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Roland TD-12KV

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1 Review

Roland / Electric drum kit - this model includes V-cymbals.

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    1 Review
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      28.12.2009 06:07
      Very helpful
      1 Comment



      Perfect practicing at home, amateur recordings and gigs

      I bought my TD12KV kit about 3 years ago and have played it mostly at home for practice. I have played in amateur bands on and off and am really not very pro as a drummer, although I'm told I hit things pretty hard! It is still in mint condition and no sign of meeding to replace any mesh ehads or other parts.

      Roland are arguably the leading manufacturer of quality electronic drums kits. Yamaha comes close and probably does better budget (i.e. less than £1,000) kits, but if you are forking out for a good kit and have only ever heard Roland recommended. This was also my opinion from trying out numerous demo kits in showrooms - I did a lot of research before parting with such an amout of cash.

      The Roland TD-12KV is an incrementally upgraded TD-10K from some years ago. It is better than the TD-8K (formerly the TD-6K) as *all* the toms are mesh heads (rather than rubber pads) and the "brain" unit is a much better spec (more programmed drum kits, patterns, customisable features). However, the TD20k (not sure of old/new model number) is better still as all the toms (not just snare) is variably sensitive across the head, the hi-hat is much better spec and the brain unit is slightly better. The "V" appended to the model means it has V-cymbals, which I think are pretty much standard across all models now.

      When I first assembled the kit I couldn't get one of the pads to work. Turns out I hadn't connected something correctly. I forget what, but I sorted it out by calling the Roland helpline who are available to help with exactly such queries and a great plus in buying a kit.

      I don't think electric kit will truly replace the sound quailty, look and feel of an accoustic kit. However, my TD12KV allows me to practice at home with headphones without annoying the neighbours (although the force on the bass pedal and general tapping is pretty annoying to those in the room below me in my old poorly sound-insulated house, so I don't practice late at night). The physical size is much smaller, so it fits in my room when an accoustic kit didn't. I can also fold it roughly down and transport it places far quicker than dismantling and setting up an accoustic kit. Finally for recording, you can have preset all the levels at home and just plug it in - no extended sound check, no need for an expensive studio with a separate drum booth, no need for a lengthy set up of mikes round the kit. When I recorded some tracks with my band (admittedly amateur, on an 8 track), no-one guessed (or even believed) it wasn't an accoustic kit. I have even seen a metal band gig with a Roland kit, albeit it coupled with proper real cymbals.

      I really think that a lot of preconceptions about electric kits are outdated. Complaints of "tennis elbow" and the annoying loud smacking sound from hitting hard plastic pads are largely solved by the forgiving mesh heads. The kits are physically smaller and range from low to high end, yet all have a wealth of customisable and authentic sounds.

      The whole thing is easy to assemble as it's all screw clamps requiring no special tools and no brute strength. I shifted my cymbals from the recommended set up but now have everthing how I like. It came in white or black when I originally purchased my kit. The cables come with helpful identifying stickers (e.g. "Tom1", "Hi-Hat Control") and cable tidies, plus the main length of the cable is hidden inside the frame itself, keeping everything tidy and in working order. There are additional cable in points ("Aux1" and "Aux2") for adding extra inputs (e.g. extra drum pads) if you wanted to purchase extras for the kit. The kit does NOT come with a hi-hat stand, kick pedal or stool - standard ones will work. It does include a plastic headed beater for the kick pedal though, which is recommended in the manual to preserve the life the the kick drum. However, the Roland helpline also seemed to think it would be perfectly fine to use my own beaters (as I have a double bass pedal), and I can't see why this wouldn't be fine.

      There are three toms per a standard drum kit set up. On this model, they are small mesh heads which detect well how hard the pad is hit and change the sound accordingly - you can really demonstrate this by playing ascendingly loud rolls, for example. The rims make different sound- usually an authentic metallic noise as if you had really hit the rim of the drum, but on some pre-set kits this is programmed to be a cow bell, tambourine, a weird sample, etc. The mesh head also makes it feel like hitting a real drum skin, i.e. the stick doesn't bounce back at you, so it's good practice for playing an accoustic kit. You can replace the mesh heads if they wear out without replacing the entire pad, and you can also tighten them (using a lug key, like tuning a tom) to get the required amount of "give" in the skin of the tom.

      The snare is a bigger than the toms and additionally detects where on the pad it is hit i.e. in the centre or towards the edge. This makes for a powerful and clever pad indeed! You can also play proper rim shots by holding the stick across both sides of the rim.

      I understand that this drum is meant to be sensitive to where on the pad you hit it, but I haven't meddled with this feature much (nor needed to). It does detect well how hard you hit it, allowing you to play soft then loud etc as with every other thing on the kit.

      The predecessor non-"V" cymbals just had the one sound for hitting the main part of the cymbal and another for hitting the bell. Additionally V cymbals detect how close to the centre or edge you hit the main part of the cymbal. You can also catch the cymbal to stop the sound dead (it has a sensor underneath where your fingers grab), like a real cymbal. Overall the cymbals are the least successful part of the kit as, even with these features, the sound from them tends to sound quite uniform each time you hit them and you only have one ride and one crash cymbal (excluding hi-hats) to choose from (unless you buy additional pads and add them). They still do an excellent job though.

      The hi hat has a bottom control unit and a top cymbal (the TD20k has bottom and top hi-hat cymbals). It fits on a normal hi-hat stand, without needing the fitting for the top cymbal. As all the input triggers (drum and cymbal pads) can be set to how sensitive they are, the the hi-hat can be set to when it is open or closed, you can really fine tune the feel. This means you can almost recreate all those subtle open/closed hi-hat sounds you would get from an accoustic kit e.g. trashy loosely shut, tight closed, or disco ascents on opening the hi-hats. This takes a bit of fiddling with on set up though.

      The ability and features offered by the brain far exceed the ability or needs I have, and I can't do justive to it in my review. As an overview, there are 50 pre-set drum kits from normal rock or jazz kits, to orchestral percussion, techno electronic, retro 80s, echoey stadium rock, Indian sitar and tabla, etc. There are also many many more preset 4 to 20 bar sample tunes to play along with, and you can change the tempo on them. Accompanied or not you can activiate the metronome which can click differently every X beats or other custom fetures. You can program your own kits from the huge wealth of sounds - which includes drums of all diameters and depths, made of different types of woods or metals, in different types and sizes of rooms (e.g. a huge stadium, a studio booth, a bathroom...!). Wackier sounds include voice samples, hand claps, bleeps and boigs, sirens and guns, sound effects... etc. There is also a line in to play along with your own music and various lines out for recording. You can then pre-program changes of kits, loops, patterns, etc. I would recommend you read the manufacturer's manual online if you are a pro or with specific requirements - it certainly does everything I want, and more.

      I bought a mid-range keyboard amp when I got my kit. The small recommended Roland monitor would have been fine for playing to myself at home but not powerful enough as a monitor when playing live, or as an amp when practicing. However, if you won't be using it for either of things, you probably won't need anything but headphones (not supplied with the kit). The kit can also be put through the PA if necessary.

      This kit is a dream and I can't see what more I could want from it. The TD20k might be higher spec but I don't need any higher spec, I don't have room for it's greater size and I can't afford it's greater price tag (although I've only played a TD20k in showroom briefly once). The TD8k (which I have played) is annoying due to everything but the snare being of rubber pads (sticks bounce artificially off them and make smacking noises) and the brain doesn't have nearly as great a range of samples and features. Whilst it might seem gimicky to have novelty/retro electric drum sounds, it makes playing on your own a lot of fun. It's an expensive kit but worth every penny to me.


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