Banging Out the Bits

There are plenty of reasons why musicians use MIDI percussion controllers. Some use them to record natural-sounding drum patterns into a sequencer. Others
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There are plenty of reasons why musicians use MIDI percussion controllers. Some use them to record natural-sounding drum patterns into a sequencer. Others

There are plenty of reasons why musicians use MIDI percussioncontrollers. Some use them to record natural-sounding drum patternsinto a sequencer. Others use percussion controllers to supplement orreplace an otherwise acoustic live-performance setup. For example, padcontrollers, such as the Alternate Mode trapKAT, are lighter, areeasier to set up, and require less miking than a full drum set enhancedby a complement of percussion. Of course, you can also place triggerson acoustic drums in situations where you want a mix of real andvirtual instruments.


MIDI percussion is the one category of controllers that doesn'trequire the player to be a specialist on the acoustic version of theinstrument. Anyone can play a percussion controller. The rhythmicallychallenged can clean up the data in a sequencer later.

If you are a nonpercussionist looking for a simple MIDI device youcan play with sticks or mallets, an inexpensive controller will do thetrick. On the other hand, if you think your MIDI requirements willexpand as you get deeper into an instrument, consider acquiring afull-feature controller that you can grow into.

Percussionists' concerns are slightly different. For you, theprimary consideration when choosing a percussion controller is the feeland response of the pads. The smoother the transition from acousticinstruments to MIDI controller, the better, especially if you are goingto use the acoustic and electronic instruments side by side.

Fortunately, manufacturers are keenly aware of performanceconsiderations, and they continually improve their instruments'playability. For example, percussionists need to be able to choke acymbal sound by grabbing the cymbal pad, and most controllers on themarket have this capability. Likewise, mallet players should have theoption of dampening a note on the mallet controller by softly touchingthe mallet to the playing surface after the note is struck, just as youwould with a vibraphone. The better the controller responds totraditional technique, the easier it is to play right out of thebox.


The degree to which you have to adapt your technique depends on morethan just the pads. For instance, you may be able to tweak thetrigger's threshold levels to alleviate unintended double-triggeringproblems, but you may also need to play double strokes more crisply toget the best results.

Much of the feel in a percussion controller has to do with Velocityresponse. The more Velocity curves the controller offers, the morelikely you will find one to suit your technique. Some controllers giveyou limited choices in this regard, in which case you may have to finda sound module that gives you greater options in Velocity control.

Before buying a controller, decide what you want from it. Forexample, begin by determining whether you need a controller withinternal sounds and effects or just a MIDI controller because youalready have a sound module. Think about the kinds of projects you maydo in the future, and try to estimate the impending technicalrequirements.

Once you understand your own needs, you can match them to thecontroller with the most appropriate feature set. At this point, youmay not need multitimbral and sound-layering capabilities or theability to send out Control Change messages, but that doesn't mean youwon't want them in the future. Many controllers can layer multiplesounds per pad and let you assign an independent MIDI channel to eachlayer. Once you begin experimenting with this feature, you may findthat you can't live without it. But not every musician needs this kindof power. Sometimes a simpler controller is the better fit for aparticular application.


Using gestural control methods with electronic percussioninstruments is a challenge. Foot pedals and ribbon controllers areoften inconvenient and impractical for sending MIDI messages becausepercussionists use both hands and both feet when playing. One solutionis the breath controller, which can be held in the teeth while handsand feet work away. Another solution, used by Roland throughout itsproduct line, is the Dimension Beam (DBeam). More esoteric solutionsinclude MIDI theremin and the I-CubeX sensors by Infusion Systems. (Formore information on alternate controllers, see “The OuterLimits” in the August 2000 issue of EM.)

To get the controller to behave in a way that feels natural willrequire you to spend time programming and tweaking parameters. The moretime you invest in customizing your instrument, the greater the rewardswill be.


