Electronic Percussion Checklist
This month’s Checklist turns its attention to the world of electronic drum kits and drum machines. Price guides will never be the same again.
Our price guide with a difference enters its third and final phase this month with a roundup of all the electronic percussion products currently available. That heading encompasses electronic drum kits triggered by pads and dedicated, programmable drum machines. In other words, whether you're a drummer keen to make use of the new technology or a normal human being looking for a usable, versatile source of programmable percussion lines, you'll find a list of what's available over the following pages.
On the drum machine front, we've omitted those machines that don't offer any form of programmability (though these are now so small in number, you'd never notice they were missing), while hybrid machines that incorporate both sequencing software and some sort of manual 'pad' input caused us something of a categorising headache - in the end, we stuck them under drum machines.
Like last month's software CHECKLIST, this one's proved difficult to compile with any hope of achieving absolute completeness, simply because the market is moving ahead so rapidly. And one thing the electronic percussion sector seems to suffer from most of all (though it's to the benefit of the end user) is an ever-tumbling price spiral. Thus, you may well find you can pick up some machines - especially older ones - for a lot less outlay than even our 'typical retail' figures would suggest.
In all other respects, this month's CHECKLIST sticks to the well-tried formula of the previous two listings: a rundown of models, prices, and basic facilities, coupled with the comments (positive, negative, and overall) of E&MM's reviewing team where applicable.
Next month, it's the return of the polysynth...
Inpulse One - £1095 Eight-voice digital drum machine. Eight pads for live performance, 99 programmable patterns, 15 songs, trigger inputs, individual voice outputs; 16-voice basic sound library includes bass drum, snare, handclaps, timpani, gunshot, conga, claves, hi-hat.
+ Build quality, ease of use, promise of expanding voice library;
- some sonic disappointments, difficult to get hold of;
= a fine machine that combines editing facilities with real-time playability, sadly underrated.
Anvil Percussion Synthesiser - £4995 16-channel programmable drum machine with analogue and digital sound sources, built-in sound-sampling, real-time sequencer, MIDI and external trigger connections, disk-drive for storage of samples and sequences. To be reviewed.
Dr Bohm - £669 (kit), £949 (built) 24-voice digital drum machine. 180 pre-programmed patterns, 36 programmable rhythms, 8 separate outputs; 2 bass drums, 3 snares, 2 rimshot snare rolls, 12 toms, 2 bongos, woodblock, 2 congas, 4 closed hi-hats, 2 open hi-hats, 4 cymbals, 2 tambourines, 2 maracas, claves, cowbell, handclap.
+ Vast range of built-in sounds, kit package gives the soldering-iron crowd a real bargain;
- bewildering control layout, lack of decent interfacing facilities, ready-built price-tag slightly high;
= a bit of an oddity these days, but pre-programmed patterns are useful building blocks for inexperienced programmers.
Dr Rhythm Graphic DR110 - £125 Six-voice analogue drum machine. Built-in LCD, mono output; bass drum, snare drum, open & closed hi-hat, cymbal, handclap.
+ Superb display makes writing and editing patterns a doddle, unbeatable analogue clap sound;
- Balance control offers only limited adjustment of voice levels;
= successor to the immortal DR55 and justifiably popular, proves analogue technology still rules the roost at bottom end of electrodrum market.
Master Rhythm - £129 13-voice analogue drum machine. 24 programmable patterns, mono output; 2 cymbals, rimshot, brushes, claves, snare, 4 toms, 2 bongos, conga, bass drum.
+ Wide range of voices for the money;
- doesn't sound as good as DR110, and isn't as easy to use;
= if the voices are the ones you want, there's simply no alternative.
Drumulator - £985 12-voice digital drum machine. 36 programmable patterns, 8 songs, cassette storage of programs, sync (24, 48, 96 ppqn); basic sounds include bass drum, snare, clave, cowbell, handclaps, rimshot, open & closed hi-hat, 3 toms, cymbal - alternative sound chips also available.
