Product Type: Yamaha in Drums / Percussion
Newest Review: ... just stood up to it, definitely a Yamaha product. The sound bank is absolutely huge, and the editing of your pad sounds is as simple as... more
Now You Can Have A Politically Correct Domestic Thrashing!
Member Name: Nar2
Advantages: Compact, reasonably lighweight, good authentic sounds and general percussion styles.
Disadvantages: Most have to have adaptors purchased separately; different prices from stockists
Short of extending another room, or possibly attic space, a drum kit takes up a lot of space and causes problems particularly when it's being transported outside to live venues - if it is ever to be used for that purpose. Yamaha however appear to have the answer for space limits in a home as well as enabling beginner drummers to drum away in perfect peace thanks to headphone sockets.
** Nars Quick Skip Specifications **
7 touch sensitive pads,
45 programmed kits
100 preset songs with additional 50 drums.
Adjustable song and drum kit "block out," facility.
Stereo speakers, with bass port boosts.
General MIDI, in and out.
Bass drum pedal/hi-hat footswitch input jacks.
Portable design, can also be run on batteries.
Tempo control using tap start.
Adjustable metronome "click".
Adaptable pads which can use hands as well as drum sticks, 2 of which are supplied in natural wood finish.
Reverb and Chorus effects.
User Bank for one set up for custom made drum kit.
Large red LED display panel.
Initial weight; just under 4kg.
Does not come with mains adaptor!
*** Yamaha - The School's Favourite Brand ***
Used by many secondary schools up and down the country, Yamaha music instruments aren't just restricted to home keyboards. Yamaha make wind instruments whilst still maintaining good quality and value for money. Yamaha also make percussion kits, ranging from classical timpani sets up to beginner to semi-professional and indeed professional acoustic drum kits. You don't need to take out a second mortgage on your house to buy one, but you may need a possible loan! A beginner's acoustic drum kit presently costs for example between £450 and upwards, all the way to £2500.00 for a full professional set of drums and that can be a bit of a shock for a parent's child who is pinning to become the world's next best thing. What are the alternatives available?
Of the preferred portable choices at most Secondary schools, teachers hand out rubber practice kits - a rubber cylindrical disk stuck to a wooden block and whilst this allows the user to drum happily away without being too noisy and it is intended to be used so that pupils can teach themselves hand control with left and right hand coordination and playing together, it can get boring! Of course, Hi hats, cymbals and lower, middle and higher drums for example are not accessible in such applications. But rubber pads are all very well for practising coordination and timing, what if you want something that creates sounds, that allows children and adults to experiment with sound as well as being able to drum?
** Prices and Stockists **
The local music teacher at the Secondary school recommended an electronic drum kit, along the lines of Yamaha's already established machines but at £169-00 retail price from Yamaha direct I thought this was quite expensive for this more preferred product model than Yamaha's cheaper model the DD35 which only sports 4 pads - this machine has 7 pads and two directional pedals. But there's more to the eye than this product's spec on paper.
Further research into this product brought the same price to £169-00 including my trusted store; Argos which I thought would have been cheaper. But no, £170-00 was the price quoted from almost all stockists I considered. John Lewis in Glasgow priced this offering at £171-00! Right across the board, retail wise this model came in at precisely £169-00. EBay revealed one main dealer with free P&P at £155-00. This is also the product which is featured highly on Yamaha's own advertising channel slots on the QVC Satellite channel on TV.
But, the best price goes to my local and trusted (although I never thought of looking) Scottish Power electrical showroom which had this on at the previous £169-99 to £129-00. Now, that's more like it!! Particularly when even with all the stockists price quotes, none of the stockists include a mains adaptor, thanks to the worldwide availability of this product, and indeed the amount of languages in the manual dictate.
