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Roland Electronic Drum Buyers Guide

Roland’s incredible lineup of Electronic Drums is a result of the company’s longstanding commitment to product innovation and delivering musicians the tools they need to pursue their goals and passion for making music. In this Spotlight feature we decided to look at the Roland Electronic Drum Set series, known as V-Drums, and discover how they became the industry standard by exploring the history of Roland, the technological breakthroughs that have continued to set V-Drums apart from other electronic kits, and provide some guidance on which V-Drum kit is best suited for your needs, goals and enjoyment.

About Roland

Roland was founded by Ikataru Kakehashi who first got interested in music while working at his Kakehashi Radio electrical appliance store.  In 1954, Kakehashi also began repairing electronic organs, which quickly inspired him to experiment with building prototype organs of his own. This led to the formation of Kakehashi’s first musical instrument company named Ace Electronics (later renamed Ace Tone) in 1960. During the next decade, a long line of RHYTHM ACE all transistor drum machines were produced including the iconic FR-1 RHYTHM ACE as well as several models of organs, pedal effects, amplifiers, and early synthesizers. In 1972, Kakehashi officially founded the Roland Corporation and released Roland’s first product, the TR-77 drum machine. Just a few years later the CR-78, which was Roland’s first microprocessor -driven programmable drum machine, was unveiled. The CR-78’s distinct sound was a signature part of Phil Collin’s 1981 hit, “In the Air Tonight” in addition to being featured on countless other major tracks of the era. Other early notable Roland instruments included the SH-1000 Synthesizer (the first commercial synthesizer in Japan), the RE-201 Space Echo, the JC-120 Jazz Chorus guitar amp, and the BOSS CE-1, the first ever Chorus pedal.

Percussion Innovators

Roland has been dedicated to designing groundbreaking Electronic Rhythm Products from the beginning. Their long line of innovative drum machines from the CR-78, to the iconic TR-808, to the TR-909 (Roland’s first drum machine to combine digital samples along with analog drum sounds) have helped defined genres and has impacted the styles of countless music creators. The TR line continued through the 80’s including the TR-707 and TR-727, and the revolutionary R-8, which included feel patches meant to evoke a human-like groove. The R8 was also renowned for its great feeling pads and the ability to integrate external sound cards to expand your options. In 1985 Roland debuted the PAD8 OCTAPAD, a multipad MIDI controller designed to be played with sticks and trigger other MIDI instruments. The OCTAPAD became a fixture with both studio and live drummers in the 1980’s as they could trigger virtually any MIDI device available, from drum machines, to synthesizers and samplers. The first wave of Roland’s own samplers surfaced in 1986 with the S-50 and S-10 Sampling Keyboards and the MKS-100, a rack mount module version of the S-10 keyboard. The S-50’s operation was simplified by connecting an external CRT monitor to navigate the parameters as well as waveform display and editing. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s Roland produced many samplers, mainly rack modules including the S-220 and the popular S-550 and S-760 samplers.

 

Roland engineers meticulously sample each drum at different settings

 

The Conception and Birth of V-Drums

Although an electronic drum kit based around the DDR-30 Digital Drum Module was introduced in the mid 1980s it wasn’t until 1987 when Roland made a substantial impact with the ROLAND MIDI PERCUSSION SYSTEM. The MIDI percussion system was based on the PM-16 trigger to MIDI interface which featured triangular pads that incorporated multi-zone (the rubber “head” and sides of the pad) in order to trigger multiple sounds. In 1992 Roland made history again by releasing the TD-7KE Compact Drum System, the first complete electronic drum set that used all electronic components including cymbal pads and an electronic hi-hat. Five years later, the V-Drum line was officially born with the release of the TD-10 V-Drum kit with mesh snare/toms and Roland’s COSM technology.

Components from the first ever V-Drum: TD-10

 

Roland has continued to work on incorporating new technologies and features for V-Drums since its birth in 1997.One of the most important innovations is the dual-ply mesh heads which have become very popular for their acoustic feel, durability, quiet sound and the ability to tension the heads with a standard drum key just like an acoustic drum. The triggering system is also unique, utilizing a foam cone that touches the center of the head for even and consistent triggering across the surface of the pad. The user interface is both easy and intuitive with icons that help streamline your ability to edit sounds. This straightforward user interface is especially crucial on flagship models that offer you the ability to create your own kits and edit specific details of each component of the kit. The sounds are very dynamic and expressive and change naturally, responding to traditional drumming techniques. For example, when your playing a crash cymbal, as you strike harder, the sound changes in tone naturally rather than standard electronic drum kits that only offer variations of volume.

