TED Digisound Digital Drums
It can be frustrating trying to obtain a good drum sound from a cheap drum machine. If you can't afford to upgrade to a digital unit, then the TED Digisound could well be your answer.
For the home recordist, achieving a well recorded drum sound from a machine or from acoustic drums, can prove a real headache. Sometimes it's just the bass drum or perhaps the snare drum that is a problem and that's when a Digisound unit makes good economic sense. Before proceeding further, I'd better explain what a TED Digisound is.
Basically, each Digisound is a self-contained unit powered from an external supply which itself will power several TED units. The heart of the system is a 'real' drum sound electrically stored in an EPROM within the circuitry and the sound may be played back by tapping a button on the device, providing a trigger pulse, or by plugging in an optional inexpensive contact microphone. This gives three areas of operation, all valuable to the home recordist as the rhythm may be tapped out manually on the play button, triggered from a drum machine or triggered by the mic which may itself be attached to a less than perfect sounding drum (or even an ironing board!).
The TED modules are available in single or dual sound versions and in the case of the dual sound module, the sound is selected by a pushbutton switch; it is, however, not possible to use both sounds simultaneously.
When used with a contact mic, the circuitry can be switched to dynamic control if required and this is useful for interpreting the expression in the playing style of a human drummer. If, however, he or she is a sloppy player and you need a tight sound, the dynamic facility may be switched off to give perfectly even beats. An LED set into the dynamic control switch glows with varying brightness according to the played dynamics when this feature is active.
When the dynamic facility is engaged, the manual play button is rendered inoperative as the more brutal user might be tempted to beat this button in an attempt to squeeze more level out of the system.
By replacing the contact mic with an Ultimate Percussion drum pad, I was able to add digital sounds to an otherwise analogue electronic drum kit, but I believe I am right in assuming that Simmons pads have too small an output voltage to be used successfully in this way - though you could get away with attaching the contact mic directly to the pad's playing surface.
The bass/snare module I tested gave first class results and more than adequate tuning variation can be achieved by using the pitch rotary control. Moving the sampled sound far out of its natural range does, however, produce a very unnatural sound and care must be exercised when adjusting this feature.
Other voice samples included an electronic (Simmons?) tom sound and a crash cymbal, though the duration of the latter was truncated due to insufficient sampling time. Generally speaking, digital cymbals are not usually very convincing, even when sampled perfectly as each beat has an identical sound, quite unlike the real thing. A genuine cymbal sounds different every time it is struck and the tone varies greatly depending on whereabouts on the surface it is hit, so it will take considerable ingenuity before this problem is finally solved digitally.
In all other respects, the voicings of the TED modules sounded well recorded (sampling being 12 bit with 76dB signal-to-noise) with no noticeable distortion or clock noise (unless the pitch was reduced too far). The dynamic response was a very useful addition though it didn't rival the sensitivity of a real drum. To record the Digisounds, you simply plug them into the line input of your mixer and off you go.
These are tough, workmanlike units that will in all probability last well, even if they don't win any awards for outstanding artistic design.
If you already use some form of electronic drum kit in your home studio, these modules give you the opportunity to add alternative 'real' drum sounds and the economic advantage is that if you only need a bass drum, you only have to buy a bass drum module, not an entire kit.
If you don't utilise the services of a real drummer but rely instead on an analogue drum machine, this can be given a sonic facelift by replacing its weakest sounds (usually the bass and snare drums) by Digisounds, always assuming, of course, that you have output triggers available from your drum box. Units such as the popular Roland TR606 Drumatix have two such trigger outputs fitted as standard though some firms will fit extra ones to your requirements.
The dual sound module we tested seems to be an unwise drum combination offering as it does both bass and snare drum sounds because you have to choose one or the other to play at any one time - there is no way of using these two crucial elements simultaneously and I for one would definitely want to use both together.
A wide range of drum, gong and other percussion voices are now available for the Digisound so you could possibly build up an entire digital drum kit from scratch, though I'm not going to pretend that approach would be a particularly cost effective one. And the last word - if you're still not sure, give it a bash!
Single-sound Digisound modules retail for £115, while dual-sound varieties cost £149 - both inclusive of VAT. Further information from UK distributors Capelle Music Industries, (Contact Details).
Review by Paul White
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