Roland V-Pro

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Electronic percussionists were thrilled when Roland introduced the TD-7KE electronic drum set in 1992. Here was a complete drum set, including a sound module, sequencer, interface, digital effects, pads, cymbals, and hardware, all in one complete package. There were a lot of well-implemented "firsts," but certain limitations kept it from being a thoroughly professional unit.

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Roland has virtually reinvented electronic percussion with its V-Pro virtual drums. The TD-10 sound module includes impressive sampled and modeled sounds with a wealth of parameters. Used with the new pads, the module also senses the area of the pad that has been struck.

Roland's new V-Pro electronic drum set, which comes with the new TD-10 sound module, includes all the features professional drummers have been asking for and plenty more that most drummers haven't even thought of.

The TD-10 features the same Composite Object Sound Modeling (COSM) sound-generation technology found in Roland's VG-8 V-Guitar. It sports twelve dual-trigger inputs, eight outputs, a fast trigger interface, and the ability to trigger from acoustic drums. A major plus is the system's intuitive, icon-based user interface designed for drummers. The manual is clearly written, and Roland offers a video version of it if you want extra tutoring.

The system introduces two new trigger pads—the PD-100 and PD-120—that combine with the TD-10 to deliver the greatest dynamic range and sensitivity ever heard from a pad and module.

The complete set includes the TD-10 module, three 12-inch PD-120 pads, two 10-inch PD-100 pads, three 10-inch PD-9 dual-zoned trigger pads, one 7.5-inch PD-7 dual-zoned pad, a KD-7 kick trigger, an FD-7 hi-hat pedal, the new plum-colored V-Pro stand, and all the hardware and cables. The kit does not include a bass-drum pedal, throne, or snare stand. Optional rack ears mount the unit at an angle within three spaces of a rack. But this quick description barely skims the surface of the V-Pro.

On the Surface

The TD-10 sound module, which resembles a sequencer more than a drum brain, is a black, wedge-shaped unit with a plethora of knobs, wheels, buttons, and faders. Its 12 5 9-inch top panel features 29 buttons; six faders; three knobs; one large data wheel; a 64 5 160-dot, backlit, graphic LCD; and an 8-segment, 3-character LED. The layout is logical and provides plenty of room for navigation. Ingeniously, some of the buttons are oversized and coated with rubber so they can be pushed (not struck, mind you) with a drumstick during performance.

The unit's rear panel reveals the degree of thought that went into making this a completely professional unit. Here you'll find the twelve dual-trigger inputs; eight +4 dBm stereo output jacks (configured as four stereo pairs); a headphone jack; a hi-hat pedal-controller jack; a dual-footswitch input; MIDI In and Out/Thru connectors; and an IEC socket for the detachable AC power cord. (That's right, there's no wall wart!) The rear panel also provides a memory-card slot for backing up patch and sequencer data to a Roland M-512E RAM card. I've always loved the Monitor Mix input on Roland drum modules, which lets you practice with a CD or hear an audio click sent from an external source. The TD-10 has one with its own volume control.

A removable panel on the bottom of the TD-10 allows for insertion of an 8 MB expansion board (not yet available) that will provide additional sounds, kits, and software upgrades.

Passing the Idiot Test

One of the best ways to judge an operating system is to see how far you can get without opening the manual. The TD-10 breezed through this "idiot test," largely because of the abundance of dedicated buttons and knobs logically arranged on the surface of the unit. The controls are arranged in categories such as Drumkit, Sequencer, Group Faders, Trigger Select, and Volume Control. No longer do you have to remember elaborate menu paths to access commonly used features simply because there aren't enough buttons.

This is significant because the buttons, faders, knobs, and wheel invite manual exploration of the unit, thereby accelerating the user's learning. Scrolling through kits and instru-ments, adjusting volumes with the front-panel faders, and playing various sequencer patterns is brain-dead easy. It was even simple to make instrument edits without cracking the manual.

Let's say you want the kick louder and the snare softer. Rather than make you dig through menus, the TD-10 has six dedicated volume faders that control Kick, Snare, Hi-hat, Others (cymbals and toms), Backing (sequencer tracks), and Click. Just like faders on a real mixer, the TD-10 faders overrule all other volume settings, allowing quick and simple adjustments. This feature is wonderful.

