Monday, May 22, 2017

Electronic Drum Kits for the Home Studio and Rehearsal

If you’re looking to practice drums without disturbing your neighbors, or just need a quick way to record a drum track, an electronic drum kit is a good solution. Though there is a wide range of quality between a lot of the different electronic kits, we’ll be focusing on some of the entry level kits.

Though I wouldn’t necessarily rely on a lot of these budget electronic drum kits for live gigs, they are a great portable tool for practicing with a band. Many electronic drum kits can easily fold down and are lightweight, making transporting them much simpler than a traditional acoustic drum kit. If using these drum kits for practicing with a band, make sure to pick up a suitable amplified or hook it up to a PA system so everyone can hear it.

One of the most important considerations when deciding on an electronic drum kit should be the feel and quality of the pads. Though the drum module itself is responsible for the tone of the drum kit, in many cases this can be replaced, or used with a virtual instrument on a computer to create a more realistic drum sound. If the quality of the pads is poor, you’ll constantly be reminded of it as you’re playing, and it could seriously affect your performance.

Another important factor is the sensitivity. Make sure to choose a drum kit with a good range of sensitivity and responsiveness when you hit it. There’s nothing worse than a kit that can’t pick up on the subtle nuances of a drummer’s performance. Even the best virtual instrument plugins won’t be able to improve this sound if there is improper velocity tracking when recording MIDI.

Not all the sound modules with the electronic drum kits are created equal. Some have a lot of different included sounds, but not all of them are capable of sounding realistic if you’re looking to emulate an acoustic kit. Depending on your specific needs, the sounds included with the electronic drum kit are definitely important to consider.

There are a few different electronic drum kits at the budget end, all of which have similar features. We’ll go over a few of these drum kits and discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Alesis Nitro Kit

The Alesis Nitro Kit is a decent starter kit that includes a hi hat, 2 cymbals, snare, 3 toms, and a kick drum. All this is held together with a sturdy aluminum rack, however, some of the cymbals are a little flimsy. Though the overall kit does have a good feel to it, some of the included sounds are a lacking. This is definitely a kit that produces a very electronic sound, so we don’t recommend it to people looking to recreate an acoustic kit for a recording. If your goal is recording for a pop sound, this is a good thing and makes the Alesis Nitro kit a fantastic choice for this application. This kit does have a lot of additional features with the drum module, such as multiple drum kit presets that can be changed by the user, and an included practice tool to teach you to play on time.

Simmons SD300 Electronic Drum Set

Another good option for an electronic drum kit is the Simmons SD300 Electronic Drum Set. Similar to the Alesis kit, this has very electronic sounds to it, making it better for pop music. The sounds are a little more consistent, which can be a slight problem and sound unnatural depending on how prominent the drums are in your music. The Simmons electronic drum set includes 10 kits, 170 drum sounds, and audio outputs to hook it up with an audio interface. Since the tone of this electronic drum kit isn’t the best, we strictly recommend it as a MIDI controller for using with virtual instrument plugins in a DAW, instead of using the included sounds. This can easily be done, since the drum kit can attach to the computer via the USB output and act as a MIDI device.

Behringer XD80USB

The Behringer XD80USB is a highly responsive and good midrange electronic drum kit. Though the kit still sounds electronic, it is a big improvement over the previously mentioned Alesis and Simmons drum kits. This kit also includes a snare, 3 toms, hi hat pedal, bass pedal/trigger, and 2 cymbals. The Behringer drum kit can hook up to an audio interface or drum module through the standard MIDI cables, or to a computer through USB. Though the sounds of this kit are great, it is lacking in the hi hat pedal, which can have a negative impact on playing performance.

Yamaha DTX400K

One of the best electronic drum kits in this price range is the Yamaha DTX400K. Even though this is an electronic drum kit, it does have a very natural feel to it and can easily sound like an acoustic kit. It features 10 drum kits, and a variety of different sounds for whatever genre of music you’re interested in. There’s an auxiliary input for playing along with your own music, as well as built in practice tools with visual indicators to help you improve your own timing. One of the great features of this kit is that it is extremely quiet, making it great for practicing in areas like an apartment. The kit drum trigger is all enclosed within the pedal, instead of a traditional trigger and beater which makes a lot more noise. Overall, the Yamaha DTX400K would be our recommendation for an affordable electronic drum kit for recording and practice.

Electronic drum kits are great for quiet practice, and even recording situations. The MIDI capabilities of electronic drum kits allow you to create professional sounding tracks without breaking the bank on an expensive drum module.


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