+ digital voices still sound good next to Japanese competition, excellent range of additional ROM-based voices;
- falling behind in both price and composing facilities;
= still a decent bet, but the Drumulator II (when rescheduled and re-titled) should be a real winner.
DPM48 - £499 23-voice (15 programmable) digital drum machine. Seven programmable patterns, MIDI (In, Out, Thru) equipped; 4 toms, 3 bass drums, 3 hi-hats, 3 snares, 3 cymbals, 2 cabasas, clap, 2 agogos, rimshot.
+ Sounds good despite home organ origins, MIDI retrofit makes interfacing facilities complete;
- lacks the informative display facilities of more recent models;
= recent £200 price drop makes Hammond's only pro instrument irresistible: if only they'd come up with more...
DDM110 - £225 Nine-voice digital drum machine. 32 programmable patterns, LED display, real- and step-time programming, programmable trigger out, stereo output, sync (48ppqn); bass drum, snare, rimshot, 2 toms, open & closed hi-hat, cymbal, handclaps.
+ Cheapest digital drum machine on the UK market, links neatly to MIDI (and tape) with optional KMS30 interface;
- you don't get impeccable sound quality for this money, so some sounds bettered by analogue equivalents;
= another justifiably popular machine, even with (unavoidable) digital noise problems.
DDM220 - £225 Latin Percussion version of DDM110, spec as above except for voicing; 2 congas, timbale, wood block, cowbell, agogos, cabasa, tambourine.
+ Marvellously realistic approximations of Latin drums that really do sound different;
- nothing at this price, except non-Roland standard sync;
= the first drum machine to offer more than the usual rock percussion set-up, and they're not charging the earth for it.
MR16 - £449 19-voice digital drum machine for connection to pre-existing MIDI software, individual and stereo outputs,
+ Voices identical to those of DDM110/220, hence pretty good,
- no realistic applications given lack of specific drum sequencing software, some dodgy ergonomics;
= a bit of a lemon unless some good software is forthcoming from Korg or some other source, though it's a sound enough idea in theory.
LinnDrum - £2650 23-voice real-time digital drum machine. 42 preset and 56 programmable patterns, 49 songs, individual and stereo outputs, cassette storage of programs, alternative sound chips available; 2 bass drums, 3 snares, sidestick, 3 hi-hats, 3 toms, 3 cymbals, 2 cabasas, 2 tambourines, 2 congas, cowbell, handclap,
+ The original still sounds excellent, open-ended voice structure, healthy service back-up the world over thanks to instrument's popularity;
- now looking very expensive against recent competition;
= like the Rolls-Royce, outclassed and outdated, but a lot of people still ask for it by name...
Linn 9000 - £4675 18-voice digital drum machine and MIDI sequencer. Individual and stereo outputs, 2 programmable trigger outs, MIDI (In, Out, Thru), tape sync facility, 32-track polyphonic keyboard sequencer, disk and cassette storage of programs; bass drum, snare, hi-hat, 4 toms, 2 congas, 4 cymbals, cowbell, handclaps, cabasa, sidestick, tambourine,
+ Superlative drum sounds, elegant all-in-one-box design concept;
- horrendous price-tag, lack of step-time input and other crucial recording facilities, no sampling yet;
= without its promised hardware and software updates (step-time input, editing, sampling), an expensive dinosaur.
512 - £299 Nine-voice digital drum machine. Eight song, 64 programmable patterns, trigger in, trigger out, individual (DIN) and stereo outputs; bass drum, snare, 3 toms, handclaps, cymbal, open & closed hi-hat.
+ Wonderful sounds for the money, light and compact;
- terrible ergonomics, thus difficult to use;
= Germany's little digital gem, though made in small quantities so you don't see many about.