When used with the Velocity-sensitive Preview button, the TD-10's Trigger Select buttons allow you to edit sounds and pad parameters without having any pads attached. This is great for tabletop editing in the studio. Another shortcut is that you don't have to "write" edits to memory: they are saved as you work. Furthermore, if you've made an edit you don't like, the Undo function can rescue you. There's even an Exit button in case you get lost.

Roland has created a simple, graphic display that even novices should find easy to use. The display shortens the learning process and speeds edits by using easily understood icons and simple animations of kicks, snares, mics, rooms, and so on. For example, if you hit a pad, you'll see an image of the instrument currently assigned to the pad. When dialing through sounds in the Instrument menu, you can see this icon change from kick to snares, toms, hi-hats, cymbals, and percussion sounds, making it quick and easy to locate a sound. Tune up a drum and watch a drum key spin. Change the depth of a drum and see it grow deeper.

These menu screens look different from one another, making it simple to remember where they are and what they do. What may be most significant about this display is that it makes the editing process seem lighthearted and fun. This helps MIDI-phobic drummers view the TD-10 less as a portal into hell and more as a friendly tool.

Another nice feature of the TD-10 operating system is that menus are only a few levels deep, and there are dedicated cursor and function buttons under each edit parameter. A simple Help menu describes the editing functions. There is even a Go Now shortcut to take you immediately to the edit screen you want. (Curiously, there is an advertisement for Roland's PMA-5 within the Help menu.)

This unit incorporates many clever and thoughtful features, some completely original, some not. Users should be thankful for that: imitation of the familiar breeds rapid progress.

Beautiful Noise

According to the drum-instrument list, the TD-10 contains 600 drum sounds and 54 backing instruments (basses and pianos, etc.). Included among the 600 "drum" sounds, however, are Off, eighteen metronome-counting samples ("one-e-and-a"), record scratches, vocal grunts, bass, guitar, and power-tool samples. If you ignore those sounds, there remain more than 500 very useful, high-quality drum, cymbal, and percussion sounds. Happily, many of the TD-10's sounds are new and were created expressly for this module.

Hi-hat, splash, crash, china, and ride sounds abound. Any ride sample with an X at the end of its name is a Velocity-crossfaded sound. Very cool. You get brush cymbal hits, sizzle cymbals, piggyback (à la Terry Bozzio) combinations, mallet crashes, and mallet china sounds. Most of the cymbal sounds respond like real cymbals: playing softly gives you a darker sound, and as you increase volume, you get more attack and wash. All of the cymbals decay smoothly, without obvious loops. However, this can change when you lengthen a sound's decay.

You'll also find a healthy variety of percussion sounds, including Roland's usual assortment of excellent Latin percussion and, at long last, tablas. All of the timpani samples are very good, and the attack and brightness of the timpani and concert bass drum realistically increase as you crescendo.

It's a pity you cannot use the FD-7 hi-hat pedal to sustain the vibraphone or tubular-bell sounds, but you can use it to shorten the decay of the hand cymbals, allowing you to emulate both body muffling and choking techniques, depending on how hard the pedal is pressed, which is excellent!

Both the bell-tree and open-triangle sounds cut off too rapidly for my taste, but unfortunately, lengthening their decay caused their loops to buzz annoyingly. All three of the gong sounds are wonderfully Oriental. The tambourine sounds are all great. Wind chimes, those notorious gluttons of sample memory, are missing.

The TR-808, TR-909, and CR-78 sounds include cymbals, claps, cowbells, maracas, claves, and congas, along with a variety of editable snares, kicks, and toms. There are Simmons sounds—in Roland-speak, DDR-30 sounds—for that Flock of Seagulls tribute you've been secretly planning. You can control attack, tone, noise, decay, balance, and bend for these sounds. I miss the inclusion of a sine-wave sample, which, when detuned and layered with an 808 kick, can yield bowel-shaking bass. But this is a moot point because the TD-10 cannot layer sounds; its multitimbral abilities are limited to four parts—only one of which is a drum part—used for sequencing (discussed shortly).

