Hands-on with the Roland TD-50 KV

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.

TD50KV Roland

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.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing the TD30KV we have set up in the Edinburgh store (gotta get rid of that tension somehow…) so I could immediately tell what the differences were.


Roland TD-50KV

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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Guitar-plucker, piano-tinkler, sonic-mangler, Red Dog Music-owner, lion-tamer, and Weetabix-devourer. One (or more) of these is a lie.

2 Responses to “Hands-on with the Roland TD-50 KV”

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  1. Blacksnow says:

    First Roland should have call these TD40 and reduce the price. The unit comes with very few internal factory sounds, 5 snares, and only one sounds good to my taste, the toms and kiks and ride cymbal are also poor sounding.So the sounds are for sure NOT an improvement over the TD30.
    As for editing, one of the new features is the strainer adjustment which to me doesn’t work too well and there is no option for ” strainer off”. The over tone and transient adjustment on the snare is a nice feature. Roland removed the kit resonance option, and the snare buzz on kik and toms sounds bad or inaudible..
    However, the snare and ride are an improvement and they are really nice to play.
    Being able to import your own samples and having the capability to layer 2 sounds on the same pad is also very nice and necessary to make this unit sound good.. But you have very limited editing on the imported samples.
    The balanced XLR and being able to record 10 tracks over USB is also nice.
    The new module, snare and ride will cost you near $5,000.00 in Canada. Pearl is releasing their new module Mimic Pro which is less expensive and includes the SSlate drum 5 which sounds excellent.
    Finally Roland has a competitor and let’s see who is going to win this game.

  2. Howie says:

    As an owner I would say the following — it is remarkably fun and immersive to play. Personally I would disagree with blacksnow — the toms are actually quite good. The snares and kicks need some editing but with experimentation you can coax a large variety of extremely usable and in fact great sounding kits. The combo of good sounds (maybe not vast quality) with impeccable playability make it very useful for practice and studio work/recording.

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