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digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 1

Edition 31 • August 2017

US$10

Where
there’s
a Will
TomTodd
Wheeler
Ben

New SD2000
NAMM
debuts

MimicD.ships
Emily
Davies

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 28/07/2017 9:05 PM Page 2

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welcome

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 3

CREDITS

DigitalDrummer

ABN: 61 833 620 984
30 Oldfield Place

Brookfield Q 4069
AUSTRALIA

editor@digitaldrummermag.com

www.digitaldrummermag.com
Editor & Publisher
Allan Leibowitz
Sub-Editor

Solana da Silva
Contributors
Scott Holder

Bobby James
Raul Vargas

Tom Wheeler

Cover Photo

The Drum Cartel

Design and layout
‘talking business’

Support digitalDrummer
If you like what you’re reading,
please make a donation.

.

Founding member

Copyright or wrong:

Forget the legalese and just play
fair! We work hard to produce
digitalDrummer. Please respect
that and don’t rip off our content. In
this age of electronic publishing, it’s
obviously tempting to “borrow” other
people’s work, and we are happy to
share our stuff — but please ask first
and be sure to include a link back to
our website on anything published
elsewhere.
digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

THERE’S NO DOUBT that things are hotting up in the e-drums
world.
The last couple of months have seen shipping of two major
new products – Alesis’ Strike Pro kit and Pearl’s mimic Pro
module. The former was significantly delayed, leaving many
questioning whether it would see the light of day – and we
hear some of the reasons for the delay in this month’s edition.
And the Pearl product, first flagged last year, seems to have
been well-timed if the back-order lists are any indication.
As we finalised production of this month’s magazine, Guitar
Center was preparing for the arrival of its first shipments of
“real” Simmons kits. After a protracted legal battle over the
use of the iconic Simmons name, the US retailer and the
British pioneer are now working together on the next
generation of Simmons drums.
digitalDrummer was one of the first to speak to Dave
Simmons, an early inductee into our Hall of Fame, about his
return to the industry, and some of his comments are also
included in this issue.
The timing of the new Simmons mesh kit is no coincidence. Its
launch comes just weeks after the lapse of Roland’s patent on
mesh head drums. US Patent No 5920026 was filed on July
1, 1997 for “Electronic percussion instrument with a net-like
material to minimise noise”. That patent has been one of the
cornerstones of Roland’s market domination, and the
company has been vigilant in the US in enforcing it. Just ask
anyone who has tried to market and sell dual-ply mesh heads.
Now that the patent has lapsed, e-drummers can expect far
more choice – and we’re already seeing the signs of activity. In
addition to the all-mesh Alesis and Simmons kits, drummers
will also see the first all-mesh kit from ‘newcomer’ ATV.
Besides the direct competition, mainstream manufacturers
are also under threat from VSTs and new module-free
solutions. In this edition, we look at two contenders in this
space – the hardware-based Sensory Percussion triggers
which turn acoustic drums (and even mesh pads) into
electronic sound sources using a traditional audio interface;
and we also review apTrigga3, which does something similar,
but without any special hardware. This plugin replaces almost
any input with sampled sounds and certainly opens up sonic
opportunities.
And, speaking of sonic opportunities, there’s probably no
drummer that explores those more than this month’s profiled
artist, Will Calhoun. An early adopter of e-drums, Will
continues to find new uses for existing technology as he
combines talent, skill and experience with an insatiable
curiosity.
Hope you enjoy this edition.

editor@digitaldrummermag.com

3

inside

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 4

digitalDrummer AUGUST 2017

6
8

Simmons is back again, with a new kit and a new direction, as
Allan Leibowitz reports.

First Strikes land

Alesis has started filling back-orders and placing kits in retail
stores as it ramps up manufacture of its Strike Pro electronic
drum kit.

10

How low can you go?

14

Way beyond triggering

18

Updates

20

4

The ‘original’ Simmons returns

In his hunt for the ideal drum monitoring system, Scott Holder
tries out the new Simmons DA350.
After one of the most spectacular Kickstarter launches, Sensory
Percussion has gone from the drawing board to some highprofile drum kits, pushing the boundaries of electronic
percussion.
Product enhancements from Versatrigger, Gen 16 and Zourman
Drums.

Profile: Will Calhoun

Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun has been widely
recognised with accolades like the Buddy Rich Jazz Masters
Award to top ratings from major drumming and music
publications. This drummers’ drummer embraces electronics as
he continues to broaden his musical horizons. He spoke to
digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz on a recent tour Down
Under.

www.digitaldrummermag.com

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 5

28

How I use e-drums

Tom Wheeler is a Bristol, UK-based drummer/producer
currently working with Dr Meaker, Paragon and Laurent John.
He explains how e-drums have helped unleash his creativity.

30

apTrigga adds options

34

Feel the beat

36

Etymotic revamps ER4

38

Getting it together

40

Look Ma, no module! Allan Leibowitz ventures into the world of
module-free triggering thanks to a new plugin.
In search of a drummer-friendly metronome, digitalDrummer
gets a feel for a new innovation.
Etymotic has revamped its popular in-ear monitors and
digitalDrummer compared the new version with the model it
replaces.
Playing different rhythms with different limbs can be
challenging. Raul Vargas shares some exercises to hone this
skill.

My monster kit

Bobby James from Vancouver, BC, Canada has combined edrums and DJ gear into his monster kit.

digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

5

news

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 6

The ‘original’
SIMMONS returns

Simmons is back again, with a new kit and
a new direction, as Allan Leibowitz
reports.
THE BATTLE FOR control of the Simmons
name is over, with Dave Simmons (above),
founder of the original Simmons drum brand,
now working with Guitar Center, the giant US
retailer which had claimed the name after the
original registration lapsed.
6

The partnership promises to restore the
Simmons legacy and move away from the
lower-end kits which Guitar Center had been
marketing. It also marks the end of Guitar
Center’s rebranding of Medeli drum kits.
Medeli products are also sold under the KAT,

www.digitaldrummermag.com

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 7

Past and present: the new SD2000 and an original Simmons kit

ddrum and Alesis brands. Dave Simmons tells
digitalDrummer that the new collaboration
was based on Guitar Center “dumping that
idea and starting from the ground up”.

In an interview with digitalDrummer, Simmons
says, “We’ve come to an agreement to develop
drum kits over the long term … to revive the
Simmons brand to do something new and
different with it,” he says.
The first offering of the “reborn” Simmons is
the SD2000 kit and Simmons says “everything
on this kit is new: the hardware is new, the
industrial design is new, the voicing is new and
the manufacturing is new”.
The $1,299 kit starts shipping in August and it
is obviously a mid-market drum set, but
Simmons stresses that it’s the first offering “in
a development process over the next 10 years
to really take electronic percussion forward”.

Market observers will be watching the new
partnership with a measure of scepticism,
having seen similar collaborations in the past
fail to achieve the standards of the “old” brand.
They cite ddrum and KAT as examples of

digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

premium brands which, like the most recent
Simmons, were turned into labels stuck onto
lower-end drum products.

The original Simmons founder stresses he has
had hands-on input into the look, feel and
functionality of the SD2000 kit.

“You could say that I am heading up the R&D
for the direction of travel for the brand and I
want to push it upmarket, so the next kit will be
a fully professional kit,” he explains, adding
that “derivatives of this product” will be
launched to fill other price points.
The SD2000 takes advantage of the expiry of
Roland’s patent on mesh head drums and
features an 11” triple-zone SimHex mesh
snare, three 9” dual-zone mesh toms, and a 9”
mesh bass drum. Cymbals include a 13” dualzone chokeable crash, 15” triple-zone ride and
12” hi-hat.
digitalDrummer hopes to include a review of
the kit in our November edition, but in the
meanwhile, you can hear our exclusive
interview with Dave Simmons here.

