If you've had any experience with electronic drums at all, you've no doubt heard of Roland. Their formula for becoming the leading manufacturer of electronic kits: give drummers what they want. Ever the innovators, Roland build e-drum kits with realistic sounds, natural playing feel, and intuitive interfaces.
One of the best examples of Roland's dominance in the electronic drum field is the TD-9SX kit. It's got sound and playability advanced drummers can appreciate, but without all the complicated bells and whistles that would send most newbies running for cover. If you're looking for an all-around kit, this is it.
What's In The Box
All 5 drum pads on the TD-9SX have mesh heads with tunable tension. For example, you can set it tight on the snare for more snap, or a little looser on the floor tom for some extra play in the response. Mesh heads are designed to feel more like a real acoustic head than the rubber pads found on lesser kits. I'm not sure they're ther
The dual-zone pads give you an authentic vibe, with separate triggers for the main head and the rim. You can set up cross sticks on the snare and add some extra crack to the toms, for example. Many of the kits in the TD-9 module are already set up to take advantage of the extra zones. That said, I found it difficult to get a consistent rim sound, because the triggers are velocity sensitive. The TD-9 User Guide mentions altering your technique a bit to achieve a steady sound, though I didn't spend enough time working at it to prove it out.
The TD-9SX also includes some multi-trigger cymbal pads to round out the kit. You get a dual-zone crash, a dual-zone hi-hat with open/close foot pedal, and a triple-trigger ride. The dual-zone cymbals let you get separate sounds for the bow and the edge, and the ride adds a third tone for the bell. Though they're plastic, they do have enough heft to feel real(ish), and you can grab the edge for a choke effect with also improves the experience.
In general, all the drum and cymbal pads are responsive and lively, with plenty of dynamic range due to the velocity sensitivity.
Pretty much all the hardware you need is included. You get the four-leg V-Tour rack, which is more stable than the racks used on the lower-end kits, plus mounts for the tom/snare pads, three cymbal booms, all the necessary cabling, and, of course, the TD-9 module (with mount). Add a kick pedal (the kick pad is large enough to handle single or double), a throne, and a pair of sticks, and you're all set to bang. The hardware isn't as beefy as what you typically find on an acoustic kit, but I did like the flexible positioning options for both the drum and cymbal pads.
The TD-9 Module
The TD-9 is a bit of a departure from other Roland drum brains, with more of a vertical layout and a large, easy-to-read display. Like the best Roland kits, the TD-9 is loaded with a ton of sounds. You get a total of 522 percussion sounds, from modern and vintage acoustic drums and cymbals to old-school electronic tones (including the legendary Roland TR-808 and TR-909), along with some fun percussion and sound effects patches. There are plenty of everyday-useable sounds, with plenty of oddball extras to keep you experimenting.
The sounds are broken down into 50 different kits, letting you dial up a collection of complementary sounds quickly and easily. I particularly enjoyed the Acoustic kit, the V-Tour kit, and the Double Bass kit, which turns the high-hat control pedal into a second kick pedal. The Brush Kit is also nice for Jazz. Kits are completely editable, with the option to store your own user created kits.
The module also includes 50 backing tracks to add some context to your practice sessions. The tracks are created from actual recorded sounds instead of lame synth simulations, so you feel like you're sitting in with a tight band. These backing tracks represent several different musical styles, so it's a great way to experiment with different genres. The backing tracks include drum parts so you can try to cop the style, or you can mute the drum parts and add your own flavor. You can also hook up your CD/MP3 player through the Aux input for more jam-along options.
If you come up with something particularly cool, the TD-9 features a Quick Record button. There's no complicated setup required, just press the button and lay down the groove. You can use Quick Record with or without the onboard metronome. Record yourself jamming with the backing tracks, or playing solo.
The TD-9's interface looks a bit more stripped down than some of Roland's other brains, but all of the go-to functions are accessible with no menu-diving. You do have to dig deep for some of the editing parameters, but it wasn't too terrible.
On the top of the TD-9, there's a USB port for thumb drive connection. From here, you can save Quick Record performances and User-edited kits.
Overall, I was impressed with the TD-9SX. The layout was well designed, and both the rack and the pads look sturdy enough for gigging. The module was very easy to navigate, and while it lacked some advanced features such as individual pad output channels or onboard sampling, it was totally useable as a straight-ahead drum kit. I could easily see this thing set up in a practice space, as a part of a church band, or even in a small recording studio. You'll definitely want to pick up some headphones or some sort of external e-drum amplifier to hear the output, though.