“ Brand: Silverlit / Age: 3 Years+ „
Buying christmas presents for my Dad has always been a real struggle, it doesn't help when I ask him for a list of ideas and all thats on it is "a short handled hammer" and "72mm Molegrips". Yawn!!! I had to come up with something rather more exciting than that!
After many hours browsing about in shops and online, I decided to see if there were any electronic drum kits or similar available for a decent price. My Dad used to be a drummer way back in the mists of time and I know he'd love a proper drum kit but they take up a lot of space and of course are really rather noisy. I also know that he is often drumming along with music in his armchair, so I figured that I would see if there was anything suitable
about. I'd love to have been able to buy him a full electronic drumkit, I know he'd love it but I also know that I can't afford anything like that.
Anyway, after a bit of searching, I stumbled across something that sounded quite promising, the V-Beat Air Drum Sticks. They seemed to be motion sensitive sticks that allowed you to play an imaginary drumkit. I watched some videos that were posted up of people using the drum sticks etc it looked like it worked really quite well. This seemed like it could be the perfect gift for my Dad, so I set about finding out as much as I could about them. I
found out that you got two drumsticks, a controller box thingy and two foot pedals to operate the bass drum and the hi hat. One thing that I really wanted to know was whether you could plug heaphones into it, I hoped so as that way my Dad would be able to drum away with out disturbing my Mum. I eventualy found that you could plug in headphones and also, that you could plug in an mp3 or such like and play along with your own music. I decided to that I would get it for my Dad and keep my fingers crossed that it was good.
On Saturday, I popped into town and stumbled across a shop selling the Air Drum kit, for £17.99 so I bought it and when I got
home I carefully unpackaged it to see what it was like, if it was rubbish I could easily take it back to the shop I got it from.
**** What you get ****
Upon opening the pack, I was presented with, exactly as expected, two drumsticks, a controller box and two foot pedals. Also in the box was a quick start guide and an instruction leaflet.
** Drum sticks **
Each drumstick is approximately the size of a real drum stick, a little over a foot long, and drum stick shaped, though they do have a shaped handly area to hold. This is so you are holding the drumsticks correctly for the motion sensing to work correctly, also it makes them a little more comfortable to hold. They are plastic in construction and although quite light, they feel fairly sturdy.
As you move the sticks about you hear a slight rattle type sound. This comes from the mechanics used for the motion sensors, some kind of tilt switches.
The two drumsticks are each wired to the control box.
** Foot Pedals **
The two foot pedals are not actually pedals, they are actually plastic clips that you attach to your feet/socks etc. They are about 5cm long and a couple across, they also have tilt switches in them like the sticks, and also rattle when moved. These connect to the controller box via jack plugs like the type used on headphones etc.
** Controller Box **
This is the brains of the the whole thing. It is about 10cm by about 15cm. It is a sturdy box shape which feels fairly weighty, especially once the batteries have been inserted.
On the top surface there is a volume dial, a mode switch and a couple of selection buttons. There are also cutouts for the speakers which lie below, allowing the sound to come out.
Along the top edge there are the wires for each of the drum sticks, two jack sockets for the foot pedals and two jack sockets, one for plugging in a pair of headphones and one for plugging in an mp3 player or similar. There is also the power switch.
Down the left edge, there is a sliding cover beneath which there is an output socket which is labelled in the instructions as the "Boombox" connector, This can be used to connect the air drum kit to an amp etc for PA type use etc.
On the back of the box there is a battery compartment which takes 4 AA batteries. This is one of those slightly annoying types which requires a small cross head screwdriver to open, so make sure to have one handy!
**** How It Works ****
Each of the Drum sticks can be used in one of three directions, foward (ie away from the drummer), down as if it hit something on your lap, and sideways (as if hitting something to the side of the drummer). Each of these movements triggers a different drum sound. These have been worked out well so that each movement triggers the drum that would be hit with the action of the stick if sitting at a real drum kit.
In addition to this, the right foot pedal attaches to the right foot and allows operation of the bass drum via the usual method of tapping the right foot. The other foot pedal attaches to the left foot and is used to open or close the hi-hat, in much the same way as a real hi-hat works (you can even open and close the hi-hat whilst hitting the hi-hat to give a very realistic opening or closing hi-hat sound).
Although only the left stick normally triggers the snare drum, if you are doing two handed drum roll on it, it detects this and both sticks trigger the snare sound, which surprised me rather!
On the Controller Box, there is a button which switches between 4 different drum kits, a normal one, an electric one, a pots and pans type one and a wooden blocks one. All of the samples are quite good, though personally I think that it is likely that only the normal drum kit will get much use.
The Box also has some melodies built in to play along with, but as with most of these music things, they are the kinds of melodies which will drive you made after not very long.
As mentioned, you can plug in an mp3 player or similar and play the music through the box, allowing you to play along with the music of your choice.
The box can also be connected to an amp/pa system so it can be used on a bigger scale for example at a gig or such like. I actually saw a few videos of people using the drum kits at gigs whilst researching it, and I have to say it seemed to work well.
**** Conclusion ****
I was very glad to be able to find this is a local shop as I was worried it might end up being rubbish, and if I'd ordered it online it might be difficult to return it, and would most probably cost me my postage.
However, when I got it out of the box and had a bit of a go on it to see what it was like I was really quite impressed. The method of hitting the different drums works well and only takes a few minutes to get the hang of. The foot pedals also work very well indeed, and the hi-hat works in a really quite realistic way. The samples for the traditional drum kit are good and don't sound like horrible synthesised versions like other drum machines I have used.
The whole system is nice and responsive and allows for some quite fast playing (though with my very very limited drumming skills this wasn't much of a test) I imagine it would struggle to cope with trying to play very fast stuff like drum n bass or similar but for most thigns this will work fine.
All the pieces feel quite sturdy and well made, so I'm not worried about it falling apart after the first use.
The only downside is that it is quite limited when compared to a real drum kit, but for less than £20 ( I got it for £17.99 in Maplins) you can't really expect it to match either a real drum kit nor an expensive full electronic kit, both of which cost into the hundreds of pounds.
Overall I am very happy with it and think my Dad will enjoy playing with it as it will give him a drumming experience without taking up loads of room and with the ability to plug in headphones so it doesn't annoy the neighbours or my Mum!!!
For the more experienced/serious musician I don't think I would recommend it as it is really more of a glorified drumming toy than a virtual musical instrument. That said, it is good fun and well made.
The V-Beat Drum set works a little like so: two motion sensitive wands (not unlike those in the legendary Nintendo Wii, only this time built for musos) are connected by wire to an electronic hub that 'sees' where the drums would actually be in a common-or-garden real-life kit, assuming you were sitting directly behind it. Hi-hat, toms, snare, cymbals and pedals are all then imagined before you - you even get a pair of foot sensors for rockin' hi-hat and bass drum kickin'. There are no fewer than four different types of drum sounds to choose from--incredible if one fancies a bong on the electronic kit or a bang on the acoustic version. Then simply bash the air or stomp the floor around you and let all your percussive creativity loose. Slammin'.