Aug 7

INTRODUCTION

In September 2011 Roland updated their now discontinued PM-01 Personal Drum monitor with the release of PM-03. This new addition to V-Drums personal-monitor family is the first 2.1 Channel monitor in this series. I always found that the Amplification of Electronic Drums to be the most difficult to achieve. There are of course different requirements and if you are at home with your exciting electronic kit, you want amplification that brings out the quality in the sounds and rhythms you are producing so that you have a similar experience to an acoustic drummer. Electronic kits have such great stereo facilities with sounds sometimes auto – panning, so your requirements are definitely stereo with something that can suitably cover the high and low frequency ranges. The live Electronic Drummer has a more complex requirement and personally needs to hear what he is playing, needs the rest of his band to hear the same and needs to project out to mix with the overall sound through the main PA to the audience. Roland provides a range of personal drum monitors to suit the varying demands. I will be looking at the PM-03 which is the smallest in the range but is a 2.1 setup. Whilst this has been designed more for the home user, I would like to evaluate its suitability as a personal monitor in a small live environment.

WHAT KIT CAN I USE THIS WITH?

Roland state that whilst this is the perfect match, aesthetically and aurally, for Roland’s HD-series V-Drums, all electronic drummers can plug into the PM-03 as well. I intend to try this with Roland’s TD20 kit which I am sure will give me a great idea of how it sounds and how that compares to the headphone mix that I am used to hearing. The other consideration is positioning for best sound and as I have limited space, I am pleased it is quite a compact monitor. So I need to unbox it and try it out.

ONE UNBOXED MONITOR

Well the size is ideal with it being just less than 10 inches in diameter and just under 18 inches high. The actual measurements are:- Width 243 mm ( 9-10/16 inches), Depth 236 mm ( 9-5/16 inches) and Height 452 mm (17-13/16 inches) Weight 6.0 kg 13 lbs. 4 oz.

It comes complete with an Owner’s Manual and a Power Cord. There is not much in the Multi language manual and I suppose there is not much to say. I think Roland could have given some positioning diagrams for use with standard sized electronic kits. In fact if they had thought about it, it would have been a great opportunity to advertise their range of kits with setup ideas. They do however show a very logical position of the PM-03 when used with a V-Drums Lite kit.

Having said that, as I position it next to my TD20 Kit, the most logical position for me, seems to be on my left, next to the Hi-Hat. I like what Roland have done here with the two small 3 inch full range speakers which are angled nicely up at me.

CONTROLS

There are very few controls to get to grips with. On the front, about a third of the way down, you have three simple controls with a small indicator above them. The first is an On/Off switch. Roland provides you with the sensible instructions and order of how to connect your drums and turn them both On and Off. They also warn you that if you turn on the power in the wrong order, you risk causing malfunction and/or damage to speakers and other devices. As I turned the PM-03 on, the indicator lit in orange. Apparently after about 30 minutes or so has passed without any signal being input, the indicator will change to green, and the unit will go into standby mode and will return to normal mode as soon as audio is again received from your drum module or other equipment that you have connected.

The second control is a Volume knob to adjust the volume of the sound from the device connected to the Input jacks at the back. The Third control is the Woofer knob which simply adjusts the volume of the sound from the woofer. So this will basically adjust the volume of Bass frequencies. There is no EQ on board to adjust anything else but I suppose if you really wanted to, you could adjust the EQ on your Drum instead.

Around the back you will find the Input Jacks and the Power Supply AC In connector which you can secure. I am pleased that Roland has provided inputs to connect two stereo products which can be used at the same time. In my opinion this is essential as you will be using the main Left and Right to connect your Drum Module and you may want to add in another Drum Machine or a CD player to play along with etc. They have provided standard 1/4” phone plugs to input Right and Left / Mono as well as a Stereo Mini jack. And that is it for controls – I did say it will not take you long to get to grips with them.

PLUG AND PLAY

Ok, I have connected up and plugged as the manual suggests. My first thoughts as I started to play on Kit number 1, was that I did not like the sound until I realized that I had not turned up the woofer to provide bass and warmth. The Bass Drum just does not sound right without this turned up, unless of course you want a Low-Fi sounding kit.

I worked my way through the Kits which had a diverse range covering an assortment of Acoustic kits (of different woods), Percussion (from Congas to triangles) and Electronic sounds which included anything from Simmons, claps, metal, noises and synthy sounds. Overall I was very happy with the sound once I found the best balance between overall volume and the Woofer volume control. The cymbals were clear and crisp and the Bass Drum sounded good underneath them. Depending on the kit I selected, the Toms and the Mid – Frequency instruments generally sounded OK but I would have to say it was here that I wanted it to be a little better and sound more like what I could hear on headphones. Also, the Toms did distort a few times. Having said that, I have always thought that the weakest area of Roland V-Drums are their Toms.

I plugged in a drum machine and my experience was exactly the same with some slight distortion in the mid to low range. I think the main problem here is the compromises between Bass Drum and Toms. To try and get the ‘Thump’ sound you are looking for, you need to turn up the Woofer, but as the Woofer goes over the half-way mark you start to introduce some distortion for the Toms.

I found the Stereo Imaging is good but obviously limited by the closeness of the left and right speakers. Roland have done a good job here when you take into consideration the size of the monitor but I think even at this early stage, I have made the decision that the PM-03 is at its best in the home environment. The power output is ideal and the construction and looks lend itself to the home setup. I think if you want something for ‘Live’ playing, then you will need more power and I would suggest that you look at their PM-30 set up which boasts a 2:1 setup with a 12 inch 100Watt Woofer and two individual 50 Watt satellite 4 inch monitors that clamp to your V-Drum Stand or equivalent. For even larger venues I would look at using a small PA system just to monitor the drums.

CONCLUSION

The PM-03 is a great inexpensive way to amplifier your Roland V-Drums or any other Electronic Kits or Percussion setups in a home setup and it is very easy to set up and get playing. It is a slim, smart looking unit and its construction is not made for the road. I would not recommend this for ‘Live’ use. It is a 25 Watt budget solution which will fit in with your home setup and not take up much floor space. Roland released it primarily to be a replacement for the discontinued PM-01.

I feel it is a little bit of a shame that the Toms and Mid- frequencies do not sound as good as the rest of the kit but you have to take into consideration the size of the speakers and the cost of this monitor. If you really want that extra power, then I would suggest perhaps the Roland PM-10 but better still the PM-30 which I have mentioned above. However, you will have to consider the extra floor space that these will take.

Personally, I think if you have a Roland HD-1 or HD-3 kit to practice at home, then this is ideal for you. It fits in centrally to your hi-hat and bass drum pedals, looks an integral part of the kits design and I am sure this is what Roland’s design team intended.

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