Music Percussion Computer - £399 Nine-voice analogue/digital hybrid drum machine. 26 programmable bars, 25 programmable sequences, eight pads for live playing, real- and step-time programming, individual and mix outputs, tape sync facility, ZX81 interface; bass drum, snare, open and closed hi-hat, 4 toms, handclap, cymbal.
+ A marvellous idea (like a cheap Inpulse One, though the MPC came first) backed up with some presentable sounds;
- no MIDI, Sinclair software not very friendly;
= a pioneer coming to the end of its useful commercial life, though it's still a worthwhile machine.
Drum Computer - £995 12-voice digital drum machine. 100 programmable patterns, 100 songs, sync to and from tape, individual and stereo outputs, cassette storage of programs; bass drum, snare, rimshot, 3 toms, bell, open & closed hi-hat, cymbal, claps, block.
+ Punchy, dynamic sounds, well laid-out controls;
- lacks decent tuning and interfacing facilities;
= another golden oldie (two years!) made cheaper by increased competition.
DX - £1575 18-voice digital drum machine. 100 programmable patterns, 50 songs, LED display, individual, stereo and mono outputs, real- and step-time programming, instrument sync (96ppqn) and sync to and from tape facilities, alternative sound chips available, 3 bass drums, 3 snares, 3 hi-hats, 3 toms, 3 cymbals, 2 shakers, handclap.
+ Usual Stateside virtues of good sounds and easy chip replacement for voicing variety;
- usual Stateside vice of relatively high cost;
= an underrated machine with price-tag that's ensured a low profile in UK, but updated version with MIDI as standard available soon, price TBA.
DX Stretch - £TBA Hardware add-on for DX giving additional voices and MIDI facility. To be reviewed.
DMX - £2975 20-voice digital drum machine. 200 programmable patterns, 100 songs, real-and step-time programming, individual, stereo and mono outputs, sync (96ppqn) equipped, cassette storage of programs; 3 bass drums, 3 snares, hi-hat, gunshot, 2 toms, noise, conga, timbale, tambourine, rimshot, shaker, handclaps, cowbells, clave, 2 cymbals, punch.
+ As for DX, plus usefully large range of onboard voices;
- again, mainly the price;
= the original Linn-beater, but like its rival, feeling the pinch from more cost-effective competition.
TR707 - £525 12-voice digital drum machine. 64 programmable patterns, liquid crystal display, real- and step-time programming, individual and stereo audio outputs, MIDI (In, Out) and Sync 24 equipped, cartridge and cassette storage of programs; 2 bass drums, 2 snares, 3 toms, rimshot, cowbell, handclap, tambourine, open & closed hi-hat, 2 cymbals.
+ Marvellous sounds, DR110-like display makes programming a piece of cake once you're suitably acclimatised, cartridge storage is great relief after tape, useful set of separate outputs;
- not nearly as well-built as Roland's old TR808 analogue flagship, idiosyncratic programming technique, no individual voice tuning;
= despite its limitations, the best middle-market drum box available - if you like Roland's programming system.
TR727 - £525 15-voice percussion version of TR707: facilities as above except for voicing; 2 bongos, 3 congas, 2 timbales, 2 agogos, 2 whistles, quijada, cabasa, maracas, star chimes. To be reviewed.
TR909 - £425 11-voice analogue/digital hybrid drum machine. 96 programmable patterns, real-and step-time programming, LED display, individual and stereo outputs, MIDI (In, Out, Thru) and sync 24 equipped, cartridge and cassette storage of programs; 2 bass drums, 2 snares, 6 toms, rim shot, handclap, open & closed hi-hat, 2 cymbals.
+ Mainly-analogue sounds will retain charm so long as TR808 remains in fashion...;
- ...but sound weak next to Roland's own digital fare;
= outdated machine now out of production, too, but haggle with the dealer and you've got yourself a bargain.
TOM - £795 Eight-voice digital drum machine. 99 programmable patterns, programmable tuning and volume, reverse play of sounds, real- and step-time programming, MIDI-equipped.