Roland has become legendary for their Sound Engines like the SuperNatural used on V-Drums

V Drum Sound Creation Process

All acoustic drums, cymbals and percussion instruments found in the drum brain begin with digital recordings (samples) of various instruments that are captured in professional recording studios. The samples are recorded at different dynamic levels (soft to hard) and on different places on the instrument (edge, center, etc.). The drum instruments range from vintage to modern, with different shell materials, diameters and depths. The same attention is given to the cymbal sounds to capture the nuances of each individual cymbal. With Roland’s proprietary sound editing technology, the sounds are broken down into partials or segments where the individual characteristics of each instrument is maintained even with editing (shell depth, head type, strainer tension, muffling, cymbal diameter, etc.). For example, if you tune the pitch of a snare drum up or down, even to extreme levels, the snare buzz is maintained without being effected by pitch. With many conventional sampled sounds, the pitch or other nuance of the entire instrument would change unnaturally. With Roland’s V-Edit system even a modest change in the sound results in a natural sounding and instrument.

Roland samples many different types of drums to cover all possible sounds

 

What Roland V-Drum Kit is Best For You?

Roland’s impressive lineup of Electronic Drum Kits makes it easy to find a great kit regardless of your experience level and budget. Lets explore some of the latest options available to you.

Roland TD1 Series:

The appropriately named Roland TD1K is the most cost effective kit in the V-Drums line. If you’re looking for a quiet home practice option, especially if space is limited, the TD1 is your answer. This kit is a great introduction to the versatility Electronic Kits can provide over your traditional acoustic setup, offering 15 on board sounds ranging from Jazz and Blues, to World Rhythms and Electronic. It also offers an excellent way to discover the dynamic response of V-Drums thanks to different sounds for the cymbal bow and edge and the ability to choke. It is also probably the most forgiving kit to other members of your residence thanks to its ultra compact footprint, headphone output for quiet practice, and the unique beater free kick drum design, which eliminates the thud of a pedal hitting a separate trigger. The TD1 is available in the standard TD-1K model and the upgraded TD-1KV Electronic Drum Set, which contains a mesh head snare for a more acoustic like feel and response. The mesh-pad is also dual-trigger (head and rim) allowing rim shots in addition to the sound triggered from the head.

Roland’s entry level TD1-K Electronic Drum Set
The TD1-KV gives you a mesh head snare

Who Needs It/Why We Love It

The TD1 series is ideal if you have limited space but need to practice at home. It is also great for younger drummers thanks to the adjustable design that lets you change the height of the hardware and angle of the components so you can grow into the kit. If your just starting out with drums, features like coach mode, a built in metronome, and on board backing tracks that simulate a full band can help your progress as a student.

Roland TD-4KP

Upgrading to the Roland TD-4KP Portable Electronic Drum Set gives you enhanced portability and a more powerful module to experiment with than the TD1 series. The TD-4 module features an LCD display, that lets you take advantage of the kits sound editing options and helps you select from over 125 on board sounds and the 50 preset kits. The TD4KP also uses an acoustic style kick pedal for a more familiar experience.

The TD-4KP is also designed for maximum mobility thanks to its innovative folding rack design that allows the kit to shrink down to an extremely compact footprint that fits in the backseat of your car or the corner of your apartment. Despite its impressive ability to fold into a fraction of its playing size, the TD4KP is very easy to setup and breakdown as the components including the module and cymbals fold into the stand so you don’t have to unscrew or take apart the individual components.

 

Who Needs It/Why We Love It

The TD4KP is great if you’re an acoustic drummer looking to experiment with electronic drums thanks to its acoustic style kick pedal and wider 7.5” drum pads. With its incredible portability, the TD4KP is a solid option for your collection allowing you to play gigs without lugging around your huge acoustic kit. It also the best option for dorm rooms, apartments and other crowded living spaces.Check out the picture below, it is truly fascinating to see how compact this kit looks folded up and even more unbelievable: the whole set up/ breakdown process takes less that a minute.