Call me a purist, but I dislike most of the special-effects samples and resent their inclusion in the TD-10 because they eat up valuable sample time. Does anyone really want a drum kit ("CarTune") that sounds like tools being used in an auto shop? How often will you play a glass-break sample or a guy shouting "Ou!"? Meanwhile, the bell tree and open triangle suffer from inadequate sample length. I hope that the future availability of an expansion board will address this complaint.

Speaking of expansion boards, let me give Santa my 1998 Christmas list now. I'd like even more of the completely natural and believable acoustic-drum timbres, preferably V-editable (modeled) sounds. These are what professional drummers need the most in the studio. Studio engineers don't want to hear "mondo" sounds very often. Ethnic percussion and airy aluminum wind chimes would be welcome if they don't eat up all the memory.

I also was dismayed to discover that the sounds on the instrument list, though split into categories such as V-Snares, snares, Latin percussion, and orchestral percussion, are not alphabetized within these categories. Don't look for "Anvil snare" at the beginning of the list; it's sound number 167, located between "Dance 2 snare" and "House snare." This slows you down when searching for a specific sound and is the only blemish on an otherwise elegant operating system.

COSM-ic Debris

Many of the TD-10 drum sounds are generated using Roland's COSM technology, which uses physical modeling to predict the response of a virtual instrument with certain attributes played in a certain environment. This allows you to build a custom drum kit from scratch. All of the kicks and toms are "V-editable" COSM instruments. The 25 V-Snares have the most V-editable parameters. The 80 V-Kicks and 132 (33 sets of four) V-Toms offer fewer editing choices. These kicks, snares, and toms cover a wide range of timbres and applications.

What may not be clear from the buzz surrounding this product is that the majority of the sounds in the unit are samples, not COSM sounds. Two-thirds of the snare sounds and all of the cymbals, percussion, melodic instruments, and sound effects are samples.

There are fewer editing options for the sampled sounds than there are for the V-editable COSM instruments. With samples, you can edit a sound by tuning it up or down, shortening or lengthening its decay, adding pitch bend, softening its attack, panning it, and so on. In contrast, Variable Drum Modeling offers many completely new editing parameters. The degree to which you can edit a snare drum alone is staggering. How deep is the drum shell, and what is it made of? What type of drum head is on each drum, and how much muffling is on it? Some of the edits are subtle—muffling for instance—but others can radically transform the timbre.

The COSM modeling features of the unit go beyond what you can do to an individual instrument. For both the samples and the V-editable sounds, you get to choose what kind of room the kit is in, how big that space is, and what its walls are made of. You also can add compression and EQ. In essence, the TD-10 gives you control of the sound throughout the audio chain, allowing you to create new and personalized sounds.

Because the V-editable sounds offer a huge number of possible variations, merely counting the number of COSM sounds doesn't do the unit justice. Let's consider the process of creating a virtual snare drum; prepare to be amazed.

Three buttons—Instrument, Studio, and Control Room—control the general editing areas for each drum. Press the Instrument button. This first menu page includes a picture of a snare, the note number, the instrument name and number, and whether the sound is V-editable. Above the function keys are the List (which lists all the available instruments), Ctrl (which controls whether sequences will be triggered from that pad), and Edit.

Within Edit, you can make choices about the drum you wish to create. Any V-Snare can have three different shell materials (wood, brass, or steel), three head types (clear, coated, or pinstripe), five degrees of muffling, and four snare-strainer tensions (Off, Loose, Medium, and Tight), yielding 180 different combinations! Head tuning and shell depth can also be radically altered. Some of these differences are subtle, and some are dramatic.

V-Kicks and V-Toms offer fewer editable parameters. The choices are Normal or Deep shell depth, the same three head types, head tuning, and five degrees of muffling.

Virtual Ambience

The Studio button allows you to choose the type, size, and wall material of the acoustic environment in which your drum kit is placed, the position of the ambient microphone, and the position and types of virtual microphones used for close-miking your drums. You can put your sound on the beach (dry) or in the living room, bathroom, studio, garage, locker room, theater, cave, gymnasium, or domed stadium.

