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Suggestions for drum brains?

Posted: Mon Apr 18, 2016 11:37 am
by fluffy
Every few years I end up getting really sick of the problems with whatever drumkit brain I'm using and try to find another one that doesn't suck. I've run out of cheap options and have spent more on cheap drum brains than it would have been to just get a VDrum module in the first place, so... does anyone have any suggestions for drum trigger modules that don't suck?

I don't need/want fancy built-in samples or anything, but supporting piezo triggers and dual-zone cymbals is a must, as is variable hat pedal support. I'll mostly be using it with Logic's Drum Kit Designer (which accepts hat pressure via modwheel or via VDrum's protocol which is also what my current Alesis piece of shit uses).

And, for reference, here's the list of cheap drum brains that have disappointed me, and why:
  • The Ion IED01 (which was made by Alesis)
  • The Alesis one that's in the TriggerPad (which was actually pretty okay except the hihat protocol only worked with BFD, which is terrible)
  • The Alesis one that's in the TriggerIO (which worked pretty okay except it started sending spurious MIDI events, and when that wasn't enough it recently decided to start sending spurious USB events that made my computer go completely haywire in the middle of a recording session)
... So basically I'm looking for a drum trigger module that isn't made by Alesis.

If I were looking to just build a new kit from the ground up I'd be considering the VDrum TD-4KP but I already have a bunch of drum triggers and mounting gear and so on. But it seems like most of the standalone drum brains worth looking at are even more expensive than that complete kit, so...

Re: Suggestions for drum brains?

Posted: Mon Apr 18, 2016 1:30 pm
by fluffy
Okay so that drumkit has MIDI out and it also has a built-in "coach" mode for learning to play drums more gooder, so... fuck it I'm just gonna go with that.

Re: Suggestions for drum brains?

Posted: Wed Apr 20, 2016 10:59 am
by ken
I tend to look for a module that has MIDI out. That way you can manipulate your performance after the fact (Quantize, etc.) and then choose the appropriate drum sounds from any number of VSTi's. I don't think it is worth investing in a complicated and expensive module since you could spend that same money on software.

Re: Suggestions for drum brains?

Posted: Wed Apr 20, 2016 11:07 am
by fluffy
Well yeah, that was exactly my point - I want(ed) a cheap drum brain with MIDI out and not much else. The Alesis TriggerI/O fit that bill, but it was terrible.

Oh, and by that same token, avoid the Ddrum DDTI - it's just a rebranded TriggerI/O.

Re: Suggestions for drum brains?

Posted: Wed Apr 20, 2016 9:57 pm
by fluffy
The new kit arrived today and it's quite fantastic.

I remember this model came out something like a month after I finished piecing my old kit together and I had a huge "dammit!" moment as a result, because the only reason I'd pieced together the old kit was because there wasn't anything that met my specifications on the market, and then Roland went and released one that did and cost about half as much while they were at it. Well, I gotta say, for once my buyer's remorse was completely justified because this kit is what I should have had all along.

On the plus side, my previous kit's somewhat-nicer cymbals work with this one (unsurprising, since they're Roland, and actually they work better than on the old kit since both zones work on both cymbals as well as the clench function), and the kick pedal I bought for the old one works great with the new one too, and I can probably sell or use the other triggers for other things. The triggers themselves are just fine - it was the brain that sucked.

The old kit's snare trigger is also better than the new one (and is electrically supported) but unfortunately it's a little too tall and sits too high up on this kit, so I can't reuse that. Oh well. Also my old kit's hat pedal doesn't seem to be compatible at all, which is a shame because it's somewhat nicer than the one that came with the new kit, but the new kit's is fine so that's not a huge deal.

Only downsides so far as I can tell:
  • The snare height isn't very adjustable (see above)
  • No MIDI in, in case I want to use its built-in sounds (which are surprisingly good!)
  • No additional trigger inputs, in case I want to add more triggers (but I don't think I ever will)
  • Just has a plain ol' MIDI port, no MIDI-USB, but that's a minor gripe (I ended up needing to buy a longer MIDI cable so it'd reach my interface due to how my studio is laid out though)
It's actually comfortable and fun to play and the coach mode is great for learning rudiments and timing. I went through its standard lesson and it rated me "average" and gave me specific feedback (mostly that I come slightly early relative to the beat). I'm hoping that at some point I'll work my way up to "expert" or maybe even "Ken Mahru."

Re: Suggestions for drum brains?

Posted: Mon Apr 25, 2016 9:10 pm
by fluffy
oh man I am loving this drum kit so much.

Also it comes with a piece of software called Friendjam (which should probably work with any MIDI drum kit because it just looks for the right MIDI notes and pretty much all drum kits use the same notes) and I've learned so much more about how to play drums good from it than from anything else so far. Maybe at the next Song Fight Live I'll upgrade my self-rating from "mediocre" to "adequate!"