Roland V-Drums have over the last 20 years successfully made the transition from a musical curiosity to a professional drummer’s tool to be reckoned with.
Slowly but surely, the traditional objections to owning a V-Drum kit as opposed to a “real” drum kit – not feeling right, not sounding right, responding unpredictably or with too much latency – have been either eroded or completely overcome. Each of Roland’s successive technological innovations – from mesh head pads to SuperNATURAL sound modelling – have gradually improved the sound and feel of their kits to a point where, blindfolded, it’s now almost impossible to tell the difference between a high end V-Drum kit and a high end acoustic drum kit.
In the last few years, the introduction of the TD30K kits has solidified Roland’s position in the market, and the kit has seen an unprecedented amount of pro drummers finally embracing the technology, the lure of near-silent play, 21st century connectivity and a range of different sounds finally overcoming the natural desire for big noisy boxes made of wood and metal.
Enter the new Roland TD50KV…
…but first, a bit of background on how come I can write this review so soon after the product has been announced…
~~~wavy lines~~~Back in May this year, I was extremely honoured to be invited to visit Roland’s headquarters in Hamamatsu, Japan. Aside from getting to see Roland’s production facilities and their awesome museum (all Roland’s products in an amazing room overlooking a beautiful lake – nice!), I was also given a chance to see what product releases they had planned for the year ahead. The previews were presented in a range of sessions with Roland’s various product departments: music production and DJ, pianos, drums, guitar effects etc.
The Roland product managers were invariably intelligent, attentive and extremely open to suggestions (of which there were many from the people there) so I like to think that I played a small part in designing the future 🙂
The V-Drums session was particularly entertaining as the drummer/compere is clearly a very funny stand-up comedian as well as being an extremely competent drummer.
The new Roland TD-50KV was of course the centrepiece of their demonstration, and it was immediately clear that this kit is a major progression from the TD30, despite the latter’s impressive pedigree. I managed to get a play on the TD50 myself for 5 minutes before being hurried on to the next demo. Suffice to say that I was suitably impressed.
My impressions were as follows:
- The snare on the TD50KV is outstanding: even more responsive to complex techniques than that on the TD30. It was genuinely like playing on a top end Mapex or DW snare. It may just be psychological, but the fact that the new snare is standard acoustic snare size (a full 14-inch) makes a huge difference.
- The cymbals are equally impressive, especially the ride, which will satisfy even the most fiddly of jazzers. Again, the fact that it is a full 18 inches seems to make a big difference to playability; there is no longer a disconnect between what you are hitting and what you are hearing.
- It looks the part. The kit with added KD-A22 kick drum converter actually looks like a “proper” kit! Just add a Beatles logo and the world is your oyster.
- The module sounds amazing. Do not be put off by what Roland call “Dynamic Prismatic Sound Modeling” (marketing gumf if ever I’ve heard it). They have very clever people at Roland doing very clever things, and sometimes it’s hard to describe what they do without using made-up words like “prismatic”. Suffice to say that those who expanded their TD30s with soft synth ROMplers such as FXPansion’s BFD and co. may no longer feel the need to do so. The snares snap, the cymbals hiss, the whole damn thing responds like it should do.
Aside from these basic impressions, the TD50KV also incorporates some very useful added features:
- Record to DAW. The TD50 module has a USB out that sends multiple audio drum tracks (up to 10 channels) to your favourite sequencer. Very useful in a studio environment.
- Play WAV files.Want your low tom to make the sound of your grandmother sneezing? Record her while she’s not watching, stick it on an SD card, and away you go.
- Balanced outputs. There’s nothing that says “pro” more than proper XLR master outputs. These are supplemented by 8 direct outs on TRS connectors for a more sophisticated and tweakable live sound.
All in all, the Roland TD-50KV is what you’d expect from Roland’s new flagship V-drum kit: a truly expressive musical instrument, a technological leap forward, and a joy to play. I look forward to getting rid of my tension in a whole new way once they arrive.
Looking for a deal on a Roland TD50KV? Be sure to contact Red Dog Music!
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