Unlike the unit's regular digital effects, these ambiences are not disabled when the sound is sent to the direct outputs. The amount of ambience sent to the various outputs can be chosen individually for each output.

Microphone types include Condenser, Dynamic, and Lo-fi. You can place the microphone in standard position, farther away, or even inside the drum. You can choose from five different sizes of room, which affect decay times. You can even select whether the walls are made out of wood, plaster, or glass. Unlike the real world, this virtual room lets you choose how much of each drum and instrument is "sent" to the room. Furthermore, the drums, percussion instruments, and backing instruments can have their own individual ambience send levels! Ambient microphones can even be placed high or low to emphasize different room frequencies.

Some of the things you can do to a drum become logically nonsensical. You could start with a deep maple snare, change the shell to brass, shorten its depth to one inch, place a mike inside the shell, and put it in a glass cave. You can put a sandbag inside the "OysterKick" drum and play it on a beach!

In the Control Room

In Control Room, under the Mixer menu, you can choose individual instrument levels for head and rim sounds, output selection, pan position, and volume of the drum group and percussion-instrument groups. The compressor/limiter indicates whether the function is on or off and lets you set threshold, ratio, attack, release, and output level.

The 2-band, fully parametric EQ allows for precise balancing of frequencies. I used it successfully to bring out more snare sound than the Strainer adjustment offered. The result sounded as though the drum was miked from both top and bottom! Only inputs 1 through 10 offer EQ and compression. These features were omitted from inputs 11 and 12 to conserve resources for the global 3-band parametric EQ on the master outs (but not on the direct outputs).

Conventional Effects

The digital effects menu offers 30 effects types, including fourteen reverbs and a variety of delays, including some with flanger, phaser, chorus, pitch shift, and 3-D processing. All of the effects are editable and sound great.

I do have a few quibbles here. It is a pity that tremolo isn't included among the digital effects for use on the vibraphone patch. I also think the addition of distortion would appeal to the Marilyn Manson crowd. One thing that briefly confused me was that some kits have Ambience, Compressor/Limiter, EQ, and Digital Effects individually turned off. Before you make any edits, look at the Kit screen and see whether the abbreviations AM, CL, EQ, and FX are highlighted; if not, your edits will have no consequence. Selecting FX Switch at the bottom of the Kit screen allows you to toggle these features on or off.

A Hair Trigger

The TD-10's trigger response is quite good. Regardless of the instrument selected, the module consistently sent its audio signal five milliseconds after receiving the trigger, and via MIDI it is reportedly two milliseconds faster, though I did not test this. By way of comparison, the ddrum3 I reviewed a couple of years ago output a signal within three milliseconds whether triggered by pads or MIDI.

There are eight different trigger-pad types and eight drum types to choose between when triggering from acoustic drums. No matter what pad I tried, whether ddrum3, Yamaha, or even my Paleolithic Tama Techstar pads, the TD-10 worked with it. The greatest sensitivity by far, however, was achieved with Roland PD-120s.

The basic triggering parameters include Trigger Sensitivity, Threshold, and eight different response curves. There is even a Rim Sensitivity adjustment. The Advanced Triggering menu offers even greater levels of control, including Scan Time, which evens the dynamic response of acoustic triggers; Retrigger Cancel, which stops multiple triggering; Crosstalk which reduces mistriggering when two pads are on the same stand or rack; and Mask Time, which is useful for drummers who bury their bass-drum beater.

I have a ddrum3 kick unit that double triggers. By adjusting the Retrigger Cancel and Mask Time functions, I was able to get this unit to work like new. In addition to triggering off acoustic drums, I was, with a bit of tweaking, able to get ddrum, Trigger Perfect, Pintech, and even cheap Radio Shack piezo transducers to work well with only rare mistriggering. But you must adapt your playing somewhat. Rolls are always problematic.