7

gear

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 8

First Strikes land
Alesis has started filling back-orders and placing
kits in retail stores as it ramps up manufacture
of its Strike Pro electronic drum kit.

“WE’VE BEEN SHIPPING in the States since

March,” says Alesis drums head Tim Root
(above). “And everything we have shipped has
been sold, so dealers are reordering. We’ve
got way more orders than (we can meet) right
now.”
Canada will be next in line, with orders starting
to be filled soon. Europe will get its first stock
in June 2018 to meet a rising tide of preorders.

Root is buoyed by the ability to take kits into
stores and start demoing them, especially after
ongoing jibes about the Strike being
‘vapourware’.
“Alesis has always been a bit of an underdog,
and when you bring in the kit, there’s a bit of

8

scepticism in their faces. But when they see it
and hear it, they’re blown away,” he says.

He admits to immense relief after a difficult
period, starting in 2015 when he moved to
Alesis after many years as a key member of
the Roland US team. When he arrived, the
Strike kit was already in development, based
on a spec from Walter Skorupski. Root says he
immediately started changing things. After
some radical changes, the Strike team was
faced with a decision about showing the kit at
the 2016 NAMM show. “I jumped the gun a bit,”
Root recalls. “Part of it was just the excitement
and wanting to get it out there.” But he
underestimated the development cycle and
believed the kit would be ready for shipping by
the middle of the year.
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digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 9

What Root could not have anticipated was the
loss of several key team members including
sound designer Adam Schneider and trigger
engineer John Teele, all seconded from
Sonivox, a sibling inMusic company. The key
players were lured away by another
opportunity, “so in the middle of the project, we
had to bring in another sound designer,
another triggering engineer and another
software guy”, he recalls. “We had the people,
but they had to get up to speed with the
project.”
Besides the team upheaval, Root says a
succession of “little things” mounted up, with
the loss of a couple of weeks here and there.
But he was determined that there would be no
compromises, and Strike would not be rushed
out the door. “Yes, they wanted it a year ago,
but it’s here now and they can see why we
took so long to do it,” he says. “The effort was
well worth it.”
Root is happy with the pad set, the triggering
and the huge onboard sample library, but he
says the real mark of Strike is that “drummers
are going to be able to sound different”.

“You can put any sound you want in there, and
as time goes on, everyone is going to be able
to customise their kit. They can mix it with
what’s in there or add totally original sounds.”

Alesis’ Australian brand manager Mark Spies

.wav samples to the module. The software,
according to Root, “is real close right now”.

And the Strike is not the final word, according
to Root. “The difference between the Alesis of
old and Alesis now is that we are serious about
electronic drums. Now you have drummers at
the helm of the Alesis drum line, we are all
working constantly to put new, innovative
products on the market. We’re always thinking
ahead and we have a lot more planned.”

More mimic Pros on the way
The key to that flexibility is the free Strike
editor software which will allow users to add

PEARL’S NEW MIMIC Pro drum module
has begun shipping, with units dispatched
to retailers in North America last month.

A company statement says due to
overwhelming interest, the first shipment of
mimic Pro was completely sold out. It is
understood that all preorders placed with
dealers on or before June 1st received a
unit from the first shipment.

The second shipment in late July was also
sold out.

The module is listed at most retailers for
$2,199 and, with the strength of orders,
discounting seems unlikely at the moment.

Details of the mimic Pro were published on
the February 2017 edition of
digitalDrummer, and a review is planned
for our November issue.
digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

9

gear

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 10

How low

can you go?
In his hunt for the ideal drum monitoring system,
Scott Holder tries out the new Simmons DA350.

10

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digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 11

SIMMONS IS GOING old school with the
recent release of the DA350 e-drum monitor
system. It will immediately remind you of
Roland’s old PM-30 or Yamaha’s MS-100DR edrum monitors with its cabinet/two-satellites
configuration. It now joins KAT’s HD400 as the
only widely available 2.1 e-drum monitor.

One note: with the release of the DA350,
Simmons no longer labels the DA50/200S
cabinets as “monitors”; now they’re a “practice
& rehearsal amp” and “power performance
amp”, respectively. I reviewed the DA350 side
by side with the DA200S with an eye toward its
performance as a monitor as well as a portable
PA. The issue, as always with systems like
these, is bass response and depth of sound.

The outside

The DA350 consists of a powered
subwoofer/controller cabinet and two passive
satellite speakers along with tripod pole
stands. The satellites have audio/power
contacts built into the bottom of each speaker.
You can connect them directly to the sub/amp
box by sliding them into the corresponding
contact; Simmons calls this the “compact mono
setup” or as I put it, “Look Ma, no wires!”.
If you attach the two satellites via a pole, they
require a single standard, unbalanced (mono)

digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

¼” cable to connect to the sub/amp in
“standard mono setup”.

If using it in a stereo set-up, the satellites
connect via a standard, unbalanced (mono) ¼”
cable the way you would expect.

Inputs are on the upper, rear-facing section of
the sub/amp and consist of two sets of ¼’ L/R
pairs and a separate RCA or 1⁄8” TRS
connection. The latter can also be switched to
Bluetooth as you can pair such a device with
the sub/amp. L/R ¼” outputs to something
powered like a mixer or additional speakers
round out the section.

The top rear of the sub/amp has volume
controls for the three sets of audio inputs. Each
pair allows you to adjust not only the volume
sent to the satellites but also the volume on the
sub/amp. You can adjust L/R balance and the
subwoofer volume. There is a two-band EQ:
low adds or subtracts up to 15 dB below 100
Hz and the high does the same thing above 10
kHz. Finally, you can set the auxiliary input to
either RCA or Bluetooth.
The power switch and the outputs to the
satellites are located on the rear bottom of the
sub/amp.

11

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 12

Top view of the powered subwoofer/controller cabinet

The inside

The 60 W satellites are two-way speakers with
a 4.75” mid-range and 1” tweeter. The 250 W
main cabinet contains a 10” subwoofer which
is more like the “light” PA systems. In fact, on
paper, the DA350 is not unlike the 375 W
Fender Passport Event PA.

The performance

The DA350 is another “quiet at rest” system
like the other Simmons and KAT units I’ve
tested - always a good thing. However, the
audio quality of the mids and highs were
puzzling to my ear. They were fine in that you
could hear them, they were separate, etc., but
there was an overall timbre to them that I
couldn’t place. When I switched back and forth
between the DA350 and the DA200S, the
difference was quite pronounced: I still prefer
the audio quality of the mids and highs of the
DA200S. In this regard, the DA350 again isn’t
unlike the “light” PA systems referenced, either
that or I just find something subjectively great
about the DA200S audio in those ranges.
Stereo separation was good and, as I always
do, I played the Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs CD
release of Pink Floyd’s Money via the 1⁄8” stereo
12

input. Everything was clear with plenty of
separation. You might love the way the DA350
sounds when used like this or not; it’s very
subjective, but in this case, that audio
difference was far more noticeable than when I
did something similar when reviewing the KAT
KA1/2 against the DA200S.
My first surprise was how good it sounded in
mono mode. I can’t remember the last time I
used an e-drum kit in something other than
stereo. I didn’t do anything special to tailor the
kit’s sound to mono - I simply used stock kits
and songs for playback. I expected to find
something missing in mono, but didn’t.