MIDI controllers in the percussion category include electronicpercussion instruments with built-in MIDI capabilities, percussionsystems that include triggers and a MIDI sound module, and MIDI soundmodules with trigger inputs. Various companies specialize solely inpercussion triggers for use with third-party sound modules; becausetheir products do not have immediate MIDI output capability, they arelisted separately in the sidebar “Mainly Triggers.”


The Alesis DM Pro ($899) is a percussion sound module with atrigger-to-MIDI interface (see Fig. 16). The DM Pro has64-note polyphony, is 16-part multitimbral, and includes 1,664 16-bitsounds with a 24-bit DAC. Until recently, Alesis offered the module aspart of the DM Pro Kit, which married the module with a set of HartDynamics drum pads. Unfortunately, the DM Pro Kit was discontinued,leaving it up to you to choose your triggers.

The DM Pro has ten trigger inputs, five of which are TRS jacks thataccept dual-zone pads and are useful for snare-drum and ride-cymbalpads. The remaining trigger inputs include one for the hi-hatcontroller and four for single-zone pads. The module also sports six¼-inch TRS outputs; a headphone jack; MIDI In, Out, and Thru; anda pair of RCA input jacks for monitoring an external audio source whileyou play. The module also includes a PC Card expansion slot for memoryexpansion.

The DM Pro includes two independent effects buses — Reverb andEffects — that can be run serially or in parallel. You can runthe multi-effects processor's output through the Reverb, but not theother way around. The effects palette includes delay, overdrive, EQ,and stereo flanging.

The DM Pro is a great-sounding module and a powerful MIDI interfacewith a host of useful features. The module has 15 Velocity curves tochoose from, and can send and receive Control Change, Program Change,System Realtime, and SysEx data. The Modulation Matrix lets you assignmodulation envelopes to alter the Pitch, Filter, and Amplitude of eachsound (or Drum, as Alesis calls it). You can also modify the foursettings of the Trigger Parameters for each envelope. As you customizeyour sounds, you can audition them from the front panel without usingMIDI or triggers. However, you don't get Velocity control over soundsplayed from the front panel.

A feature sure to appeal to gigging percussionists is the TriggerSetup Select, which lets you save four user-defined trigger setups.Those are handy for the musicians who play in a variety of styles andsituations and require different instrument setups for each.

Although the DM Pro has no internal sequencing or samplingcapabilities, the module is bundled with Alesis's cross-platformSoundBridge software. SoundBridge lets you importsounds and sequences you created on your computer into the module. Thefiles are sent to the DM Pro through MIDI SysEx and saved to the PCCard for future use.

Alesis also offers the DM5 ($499), a trigger-to-MIDI sound modulethat features 548 16-bit sounds and 12 trigger inputs, 4 of whichaccept dual-zone pads. The DM5's front panel looks similar to the DMPro's but lacks the PC Card slot. This means backups must be done usingSysEx. The DM5 also lacks many of the DM Pro's powerful features, suchas the ability to edit filters and envelopes. In addition, the DM5 isunable to recognize Aftertouch and most Control Change messages.However, the DM5 costs half as much as the DM Pro, and its relativesimplicity makes it useful for percussionists looking for an easy,inexpensive trigger-to-MIDI sound module.

Alternate Mode

Among the most popular percussion controllers are the various KATinstruments distributed by Alternate Mode. KAT controllers useforce-sensing resistors (FSR) covered by gum rubber, providing acomfortable playing experience with sticks, mallets, or hands. Inaddition, the FSRs give the pads a uniform sensitivity throughout thesurface area. Consequently, KAT controllers don't requirepercussionists to alter their technique much.

KAT controllers feature multiple footswitch and trigger inputs andoften include a breath-controller input. None of the KAT instrumentshave data wheels, cursors, or knobs. Editing is done using footswitchesand pads.

The malletKAT Pro resembles an acoustic mallet instrument and comesin two varieties: the malletKat Pro WS (“with sounds”;$2,645) comes with an internal sound generator; the standard malletKATPro ($1,875) is a MIDI controller only. Both malletKATs are four-footlong, three-octave instruments that can be extended to four and fiveoctaves. The malletKAT is General MIDI compatible. Additionally, the128 Factory Setups in both MalletKAT Pro controllers are General MIDIcompatible. Many User Setups in the MalletKAT Pro WS are set up aroundthe sound set of the internal Yamaha DB51 XG synth.