** General Controls & The User Manual **
If anyone has ever used Yamaha keyboards from 1997 onwards then they will recognise some of the instant features on this machine. Recognisable features such as buttons and dials to control volume and options are the same as my own six year old Yamaha PSR 340 keyboard and as such getting around this machine is extremely easy with little input from the manual; although the manual itself is like any other Yamaha electronic keyboard manual; it has every possible detail covered and it is written in many different languages. It is well worth reading, even if controls look and feel similar particularly to any classically trained musician who has never used a drum machine before! This means for example that, if you want to change tempo, it's easy to use the designed black arrows located on the main fascia of the machine, but say you want to change a particular style, you have to keep your finger on the "Drum" button and the scroll key together to change the drum voice altogether. Whilst Yamaha could well have made the machine bigger to accommodate more buttons, the style which they have adopted here indicates a general sense of ease of use.
** Voices Available **
This means out of 45 programmed kits available, there is a lot to choose from. Voices such as Latin sounds, Jazz, Rock, Symphonic, Analogue, Electric and Disco style drum sounds can be reached from this machine but it takes some time getting used to when the actual names of the drums are not located on the machine via single buttons. Reading the manual is the first thing you should do when you get this machine, no matter how experienced you are with general technology.
** Quality of Controls **
The switches and controls in general move with precision although it's a shame that the on off slide bar control feels so cheap. It has the function of being put on "standby," when batteries are used in lieu of mains power. The large screen digital display is similar in style to that of a microwave digital clock window and only allows 3 capitals at the most to show what has been selected. Red dots also appear whenever a preset rhythm bank or when the metronome "click" button has been selected and run across from left to right to show the first beat and last beats of the general tempo. At least in the colour of red, the light is bright enough to be seen in poor light, if anything and doesn't cause glare.
In terms of main controls, all controls have been marked clearly in red writing upon the silver colour of this machine, other than the Scroll Dial which has many features. The Demo button is yellow in colour, which mimics many of Yamaha's own keyboards with the same function whilst other buttons are black rubber circles and arrows. Small red LED dots have also been added to the design which show when certain banks of percussion have been selected or not.
** Quality of Sounds **
Over the DD35, Yamaha's little brother, the DD55 has several features which improve the general stereo quality of sound. For starters you get a bass boost function which adds to the overall sound production - the bass drum for example and several of the lower drums vibrate sometimes if the volume is set too high - 2 way stereo speakers and Yamaha's much acclaimed AWM, which basically means Yamaha's "Advanced Wave Memory," which enables as close to the real sound of percussion as possible. As with the DD35 Touch Response means that effective balance between loud and soft can be achieved, but against the DD35's 16 note polyphony, a further 16 notes can also be played at the same time, which is double the capacity on the DD55.
The speakers on this product are limited to just 20 watts, 10 watts for each speaker respectively and sure enough without headphones, the quality of sound is very impressive. Sometimes I am reminded of the quality that Sony products in the 1970's seem to sound similar with this 2000 year product. But with headphones inserted, the sound control on the volume doesn't appear to go high enough for my liking, although Yamaha are more concerned about the owner's ear drums here rather than choice of volume.
However, if you want to boost the volume on the machine in general you could well buy a small amplifier to boost the sound. Without anything, the machine copes well and puts out a lot of volume set to its highest rating and I rather appreciate Yamaha's reason to put a limiter on headphones each time they are plugged in - any headphones can be used infact but they must have the 35mm bigger plug adaptor, which also serves as the lead socket for any amplifier cable used in conjunction. With the headphones plugged in of course, you can have you own little world of percussion without disturbing anyone, and it is perfect for practising undisturbed.
Of the sounds available, Yamaha have gone to great strengths to add suitable reverb and DSP levels for each programmed kit. Unlike Casio, which I deem as the cheaper brand for most electronic music instruments, the drum sounds available on this machine actually sound very similar to real life drums and the reverb changes constantly per drum kit style which has been selected, adds colour and variation between the styles too. Chorus effects are also added which adds yet more colour to the overall sound that this machine puts out.
*** Particular Helpful Features ***
The Yamaha DD55 is equipped with 100 preset songs saved on its internal memory and only a connection through MIDI points to a computer can ever erase the songs that Yamaha have pre-recorded. Although purely instrumental based, you can select many styles and have the availability of playing along.