The biggest surprise was how well the DA350
handled the low end. With just a 10” sub, I was
very sceptical of how it would perform. I figured
it would be more like the old PM-30 or practice
amps like the DA50 or KAT’s KA1. Far from it.
In fact, the DA350 had significantly more
“thump” when turning up the sub volume than
the DA200S. This difference was noticeable
when listening to each, strictly using an e-drum
module, but incredibly pronounced when
pumping in external audio like the Pink Floyd
track. It wasn’t as deep or richly resonant as
the HD400, but that’s not really a fair
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digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 13

comparison - 10” vs 15” subs. Regardless,
whatever Simmons has done on the DA350 to
get around the usually anaemic low-end issues
associated with 10” speakers is impressive.

As a possible PA, the DA350 does have the
three pairs of L/R inputs, so you could
theoretically plug your e-drums, a bass, guitar
and stereo keyboard into the sub/amp. As
mentioned, with its power, it is like other such
2.1 PA systems. However, the onboard audio
controls are so basic as to not make that a
realistic option. In reality, you’d need a small,
separate mixer if using this as a PA. I am also
not sure how well it projects. Yes, the low end
is remarkable for a 10” speaker, but in my
experience, that doesn’t project out very far.
While it might sound great right around you,
stand back 30 feet and you lose a lot of that
“oomph” and thus have a harder time filling the
space.
Once again, beware paper specs, particularly
down low. The DA350 sub’s low frequency
response is 50 Hz while the DA200S is 20 Hz.
Both handle any variety of kick sounds well,
but the 350 definitely had more room for
volume increase despite having a 10” speaker.
Again, the 350 doesn’t sound like any system
built around a 15” speaker, but the fact it can
somewhat hold its own means it’s a vast
improvement over an old-school e-drum
monitor like the PM-30.

Conclusion

As an e-drum monitor, the DA350 might satisfy
those looking for wide stereo separation you
get with satellites and spine-rattling bass. My
guess is for those who think a pair of 15” JBL
EONs is the only way to achieve that low end,
the 350 will fall short. In fact, it doesn’t hold up
in terms of bass depth and feel when sitting
behind an e-drum kit and the 350 pointing
toward the audience the way the HD400 did.
But use it as intended, meaning point those
three boxes at you, and the overall effect is
fine.
As a portable PA system, you do get what
you’d expect from such a set-up built around a
10” sub and you’d need a separate mixer to
get the best results.

digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

Specifications
Output:

Main Cabinet: 250 W @ 4 ohms
Satellites: 60 W @ 8 ohms

Frequency Response:

System: 50 Hz—20 kHz
Sub: 50 Hz – 160 Hz
Satellites: 155 Hz – 20 kHz
EQ: 100 Hz, 10 kHz
Power requirements: 600 W at full
output, 26 W when idle

Speakers:

Main cabinet: 10” (254 mm) Woofer (4
ohms rated 250 W RMS)
Satellites: 6” midrange (152 mm), 1” (25
mm) tweeter (8 ohms rated 60 W RMS)
Inputs: Four mono ¼”, one L/R RCA, one
stereo 1⁄8”
Outputs: Four mono ¼”, one stereo 1⁄8”

Weight:

Main cabinet: 51 lb/23 Kg
Satellites: 4.5 lb/2 Kg
Street price: $499

13

gear

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 14

Way beyond
triggering

14

After one of the most spectacular Kickstarter
launches, Sensory Percussion has gone from
the drawing board to some high-profile drum
kits, pushing the boundaries of electronic
percussion.

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digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 15

DIGITALDRUMMER HAS watched the
development of Sensory Percussion from
crowdfunding to software updates and it’s been
an impressive path. So the next logical step
was to test it and see what the fuss is all about.

What’s in the box?

When you buy a Sensory Percussion trigger
(yes, they’re sold individually), you get the
‘sensor’ which looks like an external drum
trigger on steroids, a plastic positioner, a pack
of tiny adhesive magnets and software
download voucher.

You need to register the sensor to access the
software which is quick and easy to download.

Besides the hardware and software included in
the purchase, you’ll also need a phantompowered audio interface and microphone XLR
cables. If you’re planning to run a full system of
four sensors, you’ll need an interface with four
powered inputs – not the most common
configuration out there. There are plenty of
four-input boxes, but most only have phantom
power to two of them. And you can’t plug these
into a drum module – they are actually
microphone-type pick-ups and only work with
the Sunhouse software.

approach of the KAT instruments or the aD5
module, you select a ‘zone’ such as the drum
centre or cross-stick and hit it repeatedly at
different velocities until the software
recognises the strokes. The more you train it,
the more accurate the ‘triggering’.

Sunhouse has done a great job of maximising
the expressiveness of its software by
identifying several ‘zones’. Besides the obvious
head and edge areas, there are also ‘zones’
triggered by rim shots, muted cross-stick, shell,
rim tip and rim shoulder strikes. The graphic
representation can be misleading if you
interpret it literally – the zones are not locations
on the drum, but rather the distinct sounds it
makes.

In action

Firstly, don’t be fooled by the apparent
similarity with traditional external drum triggers.
The Sensory Percussion system detects and
translates vibrations, but you can’t plug the
hardware into a module. The sensors need to
be connected to an interface, which, in turn,
needs to be connected to a computer running
the Sunhouse software.

Setting up

I don’t want to diminish the importance of the
sensors, but the brilliance of Sensory
Percussion lies in the programming.

The company has good online resources to
explain the set-up procedure, but essentially
you need to first set the threshold and then
train the software. Much like the trigger-setting

So, briefly, you can start with the basics and
use the system as you would an e-drum rig:
mesh head and sample sounds. Using the
software, you can allocate up to 10 samples to

The set-up is very easy: use the positioner to
stick a magnet to the drum head (the sensors
work with both mylar and mesh heads), attach
the sensor to the drum rim, tighten the thumb
screw, plug in and connect to your interface
and, thereby, to your computer.

digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

I have to admit that I didn’t manage to
programme the review system to do much
more than trigger samples, but that’s just the
tip of the iceberg. I was given a detailed walkthrough of the system's capability that left my
head spinning.

15

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:13 AM Page 16

a snare or tom. You could, for example, map a
whole kit to a single drum, with the snare
sound in the middle, kick on the edge, hi-hats
on the rim, tom on cross-stick, etc. This
approach can also be used with an acoustic
drum, so you could add a kick sound to the
edge of your acoustic snare, for example. This
functionality will be all some drummers might
need. And to simplify matters, the software
comes with a good-sized library of sounds –
and the ability to load your own single-shot
samples in .wav, aiff, flac or ogg formats.

But that’s just the beginning. You can allocate
more than one sample to each zone and
dictate how they will be played - stacked, cycle
or random, for example.
Another useful feature is the ability to “blend”.
The software can be used to create blends
between zones so that sounds transition from
one sample to another, depending on where
you strike. A great illustration of this can be
seen when you use similar samples for the
centre and edge zones, but with different
pitches. With the blend in place, the tone
deepens or rises as you move towards the
edge or from the edge to the middle.

The Sunhouse software also uses the sonic
zones of the drums as a switch for effects.
Imagine the whole drum is a controller, with the
centre being the maximum point and the edge
as the minimum. Using your strikes, you can
control a range of effects like pitch, reverb,
delay or compression. This means that
drummers can change the feel simply by hitting
a different part of the head or rim.

16

But the control is even more versatile, with the
ability to allocate sounds or actions not just to
the location of the strike, but also to the
strength of the strike (velocity) and to the
playing speed. In the demo I saw, reverb was
added as a speed-controlled effect – the faster
the playing, the more intense the reverb.

Acoustic drummers intuitively vary their playing
to explore the tonality of their drums. The
Sensory Percussion system builds on that
foundation to translate the expressiveness of
acoustic playing into control of electronic
sounds and effects.
And, of course, with a mylar head, all these
extra tones are played over the top of the
acoustic sounds in a true hybrid mix.