 

Roland TD17 Series:

Perhaps the most significant difference between the TD17 series and the other kits we have discussed so far is the incredible response of the mesh-style snare pad. In addition to its authentic feel, the kits PDX-12 mesh snare offers “Dual Triggering technology.” This creates a more dynamic response and lets you hear a difference depending on how far you hit from the rim. The expanded rim lets you achieve rim shots without giving off too much acoustic noise. The TD17’s Hi-Hat offers separate triggers for the bow and edge, giving you smooth transitions between the open and closed positions. The kick drum on the TD17 features a cloth exterior for a more authentic feel. The TD17 is available in the TD17-KLS, TD17-KV-S, and the TD17KVX-S configurations. Upgrading to the TD17-KV-S gives you Bluetooth so you can jam along to your favorite tracks on your smartphone without a connection cable. You also get the larger PDX 12″ snare drum. The flagship TD-17KVX lets you take advantage of the VH-10 Hi-Hat which has a natural open/close functionality. You also get two CY-12C Crash cymbals as opposed to the single CY-8 Crash offered on the KLS and KV-S models.

The TD17 in Action

 Who Needs It/Why We Love It

The TD17 series is ideal if you want a quiet home practice solution that will translate to your acoustic kit. The ability to import your own samples via SD Card opens up a whole new array of sonic possibilities. All TD-17 kits are undeniably stylish yet compact so they look great in any room in the house, well at least if you’re a drummer.

Roland TD25 Series

Upgrading to the Roland TD25-K Electronic Drum Set gives you a full compliment of mesh pads including two 6.5 inch rack toms and a 7 inch floor tom. The mesh snare has a 10-inch playing surface rather than the 8-inch snare included on TD11 kits. The TD-25 mesh snare also introduces positional sensing. Positional sensing gives you a more dynamic response, as your sound will be slightly different for each location you hit on the pad. The TD25K’s cymbals provide the more familiar swinging motion seen on acoustic cymbals and feature multiple triggers. This lets you achieve edge and bow sounds on the 12-inch crash cymbal and edge, bow, bell tones on the 13-inch ride. Perhaps one of the most important features of the TD25K is the VH-11 Hi-Hat which mounts on a standard acoustic Hi-Hat stand for seamless transitioning between your acoustic kit and V-Drums. The open/close motion of the Hi-Hat along with bow/edge functionality is great for applying those more classic techniques.

Roland TD25K Electronic Drum Kit

Although there are less preset kits on the TD25 Sound Module than the TD11K, the TD25 series uses a more advanced version of Roland’s SuperNatural sound engine putting the emphasis on the quality of sounds over the quantity. I also like that the kits are grouped by genre (Rock, Jazz, Metal, Funk) for easier selection and that the TD25 modules large center dial is designed for making changes with drum sticks in hand. The TD25K is the least expensive V-Drum kit to offer comprehensive customization of various sonic parameters via the LCD on the module. Simply hit the pad you want to adjust, and then use the modules knobs to quickly adjust tuning, muffling, levels and more. The recorder in the TD-25 actually captures audio and can be set to record drums alone or drums along with the on board accompaniment songs. Finally, the included rack is slightly larger and studier than the rack for the TD-11. Choose between the TD-25K and the TD25-KV, Electronic Drum set which provides larger mesh rack toms (8”) and a significantly larger mesh floor tom (10”). More importantly, upgrading the TD25-KV gives you an additional 12” crash cymbal.

The TD25-KV gives you larger Toms and an additional 12″ Crash

Who Needs It/Why We Love It

The TD25’s positional sensing on the snare and ride takes you that much closer to the acoustic experience and makes the kit a more viable option for professional practice. The familiar swinging motion on the ride/crash and open/close functionality on the hi-hat is a welcome addition for drummers looking to apply classic techniques.

Roland TD30 Series

The Roland TD30-K Electronic Drum Set is the first V-Drum kit to be considered part of the V-Pro series, implying that the kit is suitable for professional recording and live performance on large stages. It’s also the first V-Drum kit to let you customize drum positioning thanks to the included professional grade mounting hardware and large tube lugs. The mesh pads of the TD30 have been completely redesigned from the inside out. In addition to giving you a larger playing surface (12” snare/10” toms), the TD30 pads have significantly more mass than those on the TD25 for a more realistic feel. The pads are also wrapped in different finishes for a touch of style. Other hardware upgrades include larger cymbals (15” ride/14” crash), an innovative floating hi-hat configuration which emulates the feel of a two-piece hi-hat, and a 12” mesh kick drum pad which can support double bass drum pedals (sold separately). The extra weight of the TD30’s mesh kick drum and its hidden placement spikes further increase stability.  The shiny black MDS-12V rack is attractive, rugged and roadworthy, with heavy duty clamps, pad and cymbal mounts for flexible positioning. The MDS-12V rack also features Roland’s exclusive internal cabling system that makes setup and tear down much easier and gives the rack a sleek professional look.

Roland TD30-K Pro Series Electronic Drum Set

The TD30 module offers you over 1000 sounds to choose from and more in depth editing than the TD25. This includes the ultra convenient ambiance fader, which gives you dynamic control over spatial depth for simulating different venues and overhead microphone placement for adjusting the character of your tone. For convenient multi track recording and professional live performance, the back of the TD30 module offers 8 direct outputs in addition to a master stereo output. Choose between the TD30K and the TD30KV, which adds features like an additional floor tom, a larger 14” kick drum, upgraded triggering on the hi-hat so you can play foot splashes/alter your closed tone, and larger overall playing surfaces for the snare, toms, and cymbals. The snares and toms also feature advanced rim sensors so your sound can change depending on where and how the rim is struck. Finally, the TD30KV features the bigger MDS-25 drum rack with a beautiful chrome finish.

The TD30-KV gives you an additional floor tom larger playing surfaces, advanced rim sensors, and a larger Chrome Rack

 

Who Needs it/Why We Love It

As you can see from the V-Pro moniker, the TD30 series is a kit fit for a professional drummer and is configured for serious studio recording thanks to its multiple direct outputs. For drummers that are particular about hardware, the ability to use your standard snare stand with the TD30 is a nice benefit. The adjustable positioning on the tom pads allows you to further dial in your preferred setup.

Roland TD50 Series: 

The latest kit to be released, the Roland TD50-K Electronic Drum Set is also the flagship of Roland’s V-Drums line and can currently be heard on some of the worlds largest stages and music’s most iconic studios. Powered by the TD50  Sound module, this premier kit is the first to integrate Roland’s Prismatic Sound Modeling. This new technology is designed to capture every nuance of your style, offering unparalleled analysis of every hit. To take full advantage of the incredible power of the TD50 module, the TD50K uses a redesigned 14” snare pad. This snare features a 3 layer mesh head integrated into a genuine 14” shell creating the authentic rebound you only experience on high end acoustic sets. You also get the benefit or Roland’s multi-element sensor system, which captures every detail of your style, timing, and dynamics. This incredible multi-element sensor system also makes an appearance on the kits 18” ride cymbal, delivering a legitimate emulation of a professional cast bronze cymbal from the edge to the bell and everywhere in between.

The Roland TD-50K flagship Electronic Drum Kit

The TD50K offers Roland’s most extraordinary sounds, with tons of onboard kits spanning any style you can think of. Even more impressive is the incredible level of customization that is available within the TD50 module. In addition to all the customization we find on the TD30 series (ambiance, mic placement, head/shell tension) the TD50K offers adjustable three band EQ and compression settings for each component of the kit. Once your content with the sound of each drum, you still have over 30 different effects (saturate, phaser, echo’s, etc) that can be applied to each pad individually. But you don’t have to settle for just one effect because the module offers three independent sections for creating comprehensive effect chains. Still not satisfied with your sound? Don’t worry, the master output offers additional multi band compression and equalization. Roland even includes a feature called snapshot so you can instantly compare different settings before verifying your changes.

With all these incredible features, Roland expects that the TD50 will become your go to kit for live gigs, so the back panel of the module offers both an XLR stereo master output and eight ¼ direct outputs to connect each component to an individual mixer channel. On the recording side, the TD50 has an SD card slot so you can trigger imported WAV files on the drum of your choice. You can also layer and loop the sounds you import with the on board sounds of the module for limitless sonic options. If that wasn’t enough, the TD50 module is a multi-track audio interface, allowing you to record up 10 channels at a time via the USB output. Choose from the TD50K and the TD50-KV Electronic Drum Set which includes the larger KD-140 14” kick drum as well as larger 14” crash cymbals. To accommodate the larger components, the TD50-KV has a slightly heavier rack with a beautiful chrome finish and silver cabling. The KV versions more robust hardware also allows for integration of the optional KD-A22 converter package. With this incredible technology, you can use your favorite 22” acoustic bass drum in your TD50 setup. The KD-A22 converter package includes a front head, batter head, metal hoop, and shock absorber cushions, mixing the genuine tone of the acoustic shell with the premium feel of the V-Drum kick. Roland has also released the TD-50 Digital Pack if you want to upgrade your existing kit (TD10, TD20, TD20X, TD30) with some of the TD50’s most important features. The TD50 Digital Pack includes the TD50 sound module, PD-14 ODS digital snare and CY-18DR ride cymbal.

