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
Drum, DD Do
Member Name: mo79
Date: 13/05/03, updated on 11/03/05 (16774 review reads)
Advantages: Cheap, feature-packed, responsive and great sounding; perfect for many standard professional needs and beginners who want to splash out. DD's have been manufactured for atleast a decade or so
Disadvantages: No match for an acoustic kit or VDrums, toyish looking, some minor irregularities in pad response and limitations to the in-built recording feature
It's been a while since I've written a review, and the DD55 is one such surprising product worthy of a praising one as it's one that I would like to discuss with many people, without boring the uninterested. Thus I'm sparked to write.
Digital percussion (or electronic drum kits, to be less snobby) has existed in many forms in the last few decades, most notably in late disco and early eighties pop which didn't do much for the longevity of it. The sounds were often rather laughably camp and unresponsive compared to their age-old acoustic counterparts. They were fancy executive toys (which many still are) relegated to attics.
Nothing has changed much but electronic percussion has become much more fashionable in the last 5 years than it ever has - mostly due to the fact of successes like Roland's VDrums range (though expensive) - and electronic aided compositions (whether the end sound is more organic or not) are no longer a scarcity due to the slow progressive assimilation by dance music via crossovers and other sub-levels.
I own an acoustic kit, and before I bought one I graduated to it via seeing if I would stick with this drum lark by investing in one of Yamaha's early DD machines, the DD9 (which after a decade since I bought it is still available as an as-far-as-I-can-see cosmestically modified DD20) back in the early 90's. It was by all means a borderline toy; fun for the kids but with considerable use for those who wanted simple practice percussion.
Fast forward through the years and you'll see amongst other things that the DD55 already existed somewhere in between as a slightly less featured DD50 (now obsolete) that competed with the likes of Roland (not that there are many serious/semi-serious portable percussion pad manufacturers), and even usurped their similarly (but slightly higher) priced product line in terms of response and features; the 'going' thing for Roland was that thei
r machines looked more serious and the brand name was slightly detracted from the idea of supplying instruments to families. And oh yes, they eventually made VDrums.
The DD range didn't retire though, it had it's niche and a loyal base due to good pricing and apt features, plus the majority of digital percussionists would prefer a smaller kit than a large one. Think why programmable drum machines are such a success - no need to lug big cowskin topped cylinders around. Thus the DD50 was recently reborn in a remodelled shell with some enhancements as the DD55, and available in your local Argos alongside the similarly designed DD35 which is pretty much a learners version of the DD9/20.
The DD55 is fairly weighty and bulky for a little machine, but with it's variety of features you shouldn't be surprised. Marketed as 'for the serious drummer' it appeals as it features the holy grail of electronic connectivity: General MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface - which has been going since the early 80's) - thus naturally played rhythm tracks can be played into your favourite sequencer app. It's much more intuitive than clicking in hits by a mouse or tapping them in by keyboard keys which can be time consuming and can produce a mechanicalness which may not always be desirable.
The MIDI implementation via In/Out sockets is perfect (considering Roland's SPD's only do Outs), topped off with a little MIDI menu for more sequencer/hardware specific functions, plus you can record 1 20,000 (don't ask me how long that is, but it's plenty) note custom song which you can upload to your computer via special free software that you can download - perfect for capturing performances when you don't have anything to dump to handy; just make sure that the adaptor or batteries, even when off, are there to preserve the data - an irritating thing.
The plastic body is silver at the top and black beneath, with 7
black pads (4 5" and 3 small), rubber buttons, mesh plastic covering the bass port enhanced stereo speakers (you nary need an amp when playing in the confines of a bedroom etc.) and a 3 digit red LCD display.
The pads are touch sensitive (and there's even a very response-y hand percussion mode with realistic hand percussion kits) and the samples are all in clear stereo. You may be forgiven for thinking that the acoustic drum kits respond almost like a real kit and are nearly as fun. The gripe jaws in with the fact that you can still hear the sound of rubber when you strike the pads with the sticks (supplied - an adaptor is the only thing that's not) and due to the pads being small you may miss, and if you don't you may sometimes not ignite the sound (though sensitivity can be adjusted to a degree) or get the strikes to 'flow' as you want them to. This can be demonstrated in the fact even if a maestro drummer recorded to the in-built sequencer, they may sound clumsy some of the time due to the restrictions. Having said that, I've read that the response beats Rolands, and some of the sounds match VDrums.
There are 45 programmed kits (and space for one custom) and just under 200 sounds which can be assigned to any of the pads (or the two pedals for hi-hat and kick). The hi-hat pedal can also, smartly, be assigned to perform choke hi-hat action for the left-most selectively defined hi-hat pad. Nice one; don't bother with double kicking metal heads.
The sounds range from percussion instruments around the world, coupled with some interesting sound effects and fills - thus you can trigger predefined programmed rolls with a single strike.
To cater for those who are new to the percussion world there is tuition via 100 built-in rhythm styles to play along to, plus a few other features like the aforementioned triggering of in-built fills and the ability to listen to specific segments (the A-B marker function) to learn
from. It mighn't match the visualness in tuition like the DD35's lighted drum rings but it is enough for someone with natural rhythm.
In-built Reverb effect can also be applied, while DSP can be controlled via a connected sequencer. A headphone jack completes the kit as does great documentation with appendix tables for reference.
The DD55 is by no means a replacement for an acoustic kit (and neither are VDrums) but for the price and features, the DD55 is possibly the best portable solution for digital percussion for both the pro and the above-amateur. It's portability and brilliant sampled sounds, plus full-featured MIDI make it a brilliant electronic and almost acoustic kit for recording (it's way cheaper than a mixer and a barrage of mics for an acoustic kit), and a pretty good first drum kit for anyone.
The DD55 might be considered by the smug as an impressive toy, but so was the Roland TB-303 bass machine which ended up becoming a standard instrument in dance music. That's not saying the DD55 will end up with historical significance (though it might, who knows?) but what's for sure is that won't be trappled on by it's competition, and is well worth a look by someone who wants portable, powerful and versatile digital percussion. I give it almost full thumbs up.