Output sockets are standard ¼" jack, while the remainder require mini-jacks.
The Synkit enables the user to obtain a wide variety of syndrum sounds by altering the Sweep (which varies the depth of the sound), Decay (sets the decay time), and Pitch (sets the frequency range of the sweep) controls on the front panel. As well as force-to-volume sensitivity, tapping the pad harder will produce a relatively deeper sweep and longer decay time.
As far as syndrums go, the Synkit is one of the better ones, but unfortunately (for MPC) the days of the phantom 'peeyoo' sound is past. However, considering that fashions tend to have a ten-year repeating cycle, you could always buy your Synkit early for the 1989 revival!
This unit claims to simulate peddle tympani and features Volume, Pitch, Decay and Mix controls. The Mix control adjusts the combination of 'Noise' and 'Tone' in the sound, while Pitch 'tunes' the drum (0 being high and 10 being low for some strange reason). Anyone with a facility on their synth for mixing white noise and a ramp wave could emulate the Tymp, and although it produces some interesting sounds, its usefulness is questionable.
By far the most impressive of the set, The Clap produces a variety of realistic hand claps which, as already mentioned, can be triggered manually (from either of the Toms) or automatically by the Hi-Hats on the main unit. The variable parameters are Spread, Mix, Decay and of course Volume.
The Clap effect itself is produced by three (almost simultaneous) bursts of sound and spacing between these can be varied by the 'Spread' control which helps to suggest more human 'out-of-sync' hand claps. The 'Mix' control balances the 'Claps' and 'Noise' in the selected sound, while 'Decay' sets the decay time of the single noise burst.
Bearing in mind that all of the Accessories can be purchased separately (and operated without the main unit), anyone looking for a 'clapbox' could do worse than to check out The Clap.
In use, the Kit and its accessories offer a variety of layout possibilities depending on which drum sounds or trigger options you find most useful. It is possible to play the kit using pencils etc, but you may find that erroneous triggers are relayed to accessories from the 'non-trigger' pads due to vibrations.
The sound authenticity is improved considerably by amplifying through a good quality system and the use of the Power Pack is advisable due to the slight deterioration in sound quality that can be experienced when the batteries run low. The Power Pack supplies four stabilised 9V DC outputs and would pay for itself quickly if the units are used extensively.
The automatic Hi-Hats can be quite difficult to follow; even though the patterns always begin on the first beat you soon lose track as the open Hi-Hats gradually appear to occur on the on-beats when in fact they don't! Perhaps a more 'cutting' and/or relatively louder closed Hi-Hat sound is called for.
With practice though it is possible to perfect a certain amount of skill and playing technique and the 'humanisation' touch can add to the illusion of a real drummer rather than detract from the sometimes aggravatingly perfect timing that drum machines produce!
For further information contact MPC Electronics, (Contact Details). RRPs for the above are: The Kit - £149.95; The Synkit - £59.95; The Tymp - £59.95; The Clap £69.95; Bass Drum/Hi-Hat Pedal £29.95; and the Power Pack - £19.95.
Review by Patricia McGrath
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