MIDI triggering

Drummers are not limited to the proprietary
software with the Sensory Percussion system.
The sensors can also be used as extremely
capable MIDI triggers, which was more familiar
ground for me.
In my testing, I connected the Sunhouse
software, using my Mac’s Audio MIDI Setup
application to set up a virtual connection with
the IAC Driver icon.

To get it all to work, you need to ensure that
Sunhouse is sending MIDI on channel 10. The
software also allows you to allocate MIDI notes
to the specific zones and you can either edit
those to match your VST or use the MIDI learn
in your drum program to tune the input signals
to your kit pieces.
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For the sake of convenience, I left the
Sunhouse MIDI numbers unchanged and
created custom maps in BFD3 and AD2. In my
test, I allocated a snare sound to the centre, a
kick to the rim tip, a closed hi-hat to the edge
and a ride to the tip shoulder. With relative
ease, I was able to create an easy-to-play
basic kit on a single snare drum – the hardest
part was remembering which sound was
allocated to each articulation. But after a few
minutes, I was playing grooves.
The ‘triggering’ was extremely accurate and
the dynamic range was very impressive,
especially for the snare sound on the centre of
the drum head.

Overall

I must admit to being dubious when the
inventors first shared their vision, but the
Sensory Percussion product has far exceeded
my expectations. The hardware is accurate
and easy to install. Although it's made of
plastic and requires a tiny magnet on the head,
it looks and feels robust and should go the
distance. I’d recommend a good sturdy case
for the sensors if you wanted to take these on
the road because I suspect that the electronics
are quite sensitive.
The real revelation with the system is the
software, which is truly astounding. The
developers have clearly studied the mechanics
of drumming, the nuances and the elements of
expression and developed them to new levels.
Think of it as cyborg percussion– taking the
natural actions of drumming with which we are
all familiar and adding layers of capability
limited only by the imagination.

Already, the software allows players to get an
almost limitless arsenal of sounds from a
single drum, utilising all the natural
expressiveness of the instrument. Then, it has
layered significant tweaking capability over that
and finally opened even more possibilities by
translating it all into MIDI that can be used on
external devices.
I had a hard time getting my head around the
current capability of the system, and most
drummers can expect a bit of a learning curve
to make the most of the software. And I
suspect the challenge will only get tougher, as
there are more enhancements and layers of
complexity on the Sunhouse drawing board.
But against that backdrop, I’m sure we’ll soon
be seeing some shared resources, with artists
releasing their presets and modifications that
will be easily applied by end-users.

And the other challenge is the price. A single
sensor (bundled with the software) will set you
back $699; a two-trigger pack goes for just
under a grand and the full set of four (the
maximum currently supported by the software)
goes for $1,599. Those prices may seem on
the high side, but once you see the power of
the software and what you can do with a single
sensor, the value is self-evident. For the
serious hybrid drummer, the electronic music
enthusiast, the drumming DJ or anyone
frustrated by the limitations of current triggering
technology, Sensory Percussion is a gamechanger that will extend your musical palette
as far as you can imagine.
With so much still to explore, I am not sure I
will be able to return the review samples!

Before you pull
the trigger
... Check out
our reviews
digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

17

updates
digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 18

Versatrigger adds MIDI

Wireless e-drum solution Versatrigger has
added new functionality, allowing drummers to
trigger traditional drum modules wirelessly.
The new version of the Versatrigger Hub now
has MIDI output, allowing users to trigger
modules instead of (and as well as) VSTs.

Using either the wireless triggers or
conventional pads and cymbals connected to
U-Box transmitters, the Hub needs to be
connected to a computer via USB for
configuration using the free Versatrigger
Studio program. Once configured, the Hub can
be connected to a module via MIDI for wireless
triggering. The Hub does, however, require
USB power, which can be supplied by some
modules or using an external power source.

Versatrigger’s new MIDI Hub (above) and the
Zourman Drums hi-hat adaptor (below).

Access Tool app launched

First, Zildjian simplified the Gen16 Access
Tool, reducing Digital Cymbal Processor tuning
to a few adjustments. Now the company has
launched an easy-to-use app which further
simplifies the creation of new sound shapes for
the Gen16 cymbals to two screens.
The app is perfect for drummers on the move
who no longer need a computer to fine-tune
their cymbal sounds.

Simply connect your iPhone or iPad to the
DCP via a USB/lightning adaptor and you can
perform firmware updates and tweak the
presets in real time.
The new free app can run on iPhone, iPad,
and iPod Touch with iOS 9.3 or later.

More Zourman versions

The Zourman Drums range of hi-hat adaptors
for 2box modules has been extended to six
versions.
The boxes allow 2box owners to use Roland
hi-hat controllers instead of the proprietary
2box hardware.

The current line-up includes a dedicated
adaptor for Roland FD-7, FD-8, FD-9 and VH11 controllers and one adaptor each for VH-12
and VH-13, with an additional variant for each
featuring a virtual clutch (VC) that allows
drummers to select a closed hat mode.

The adaptor also works with Rolandcompatible hi-hats from GoEdrum, Jobeky and
Hart.
Adaptors start from €109, with the VC models
priced at €129. EU residents also pay taxes.

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7/12/17 4:57 PM

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digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 28/07/2017 8:22 PM Page 20

Where
there’s
a Will

20

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digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 28/07/2017 8:22 PM Page 21

Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun has been widely
recognised with accolades like the Buddy Rich Jazz
Masters Award to top ratings from major drumming and
music publications. This drummers’ drummer embraces
electronics as he continues to broaden his musical
horizons. He spoke to digitalDrummer editor Allan
Leibowitz on a recent tour Down Under.
digitalDrummer: We generally begin these by
asking about drummers’ first encounters with
the craft. So, how did you get started?

Will Calhoun: My older brother, Charles,
played drums. He’s roughly six years older
than I and played multiple styles of music. We
grew up in a fantastic community in the North
East Bronx. We lived in a two-family house,
and my mom converted the basement into a
rehearsal/jam studio for the entire community.
My brother performed with salsa bands, jazz
bands, gospel groups, and funk/ fusion
combos. I would simply walk into my basement
and watch my brother play all these different
styles of music. This was quite an impressive
and very educational experience.
There were also two massive influential
drummers from my neighbourhood. Steve
Jordan, who lived around the corner from me he turned professional at age 14, and the other
drummer was Errol Pumpkin Bedward, who
was a massive game-changer in the history of
music because in 1972, he was selling beats to
record labels before hip-hop really became a
style. Pumpkin played brilliant classical piano,
great jazz fusion and was the most dangerous
pocket drummer I’ve ever heard, after Clyde
Stubblefield, and Jabo Starks from James
Brown’s band. One afternoon I went over to
Pumpkin’s house to listen to him practise and,
much to my surprise, I saw Steve Gadd and
Ralph MacDonald hanging out listening as
well. My influences began with those three
guys; they introduced me to many important
recordings, live shows, drumming techniques,
and drumming etiquette. At that time I wasn’t
interested in becoming a professional
musician.
At age 16, I decided I wanted to take private
lessons. I used to read Modern Drummer, and
I remember looking in the back of the
magazine and seeing an advert for Drummers
digitalDrummer, August 2017

Collective. I joined the school and began taking
lessons with the great Horace Arnold. He
began showing me the academics and artistic
avenues of drumming. He also personally
introduced me to Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Max
Roach, Charlie Persip, Freddie Waits and so
many other Jazz giants.

dD: And your brother: is he still playing?