To see whether the TD-10 could be used to replace sounds off of multitrack tape, I used an ADAT tape from an R&B project I played on. The drum tracks were backbeat-oriented, and I was hitting hard. The TD-10 worked well on this tape after just a few tweaks. Mistriggering was rare and resulted from the kick drum bleeding into the snare mic. This performance is especially impressive because these drum tracks were raw from tape and not gated.

Sequencer Basics

The TD-10 contains a 4-track sequencer that was designed for the creation of percussion loops and simple backing tracks. The sequencer is easy to use but is not suited for creating elaborate MIDI productions; it allows for only drums, two backing tracks, and bass.

The 54 backing-instrument sounds available in the TD-10 were derived from Roland's PMA-5, as were many of the factory sequences, and are perfectly good for practicing to or for dictating basic musical ideas. The backing parts can be panned, sent to the digital effects, and muted. You cannot send the backing parts to one of the direct outputs, however.

Total sequencer memory is 4,000 notes, and patterns are limited to 99 measures in length at 192 ppqn. You can select pattern or loop length, tempo, time signature, and the MIDI channel on which each part can receive. Positional sensing on the pads can be recorded to the sequencer but brush sweeps and cymbal chokes cannot.

(Incidentally, the TD-10 does not transmit brush sweep data via MIDI so Roland has incorporated a workaround for this. The "MIDIbrsh" kit operates much like the TD-7 brush kits: you hit the pad with a stick, and the brain provides the sweeping. This is also useful if your brush playing sounds like someone raking leaves.)

The sequencer records in real time; it doesn't offer step-time recording. Quantization can be applied during recording but not afterward. You can erase entire patterns or selected measures from a pattern, leaving empty measures, or you can delete them, shortening the sequence. You can copy sequences or selected measures, append two sequences to create a new one, tune each individual background part, and select which instruments will be played for each part and how loud they are. You can even select how much ambience they'll receive and their Pitch Bend range.

Regrettably, there is no Tap Tempo or Tap Groove mode. The first is useful for finding tempos. The latter, available on some KAT products, starts the click and sequence after two hits on a pad, synching the pattern to your tempo rather than vice versa, which is very useful.

The Merciless Metronome

The metronome click is exceedingly versatile, allowing you to select tempo, time signature (numerators from 1 to 13 and denominators of 2, 4, 8, or 16), duration, and sound. The metronome can sync to MIDI Clock; if your keyboardist writes a Zappa-esque sequence, you can get the voice metronome to shout at you in 13/8. Like the backing sounds, the click can't be sent through the individual outputs.

Having control of the interval (subdivision) of the click is valuable. The keyboardist in a band I work with sends me a quarter-note click on an extremely slow ballad that no Diet Coke addict could comfortably play to. By applying the sixteenth-note interval to the click, the TD-10 automatically generates the subdivision I need to hear. But take care when selecting interval and time-signature combinations or you'll end up with clicks so rhythmically strange Vinnie Colaiuta would struggle with them.

Practice Patterns

The factory-programmed percussion sequences work well as practice tools and as percussion background loops on songs. They can be assigned to any pad in any kit; in fact, you can assign different percussion loops to different pads and start them at different points in the song. Starting a new sequence terminates the one currently playing. Most of the 50 factory drum kits have short sequences assigned to Crash Pad 2, which you can start and stop by hitting the rim.

A sequence can play in any of three modes: One Shot, Loop, and Tap. The "Orchestra" kit has Tap mode assigned to the ride-cymbal pad, and as you strike the pad, it advances through the sequence one note at a time. This feature has been a mainstay of Yamaha drum interfaces and allows one-man band performances in the style of Akira Jimbo or Tony Verderosa.

These sequences have lots of applications besides composition. Want to hear how your drums sound through your band's P.A.? Write a sound-check sequence, and go out front and listen. You can make adjustments at your band's mixing board or at the TD-10. Is there too much bass, or do the highs seem dull? Don't forget that the TD-10 has a 3-band, global parametric EQ.

Mucho MIDI

The TD-10's MIDI parameters include the ability to set what note numbers will be transmitted from each pad and how long the note will sustain. You can turn Local Off, specify whether the unit will send or receive Program Change messages, save the memory via Bulk Dump, and thin the amount of data sent from the FD-7 hi-hat pedal. You can choose which note numbers trigger which sounds, set Volume levels between groups, and much more.

