Hands-on with the Roland TD-9KX V-Drums

Crave's digital music expert Nate Lanxon -- no mean drummer -- gets sticks-on with Roland's full-size, £1,200 TD-9KX V-Drums electric kit

In 2008, Rock Band and Guitar Hero exploded, bringing the excitement of musical instruments to millions who might never have picked up sticks or guitar otherwise. So there's never been a better time to show off some of the real electric drum kits, produced by the pros, for the budding pros.

I've had Roland's £1,200 TD-9KX V-Drums kit here at CNET for about four months. It's a full-size kit, with a 10-inch snare, three 8-inch PD-85BK toms, a crash and ride cymbal, hi-hats with an accompanying foot pedal, and of course a kick-drum pad.

Each drum features soft mesh heads that can be tightened like an acoustic drum with standard drum keys, and are sensitive enough to pick up even the most subtle of ghost notes and rudiments.

The rims themselves have their own triggering system, offering natural rim-shot options, or you can assign one of the many real drum voices to it. In one of my favourite kits, I assigned an octoban to the rims of each of the first two toms, effectively adding two extra drums to the setup. But you could add other cymbals -- a splash cymbal or a dirty great china crash -- as you see fit. Incidentally, each of the two cymbals included feature multiple triggers as well.

Playing the TD9 is an absolute pleasure. Despite having played mainly acoustic kits for the 15 years I've played the drums, I found Roland's kit took barely any adjustment at all to get used to playing -- it's amazing. The range of kits is terrific, too. There's everything from studio rock kits to classic 1950s jazz setups, from modern electric kits to Latin percussion.

They're all sampled from real kits and delivered by the responsive and incredibly easy-to-use TD9 computer. Plus you can not only edit each of these kits (to change a tom to sound like a cymbal, for example), but also alter every aspect of each instrument's sound, such as volume, sensitivity and pitch. I was genuinely surprised at not only how easy this was to do (I never looked at the instruction manual), but also how deep the customisation of sound can go.

Over the next 20 pages of photos I've highlighted some of the other key features, along with plenty of close-ups. It's a beautiful drum set that I'm going to be enormously sad to give back, because it's just so much fun to play -- it'll impress new drummers and seasoned pros alike.

Be aware though, that although much, much quieter than an acoustic kit, there's still a fair whack of acoustic noise, mostly from the kick drum, so you might still want to brief the neighbours.

It's on sale now and you can check out more detail over on Roland's Web site. But first, on with the photo tour.

There's very little to say about how it functions from the front, except that it looks exactly the opposite of how it looks from the back.

Each mesh head can be tightened like a standard drum head, and while not identical in feel to an acoustic skin, it performs similarly. There's also very little acoustic noise from the skins themselves.

Each drum is mounted individually, so you can angle them towards you as normal. Obviously they're a little smaller than some drums, but this is something I got used to almost instantly.

The TD9 module is well designed and dead easy to operate, with a bright, backlit LCD display.

This is one of the screens for customising an instrument's sound. I'm adjusting the volume of the hats here. We'll come back later to other aspects of the sound module.

Here's how each drum is fixed to the drum stand...

...and now the cymbals. Just your typical boom stand.

Connecting all the drums and cymbals to the TD9 sound module is simple. Each drum uses a single cable, all of which are kept tidily together using cable ties, and each is affixed to the pictured plug, which simply gets pushed into a socket on the back of the sound module. It couldn't be easier.

Plenty of connectivity is offered on the sound module, including DC in, monaural 6.3mm left and right outputs, 3.5mm stereo mix in, and MIDI in/out.

And at the bottom of the system is a stereo 6.3mm headphone socket.

Large rubber buttons give quick access to key features such as kit and song selection.

Other buttons have varying functions depending on what menu you're currently viewing, clearly labelled by the LCD display.

The PD-105BK snare drum. Notice the slightly transparent nature of the mesh head.

The similarities to a normal acoustic snare drum are obvious, unless you're either a) an idiot, or b) someone who's never seen a real snare drum.

The cymbals are very different though. For one thing, they're not made of bronze, are coated in rubber, use electricity... the list is endless.

The crash cymbal has two triggers (ride and bell), but the ride cymbal has three: rim (pictured), ride and bell. Handy, yes?

For controlling the hi-hats you'll be using this spring-loaded foot pedal. Although the hats themselves do not move, the sturdy pedal helps them feel and sound realistic nonetheless.

Seen above, a photo. And in it, the kick pad. I used my Tama Iron Cobra double pedal, and it worked perfectly.

I had to increase the pad's sensitivity as the most sensitive area is in the centre, and my two kicks were hitting more towards the edge. But getting up to speed with pedal rudiments and blast beats took no time at all once I'd made this adjustment.

The chunky stand that supports the kick pad. You can see it. Just look above these words. 

This is a monster of an electric drum set, and I've loved every second of playing it. If it's on your list of things to spend £1,200 on, you won't be disappointed, particularly if you play the drums.

And for those of you craving a live video, I offer you the clip below. We had a battle of the bands night here at CBS Interactive, and I thought to myself, 'Self, you should play and film the TD-9KX'. So I did.

Excuse the YouTube quality, but you'll get the idea.

 

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