Hands-on Review: Alesis DM8 USB Kit

(mtebaldi | Posted 2011-08-16)

Hands-on Review: Alesis DM8 USB Kit

E-kits lovers are sure to find Alesis a home. While boasting a wide variety of models, Alesis is easily considered one of the most recognizable brands on electronic drum kit market. Focusing the delivery of a quality product for those on a tighter budget, Alesis’ e-kits have become the ideal entry-level choice for many players out there.

The company has also been continuously improving their line, constantly releasing new models as well as upgrading the ones already available on the market. For this summer, Alesis unveiled two new kits that, in my opinion, are the link between their more professional (DM10) and their more accessible models (DM6). The newly released DM8 is available in two different options; the DM8 Pro Kit (only differing from the USB kit by offering RealHead drum pads and the StageRack) and the DM8 USB Kit, which I will be focusing on in this article.

First impression and assembling – Coming in a well-packed and well-protected box, the DM8 has proven to be one of the easiest Alesis’ kits I’ve ever assembled. A new addition to Alesis’ e-kits line, the DMRack is a four-legged heavy-duty rack that comes pre-assembled inside the box. All you have to do is to set a desirable height for your rack toms and quickly add the two extra legs and voila’! The rack is ready for drum and cymbal pads. To some, this might not seem like a big issue, but I remember spending at least a couple hours putting together one of the earlier Alesis e-kit racks, and if you plan to take the DM8 on the road, the DMRack is truly a time saver. Although the clamps that hold pads and the rack itself together are made of plastic, they seem sturdy and strong enough to resist intense pounding sessions. One of the best features of the DM8, from an assembly perspective, is that it won’t require the use of a drum kit, aside from the kick drum pad that is attached to its rack with six bolts. Assembly is also made more efficient by the clever combination of all the cables to a DB-25 connector that goes directly in the drum module. Patching is also easy and simple with the labeled cables, and the module can even accommodate two extra add-ons.

Quick Tip: Read the manual (I bet a lot of you won’t) and especially, learn to calibrate the kit. Once you have everything assembled you will be able to turn it on and start playing, which is great, but, if you spend the time to calibrate and learn the kit’s capabilities, you will certainly be able to enjoy and play the DM8 much more.

Pros – To my eyes (and ears) the very best thing about the DM8 is the high-end sonic quality of the module’s kits. You get 100 different preset kits that can cover an array of styles, from rock to jazz to electronic to Latin; plus, it allows you to manipulate and save its samples to your own customized kits. Once you better familiarize yourself with the drum module capabilities, you will start to see all the goodies it has to offer. Effects, such as compression and reverb, that can be applied directly to one sample, or on the overall sound of a kit; the ability to optimize the kit to your playing style through tweaking velocity, curve velocity and cross talking, and much more. Another great feature of the drum module, like the DM10’s, is that it comes with 75 accompaniment tracks that you can use for practicing as well as to test the kit’s capabilities. It will also let you record and (even quantize) your performance. The module also comes with USB connectivity so you can use samples from your favorite drum software and also record MIDI performances directly on your DAW. Just remember to lower the buffer size to bring latency to a minimum.

Cons – One of the greatest challenges throughout the history for e-kits manufacturers has been the issue of how to emulate the feel and articulation of a pad to a point that it feels and sound like a real drumhead. In the case of the DM8 USB Kit, I should warn you not to expect anything close to that. Although the pads are certainly better than many drum pads out there (they are softer, hence giving the sticks more bounce), they are still pretty much practice pads. If you are not comfortable with playing on practice pads, chances are you will detest this kit, or, at least, it will take some time for you to get use to it and learn to tolerate it. In the end, it will actually become more a matter of technique than quality. To maximize the articulation of the kit, I strongly suggest optimizing its retriggering settings, especially for those that play fast, so that you won’t be missing any notes during your performance. The good side of this type of drum pads is that, with the help of the quality-built DM Rack, they eliminate cross talking fairly well (a serious issue that I’ve consistently found in the DM10).

Unfortunately, I encountered two very bad problems with the DM8 USB Kit that has more to do with wearing than design. First, the rubber that should help to hold my kick pedal attached to the kick drum pad just came off during playing. I guess Alesis needs stronger glue for this essential, but overlooked piece of the kit. I tried to attach my pedal without it, but still it’s not 100% great. Once in a while I have to adjust the pedal position, which is quite annoying, especially if you are in the middle of a performance. The second big issue that I encountered was with the Ride Cymbal Pad. After a couple of hours of playing, it seems that the rubber pad came slightly off and the bell’s triggering became defective.

What the author wants to see – I believe this kit is almost there. Reasonably priced considering its great module and rack, and somewhat decent pads. Some further testing for wear and tear may need to be conducted by the manufacturer. Who wants to buy a product that will start falling apart only after a couple hours of playing? I also would love to see capabilities for importing samples on the drum modules. Built-in libraries are great, but the musician of the digital age is now looking for originality more than ever. No one wants to sound like someone else. And no one wants to bring a computer everywhere just so your own samples can be played.

Who will like the DM8 – In my opinion the DM8 makes a really great practicing kit. It can also be very useful for smaller gigs where the loudness of a real drum kit can be an issue (churches for instance). It is great for project studios where you might need to quickly record a beat into your DAW and it’s good for small sampling applications during a gig. The DM8 also makes a really great kit for kids that want to graduate from Rock Band.

Who won’t – Professional drummers that look for a reliable, consistent and durable kit for recordings and performances. Drummers who are not used to playing on practice pads, or that love the sonic complexity of an acoustic drum kit and especially, heavy hitters – they will just tear the DM8 apart.


  • Built-in sounds: Over 750
  • Kits: 100 preset, 100 user
  • Accompaniment patterns: 75 preset, 75 user
  • 8” Dual-zone snare with rimshot
  • Three 8" single-zone toms
  • Large kick pad for single and double pedals
  • 14” Dual-zone ride with bell and bow
  • 12” Crash with choke
  • 8’ Hi-Hat with continuous-control pedal
  • DMRack with four-post design, wingbolt-adjustable clamps, and mini-boom cymbal arms
  • Mix input for practicing with external music players
  • USB-enabled for tracking and programming with music software

  • Price = $699

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