The padded bars are raised above the surface of the instrument,which makes them easy to strike. Unlike an acoustic mallet instrument,the bars of which become gradually smaller as the pitches get higher,the malletKAT's bars are the same size throughout.

The malletKAT features MIDI In, two MIDI Outs, three footswitchinputs(two for sustain and one for Edit mode), two control pedalinputs, and a dedicated breath-control input. The foot controllers canbe assigned their own MIDI controller numbers. Audio I/O on themalletKAT Pro WS includes two inputs, two outputs, and a headphonejack.

The malletKAT Pro can layer a maximum of three sounds and split thekeyboard into two controllers. The split point can be set so that theend notes overlap. You can configure the controller to work like atraditional mallet-percussion instrument or as a keyboard controller.For example, in Dampen mode, notes are silenced by pressing softly intothe bar. In Normal mode, the note is sustained by holding the mallet tothe bar, the way you would sustain a note by holding down a key on asynth. In Aftertouch Mode, pressing on the bar sends MIDI Aftertouchmessages. Once you know what you want the malletKAT to do, the rest ofthe work is in the programming.

Alternate mode also sells a mallet controller with real hardwoodkeys called the Xylosynth ($4,040 for three octaves; $4,995 for fouroctaves). Like the malletKAT's, the Xylosynth's bars are all the samesize. In this case, they are 1¼ inches wide and 5¾ inchestall. Each bar and its trigger is mounted separately to theinstrument's frame. Because the bars are a uniform size and are mountedindependently, you can carry extra bars with you and swap outmalfunctioning or broken ones.

The Xylosynth allows three keyboard splits per patch, but it is notmultitimbral, so you cannot layer sounds. Alternate mode provides acollection of stereo samples in the E-mu EOS format that includes 23instrument setups, among them vibraphones, xylophones, marimbas,orchestral percussion, and tuned effects.

All connections are made on the front of the control unit, whichsits below the bars. The Xylosynth includes input jacks for a patchchange pedal, and a sustain pedal, an XLR audio output jack, and a MIDIOut jack.

The Xylosynth has five performance modes. These include Roll mode,which increases the instrument's tracking speed; Damping mode, whichlets you dampen a note by softly touching it with a mallet; and QuietMallet mode, which gives full Velocity even when the bars are strucklightly. The Xylosynth is made to order only, and additionalperformance options are available on request.

The four percussion controllers offered by Alternate mode are thedk-10 ($440), the drumKAT 3.8 ($945), the drumKAT Turbo 2000 ($1,212),and the trapKAT ($1,075). Although none of these instruments haveinternal sound modules, each ships with a collection of FactoryKits,which are predefined MIDI setups for use with General MIDI (GM)modules. UserKits for storing customized MIDI setups are alsoincluded.

The dk-10 and drumKATs have a layout of ten playing surfaces in ashape resembling a Mickey Mouse hat. However, the controllers are quitedifferent from each other. The drumKAT gives you a wider range of MIDI,controller, and performance options than the less-expensive dk-10. Forexample, the drumKAT 3.8 has two MIDI inputs, four MIDI outputs set inpairs, nine independent trigger inputs and a CV input for hi-hat, fourmomentary-footswitch inputs, and a breath-control input. You can playeight-note layers per pad, step through user-assignable or randomizednote sequences with each pad in Alternate mode, and work with 32 MIDIchannels. Each pad can be assigned individual settings for MIDI Notenumber and Channel, a Velocity curve, minimum and maximum Velocityvalues, and gate time.

The drumKAT Turbo 2000 is an upgraded version of the drumKAT 3.8(see Fig. 17). Turbo 2000 has a faster processor, more ROM,and enhanced software. The controller allows you to program and playmelodies of 128 notes using Alternate 128. Soundpath lets you assignvolume and panning trajectories to a sound. Auto Play puts theAlternate mode feature under internal or external clock control. TheLink feature lets you link three pads together so that one pad controlstwo additional pads. The Turbo 2000 can send Program Changes,Most-Significant Bit (MSB) and Least-Significant Bit (LSB) BankChanges, and continuous controller messages.

By comparison, the dk-10 has fewer features and is designed formusicians who want a simple and inexpensive controller. The dk-10 hasone MIDI In and one MIDI Out jack, two trigger inputs, two footswitchinputs, and one external controller input. The controller offers fourvelocity curves, and you get one note per pad.

Similar to the dk-10 in features but more extensive in pad layout isthe trapKAT 3.0. It has 24 pads, one MIDI In, two MIDI Outs, fourfootswitch inputs, one trigger input, and a breath-controller input.The playing surface includes ten thin pads that line the sides and topof the instrument. In the FactoryKits, the side pads can be used totrigger preset groove sequences. However, you can assign your ownsounds to all 24 pads and to the two trigger-pedal inputs using theUserKit selection, for a total of 26 sounds.

Like the drumKATs, the trapKAT includes Alternate mode for playinguser-defined note sequences, note layering of as many as four sounds,and Velocity switching. The trapKAT was designed to be compact and easyto use but to provide sounds equivalent to those of a well-stocked traptable.


The ddrum4 Electronic Drum System ($3,595) from Clavia includes theddrum4 sound module, five Cast Precision drum pads, two Cast PrecisionCymbal pads, a Cast Precision Hi-hat trigger, cables, and a steel rackthat holds everything but the hi-hat controller (see Fig. 18).The sound module is a 16-bit sample player that holds 8 MB ofcompressed samples, which the company says is equal to between 32 and48 MB of uncompressed samples. Clavia reduces the size of the samplesat a ratio of 8:1 using a proprietary compression scheme.

Additional sounds are loaded into the ddrum4 through MIDI SysEx. Thesamples can be in the ddrum format or MIDI Sample Dump Standard format.No memory expansion slots or storage cards are available for theddrum4, which is unfortunate because Clavia's new Mega Drumkitsmultisamples require more storage space than other samples.

The ddrum4 module has six audio outputs, MIDI In and Out, and tentrigger inputs, four of which accept two-zone triggers. The modulesends and receives MIDI, but in a limited fashion; it ignores SystemCommon, System Realtime, Pitch Bend, and all but one (CC 4) ControlChange message.

The Cast Precision — series drum pads have aluminum shellsthat use standard tunable tension lugs to hold down the drum heads. Allthe drums have eight strike zones, with a full Velocity range, for usewith multisamples. Of the factory preset sounds, only the snaremultisamples can take advantage of the eight strike zones. Clavia'sMega Drumkit sound sets contain multisamples that allow full use of allzones on the other drums.

Remarkably, ddrum4 owners have unlimited access to the Clavia soundlibrary on its Web site. The free availability of complete online soundlibraries is a major attraction to the ddrum4 system for manydrummers.

Each of the ddrum4 trigger pads has an XLR output jack, except forthe snare, which has two (one for the head and the other for the rim).The ddrum4 system includes enough XLR-to-¼-inch cables to hook allof your components up to the ddrum4 sound module.

The Cast Precision Cymbal and Hi-hat are both 10-inch multizonemetal plates with rubber pads covering more than 75 percent of theirsurfaces. The rubber pads provide a nice rebound and are fairly quiet.The Cymbal and Hi-hat have three zones, which include the choke. Youcan play the bell zone by striking near the top of the padded area. Tochoke a cymbal, though, you must grab more of the cymbal pad than justthe edge.

In addition to the pads, two types of triggers in the ddrum linefeature transducers utilizing Clavia's patented Vectored AmplitudeMeasurements (VAM) technology. The Acoustic Triggers (five-piece kit$320; bass drum $75; snare $85; tom $65) clip on to standard drumhoops, and their own drum lug secures them in place. Acoustic Triggersare available for toms, kick drums, and snare drums. The Snare Triggerincludes a second sensor that tracks rim shots. All the AcousticTriggers have XLR jacks, so you will need a cable with a ¼-inchplug on the other end in order to interface with the ddrum4 soundmodule.