There are of course several ways you can do this. Similar in design to my own Yamaha keyboard which has a 6 bank track recording equaliser, you can cancel out certain banks of drums featured in the songs which give the player the opportunity to either copy the style by ear or put in their own version of drumming. Take out 3 percussion styles and you are left with just the metronome ticking or perhaps a tambourine or similar percussion instrument ticking away in the background. You see, learning can be fun, even if it means you are simply training your ear in the process to pick up rhythm rather than learning it from music notation.
The DD55 also supports the idea of being used like a hand drum machine and when this feature is activated, it is possible to use all 7 pads for hand drum sounds. Whenever this feature is switched on however, drum sticks cannot be used.
** Additional Percussive Sounds **
The DD55 also has an additional 50 drum styles that you can also "cancel" channels with which enables more creativity and drumming practise.
These instrumental tracks aren't just limited to the drum samples but also have a full bass and piano or orchestral / backing accompaniment. If say you don't like the sound of Yamaha's pre -recorded Big Time Band swing rhythm, you can cancel the drums out and add in your own version whilst the accompaniment and general "tune" fill out the bars. It's almost as if despite the fact that you are learning, Yamaha offers a suitable "teacher" method of supplying and supporting you with sounds. 4 tracks can be cancelled; the bass drum, the snare drum, the cymbal and the backing accompaniment.
** Performance Facilities **
Unlike other accompaniments on similar drum machines I have tried, the duration of the songs seem to play for a very long period which is totally controlled by the user and not the machine! On the left hand side of the machine just located in the middle, there is a pie chart circle which shows 4 buttons. Whilst Start/Stop is self explanatory, there are several buttons included which improve the possibility of playing live and putting in your own fill ins and breaks. For example;
Upon hitting the Break/Tap button once when the backing track is being played, you can have an empty space of 4 bars of silence which enables the user to add a fill in before returning to the original song. Another button located on the left hand "circular" pie chart area also allows users to obtain a Repeat A-B button which effectively puts the music back into the A section or B section depending on specifying. The digital display shows "A-b" or just "b" on its own when this button is activated, and like all the other sounds on this machine, everything can be stopped by pressing the Stop button also located within the pie chart circle.
To exit any of the pre -recorded banks, you simply press Break/Tap again to cancel the function previously activated and press Stop to cease production of pre-recorded sounds.
Other facilities that are available on the DD55 such as change of DSP and Reverb have to be reached by pressing three buttons on the main fascia. Although this isn't the hardest task to perform, it can be forgotten particularly when working with this machine in school. Again it helps to read the manual here and I can understand why Yamaha have gone to great strengths to make the changes harder for children who may not want to practise in class time but happily busk away because the activation of DSP and reverb actually makes it harder to cheat!
** Recording **
Letters "CU" (Custom User) will be shown if the record button is pushed. Firstly it's important to select the voices that you want to record, with either all the banks selected or without any backing accompaniment. Any backing tracks from 0-99 can be used, and if for example a Waltz rhythm style is selected, the metronome starts to click 3 times as a count in before the user can start to play. The recorded song is then saved under the "CU" setting.
** Any Other Features? **
Well the 7 pads located on the machine have already been pre-assigned with voices but you can change them to suit how you feel, if for example after a while you tire of the set up that Yamaha have provided. I haven't changed the set up since I bought the machine in the summer because Yamaha's pre assigned pads mimic the real drum kit at school.
For example, the smallest pad to the left hand side is a Crash Cymbal, larger pads upwards and falling down to the right hand side indicate Mid, Low and Floor Tom-Tom's (similar to the sound you get right at the beginning of "Eastenders" TV programme sound tune!) whilst the small pad in the right hand side is set to a Ride Cymbal. The Snare drum or Open Rim Shot is located on the bottom left hand side whilst bang in the middle where the last seventh pad is located, this small pad allows a closed hi hat in conjunction with the Left hand pedal or open without the pedal being pushed, whilst the last pedal on the right hand side of the machine sets the bass drum.