WC: No. My brother was a prodigy. Prodigies
live very interesting lives: they either remain a
genius and continue, or simply change
directions in life. I began to seriously play when
he began to lose interest.

dD: Let's talk about what formal tuition does to
somebody who's already talented. What kind of
honing and skilling did that add to the package
that you'd already developed?
CW: Formal tuition gave me another language
to communicate with fellow musicians. It also
taught me to read sheet music, play with
brushes, listen to arrangements and play
forms. You can learn these things in blues
clubs, bars, and church; however, looking at
these styles on paper and interpreting the
music is a very important skill. Having natural
skills and formal tuition adds balance to your
overall drumming.
dD: At what point did you realise that you
could actually do this for a living?

WC: At age16 I had a very interesting
experience. I went to see Billy Cobham at a
wonderful club called The Bottom Line in New
York City with my brother and other family
members. After the first set, I went backstage
to meet Billy Cobham. I was a huge fan of Billy
Cobham at that time (I still am now) and he
was playing the music from his Total Eclipse
recording. On my way to meet Billy Cobham,
Miles Davis, who nobody had seen for ages,
just walked past me and I freaked out. He is

21

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 28/07/2017 8:22 PM Page 22

Calhoun combines acoustics and electronics

my favourite musician of all time. Miles was
standing next to me and my cousin stopped
him and said, “This is my nephew, he's a
drummer and would like to meet you.” I was
speechless. The entire moment felt like ‘divine
intervention’. When I arrived at my home, I
began planning my musical future.

dD: Amazing how many times Cobham’s name
comes up in these interviews. It seems like he
was seminal in so many people's decisions to
become drummers.
WC: Well, I think Billy Cobham was a gamechanger. He masterfully demonstrated
ambidexterity on the drum kit. As a young
musician, he influenced me to study
composition. He composed, arranged and
produced all the music on his recordings. He
experimented with drum machines and sound
effects on his acoustic kit, and introduced us to
the octobons. The drum fills on his Magic
recording are ground-breaking. His playing
with Mahavishnu Orchestra created new
22

avenues for heavy metal and rock drumming.
His playing with Miles is legendary. Much of
the drum industry stands on the shoulders of
Billy Cobham’s contributions.

dD: Yes, of course, he was an early adopter of
electronic percussion, which brings us to your
e-drum journey - how did that start?

WC: It began where most of my musical
knowledge began, in the Bronx. I spoke
previously about Pumpkin. Although he was
this master drummer and multi-instrumentalist
in our neighbourhood, he was the first person I
witnessed use a drum machine. I remember
sitting in his basement listening and watching
him audition his skills on the original LinnDrum.
He began creating beats in minutes. One of
those beats became a hit song for RUN-DMC
called Sucker MCs. It’s a track with no other
instruments - just the drum loop. It was also a
game-changer. Witnessing Pumpkin using this
machine in such a musical format and hearing
that song on the radio four to five times a day
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was the first major impetus to begin my
electronic musical journey.
The Bronx is the home of hip-hop, and the
drum machine became a craze. Although I was
already a huge fan of what Sly Stone and
George Clinton were doing with drum
machines, I originally had no interest in using
them - ha ha. Pumpkin gave me the proper
introduction.
After spending the next few years purchasing
machines, programming and using drum
machines live, I wanted to push the envelope. I
didn’t want my approach to be limited to drum
sounds, so I began sampling other sounds and
using the samples in a percussive display.
Sampling led me to completely bastardising
and dismantling my approach to electronics. I
wanted my electronic percussive sounds to
have the same sonic options as a voice, guitar,
saxophone or keyboard. Sonic imaging
became my next journey. Drums should be
able to feedback, loop, distort, flange, sonically
reverse, etc. I have an engineering degree
from the Berklee School of Music, and during
my school lab days, I spent most of my time
experimenting with sound effects and
recording techniques.
All of these experiences led me to begin my

journey into the black hole of e-drumming ...
and I’m still travelling.

dD: So, if we can just step back. What was the
hardware and software that you were using
initially and how did that evolve?

WC: My first sonic weapon of choice was the
Akai S900. In those days, hard drive space
was limited. I stored a few kit ideas on 12
discs. As memory space became more
available, the Akai S950, then the Akai S1000
became my main machines for touring and
recording. I used the Akai machines and a
drumKAT to trigger my sounds during the early
Living Colour tour days, to bring a live digital
element to my acoustic set-up. The challenge
of implementing both sounds simultaneously
changed my approach to drumming. Being in a
band with Vernon Reid and Doug Wimbish
certainly has its privileges. Both brilliant axemen gave me tons of advice on signal chains,
sound creation and pedal options; however, I
had to take the time out to patiently experiment
with an assortment of options and find my own
voice. The original WaveDrum and drumKAT,
JamKAT’R, ddrum3, Mandala Drum and
Roland’s HandSonic, are just a few of many
options.

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 28/07/2017 8:22 PM Page 24

PHOTO: TRAVIS SHINN

I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting
Roger Linn in his home. Known mostly in my
community for inventing the LinnDrum, he has
a new instrument called the LinnStrument,
which I have just began to explore. You can
find it on youTube. It’s simply amazing. Roger
created a new application in electronic music
exploration. I’m still working with this
instrument and it will become part of my new
set-up for the 2017/18 Living Colour world tour.
My digital drum world is constantly evolving.

24

dD: And all this time you were playing those
together with acoustics – not instead of?

WC: Yes, I was always interested in creating a
sonic marriage between electronic percussion
and acoustic drums. Living Colour gave me the
opportunity to perform the marriage, so to
speak. A lot of other artists were intimidated or
thought it was weird to enhance my drum
sounds live, and not wait until post production
or allow the sound man to alter the sounds.
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digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 28/07/2017 8:22 PM Page 25

Calhoun has plenty to kit in his ever-changing rigs.

The most interesting thing about enhancing the
sounds live is that it changes and influences
the other musicians or band members on
stage. They begin to play the music differently
… my altered percussion pushes the other
players in new directions.
dD: You've lived through the golden age of
electronics where the development has been
absolutely stunning. What were some of the
most impressive instruments and
developments that you've seen in use over this
period?

WC: The original WaveDrum is my favourite;
it’s simply a brilliantly designed instrument that
allows you to create your own sonic world. I
love the original ddrum stuff – I still have my
ddrum AT and my ddrum3. They’re my
favourite drum trigger boxes.
I’ve used Mario’s (DeCiutiis) KAT gear during
my entire professional electronic career. The
original drumKAT is amazing. It was very smart
- smarter than the average pad, sending MIDI
program changes, triggering samples, and
editing your kits by stepping on a pedal. I’m
presently using the jamKAT and the jamKAT’R.
These units are very sensitive, with a hand-

digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

based application. I can play these pads with
my fingers because the sensitivity is endless.
In the past, everything was hard and soft,
heavy and light, with nothing in between. Now,
you can drag your finger across pads to get
sounds. So, more recently, I'm experimenting
with Mario’s gear and also the new Roland
HandSonic. I like machines that I can
manipulate and embellish.

dD: You mention control, which is clearly
important when you’re playing live.

WC: Options are more important to me …
improvising opens new doors in my live
performance. If I have options along with
discipline and fearlessness, the music
becomes a blank canvas ready to paint. Less
is more in any situation.

dD: You certainly have a very large collection
of things to hit on the stage for someone who
says less is more!

WC: I prefer to have more options. This allows
me to play less, or use less options. It’s a
similar approach to cooking. If the spice rack is
in front of you while you’re cooking, you can
look at all the spices for ideas; however, you

25

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 28/07/2017 8:22 PM Page 26

PHOTO: THE DRUM CARTEL

will choose exactly what your food needs.
Without seeing the options, you might depend
on your instincts or just use salt and pepper.
dD: The current catch phrase is hybrid and I
guess there’s nothing more hybrid than what
you’re doing.