The Red Shot trigger (bass drum $35; snare and tom $27) uses thesame sensor as the Acoustic Triggers, but is housed in a less-expensiveclip. Also, the Red Shot snare sensor doesn't include the rim sensor.The Red Shot is attached to the drum by running one of the drum lugsthrough it before the lug goes through the rim into the lug casing.This makes it more difficult to add or remove the Red Shot, but onceit's attached it's there to stay. These triggers have ¼-inchjacks.

Nearfield Multimedia

Although the Marimba Lumina ($2,995) resembles a mallet controller,its capabilities go far beyond traditional expectations (see Fig.19). The Marimba Lumina is a GM compatible, multitimbral MIDIcontroller with 32-note polyphony and a built-in Yamaha DB51 XGsynthesizer. The playing surface has 42 bars, 10 pads, and 2 strips.Programming functions are performed from the bars, pads, and strips.The Marimba Lumina has two audio outputs, a pedal input, two footswitchinputs, a trigger input, and MIDI In, Out, and Aux/Thru.

The traditional mallet player will find the Marimba Luminachallenging for several reasons. To begin with, it doesn't have raisedpads. Instead, the bars, strips, and pads are printed on the controllersurface. Furthermore, the Marimba Lumina requires special foam-coveredmallets that are exceptionally lightweight and don't rebound off theinstrument in the usual manner.

The Marimba Lumina ships with the four color-coded mallets, eachcontaining tuned circuitry tracked by a radio antenna embedded in thebars, pads, and strips. The antennas identify and track the mallets,including their position on the controller surface. The mallets can begiven independent functions. For example, each mallet can be assignedits own MIDI Channel and gestural properties. You can program thecontroller so that a particular mallet sustains a note when the malletis held down on a bar, and you can assign vertical sliding motion onthe bar to change filter settings. At the same time, another mallet canbe programmed to play a different note for every downstroke andupstroke of the mallet.

Control options go beyond individual mallet choices. The verticalposition of a mallet on the bar or the speed of the notes being playedcan be used to generate MIDI data. You can also specify key maps, pitchsequences, layers, and keyboard splits.

Nearfield also introduced the Marimba Lumina 2.5 ($1,995). Itcontains its larger sibling's features but has an octave fewer keys.However, it includes two extra hexagonal pads, for a total 12 pads.This lets you assign the pad set as an extra octave of notes.

The Marimba Lumina 2.5 comes with only two mallets but includes twosmall shuffleboard-style “pucks” that generate MIDIinformation as they are moved around the instrument. (The two othercolor-coded mallets used with the larger Marimba Lumina are availableand work similarly with the Marimba Lumina 2.5.) A dedicatedtransposition control was also added.

Although you can use the Marimba Lumina as a conventional MIDImallet controller, its strength lies in the wide variety of unusualcontrol possibilities it presents. Most players will have to altertheir technique to play the Marimba Lumina like an acoustic malletinstrument. To tap the controller's full potential, you will have toinvest some time and effort into tailoring the Marimba Lumina to yourneeds. However, for the adventurous player, it'll be worth it.


Roland has trigger-to-MIDI sound modules and MIDI pad controllersthat fit almost any budget. The drum pads range from rubberized,practice pad — style surfaces of the PD-5 and PD-7 to thedrumlike realism of the V-pads. The multipad sound modules providecomplete MIDI percussion instruments, with internal sounds and effects,in a compact package.

The most powerful module on the Roland roster is the TD-10 V-DrumsPercussion Sound Module ($1,895). The TD-10 combines an instrumentmodeling sound module with a pro-level trigger-to-MIDI controller andsequencer. When combined with V-Pads, the TD-10 gives you a realisticdrum kit with positional sensing capabilities on the ride and snarepads. It even tracks brush strokes when used with PD-100 and PD-120pads.