+ Basic sounds are pretty good, more sounds available on cartridge, unique sample reversal is a great gimmick;
- lacks separate voice outputs, can only play four sounds at any one time, not as well built as Drumtraks;
= confirmation of Sequential's electro-drum prowess, though lack of individual outputs should ensure continued success of Drumtraks as well.
Drumtraks - £995 13-voice digital drum machine. 99 programmable patterns, LED display, programmable pitch and volume, individual and mono output, MIDI (In, Out) sync (24 or 48 out, 24ppqn in) equipped, cassette storage of programs, alternative sound chips available; bass drum, snare, rimshot, 2 toms, 2 cymbals, open & closed hi-hat, claps, tambourine, cowbell, cabasa.
+ Superb sounds, tuning and editing facilities unrivalled at this price, sound chips interchangeable with Linn's,
- not as well laid-out as later TOM, though it's not that tricky to use anyway;
= in terms of programming and tuning flexibility, still very hard to beat
DP50 - £595 25-voice (15 programmable) digital drum machine. Stereo outputs, MIDI (In, Out, Thru), 7 programmable patterns, 4 preset patterns per programmable voice; programmable sounds: bass drum, snare, 4 toms, 2 congas, tambourine, handclaps.
+ Well built, some excellent (but non-programmable) exotic percussion sounds;
- complicated to use, no proper song storage or output facilities, preset patterns take up vital memory space, programmable sounds lack definition;
= too flawed for professionals to take it seriously - unless they work in a cocktail bar.
RX15 - £499 15-voice version of RX11; spec as below except: stereo only outputs, cassette only storage; bass drum, 2 snares, rimshot, 3 hi-hats, 3 toms, 2 cymbals, handclaps, cowbell, shaker,
+ Fine sounds, good range of editing facilities, informative (if limited) LCD;
- not the easiest machine to use, lacks individual voice tuning;
= Yamaha's first venture into programmable drum machines is a real success, especially in the context of an X-series MIDI system.
RX11 - £799 29-voice digital drum machine. 99 programmable patterns, real- and step-time programming, liquid crystal display, individual and stereo outputs, MIDI (In, Out) and selectable sync outputs, cartridge and cassette storage of programs; 3 bass drums, 8 snares, 2 rimshots, 5 hi-hats, 4 toms, 2 cymbals, 2 handclaps, 2 cowbells, shaker.
+ As RX15 only more so, separate outputs make it a studio user's dream;
- more complicated than RX15, hence even trickier to use, range of sounds lacks imagination;
= serious competitor for Roland TR707, once you've overcome its user-unfriendliness.
AM10 - £TBA Prototype digital drum system. Single pad unit reading ROM sounds, level out, tuning, trigger in facilities. To be reviewed.
Desert Drums MkII - £799 Ten-channel, five-pad, analogue/digital hybrid modular drum kit. Rack-mounted voicing unit, sequencer connection facility, stereo outputs.
+ Interesting hybrid of digital (excellent) and analogue (not so hot) drum sounds, includes brave attempt at electronic cymbal,
- crosstalk between adjacent pads, kit doesn't look or feel very impressive;
= a pretty good all-rounder that takes more design risks than most, thus worth considering so long as you don't put appearances high on your list.
ddrum - £295 Single-pad digital unit using ROM cartridges. Different duration sample chips available, battery powered, pitch control, trigger in.
+ Magnificent sound quality thanks to sample recording care on factory's part, vast (and expanding) range of sounds both conventional and unconventional;
- almost absurdly expensive, digital noise intrudes on some samples, not everybody likes the idea of hitting a small, square pad;
= the Rolls-Royce of digital drum units, and similarly pricey.
ddrum Rack System - £2023 Five-channel, rackmounted digital electronic drum kit comprising ddrum electronics and set of Remo heads, expandable to eight channels, individual outputs. To be reviewed.
Percuter - £550 Eight-channel digital electronic drum kit. Interchangeable digital modules, individual and stereo outputs.