WC: My gear changes all the time and the
motivation comes from wanting to do
something different. The motivation also comes
from the menu. When I tour with Living Colour,
I'll probably have three or four electronic
drums. They all serve different purposes and I
can run them into different kinds of effects and
now it's just fun. I’m experimenting with sound,
form and rhythms when I’m performing solo
shows and playing only electronics and
acoustic indigenous percussion.
I’m researching my instrument in both
directions: the future and the past. Studying,
purchasing, collecting and practising on
ancient traditional instruments, while pushing
my electronic percussion into new sound
spaces. Sonically combining both concepts will
change your status as a human being.
dD: So, with all that going on, are you the
sound guy’s nightmare or his dream?

WC: Dream! I try to be helpful with the sound
person by having options. I can send out
individual outputs for each digital instrument, or
create my own mix and simply send out a
stereo Left and Right signal.
dD: Finally, you’re a drummers’ drummer with
talent and skills, but you also embrace
technology. What’s your view on the role of
electronic percussion?

WC: There are issues with certain electronic
percussion that homogenise your ability to
create. Overall, I think you should take
advantage of the technology and keep in mind
that you are still the instrument. The role of
electronic percussion is to create new forms of
creativity.

Web: http://www.willcalhoun.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/willcalhounmusic
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WillCalhounDrum
Will’s art: http://willcalhounart.com

26

www.digitaldrummermag.com

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performance
digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 28

How I use e-drums
Tom Wheeler is a Bristol, UK-based
drummer/producer currently working with
Dr Meaker, Paragon and Laurent John. He
explains how e-drums have helped unleash
his creativity.

28

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digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 29

SINCE I STARTED playing drums, I always
had a passion for dance and electronic music. I
would always listen to artists like The Prodigy,
Daft Punk, Prince, Massive Attack, to name a
few.

production ear too, it has really made me
experiment with the way I recreate the records
for Paragon.

After doing tours/gigs for various established
artists, I got the gig for Dr Meaker, which was a
perfect blend of the live soul edge and heavy
electronic music that I loved. I had previously
been experimenting with electronic/acoustic
hybrid set-ups in other acts, but it was in this
outfit I found one of my
favourite set-ups.

I will always continue to experiment with my
hybrid set-ups and incorporate electronics into
my projects and sessions. For me, using
acoustic and e-drum elements is so much fun
and I will continue to push what I can do live
with the new technology.

As soon as I got my first set of drums, I would
play along to my favourite albums from artists
like this and always wanted to recreate the
sounds I was hearing on these records I loved
so much.

The Dr Meaker set-up is a
combination of acoustic kit
playing while using my Roland
SPD-SX and Roland PD-85
trigger pads for hitting off
samples, splitting breaks and
also FX. The Dr Meaker album
Dirt&Soul is a very versatile art
piece and the only way to
recreate the sound of the
record is to use the endless
opportunities of the electronic
hybrid set-up. A perfect
example of this is a track
called Fear, in which I am
playing the beat solely on the
SPD-SX and triggers - and
towards the end of the song, it builds into a
massive sounding DnB beat played on the
acoustic kit while the previous beat continues
in a loop under this.

I also use a Boss foot switch, which has been
a really great addition to my set-up as it means
I can switch kits and navigate really easily
during the set. I have my click running and also
the track elements in my ear during
performance; it has so much flexibility which is
why I love using a hybrid set-up.
In the last couple of years, I have also been
producing my own music. My new project,
Paragon, the live set-up is amazing because I
can use all of my samples on the record,
simply put them into my two standing SPD-SX
set-up with my Sonor acoustic kick and KD-7
kick trigger, Roland PD-85 trigger pads and my
Bosphorus cymbals. As I now have a

digitalDRUMMER,May 2017

I am producing for singer/songwriter Laurent
John for some tracks on his forthcoming EP,
and being able to recreate this live is just
amazing because you can arrange the kit as
you want, efficiently getting the sound of the
record but adding as many live elements as
you desire - visually and mix-wise.

Tom’s set-up

Sonor SQ2 acoustic kit
Bosphorus 13” Traditional Hi Hat
Bosphorus 16” Antique Crash
Bosphorus 17” Antique Crash
Bosphorus 22” Antique Ride
Bosphorus 22” Hammer Series China
Roland SPD-SX
Roland PD-85 trigger pads x 2
Roland PD-128 snare
Boss foot switch
Roland KD-7 kick trigger
Puretone Music in-ears
DW 9000 Bass drum pedal
Gibraltar drum throne
29

vst

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 30

apTrigga
adds options
Look Ma, no module! Allan Leibowitz
ventures into the world of module-free
triggering thanks to a new plugin.
WE’RE INCREASINGLY HEARING about
hybrid – or the augmentation of acoustic
drumming using electronics. Commonly,
gigging drummers need to trigger samples or
loops from recordings so that they can recreate
the sound of the original song.
The options to date have generally centred
around triggers, modules, trigger to MIDI
interfaces (TMI) or computer-hosted VSTs.

30

That has recently changed, and already some
big acts are skipping the module or TMI and
instead plugging their triggers or pads directly
into the same audio interface that is handling
their live drum mics, going through audio
solutions like Ableton Live or MainStage.
How? Well, it’s thanks to a plugin that triggers
samples through audio input and transient
detection – apTrigga3. In layman’s terms, the

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plugin listens to the triggers through the
interface and replaces the impulses in real time
with preloaded samples – all with zero latency.

What’s in the box?

As with most software solutions these days,
there’s no box. Instead, there’s a surprisingly
small download which contains the plugin and
some sound samples in .wav format.

The plugin is not a program that runs by itself –
it requires a host like ProTools and Ableton.
For the less experienced, it also runs in Logic,
MainStage and even Reaper.

In action

I tested apTrigga3 in a variety of DAWs, both
using some sessions prepared by the
developer and starting from scratch on my
own.

I tested the plugin with a variety of sources – a
range of drum pads, a miced acoustic drum
and even finger snaps and chest beating. With
all of those, you need to connect a trigger
source to your computer via an interface.

digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

At first, I used my trusted Presonus Firestudio
Mobile, but had to abandon that for a more
“recent” interface that uses Apple’s core audio
rather than a Presonus driver. The reason is
that the driver sends both the original audio
and the triggered sound to the DAW, while
Apple’s native system allows you to send just
the triggered sound.

I upgraded to a Behringer FAC1616 which also
has the benefit of being able to select between
direct and processed audio output – something
vital if you want to hear the triggered sounds
without the original pad or drum sounds.
The triggering process begins by connecting
the pad or mic to the interface and using the
detection window to “custom tailor the
response of the input source”. There are some
basic presets built in, but most need some
level of tweaking to hone in on the signal
you’re converting, and once each input is
tweaked, it can be saved for future use.

I found most input devices worked well without
too much messing around, but the accuracy of
the triggering depends on how well you have

31

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 32

dialled in the source. apTrigga is also useful in
demonstrating the output quality of trigger
devices – some emit clean, precise signals,
others have lots of noise and pre- and posttrigger sounds.
With the input sorted, you move to the
generator window, where you can access and
refine the samples to be triggered.

Now, a bit of explanation: apTrigga is not
converting pad signals to MIDI and then
triggering an associated sample. It is replacing
one audio sample for another – swapping the
input signal for a .wav file.