You can swap around these voices as much as you want by pressing the "Pad" button and once all the desired settings have been met, press the "Kit" button to save the settings. Thereafter the machine will keep your settings saved - but switch off the mains power and back on again - and that memory will STILL be saved.
To erase any of the Custom User settings, nothing could be simpler - simply switch off the machine and before switching it back on, press the Demo button down and switch the machine on. The letters "CLR" to indicate clear will be shown in the digital display in red LEDs to let the user know that all of their custom memory is clear.
The foot pedals which are supplied with this machine are very easy to fit, as well as headphones, amplifier and mains power adaptor. Everything either fits into the left or right hand underside of the machine.
** General Use Compared to a Drum Kit **
Whenever I use the drum machine at school I quite enjoy the experience. The sticks that Yamaha provide are wooden suitably curved and must be used with the machine at all times unless the Hand percussion button has been activated. Importantly though, the sticks and hands can be used to hit any side of the pad - Yamaha have gone to all the trouble of producing each pad with an overall rim that covers every part of the sensitivity levels. What is more apparent though is that the machine will not play if you think you can pick up the sticks and just bash through. The machine's elongated angle moves toward the user but at the same time demands that the proper seating position must be maintained in order for all the pads to be hit correctly. The Yamaha offers up a very similar set up physically to the same set up found on a standard drum kit.
** Any Downsides? **
There are few that I have noticed in particular with this model, since we have also used this at school in the classroom and also used for performance when the drum kit proved too bulky to dismantle and transport. In terms of general performance, the DD55 impresses and many of our audiences have asked - where's the drum kit? - Only to see a pupil in the background of the band by an amplifier drumming on this silver hi tech looking machine. Whilst the controls are ideal for one person all the time, Yamaha could well develop a machine which has greater access to controls for all to enjoy.
One of the problems that I don't like about this machine is the fact that the pedals don't have grips fitted to them. This means whilst I'm in throws of showing pupils how to drum a 16 beat rhythm pattern, the pedals can start to move across the floor and in time; start to loosen the connection to the machine. At the moment my DD55 is located on a table flat against a wall so that the pedals don't have a chance to escape! At least with the experience of using the machine at school, I can return home and be sure not to make the same mistakes on my DD55!
Another problem is the simple fact that the DD55 does not come with a mains adaptor as standard and for that reason I think that is quite silly despite the machine's known availability worldwide. Any mains adaptor can be used although Yamaha would prefer customers to buy an exclusive Yamaha branded adaptor ("PA-5C"), which is available to buy from Yamaha's massive UK website. I on the other hand didn't bother because you can use any mains corded adaptor with a 12V supply.
*** Conclusion ***
In terms of providing a suitable machine in lieu of an expensive and bulky drum kit this product gets a thumbs up from me. It does everything it is supposed to do, but with its general ease of use and sheer quality of sound, this is the ideal machine that could be bought even if it doesn't portray the actual physicality a real percussion drum kit conveys. Being a Yamaha means that it can also be connected to a MIDI keyboard and transmit voice signals over or used in conjunction with a PC which has Yamaha software installed - a cost option but not necessary if this product is to be used purely as a drum machine. Yamaha's smaller DD35 which comes in at £99 doesn't have as many features as the DD55, and for the extra £35-00 I paid for this model, I feel that the DD55 has a more rounded universal appeal.
In terms of being used every day, from time to time we have endured accidents where the pedals have been stamped on too hard and after a 3 year ownership, the school DD55 will need a new set of pedals before long. The touch sensitivity applies to both the drum pads and the pedals though, which opens up similar musical creation with a real drum kit. The silver detailing and overall finish is classy although our 3 year old machine has managed to withstand minor scrapes incredibly well.
The manual for this machine is very easy to read with clear explanations given for every device and feature on the machine. It is primarily written in English, then French; German and Spanish. The manual also sports a very quick "trouble shooting" guide as well as full instruction of how to use MIDI with the device.
So if you want to brag to your friends that you are going home to have a politically correct domestic, this is the machine to do it on! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2007.
Summary: For beginner and amateur drummers who want to learn, not show off!!