Big Brain - £795 16-channel drum sequencer. 50 programmable songs, 100 user-programmable patterns (50 optional preset or programmable), cassette storage of programs, MIDI (In, Out, Thru), Sync In & Out. Available July.
Boomer - £725 Digital percussion sound-sampler. Trigger in from pad or sequencer, editing facilities. Available July.
Digital Hit - £125 Single-voice digital percussion module. All Dynacord electronic percussion machines to be reviewed.
CDX9 - £TBA Eight-voice, seven-pad, digitally-sampled electronic drum kit. 2U rack-mounted voice unit, overall tuning facility, individual and stereo outputs.
CDX11 - £TBA As above, but with five voices and rimshot.
CLX1 - £TBA LFO unit for CLX2.
CLX2 - £TBA Individual drum voice module. Pad/MIDI triggering.
CQX3 - £TBA Real-time drum sequencer. MIDI (In, Out, Thru), external input from pads. All Hohner electronic percussion machines to be reviewed.
Klone Kit 2 - £499 Five-channel analogue electronic drum kit. Individual tune, damp and level controls, snare noise and pitch-bend controls, individual and mix outputs.
+ Looks good, sounds pretty fair all-round (but especially snare);
- sounds could do with a bit of 'dirtying', kit isn't of the sturdiest;
= a little characterless, but it has its own appeal, is great for creating off-the-wall sounds, and modular configuration (see below) lends flexibility.
Dual Percussion Synthesiser - £299 Two-channel analogue electronic drum add-on. Basic spec as Kit 2.
+ Again, it looks good and it sounds OK, plenty of scope for 'weird' sound effects in addition to conventional percussion voices,
- drum sounds lack bottom, feel;
= a useful addition to either a Kit 2 or (better) an acoustic set-up.
Electronic Drum System - £500 Five-channel analogue electronic drum kit. Mix, stereo and individual outputs, one factory preset, two user-programmable presets, one live setting, FX send/return, provision for two extra modules. To be reviewed.
DSM1 - £199 Non-programmable electronic drum module. Sensitivity, decay, pitch-bend, pitch, noise and click controls. Can be triggered by MPC Standard or Super Pads.
DSM8 - £199 Auto-tom unit producing tom roll from single pad strike or sequencer trigger, incorporates voicing circuitry and sequencing electronics.
+ Certainly very clever, and pretty cheap for what you get;
- has to be powered from MPC drum module, built-in tom sounds are hardly revolutionary,
= decent budget sequencing machine for the lazy and/or incompetent.
DSM32 - £299 128-memory analogue electronic drum module. Spec as for DSM1 plus modulation control.
+ Excellent analogue sounds, mod control widens sonic vocabulary to include FM-like synth timbres, programmability well worth having;
- dynamics not programmable, single decay control;
= a very neat analogue kit, especially when triggered by same company's Super Pads (£299 for five with stands).
Programmer 8 - £199 Eight-channel drum sequencing software for ZX81, Spectrum or Commodore 64 computers.
+ Superb graphics display similar to Roland TR707/Yamaha RX software, hardware can be triggered by just about any electronic percussion device;
- Sinclair models lack sync facility, have software stored on tape;
= well-considered package that makes drum programming a cinch and is capable of remembering an entire set's worth of rhythm patterns.
DRX1 - £1020 Five-pad analogue electronic drum kit with eight user-programmable kit sounds.
+ Superb, responsive pads are among best available, unique Overtone control makes Latin Percussion sounds a possibility;
- basic drum sounds lack character, kit a little pricey, needs overall volume control;
= more than many, a drummer's electronic kit, or what you'd expect from an acoustic drum manufacturer.
DDR30 - £1950 Digital electronic drum kit. Six-voice rack-mounted sound module, eight memories per voice, 32 kit memories, MIDI In and Out, individual and stereo outputs. To be reviewed.
