What: Electronic drum set with pads, mounting rack, and sophisticated sound module.
Why: So, why are we reviewing a drum set in EQ? Simple. Back in the day, all studios had a drum kit set up in the corner not only for visiting session musicians, but because the studio could keep it maintained and make sure the pedals didn’t squeak, the drum heads were in good shape and tuned, and perhaps more importantly, it could be miked and ready to go at a moment’s notice. With smaller project/residential studios and noise issues, having an acoustic drum setup is increasingly problematic—but a quality electronic drum set addresses that, especially considering the plethora of great-sounding virtual drum instruments you can drive with electronic drums.
Packaging: The DTX900K arrives packed in 346 boxes. Well, not really, but it’s a lot of stuff given that the set includes the mounting rack, drum pads, cables, sound module, etc.—everything except a kick drum pedal, sticks, and throne. It took me about an hour and a half to set everything up, which given the completeness of the set, wasn’t too bad.
Installation: Setup involves building the curved rack, then mounting the pads: one kick pad, 12" snare pad, three 10" tom pads, two 13" cymbals, 15" cymbal, and hi-hat. Next it’s cabling time to the sound module, which then feeds the mixing board or amp setup via main outs, six individual outs, or S/PDIF digital out (I use a Bose L1 with several bass bins for electronic drums). As a controller, the DTX900K offers USB or physical 5-pin MIDI connectors.
What’s hot: Aside from the general build quality, I’d have to say the XP-series pads are the hottest aspect. They feature what Yamaha calls Textured Cellular Silicone, which offers just the right mix of rigidity and “give.” They’re very responsive, with predictable velocity, but most importantly you can play them for hours—there’s hardly any “kickback” to your wrists. The pads’ comfort factor is huge, but they also don’t make a lot of noise when you hit them—important if you’re miking another instrument in the same room.
The XP pads also have two rim sensors, a top pad control for pad parameter tweaking (e.g., tuning), and a less-accessible trim on the bottom for level. I like the cymbals, too; they’re rubbery, not metal, and can handle choking and muting. The hi-hat pedal even responds to pressure when you press down on it for a “tighter” or “looser” hi-hat sound.
The drum sounds in the 50 kits are outstanding. This isn’t exactly a shock; Yamaha certainly knows how to sample and synthesize sounds. Still, the breadth is impressive—258 snares, 141 toms, 116 kicks, etc., from acoustic to electronic. You can also sample your own sounds (with time stretch, slicing, transposition, etc.), there are a ton of onboard effects if you’re into serious warpage, and the built-in sequencer can trigger riffs as well as conventional recording/playback.
Conclusions: While the DTX900K isn’t cheap, what you get in return is pretty phenomenal. Interestingly, since setting them up for this review, I’ve already had two visiting drummers stop by and check out the drums . . . to say they were blown away would be an understatement, particularly as one feels about acoustic drums the same way some guitarists feel about tubes. And if you’re used to playing software drums from a MIDI controller, the lack of latency when playing “real” drums is refreshing. Yamaha definitely did their homework, and the result is a highly playable electronic drum set coupled with exceptional sounds. It’s been a serious treat to have this in for review.
More from this Studio Roundup: