Oct 14

INTRODUCING THE ROLAND TD-30 V-DRUM MODULE

If you have been into Electronic Drums like me since they first came out, you may well have had a Roland Kit at some point. For me, I have been working my way up from my early TD-7, through to the TD-10 and TD-20 modules until now the new TD-30. Affording a £5000 or more kit is not for the faint hearted. I have still not achieved it and I have made as many compromises as I possibly could along the way to achieve a decent kit and keep the cost as low as possible. The primary part of an electronic kit is without doubt the module or brain as it sometimes called. Although this is another big outlay, it did not seem too bad after the sale of my expanded TD-20 module.

HOW MUCH BETTER IS THE TD-30 THAN THE TD-20?

I know I sound like a girl choosing the colour of a new product to be the most important aspect, but the thing that first caught my eye on the Td-30 was its ability to play mp3’s and wav files from a USB stick. A very basic need I know, but it was something that was going to provide convenience and instant gratification and something I desperately wanted on my TD-20. Late at night, without disturbing anyone, you can put on your headphones and play along to all of your favourite tracks.

OK this is one advantage and believe me there are many more, but perhaps this question is best answered at the end of this review as we explore the pros and cons.

POWERING  UP THE TD-30

On connecting up the TD30 and powering on, you are now presented with a new screen which says “Auto Off function is On – The TD-30 will automatically turn off if not played or used in any way after 4 hours”. You can of course disable this if you wish.

Everything else looks very familiar and there are not too many differences if you previously had a TD-20 module. Eager to play the first kit, I gave it a go. Disappointingly, I quickly realised that I can’t just accept the default parameters and trigger settings and that I will have to make changes for both the pads that I am using and my playing style.

NEW PADS, TRIGGERING AND MODELLING


Along with the release of the TD30, Roland has released some new drums – the PD128 and the PD108. They have improved the sensitivity of the Rims. I have played on these drums in a music shop and they sound and feel great, but trying to compare that experience with the feel of the PD125 pad at home is very difficult. I think that if I had a PD128 and a PD125 pad side by side, I may notice a difference and no doubt I would prefer the PD128 but when I increased the rim sensitivity on my PD125, I felt it was very close to the PD128 I played in the shop.

To keep my potential £5000 cost down, I did not buy Roland Toms but purchased Pintech Mesh head drums at less than a third of the cost of the Roland equivalents. What I noticed about setting the trigger type for these drums was that it was much easier on the TD-20 module. The TD-30 really did not like PD108 or PD105 as a trigger type for my Pintechs and I experienced incorrect triggering between head and rim. After a few days of adjusting many parameters, I tried the PDX100 as a trigger type and they all worked very well. Having got my kit setup the way I wanted, I must say the whole kit now sounds and feels much more responsive.

Roland has used their Behavior Modeling Technology – SuperNATURAL which they first used on the V-Piano. This now gives a new level of realism and expression on the TD-30. This does not just apply to the physical modeling of the instruments, but to how you play, giving you true-to-life, expressive sounds in realtime.

KITS AND SOUNDS

As well as the 262 backing instruments you get 1101 drum instruments. These are made up of 157 Bass Drums, 187 Snare Drums, 252 Toms, 44 Hi-Hats, 60 Crash cymbals, 18 China cymbals, 6 Stacked cymbals, 70 Ride cymbals , 177 Percussion sounds, 54 drum effects, 34 Other sounds, 12 Claps, 12 Cymbal effects and 18 Melodic sounds.

Roland has always concentrated their efforts on producing real drum sounds and kits, trying to accurately create all of their acoustic nuances like the different types of wood used, for example birch or maple. Today many other sounds are used to create rhythms and I like combining other sounds in with an acoustic kit such as metallic noises like iron or steel etc. The TD-30 has introduced new sounds that I know I will include in my kit setups, but with detuning, use of their new effects for example, I know I can create something new and interesting and very useable.

I have never liked the Roland Toms and to be honest, I found them to be the biggest disappointment on my TD-20. The TD-30 seems to have the same Toms but with the new Ambience and Compression (which we will have a look at ), you can really bring these toms to life, which seemed only previously possible with additional external hardware.

You get 80 more sounds on the TD-30 when compared to the expanded TD-20 or TD-20X. Kit-wise, there are 80 kits with 20 additional empty kits. All 100 of them can be over-written and changes you make are instantly saved. Over 20 of these kits have been taken from the TD-20X but in my opinion sound much crisper with a lot more detail in their sounds. The bit I don’t understand is why are they there in the first place? You can actually access all of the TD-20 and TD-20X kits from within the TD-30 module so I think Roland could have made a bit more effort here. Perhaps they will in a future update. My favourite kit is the LA Metal but I have also tweaked this to improve it further.