Clap Trap - £75 Single percussion unit for clap and similar sounds, now in second (digital) generation, internal trigger source, triggers to footswitch/mic/tape.
SDS1 - £250 Single pad digital module/pad. Derives sound from EPROM, battery power, external trigger.
SDS6 - £1435 Eight-channel programmable drum sequencer. Programmable dynamics, 250 patterns per sequence, MIDI-equipped,
+ Marvellous (and much-copied) LED pattern display, new-found MIDI compatibility;
- a little bit expensive, all things considered;
= a custom sequencer that makes an awful lot of sense for existing Simmons owners.
SDS7 - £2156 Five-channel analogue/digital hybrid electronic drum kit. Expandable to 12 channels, each channel has individually-controllable analogue, digital and noise sound sources, 100 different 'kit' programs,
+ Unrivalled sonic flexibility thanks to variety of sound sources, handy 'pad' program selector, impeccable pad design;
- if you can afford it, nothing;
= rapidly becoming to the electronic drum world what the LinnDrum is to the drum machine market, and deservedly so: MIDI coming soon.
SDS9 - £1200 Five-channel analogue/digital hybrid electronic drum kit. Interchangeable PROM sounds, 20 user-programmable kits, 20 factory-programmed kits, auto-trigger facility, tape storage of sounds, individual outputs, MIDI-equipped. To be reviewed.
SDS200 - £360 Twin-channel analogue electronic tom synth. individual, stereo and mix outputs. To be reviewed.
SDS400 - £550 Four-channel analogue electronic tom synth. Individual, stereo and mix outputs, run generator feature. To be reviewed.
SDS800 - £630 Four-channel analogue electronic drum kit. Bass drum, snare, two tom channels, individual, stereo and mix outputs, built-in run generator. To be reviewed.
SDS EPB - £392 EPROM blower to be triggered by SDS7 and SDS1. Blows 8K and 16K EPROMs from onboard RAM, variable sample speed.
+ Quick, easy way of making your electronic drum kit sound like no-one else's, fits in neatly with Simmons scheme of things;
- no avoiding the fact that sampling quality could be better;
= pioneer product that serves its purpose while leaving room for subsequent improvement.
Techstar TS500 — £930 Five-pad, six-channel analogue electronic drum kit. One preset and one user-programmable voice per channel, trigger inputs, individual and stereo outputs.
+ Generally good (if derivative) sounds, excellent pads, neat rimshot facility;
- like so many imitators, it lacks character;
= serviceable Simmons alternative from the first acoustic company to go hi-tech - with more products on the way in the very near future.
Techstar TS600 - £989 Six-channel analogue percussion synth. Four toms, synth and handclaps, details as TS500.
Digisound - £115 (single-sound), £149 (dual) Sampled-sound percussion machine triggered by built-in switch or external source. Sounds stored on EPROM.
+ High sound quality, ever-growing factory library of EPROM voices, now dynamic as well;
- a teeny bit expensive, dual bass-and-snare model a bit silly as sounds can't be triggered together;
= a neat electropercussion add-on for non-drummers fed up with their drum-machine sounds.
Digimemory - £TBA Universal EPROM version of Digisound. To be reviewed.
The Winner - £TBA Microprocessor-controlled EPROM blower/programmer, built-in MIDI and serial computer interfacing. To be reviewed.
UP5 - £555 Five-pad analogue electronic drum kit. Eight preset kit voicings, individual and stereo outputs.
+ Fine analogue sounds, follows Simmons philosophy of deliberately restricting range of sounds available;
- nothing, save that it doesn't have Simmons written on it;
= so long as you don't want access to a wide variety of drum sounds, the best way of getting into electronic drums.
K2 - £745 Analogue electronic drum kit. To be reviewed.
CX5 - £TBA Electronic drum system comprising digitally-sampled drum sounds, five triggering pads, drum sequencer with 27 drum sounds, 64 pre-programmed rhythm patterns and one user-programmable song. Available September. To be reviewed.
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