Some electronic drum kits can seem intimidating to a novice, but Roland designed the HD-1 with the beginner in mind. First, it includes pretty much everything you're going to need to start rocking right out of the box, so there's no guesswork about what else to get. Second, the integrated all-in-one design means you don't need to try to figure out what goes where, so it's easy to set up. Finally, the stripped-down sound module is totally easy to figure out. Even if you've never played an electronic kit before, you'll have no problem calling up a patch and making some noise within minutes of unpacking the box.
What's In The Box
The HD-1 is known as the V-Drum Lite kit, which is right on the money for this low-cost, no-frills set of e-drums. You get a compact stand with integrated kick and hi-hat pedals, plus all the cabling and mounting hardware necessary. The HD-1 includes a full selection of trigger pads, such as a mesh-head snare pad, three rubberized tom pads, two
While the HD-1 is technically ready to go right out of the box, there are a few extras you're going to want to pick up. First, you'll need something to sit on. A kitchen chair will work in a pinch, but you're better off getting a drum throne. This will let you position the height for more comfortable playing, and give easier access to both pedals than the average chair. Next, you're going to need something to bang with. You've got hands, right? You could always play this thing bongo-style, but you're probably going to want a nice pair of drumsticks. Any old pair will do, but you may want to look for a set that compensates for the extra vibration from the rubber pads. Finally, you're going to need some sort of speaker setup to hear the sound this kit makes. A pair of headphones will do for private practice, or you can get a drum monitor system to share that sound with the world. Roland makes the DAP-1 Accessory Pack that includes a throne, sticks, and earphones, as well as the PM01 drum monitor, both of which are a great match for the HD-1 kit.
The stand assembly is made with light metal tubing and plastic clamping hardware, so it's easy for one person to move. The pad arms pivot inward into a very compact shape, so you can easily store it away when not in use. The initial setup took me less than a half hour when following the DVD instructions, and the "unfolding process" was much faster.
The bass pedal and the hi-hat pedal are integrated into the base of the stand, with the added benefit of providing some stability to the main trunk of tubing. The bass pedal does not use a typical beater, meaning you don't have to stomp down as hard with your right foot to trigger the kick. If you live in an apartment, your downstairs neighbors will appreciate this design feature. In fact, the entire HD-1 kit is acoustically very quiet, meaning private practice stays private. On the flipside, the integrated pedal design means their positioning is not adjustable. If you've been playing other kits for a while and are used to having your bass pedal head-up in front of the kick drum with your hi-hat off to the side, this symmetrical design may take some getting used to.
Snare, tom, and cymbal pad positioning is somewhat flexible, but within a limited range. The HD-1 can be set up for left-handed use, and the manual tells you how. Some of the kits in the sound module use the hi-hat pedal as a second kick for quick double-bass blast beats.
All of the cabling is clearly labeled, so there's no confusion about plugging in. Roland includes cable ties with the kit, and the stand tubing is grooved to keep your wiring harness organized. Once everything is dressed and tucked away, the kit looks neat and tidy.
The brains of the operation stem from Roland's tiny HD-1 module. It's designed to be easy to use, yet still provide a good amount of flexibility. The I/O ports are fairly basic, with 1/8" stereo minijacks for the main output and headphones, plus another 1/8" minijack for the Mix input. This lets you connect a CD/MP3 player for jam-along practice. The wiring harness for the trigger pads terminates into a single D-Sub connection so there's no confusion about cabling. The module also offers a MIDI Out port for connection to outboard gear.
The interface is very straightforward, with a total of seven backlit buttons and two control knobs. Five of the buttons are numbered, each accessing a different drum kit sound. The kits aren't editable, but pressing the Variation button gives a slightly different flavor, for a total of 10 different kit choices. The seventh button acts as a start/stop control for the onboard metronome. Choose from a cowbell or maraca sound to indicate the beat, or go with the standard click. You can set one of three blend volumes to determine how loud the metronome sounds compared to the kit. The Tempo knob lets you set the BPM from 40 to 220, and the Volume knob controls the overall level pushed to the main and headphone outs.
Since no menus are needed, there is no display screen on the module. I didn't really miss it, though it would have been nice to have an exact reference when setting the metronome tempo or the output volume.
Roland's COSM modeling is found in many of their higher-end products, but to keep things simple, the HD-1 kit sounds are solely comprised of PCM samples. The module contains a total of 70 percussion sounds, organized into the aforementioned ten drum kits. Most of the kits are based on standard acoustic setups, such as the Jazz kit or the Power kit; a boomy Rock rig with tons of reverb. A few of the kits are loaded with Latin percussion sounds for World Music grooves, and of course, no Roland V-Kit would be complete without at least one electronic-sounding kit, modeled after the famous TR-808. You also get a couple of odball effects kits, including the beatbox-a-licious Voices and the electro-metallic Droid. Roland includes preset patterns for each of the kits, letting you get a feel for its capabilities right off the bat. All kits are velocity sensitive, meaning different samples are triggered based on how hard you strike the pad. Tap lightly on the Drum and Percussion kit, for example, and you can get a muted Conga tone. Hit it a bit harder and you trigger a more open sound. Really whale on it, and you'll hear the pingy edge-slap tone.
Roland really uses those 70 sounds to the fullest, and all kits sound balanced and even. Many have built in ambience, so you won't really miss not being able to tweak sounds and add effects. It's nice to just sit down, call up a kit, and go.
While this kit is clearly designed for beginners, I feel it's also a good, portable, inexpensive choice for intermediate players. The MIDI output is great for sequencing or triggering a wider variety of sounds from a computer-based virtual drum application. If you're new to electronic drumming, there can be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to adjusting your technique to make the most out of the trigger pads; especially with the fixed layout of the HD-1. The manual provides some tips on technique, though, and it's a small price to pay for access to a nearly silent practice kit with a bunch of good sounds.