The TD50 Digital Pack lets you upgrade an existing V-Drum Kit

 

 

 

The optional KD-A22 Kick Drum Converter package lets you use your favorite acoustic kick drum with the TD50

 

Why We Love It/Who Needs It

The TD50 series is the culmination of Roland’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of what an Electronic Drum Kit can do. The Prismatic Sound Modeling and multi sensor technology work together to create an experience so close to an acoustic kit, you will forget that you’re actually playing an “electronic kit”. And with so many levels of customization, the TD50 proves that digital kits can deliver endless possibilities. For larger clubs and house of worship venues, the TD50 series streamlined connection to larger PA Systems is an excellent benefit not found on the other V-Drum series.

Other Roland Electronic Percussion Products:

Roland EC-10 Electronic Cajon
Cajons:

With the recent popularity of Cajons, Roland has released the EC-10 Electronic Cajon. EL stands for Electronic Layered, as this instrument is an acoustic cajon with built in triggering, internal sounds, and a built in speaker. Two internal triggers for the head and the edge of the cajon allows you to layer the sound of the acoustic cajon with any of the internal sounds such as tambourines, shakers, congas, djembes, and electronic drum sounds.

If you already have a favorite acoustic Cajon, Roland also offers the EC-10M EL Cajon Mic Processor. This product includes a sensitive mini condenser microphone that clips to the sound hole of any Cajon, which then connects to the Mic Processor allowing the player to adjust the gain and output of the acoustic mic’d cajon, and also trigger drums, percussion, and FX sounds.

The Roland EC-M10 Cajon Mic Processor System expands the sounds of your favorite Cajon
Hybrid Drums

Roland continues to make hybrid drumming products allowing drummers and percussionists to integrate electronic percussion with their acoustic set ups. Some of these products include:

  • RT-30 Acoustic Drum Triggers – RT-30H Single, RT-30HR Dual and RT-30 K Kick
  • TM-2 Trigger Module – an affordable and portable unit that supports acoustic triggers, as well as electronic pads and trigger pedals. Fast and reliable triggering that includes over 160 sounds plus the ability to read and trigger .WAV samples from an SD card
  • KT-10 and KT-9 Kick Trigger pedals- self-contained pedals that connect to any Roland device with external trigger inputs
  • BT-1 Bar Pad– a small but functional trigger pad that mounts directly to the rim of an acoustic drum or mounted on a tom or percussion arm and connects with any Roland device with external trigger inputs.
  • SPD-SX Sampling Pad, OCTAPAD SPD-30 Percussion Pad, HPD-20 all of these unique multi pad percussion instruments have found there way into acoustic drum and percussion rigs and also include trigger inputs for even more versatility.
The Famous Roland Octapad sampler can be played with sticks

 

The Sam Ash Difference:

Sam Ash has been working closely with Roland well before the birth of V-Drums in 1997. Roland product specialists have trained our experts so they can answer any question you may have and give you the rundown on how to use all of the amazing V-Drums features. We also offer extended service plans so you can have the piece of mind that your kit will continue to play as good as the day you got it. As we like to say, “come in and play”, we have kits setup and ready to go with premium electronic drum amplifiers. Of course if you left your sticks at home, we are more than happy to get you a pair in whatever size feels best. Not near a store, don’t worry, just give us a call at 800-472-6274, we have drummers standing by and ready to help you find the best kit for your needs and answer any questions you may have. If you find the kit you really want is currently out of your budget, we offer financing and equipment leasing to music venues and Houses of Worship.

Check out some awesome Roland V-Drums Artist Demos

Ian Pace of Deep Purple

Beanie of Rudimental

Kai Hahto