The internal sequencer can sync internally or externally to MIDI Clock. A MIDI Delay feature allows an external sequencer to control the tempo of the Beat Delay effects. This saves you from performing long division by automatically calculating the tempo of your echoes.

Check Out My New Pad!

Roland introduced two new drum pads for this system. The PD-120 is a 12-inch, dual-zone (head and rim) pad, and the PD-100 is a 10-inch, single-zone pad (no rim function). The first thing you notice about the new pads is that they resemble real drums more than they resemble electronic pads. These pads are made for Roland by drum-head and percussion manufacturer Remo USA and are based on Remo's Legero drum-set line. Like the Legeros, they have a single head on a shallow shell with tensionable lugs. The shell material is Acousticon R 416, the same wood-fiber-and-resin composite found in all Remo drums, which results in a sturdy and fairly heavy drum.

But there the similarity ends. What clearly differentiates these pads from every other trigger pad is the new nylon-mesh drumhead. When I first read about these new heads, I imagined something along the lines of a Fiberskyn head: a traditional plastic head with fiber strands impregnating the surface of it. I couldn't have been more wrong. It's actually more like a vocalist's pop screen or a leotard stretched across an embroidery hoop. This results in a practically silent trigger pad.

If you look at the surface of the head, you'll notice a small blue dot in the center. This is the tip of a blue triggering cone that presses against the underside of the mesh head and is responsible for the amazing sensitivity and dynamic response of these pads. This triggering cone is the only thing that touches the mesh head, allowing it to move freely while simultaneously protecting the piezo transducer which lies beneath it.

Other pads that use real drum heads have a layer of foam rubber under the entire surface of the head, which dampens the head response, sapping momentum from the drummer's sticks. In contrast, the PD-120 and PD-100 have a very lively response. Their mesh heads seem to have more give than plastic heads do, and they feel softer and springier than real drum heads. Of the drummers I polled, all liked the action, and several commented that it gave back more than they had put into it. I found that the rebound of the pads took a little getting used to. They didn't feel quite like real drums, but then, neither do deader pads like the PD-7.

I generally prefer a deader pad but found I could play on a PD-120 for hours with surprisingly little fatigue. In addition, the response can be tailored somewhat by tightening or loosening the lug screws. Roland deserves credit for developing a pad that is the antithesis of the rigid plastic pads that have injured drummers since the origin of electronic drums. Tennis elbow, anyone?

When PD pads are used, the TD-10 can accurately track whisper-quiet buzz rolls as well as the loudest backbeat. Even if you're not a drummer, you have to try the "drop stick test" on this pad. Hold a stick loosely and let it drop onto the head. The pad tracks every rebounding decrescendo of the stick until the stick stops moving. Even more amazing is that, with the appropriate patch chosen at the TD-10, it is possible to play with brushes to obtain both taps and sweeps! Go ahead and read that sentence again; this is a remarkable innovation. Brush sweeps will not be transmitted over MIDI, but brush taps will. You must use nylon brushes because wire brushes can snag and damage the heads.

Although these mesh heads are supposed to be far more durable than mylar heads, if you eventually stretch or damage them, replacements are affordable. The MH-10 and MH-12 sell for $22.95 and $24.95, respectively. I hope they will be widely stocked; just in case, the prudent percussionist should buy an extra head. The pads are shipped from the factory with the heads fairly slack, so be sure to tighten them before use to prevent damage to the triggers. Fortunately, there is a Head Adjustment screen in the TD-10's advanced triggering menu that, like a guitar tuner, shows you how much to tighten each lug to achieve a loose, medium, or tight tuning. Clever.

Realistic Rimshots

Because these pads have real drum hoops, it is much easier to accurately hit rimshots on them than it is on Roland's PD-7 and PD-9 pads, which have very low, rubber rims. These steel hoops are covered with black rubber to allow for quiet rimshots and minimal stick shock. (In comparison, ddrum3 trigger pads feature real drum heads and an uncovered steel rim, resulting in significant pad noise when used with overhead mics in the studio.)