TD-30 COMPRESSION, AMBIENCE AND FX

My first play with both the Compression and Ambience was a very satisfying experience. Immediately I could hear such a difference to the sound I was producing. There is such an improvement here over the TD-20. The TD-30 provides a compressor and equalizer that can be specified for each pad; an ambience section for each kit that simulates the acoustics or reverberation of the location in which you’re playing the drums; a multi-effects section giving you 21different effects for each kit and a Master Compressor and Master EQ that are applied to the final output of the sound of each drum kit.

The 21 effects are as follows:- stereo delay, filter+drive, reverse delay, auto wah, tape echo, lo-fi compress, chorus, distortion, phaser, overdrive, step phaser, isolator, flanger, ring modulator, reverb, step ringmod, long reverb, pitch shift, saturator, auto pan and super filter.

What I really like about the Ambiance section is that it now has its own slider control.

THE HI-HAT

There is quite a lot in terms of design and construction that goes into an electronic hi-hat. Achieving all of the requirements to resemble an acoustic hi-hat is very complex. For a start, you have the sound on top of the upper cymbal, the sound on the side of both cymbals and all of the different sounds produced from the closed to the open position. If this is all that was required, then I am sure Roland would have achieved this, but the smooth transition needed between all possible positions from closed to open in all situations of stick technique is where in my opinion no one has yet achieved.

Roland is getting better and better at this and I am sure one day it will be spot on. For now, they have released the new VH-13 which is basically an enhanced VH-12 which has two cymbals. I am not a great lover of two bits of rubber flopping together which is why I went for the cheaper VH-11, which has just one hi-hat pad that gives the impression it is two. I sincerely hope that they will also improve the VH-11. I tried the VH-13 in a shop and at over £700, this is a very expensive hi-hat that still does not give me what I am seeking, but it is the nearest thing in the world today that does.

SONG PLAY AND PATTERN PLAY

As I have already stated, the song player to play along to your favourite mp3’s or wav files is a fantastic addition. It is a shame that you can only put 99 files on your USB stick. This applies to all files, so if you have your TD30 backup files on this stick it will limit still further the number of mp3’s or wav files you can have. So if you are able to get a 1 or 2 MB stick this should be large enough.

The song player also allows you to change the tempo of the song so that you could slow it down to assist with learning the part and you can set up loop points to practice specific sections of the song.

With the on-board sequencer you have a 100 preset patterns and space for a 100 user presets. The sequencer is approximately 40,000 notes and six part. You can play back your patterns as a one shot or loop the pattern.

CONNECTIONS

Looking at the back of the module, along the bottom you have 16 trigger inputs. This is enough inputs for a four-tom kit with three cymbals, bass drum, hi-hat and snare but then there are four auxiliary inputs for you to add what you wish to make a monster of a kit.

As well as the standard stereo master outputs, there are 8 routable direct outs. These can be used to record individual kit parts or output them through a PA. There is also a digital output. You then have a mix input and a footswitch input, a MIDI In Out/Thru connection. A USB 1 to connect to a computer and a USB 2 to accept the input of a USB memory stick to backup data or play mp3 or wav files. Lastly there is power lead input and the On/Off switch. Conveniently around the front is a stereo headphone input socket.

CONCLUSION

The TD-30KV kit is without doubt the best electronic kit in the world at present. In terms of tightness, latency and dynamic responsiveness, it is outstanding. In comparison with the TD20, the 30 is much crisper altogether. Although it is not, you could be deceived into thinking it is 24 bit. Adding master compression and ambiance can take your sound to another level.

There is some awesome potential in this module and it is a shame Roland did not make a greater effort in demonstrating this in their preset kits. However, personalising your kits to your own taste and suitability to your own playing style is part of the fun and education in getting to know your new module. You do now have; more sounds; SuperNatural sounds; faster processing and more positional sensitivity. Playing along with your favourite songs with the facility to adjust the tempo is priceless. It is a shame you can only have up to 99 files on a stick though.

I am extremely glad I have moved up to the TD-30 and I confidently know it will grow with me as I tweak here and there and create my own custom setups. If we ever have a TD-50 on the market, it makes me wonder what awesome enhancements and additions it will hold. If you feel like upgrading you drum module to the best module in the world, then there is only one place to buy a Roland TD-30 Module – just click this Orange Banner for a great price and great service:-

Absolute Music

COMING SOON

After completing this review, I have nearly completed my new set of 25 kits for the TD-30 which I will be releasing soon. This has been quite a long intensive piece of work but I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do playing them. Full details will be released shortly.

2 Responses

  1. Patrick Cowan Says:

    I liked your review and would be interested in those 25 kits. I believe like you that this is at present the best drum module going i just wish they would have sampled the Paiste line of cymbals

  2. tonylongmusic Says:

    I agree, I have always been a Paiste man myself and still have my Paiste Formula 602 series – there just great. Thanks Tony

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