The plugin ships with a bunch of apTrigga
samples – high-def audio recordings that can
be loaded as multi-layer, “random robin”
instruments. There are also some additional
samples available ($25 if purchased
separately, or an extra $20 if you bundle them
with the plugin) which include, for example, a
14” DW snare (in various guises – damped,
open, low and mid, etc.) with eight velocity
layers, with eight samples in each. And those
samples can be arranged in various ways – as
a sequence, stacked, random or random
without repetition. The samples can also be
tweaked (gain, pitch and pan).

And you’re not limited to apTrigga’s samples.
You can add your own .wav files and these can
have as many layers, and samples within the
layers, as you care to add.

Q&A
What’s more, you can use the app to record
your own samples if you have a drum that you
particularly like – and a suitable mic.

Overall

apTrigga is a powerful plugin which allows
drummers to add sounds without the need for
external triggers, pads, modules or TMIs.
However, it can also be used with e-drum pads

32

and triggers and uses these to generate
samples within your DAW.

The plugin is effective and powerful, but it’s not
quite plug and play. It does require a bit of
familiarity with DAWs, routing and signal
tweaking. It also requires a decent audio
interface. In my testing, for example, I was not
able to get full functionality with an older
Presonus interface, nor was I able to get my
head around the routing within my DAW of
choice, Reaper. However, with a more recent
interface and DAWs like Logic and MainStage,
I was able to get up and running without too
much difficulty.
In the right hands, there’s almost no limit to
what you can do with apTrigga. For example,
while messing around, I was able to use it to
trigger rich, detailed snare sounds just by
clicking my fingers and using my Macbook
Pro’s inbuilt mic as a source.

apTrigga3 is great value at $69, especially
considering that the similar and nowdiscontinued SPL DrumXchanger cost almost
$200. apTrigga3 comes with some unique
samples (digitalelements Lite Sound Set), and
the full digitalelements sound set is available
separately for $25 – or you can get both
bundled for $89.

The other investment is time. There is a bit of a
learning curve for anyone not experienced in
audio production. Remember, this is an
advanced plugin designed mainly for gigging
professionals wanting to add to their sound
palette without filling the stage with extra gear.
So, if you’re a novice, you’ll need time to learn
how it works. If you’re more advanced, you’ll
find yourself getting lost in the creative
possibilities, so set aside plenty of time to get
creative while you explore the boundaries.

Is there a VST issue
that is confusing you?

digitalDrummer has assembled a
panel of experts to answer reader
questions in future editions.
Simply send your questions to
editor@digitaldrummermag.com.

www.digitaldrummermag.com

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with Medeli mylar pads, while reducing ambient
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682Drums_A4-adv_digitalDrummer_v3.indd 1

27-6-2017 21:58:17

performance
digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 34

Feel
Feel the beat

In search of a drummer-friendly metronome,
Allan Leibowitz gets a feel for a new innovation.
WHILE MANY MODULES have built-in
metronomes, these aren’t always easy to use.
Nor is a click track necessarily the best
approach for all drummers.

Enter Soundbrenner, a wearable smart device
that uses vibrations instead of the traditional
clicks and sounds.

The device, a successful graduate of the
Indiegogo crowdfunding platform, made its
debut at NAMM last year and is already getting
into the hands, or more literally, onto the wrists
34

of some big-name drummers, including a few
who have been profiled in digitalDrummer.

The theory is that it’s easier to feel the beat
than to hear it while you’re playing. But before
we get into that, let’s examine what you get for
your $99 with Soundbrenner.

What’s in the box

The Soundbrenner solution consists of a
hardware and software package. The
hardware, the Soundbrenner Pulse, is like an

www.digitaldrummermag.com

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 35

oversized electronic wristwatch. The Pulse
currently ships with a charger unit and a choice
of two straps – one for your wrist and the other
being a larger strap for use on your forearm,
for example. In theory, you could use the
hardware as a stand-alone. You can initiate a
4/4 beat by tapping the Pulse three times and
then increasing or reducing the tempo with the
outer wheel. Simply double-tap to stop or start.
But the companion app, The Metronome by
Soundbrenner, really takes the solution to the
next level.

The app is available for both Android and iOS
(I tested it with an iPhone) and is used to
control the Pulse via Bluetooth. And control is
the operative word. The app allows for
customisation of the Pulse settings – the type
and intensity of vibration, the flashing colours,
etc. – as well as the minute tweaking of beats.

In action

I’ve tested many metronome apps, but few are
as easy to use as the Soundbrenner offering. It
is easy to program a rhythm: you simply select
a time signature (anything from 1/1 to 16/32);
select the subdivision from more than a dozen
combinations of notes and rests; and set the
BPM – either by tapping or typing in the tempo.
The parameters are
comprehensive and really
allow you to set the rhythm for
anything you need to play.
The app allows you to save
this information as a song and
to save a number of songs as
a set. So, drummers can
program their entire gig and
simply scroll through song by
song as the performance
progresses. The app doesn’t
currently handle changes of
beat during a song, but one
could simply add the new beat
as a separate song and skip
from one to the other.

Once you’ve got the rhythms
set up, you can also adjust the
way they are “delivered”: you
can change the accents, set
the colours which flash, and set the duration
and intensity of the vibration. This is especially
helpful if you wear the Pulse on your wrist or
arm and thrash it around when you’re
drumming. Finding the right spot for the Pulse
is a matter of trial and error. People have
settled on locations as weird as the back of
digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

their head. Personally, I got used to using it on
my forearm, but am now experimenting with
placement on my chest thanks to a new body
strap. I found that I needed to select short, very
intense vibrations to get the maximum benefit,
although it could be dialled down a bit when
placed on my chest. And yes, initially, “feeling
the click” takes a bit of getting used to, but
after a very short time, it felt natural and was
easy to follow – much easier than an auditory
stimulus, especially when you’re listening to so
much other stuff in a band setting.
For the electronically adventurous, there’s now
a piece of software to link the Pulse to your
computer music production applications. DAW
Tools will synch with most Mac digital audio
workstations and adjust the tempo of the
Soundbrenner Pulse to whatever you set in the
DAW. You can also use the Pulse as a MIDI
switch for the DAW and there’s lots of scope
for experimentation.

Bottom line

The Pulse on its own is a nifty tactile
metronome, but, paired with the free app, it’s a
powerful timing tool. The app is logical and
easy to program, allowing you to easily set
complex beats and, importantly, organise and
save them for later use. And it’s
not just a solo solution: if you’re
in a band, you can use the app
to drive up to five Pulse devices
via Bluetooth from a single
phone or tablet, ensuring that
everyone is locked into the
beat.
The Pulse takes some getting
used to – and some
experimentation with
placement. Depending on the
instrument and the way you
play, it could work best on your
wrist, on your ankle, on your
forearm or, thanks to the new
body strap, around your chest.

The Soundbrenner Pulse sells
for $99 either online or at the
major music stores. There’s a
30-day return window if it
doesn’t work for you and a one
year warranty if it stops working. And the
downside: it’s another reminder of how
inaccurate most of our body clocks are!

Do you need a metronome? Take this test to
find out.

35

performance
digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 36

Etymotic revamps ER4
Etymotic has revamped its popular in-ear
monitors and digitalDrummer compared the
new version with the model it replaces.

WE WERE IMPRESSED when we reviewed
the mid-range Etymotic ER4S earphones in
our August 2011 head2head. At the time, we
noted the strong signal and “crisp, clear,
balanced sound”.

Since then, Etymotic has revamped its ER4
range, with two new versions, the ER4SR and
the expanded bass ER4XR which we tested.

While the in-ear monitors retain their distinctive
minimalistic design, there are some noticeable
changes. The original plastic Etymotic body
has been upgraded to a black metal tube
which feels sturdy but is still light-weight.