The TD-10 uses Roland's proprietary Composite Object Sound Modeling(COSM) technology to physically model many of the drum sounds. Rolandrefers to this as Variable Drum Modeling. Not all of the sounds in theTD-10 are modeled; only the instruments with the V prefix, such as theV-Snares, V-Kicks, and V-Toms.

There are three main categories of modeling parameters onV-instruments. Instrument models the drum's various elements, Studiogives you control over the room and microphone variables, and ControlRoom covers mixer, effects, compressor, and equalizer settings.

The V-Snares offer the largest variety of editable parameters. Forexample, parameters in the Instrument portion of the V-Snares includethe drum shell's depth and material, the type of drum head, headtension, snare strainer tension, and muffling characteristics. This setof parameters alone offers a staggering amount of variety.

The Studio portion of the V-Snares edit list gives you control overroom quality (for example, locker room, theater, or cave), room size,wall material (such as plaster, wood, or glass), and ambience-miclocation. The final V-Snares parameters are under Control Room. Thissection gives you control over the relative volume of the drum in themix, stereo location, compression level, and effects such as reverb,delay, and chorus. By comparison, the PCM waveform sounds, such ascymbals and effects, let you adjust simple parameters such as pitch anddecay.

The V-Session set ($6,295) is an electronic drum set package thatcombines the TD10 with V-series drum pads (with red shells) and theKD-120 large kick-drum pad (see Fig. 20). The V-Session setadds the TDW-1 Wave and System Expansion Board ($350) to the TD-10. TheTDW-1 gives you 50 new drum kits, 360 additional sounds, andenhancements to the pad controllers with extra features such ascross-stick control on the PD-120 dual-trigger snare drum pad andthree-way triggering capabilities for Roland's new CY-15R V-CymbalRide. Without the expansion board, the CY-15R has a two-triggerresponse.

The CY-15R includes two TRS outputs. When used with the TDW-1expansion board, the TD-10 lets you assign each of the three cymbalsounds to the CY-15R. The other V-Cymbals, the CY-12H hi-hat and CY-14Ccrash cymbal, are two-way triggers. All the V-Cymbals let you choke offthe sound by grabbing the edge of the pad.

The V-Cymbals are made of heavy rubber and shaped like real cymbals.The material and density feel more realistic than those of other cymbalpads on the market. Although there is an obvious difference betweenhitting a rubber disk and a metal disk, the way the V-Cymbals behavewhen struck mimics a real cymbal quite well. The bell of the CY-15R, inparticular, has a nice feel.

The next system in the line is the V-Concert set ($4,995). TheV-Concert Set comes with the TD-10, but without the TDW-1 expansionboard. The shells of the V-Concert pads are purple.

Both drum-set systems include redesigned clamps and T-fittings thatlet you move the instruments without taking the entire supportstructure apart. The fittings use standard drum lugs to hold thehardware together, so a drum key can be used for most adjustments. Theribbed aluminum stands on the V-Session allow the new hardware toattach firmly. The V-Concert set comes with powder-coated steel standsthat seem a bit more rugged and may withstand the wear of a tour betterthan the aluminum stands.

The TD-8 V-Drums Percussion Sound Module ($995) is alsomultitimbral, GM compatible, and offers many of the same features asthe TD-10, such as COSM-modeled, V-editable drums. The sequencerincludes over 700 sequenced patterns — more than the TD-10— with backing tracks. In addition, the TD-8 has morenonpercussion instruments than the TD-10, including guitars, basses,and keyboards. However, the TD-8 has only four individual outputs, ashorter selection of V-editable instruments, and fewer editing options.The TD-8 includes five dual-zone and five single-zone trigger inputs, ahi-hat input, and a footswitch jack.

The V-Custom Set ($3,295) comes with the TD-8, five V-Series drumpads, two cymbal pads, a hi-hat pad, the FD-7 hi-hat controller, andthe rack. The V-Studio Set ($2,595) combines the TD-8 with Roland'srubberized PD-series pads.