The PD-120 pad's rim can trigger a sequence or a second sound, usually a rimshot or rim-click sound. You can only access these features when a PD-120 is plugged into the snare channel. Owners of Roland's top-of-the-line V-Pro Set, which comes with three PD-120s (for snare and floor toms) and two PD-100s (for rack toms), will lose four possible sounds and sequence trigger areas. Although I wouldn't assign another sound to a tom's rim on a rock kit, I probably would on a Latin percussion set where more timbres mean more fun. If you want your tom pads to trigger a second sound from their rim, you must use either PD-7 or PD-9 pads.

Because the PD-120 employs piezo triggers for both head and rim triggering, it has no choke feature, unlike Roland's PD-7 and PD-9 pads, which use FSR rim sensors. Due to the physical characteristics of a real steel rim, Roland was unable to use an FSR trigger here.

Positional Sensing

When a pad is plugged into the snare or ride input, the TD-10 can sense where the pad is being struck and alter the timbre of the sound being played. This is one of the coolest features of the new module—snare and ride are the two instruments in a drum kit that benefit most from such nuance—and it adds greatly to the realism of electronic drum performances. None of the other ten trigger inputs offer this feature.

Amazingly, there is no phase cancellation as you play from center to edge. That's COSM to the rescue: on sample-based systems, when crossfading or Velocity switching between similar samples, there are audible artifacts. There are none here.

Wish List

I'm paid to be picky, so let me offer a few suggestions. I would like to see a snare pad with three distinct triggering areas. Why not divide the rim and dedicate the third of the rim nearest the drummer for rimshots and the two thirds away for rim-click triggering? Drummers frequently play each of these three techniques in the same song. With this dual-zoned pad, they have to buy an extra trigger pad and hardware dedicated to a rim-click sample or else change back and forth between patches to get the sound they need. A second rim trigger would be the perfect solution to a problem that arises every time a MIDI drummer plays a ballad.

One of the enduring problems of electronic drums is getting a machine-gun sound when you play a rhythmically dense passage on toms. A drum head in motion responds and sounds differently from one that is still, so I wish there were an attack or filter control that could be linked to Velocity for more realistic tom rolls. I wish the TD-10 supported Velocity switching, which would be useful for changing between multiple conga sounds on a single pad. I'd also like to have user sound layering and an alphabetized instrument list.

Virtual Certainty

Like many drummers, I have a love/ hate relationship with electronic drums. The love comes from the ability to control your sound from start to finish and the fun of having a huge palette of sounds at the end of your sticks. The hate comes from wrestling with cumbersome operating systems and the difficulty they have reproducing the many nuances of acoustic drums. I want what everyone wants: the best of both worlds. Now, please.

Roland has earned its reputation as a leader in electronic drum technology through constant innovation and refinement of their products. Things have just gotten a lot worse for their competitors. True, the V-Pro Set is an expensive item at $4,995. But the TD-10 is the most powerful drum brain Roland has ever created. The features are well implemented, the effects are excellent, the sounds are ripping, and the editing parameters are deep. The positional sensing on the snare and ride pads is a tremendous advance. And the system is expandable: it can get about as deep as any pro could ever want or be as simple and immediate as every beginner needs.

TD-10 Specifications

Sound Generator

physical modeling and sample playback

Maximum Polyphony

56 notes

Instruments

600 drum, 54 backing

Drum Kits

50

Drum Kit Chains

16 (32 steps/chain)

Effect Types

30

Tempo Range

20-260 bpm

Display

64 x 160-dot LCD; 8-segment, 3-character LED

Trigger Input Jacks

12 dual

Audio Outputs

8 (4 stereo pairs) + phone

Audio Input

1 (Monitor Mix)

Switch Control Inputs

2 (hi-hat, dual footswitch)

Expansion Slots

1 memory card, 1 expansion board

Dimensions

121⁄16" (W) x 911⁄16" (D) x 39⁄16" (H)

Weight

5 lbs. 2 oz.

When he isn't busy gigging, teaching, or recording, Brad Schlueter practices the challenging art of Scottish drumming in the University of Chicago Pipe Band.