There’s a new MMCX connector to join the
tubes to the replaceable cable – a step up from
the previous two-pin connector which seemed
a bit vulnerable.

The sturdy cable appears unchanged, although
the junction point where the single cable splits
into two twisted-pair leads is more streamlined
and now bears a logo.

36

Another superficial change is the
soft carry case, which is much more
usable than the large hard plastic case
previously provided.

And while other earphone makers have
succumbed to the mobile phone era by adding
inline remotes, Etymotic has avoided that fad.
So, if you’re looking for something that you can
also use with your tablet or phone, this may not
be your first choice.

Speaking of choice, the tubes come with a
selection of Comply soft buds and a couple of
silicone tips. Again, my favourite is the tripleflanged tips which provide great isolation and a
comfortable fit.

In action

Etymotic is widely respected for the clear,
accurate mid-range frequencies of its ER4
range. Remember, these are single-driver
earphones, so they need to do something
special to reproduce the full spectrum.

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digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 37

The ER4XR has excellent mid-range
detail covering most of the sounds you’ll
get from a module. In that regard, this model
is very similar to the 4S we reviewed a few
years back. While the high end
remains tingly, the biggest
changes in this model are
the bass boost and a
general “fullness” of
sound. But the
changes are very
subtle – maybe an
improvement of 5% or
6% in a totally subjective
A/B comparison. I was very
happy with the 4S and the
4XR sounds just a bit more
complete and balanced
with most of the modules
on our test bed.

Some critics have found the output a bit
subdued, despite the 122 dB output rating. I
had no such issues and, for me, the 4XR was
certainly loud enough, even on the low-output
2box module, where it didn’t need to be
cranked beyond 12 o’clock.

There were a couple of personal niggles with
the 4S that haven’t been resolved with the
4XR. The first is the potential cable noise as
the weighty cable rubs around your shirt during
vigorous play. This can be partially tamed with
the supplied cable clip, but it’s not always
totally effective. The second is the special antiwax filters fitted to the tubes. These do need to
be replaced from time to time, depending on
your ear physiology, and while they’re not
outrageously expensive at $15 for a six-pack,
who remembers to order more when they
replace the one spare set included in the
original purchase? I’m sure there are many
users around the world who continue to listen

digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

to “dirty” earphones because they have
forgotten or couldn’t be bothered to order
replacements.

The Etymotic ER4XR remains competitively
priced, with the street price unchanged from
the previous model at $299.

37

training
digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 38

Getting it together

Exercise 1

Playing different rhythms with different
limbs can be challenging. Raul Vargas
shares some exercises to hone this
skill.

Exercise 2

Click here
to watch
38

Roland artist Raul Vargas is from Victoria, Tamaulipas,
Mexico. His music education includes a qualification from
Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Raul has studied with musicians like Luis Conte, Dom
Famularo, Pablo Bencid, Javier Barrera, Yoron Israel, Jim
Payne, Mark Walker and Mark Guiliana.
www.digitaldrummermag.com

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 39

Introducing the ja mKAT™ MIDI Hand Percussion Controller

ja mKAT

The twelve FSR pad layout of the jamKAT™ was designed
specifically for hand percussionists. Allowing for natural
hand movements, gestures, and techniques found in
playing instruments such as congas, bongos, tabla,

“A new instrument
for a new way
of playing.”

shakers, etc.
This instrument has an amazing feel, response and
dynamic range thanks to the power of the DITI. For the first
time, you can play with just your fingers, expression never
realized on any hand drum controller.
The DITI incorporates many “gestures” designed for hand
drum playing. It knows when you want to sustain a sound
simply by pressing on the pad. It can send out controller
information such as pitch bend, panning, expression, etc.
The DITI can play alternate note patterns, velocity shifting,
note shifting, etc. It can even play different sounds
depending on the pressure of another pad. You can play
chords and transpose patterns.

Alternatemode.com| @ALTERNATEMODE

gear

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 40

MONSTER
My

kit

Bobby James from Vancouver, BC,
Canada has combined e-drums and DJ
gear into his monster kit.

Bobby’s’ kit

Bobby’s story

Electronics:
Roland DJ 800 DJ controller, Macbook
Pro with Ableton, Mackie 1608 Mixer,
Motu Ultralite Audio Interface, DMXIX
Light Box, TC Helicon Voice Tone, 2
Wireless Mics, 2 Shure PSM Monitor
Systems, Keyboard Stand, Multiple LED
Panel Lights, Lazer.

In 2005, I called it quits with the metal
scene after being introduced to the big
beats of house music.

Roland TD-50 kit:
Kick: KDA-22
Snare: PD140DS
Tom: 2xPD-128, 2xPD-85, PD-108
Hi-hat: VH-13
Cymbals: CY-18DR, CY15R, CY14C
Roland rack system

Hardware:
Tama Iron Cobra double pedal. Gibraltar
legless hi-hat stand
40

I started out making noise on pots and
pans on a farm in Victoria, BC. I bought a
black Pearl 5 piece fur covered drum set
at age 16. Joined a solid band at 17.
Canadian band Young Gun picked me in
1988 and I started a nationwide tour at
age 18.

In 2004 I met my wife and the singer for
our electronic duo DESTINEAK. We
have released a full length album, 12
singles, 10 music videos, and are
working on our second album now.
My solo Drum/DJ show is now called
DRUMNDIRTY, and I’m constantly
playing and touring with my TD-50 kit.

www.digitaldrummermag.com

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 41

digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

41

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 42

gearGuide

HI-HAT ADAPTERS
fo
r

hi-

Vi N o w
rt intr
od
t u ua
uc
se l
ing
wi Cl
th u
do tc
ub h
le

ha

kic
ks

Hi-hat Conversion
Modules for 2box™
Native Hi-hat Conversion Modules
for 2box™ DrumIt Five & Roland™
FD-7, FD-8, FD-9, VH-11, VH-12 &
now also VH-13!!!

ZOURMAN
D R U M S

www.zourman.com

or visit our resellers Drum-tec (Germany),
Jobeky (UK) and Electronic Drum Center (US)

CONVERSION KITS

42

CONVERSION KITS

Electrify any kit

Convertible Percussions
allows you to convert any kit
in just a few minutes
for less than $50 per drum.
Easy to install - no soldering.

Visit us at
convertiblepercussions.com
Or search for us on Ebay
and YouTube

KIT SUBSTITUTES

www.digitaldrummermag.com

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 43

gearGuide
E-DRUM KITS

DRUM TRAINING

Good, better, Diamond.

Introducing

Diamond Concert Plus
Diamond’s drums are hand-crafted to your
exact specifications, using the best
components and finishes.
These kits are built to play - and to last.
Affordable quality never looked so good.

www.diamondelectronicdrums.com

MESH HEADS

DEALER

ONLY A FEW LEFT

Hart Dynamics has stopped trading and
its famed mesh heads, made by Aquarian,
are fast disappearing.

This is your last chance to grab these
quality heads in Australia.

GOING
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MARKETING

Your ad here

for less than $200
CLICK HERE

digitalDRUMMER, August 2017

43

digitalDrummer_aug_17.qxp_Layout 3 26/07/2017 9:14 AM Page 44

Our greatest hits
... in one volume

Over the years, digitalDrummer has reviewed scores
of products and produced a number of market-leading
head2head comparisons, helping you choose the most
appropriate solution.

Of course, all our back issues are available
online, but to save you the time and trouble of
searching, we have compiled our reviews into single
volumes, ready to access with just one click.
From triggers to mesh heads and VSTs, to download
your preferred compilation, click here.

Everything you need - just a click away.


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