In-Depth Review: How pro is the Alesis USB Pro Drum Kit?
(mtebaldi | Posted 2010-10-19)
One of Alesisí goals in the music industry is to win the electronic drum kit market by offering affordable products to the masses; no doubt about it. Every now and then, Alesis keeps releasing new models and configurations to their ever-growing inventory of electronic kit paraphernalia so it can cover the needs of all e-drummers out there. And what struck me the most when I came across the Alesis USB Pro Drum Kit, you ask? The price tag, but of course! While looking for an e-kit that could trigger sounds from my computer, this USB Pro Drum Kit was the one that seemed to give the most bang for my buck.
One reason I was looking for e-kits (other then the masculine need to constantly have more toys) was so that I could hybridize my acoustic drum set with all the new electronic sounds we have been incorporating in my bandís music. I found that there is no better solution than having a complete and racked MIDI controller kit rather than single pads here and there. For a module, rack, 3 cymbal pads, and 5 drum pads, the Alesis USB Pro Drum kit has an unbeatable price; $700. Hereís my evaluation after playing with it for a solid week.
THE RACK Ė The plastic rack that comes with the Alesis USB Pro Drum Kit can be solid foundation for the kit, once youíve spent a decent amount of time putting it together. And by decent amount, I mean a couple hours. With a lot of bolts and parts, I would recommend you first familiarize with the structure before diving into setting up. If you just put things together and then try to move things around a bit here and there, you will end up wasting a lot of time trying to have everything set up as you want it. The problem with this time consuming task, is that makes the rack not easily portable. If you need this rack ready to go everyday on the road, you might as well travel with it semi-set-up, which, can become a pain in the butt if you donít have tons of space on your trunk. Its plastic made structure also, unfortunately, plays a huge part when you try to optimize the kit, since it conducts the vibrations from on pad to the other, making cross talking inevitable.
THE PADS Ė The Mylar pads you will find with the USB Pro Drum Kit are definitely better than the regular rubber pads you can find on other Alesis e-kits, but not comparable to Mesh pads, thatís for sure. The beauty here is that you can tune their tension to your drum playing style and also replace them with any other drumheads available in the market to play with your favorite skins. I think they mimic a real drumhead pretty decently. The thing that bothered me the most about the pads is its so-called ďdual zoneĒ capabilities. Itís great that Alesis is trying to make the rim of the pads as a second trigger, but itís almost impossible to separate it from triggering the pad sound when you hit it. Unless the intention for the rims was to just trigger a similar sound of the pads, which can, sometimes mask this flaw. The cymbal pads have a nice look, resembling a real brass cymbal. They are very sensitive, but lack the bounciness you get from real ones, obviously. I guess that would be too much to ask anyway. They have a great choke feature, if you can optimize it to work great, which proved to be a little tricky.
THE MODULE Ė The Alesis USB Pro Dum Kit comes with the Trigger I/O as the link for communication between the kit and your computer. Cables and inputs are well labeled making it pretty easy to install every pad with the right cable and in the right place. The problem with this piece lies on its annoying way of saving your settings and especially on its, in my opinion, non-methodical manual. Letís put this way: Once installed, the moduleís default presets shouldnít be called presets. Cross talking happens pretty much everywhere, even by simply hitting the rack you can trigger a sound. Going through its manual, which unfortunately only explained the parameters you can control, but no method of how to use them in a cohesive way, gave me a really bad first impression of the kit. Tell me if Iím wrong, but donít you want to be able to just sit down and play once you spend a decent amount of money on a new piece of equipment? Youíve already spent two hours putting things together and now you will need another two to make the kit sound, well, like a kit! A little frustrating, I must say. I ended up finding an online manual of how optimize the kit, sitting in the Alesis site, which made me question why this valuable piece of information wasnít part of the physical manual provided. After a few hours of tweaking and a software upgrade (which mostly helps if you are using the BFD drum sample program included with the kit, which in my case I wasnít planning to) I was able to finally lay down some beats and have much better experience with the Alesis USB Pro Drum Kit.
Wanting to find affordability and high-end quality in any product is something no one will deny. But the reality is that they rarely (if ever) walk hand and hand. Professional quality means big bucks and the Alesis USB Pro Drum Kit further proof of that. For its price, this e-kit is a damn good kit, as long as its flaws wonít get on your nerves. How pro is the Alesis USB Pro drum kit? I guess thatís dependant upon on what professionalism is for each musician. If you need an e-kit for practice, small gigs or for simple triggering, than this kit can do a pro job, other than that I wouldnít count on it. No offense Alesis. Criticism is a powerful tool for constructive development.