The black cat widdles in the white cat's eye: Bob Henrit explains
SDS1000 is the latest whole drum set from Simmons, sort of like SDS9 but with not quite so many options. It looks much more modern than any other set since its brain is meant to be rack mounted; otherwise it uses the usual pads which Simmons supply for all their sets, but without the dual-trigger snare.
Like all the standard sets from St Albans this one has five voices which are almost the same as those on the 9. The bass drum is computer generated, the toms are analogue synthesised with the 'second skin' feature and the snares are digitally sampled. SDS1000 has five factory implanted sets which can be selected via the appropriate button and the company supply a socket at the back for an optional footswitch to accomplish the same thing. Additionally you may create another five sets of your own in a user section. However, when the sets leave the factory they have sounds in RAM too. A 'dot' in the display informs you which bank you're actually cycling through.
The front of the brain is neat and logical. To the left we have a row of sensitivity pots for bass, snare and three toms. Next to these are volume controls for each of the five voices followed by a pair of master output controls, the right-hand one being mono too.
Next we find the all important headphone socket followed by the programming side of the SDS1000. This consists of three rectangular push switches. Program, Store and Select. The first switch allows you to enter the Programme mode, thus enabling you to adjust the sound parameters to construct your own sounds or alternatively modify the sounds already in the factory section. These may then be stored in the RAM (user) area without affecting the originals. (If you screw up, you need only to press Programme again).
Store is self explanatory and looks after your own kit creations. Obligingly it will flash up the letters S-T-O-R-I-N-G as you're carrying out that operation. Select simply chooses a voice to programme; each press will move you to the next sound but changes to voices you've already made will be memorised so that you can programme a whole kit at once, and then store it. A series of LEDs inform you when you're in programme and which drum voice you are working upon. Finally we have a series of seven parameter controls. These relate to the voices but don't work on all of them. For example Pitch works on all drums. Filter works only on toms. Bend changes snare and toms, as does Decay; Noise is only for toms and Click doesn't work on snare. The remaining pot brings in second skin on the toms and selects one of the four available snare drums. Since they are switchable you may choose a tight snare, or a Rock one, or an ambient one and of course an electric one. So as you are creating your very own sets you may choose one of these and then set about changing it prior to storing it. The kit number will be lit in the display and if you try to store into the factory (ROM) section it will tell you NO spells no!
The back of the unit is not at all complicated and we have the usual collection of jack inputs and outputs as well as left and right outputs and an input for an optional footswitch. (This is manufactured by Simmons and costs less than a tenner so I would consider it a must.) The only other thing on the back is an On/Off rocker switch.
As you can see, SDS1000 is a stripped down version of SDS9. It has many of the same attributes and also feels and responds in exactly the same manner. With the 9, the company went out of their way to make it respond and sound like a 'real' drum set. They incorporated that slight lift in pitch that you get from hitting a drum head followed by a drop once the membrane returns to rest. In short, they tailored the sounds to correspond with acoustic drum sounds — only better. It could perhaps be described as sounding how we'd fondly like our acoustic drums to sound! Anyway 1000 has carried on this tradition of 'drummy ness' and it might even be that some of its sounds are superior to its more expensive brother. I still don't believe anybody's electronic drums make as good a sound as Simmons' do, certainly not in terms of aggression.
As far as the hardware to support this kit is concerned there isn't any — at least not included in the price. However, this should give you the opportunity to purchase one of their drum 'racks' which are superior to double tom stands (since they stabilise the bass pad and allow you to mount cymbals and 'brain' on it too) and will cost you precisely £99.99 but without tom arms.
As far as the pads are concerned they are identical to those of the 9. Avid IM readers will known that Simmons released these in 1985 and I wrote about them in July's edition. They cost the company plenty to design and do away with all that plywood inside the bowl. Instead they have an ABS shell with webs inside to strengthen it and the 'head' is a piece of rubber fixed across the top of the bowl with a piece of fibre-board underneath. This makes it much more like an acoustic drum in its feel. A drum key operated screw protrudes from the playing surface and locks the spring steel clamp which is hidden inside the pad itself securely to the tube of the holder arm. As before the internal wires are shock mounted to a degree by way of that non-setting gel which is coated over them all. A single transducer is fitted to each pad under the head to carry the 'good vibes' to the control unit. The bass drum pad is also as before with the piston loaded playing area and the usual spurs and bass drum pedal bracket.
To sum up, SDS1000 is as far as I can tell the most 'drummer friendly' piece of equipment. It is terribly simple to programme the unit and Simmons' very informative book supplied with it tells you a great deal more about changing and creating sounds. SDS1000 is a very attractive unit both in features and price which I'm sure will grab the share of the market it deserves.
Incidentally, while I was at the factory I learnt a very interesting piece of information. To keep the 'boffins' in touch with the product they are taking drum lessons. They have until November to learn to play a pattern known affectionately as 'The black cat widdles in the white cat's eye'. I understand that the R & D department are really getting into it. I'll keep you posted...
SIMMONS SDS1000 RRP: £649 (no stands)
Review by Bob Henrit
Previous article in this issue:
Next article in this issue:
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!