Roland's line of percussion controllers with internal soundsincludes the SPD-20 ($895), the SPD-6 ($295), and the HPD-15 HandSoniccontroller ($1,295). The playing surface of the HPD-15 features a15-segment pad, two ribbon controllers, and a D-Beam controller. Thisinstrument is designed primarily for use with hands and soft mallets.Roland recommends against using sticks as they may damage thetriggering surface.

The HPD-15 comes with 600 pad-controlled percussion sounds, 54backing instruments, reverb, multi-effects, and a 4-track patternsequencer. It offers 160 preset patches and 80 user patches, and it hasjacks for a dual footswitch, an expression pedal, a dual trigger, andMIDI In and Out/Thru. (The Out/Thru is more like a MIDI Out/Merge.)Each pad and control surface can be assigned a MIDI note, and theribbons and D-Beam can send continuous controller data. However, theMIDI information is sent on only one channel.

Roland tweaked the HPD-15 to appeal to hand-drummers. Many of thepatches are programmed to respond like the real instruments. Forexample, you can dampen many instruments by touching the pad with yourhand, just as you would the real hand drum.

The SPD-20 has eight Velocity-sensitive pads, an internal soundmodule, and a multi-effects processor. Besides MIDI In, Out, and Thru,the SPD-20 includes four dual-zone trigger inputs for use with RolandPD-, FD-, and KD-series pads or acoustic drum triggers. The controllercan be played with sticks or hands, and there is a sensitivity-scalingoption for both. Each pad on the SPD-20 can have its own MIDI channel,and you can layer two sounds per pad.

The newest percussion pad in the line is the SPD-6, a simplifiedcontroller with six velocity sensitive pads. The SPD-6 has MIDI Out,includes two pedal inputs, and can be powered by six AA batteries. Itincludes a sensitivity button for setting the instrument to respond tohands or sticks.

The SPD-6 comes with 113 sounds, 16 preset patches, and 16user-definable patches, and you can layer two instruments per pad. Thetrade-off is that the SPD-6 doesn't have a numerical display and cansend on only one MIDI channel at a time. But at its price point, theSPD-6 is perfect for musicians who need an inexpensive and basic MIDIpercussion instrument.


Yamaha's top-of-the-line percussion module is the DTXtreme ($1,295).This multitimbral module has 64-note polyphony, is GM compatible, andcomes with 1,757 sounds, 90 preset drum kits, and 40 user-definabledrum kits. The built-in 2-track sequencer holds 164 preset Songs and 32user-definable songs. The DTXtreme accepts a Smart Media Card that canhold additional sequences in Standard MIDI File (SMF) format or audiofiles in AIFF. An additional 99 drum kits can be stored on eachcard.

DTXtreme lets you stack six notes per pad. You can also assign asequence of as many as nine notes per pad. Each time you strike a padwith an assigned sequence, the next note in the sequence plays. Themodule can even send nine Program Change messages at a time.

The top panel has tape machine — style transport buttons forcontrolling the sequencer and ten volume sliders, one for eachpercussion-instrument group (for example, one slider covers allcymbals), headphone, click, accompaniment and reverb send, and mainoutput. Five rotary controls are included for dialing in parameterchanges.

Rear-panel I/O includes inputs for eight dual-trigger and eightsingle-trigger pads. There are eight audio outputs (a stereo pair andsix individual outputs), a footswitch input, and MIDI In, Out, and Thrujacks. The To Host port lets you connect the DTXtreme directly to theserial port of a Mac or PC. This allows the DTXtreme to exchange MIDIdata with your computer while the MIDI jacks are used with other MIDIinstruments. A stereo audio input is also included, so you can playalong with your favorite recordings.

The DTXtreme gives you control over volume, tuning, effects, stereoposition, layering, filter, and EQ settings for most of the samples.The snare drums include a modeling-style editing architecture, withparameters such as shell type, snare quality, muffling, and strainertension.

The DTXtreme is available in a five-drum (DSXT10: $4,300) orsix-drum setup (DSXT11; $4,600; see Fig. 21). The additionaldrum on the DSXT11