There was a time when buying an electronic drum kit was as big an investment as a semi-pro acoustic set, but the past decade has been something of a renaissance period for electronic drums.
With e-kits now more affordable than ever, even the big guns are getting involved in the entry-level market, and that's where we find the latest offering from Roland; the TD-1KV.
If you've been paying attention, you'll know that this isn't the first kit to bear the Roland name with the more budget conscious player in mind: the HD-1, HD-3 and TD-4KP have all offered Roland's V-Drum technology for less than its flagship kits. The TD-1, however, is the least expensive of the TD series.
"It takes about 30 minutes of casual swearing before you're finished building, but once it's together, it is surprisingly sturdy"
It's available in two guises - the TD-1K which includes four single-zone rubber pads for toms and snare, choke-able dual-zone crash and ride cymbal pads, and a hi-hat pad - the TD1-KV (our review model) swaps the snare pad for a more realistic- feeling mesh head-equipped PDX-6 pad, complete with dual-zone triggering for the head/rim.
Previous budget Roland kits have seen the hi-hat and bass drum pedals (the TD-1 includes a beater-less bass drum trigger) fixed to the stand, meaning that placement is restricted, but the TD-1's pedals are actually standalone, meaning that they can be positioned where you like, and - more importantly - upgraded at a later date.
In total, you get 15 preset kits ranging from standard acoustic kits through electronic and percussion set-ups, plus a metronome, Roland's Rhythm Coach feature and 15 songs to jam with. Connections include headphone output, aux-in and USB for connecting to a computer.
Anyone who's ever unboxed an electronic kit (we had the genuine pleasure of unboxing the first TD1-KV in the UK) will know that actually building the rack in the first place is the maximum kill-joy before playing - matched only by the dread of building flatpack furniture. It's a necessary evil though, and the TD-1 is no exception.
The TD-1KV's rack's main support consists of a T-shaped frame, and then everything hangs off the vertical post.
Roland supplies a drum key with the rack, as nearly every adjustment and fixing is made with a standard lug bolt and wingnut. It takes about 30 minutes of casual swearing before you're finished building, but once it's together, it is surprisingly sturdy and well laid-out.
As mentioned, the TD-1 brain features 15 preset kits, and while there is minimal adjustment for pad sensitivity and panning, the sounds are fixed. This means that while you can't get your hands dirty creating custom kits, if all you want to do is play, you can do so without getting bogged down in tinkering.
The brain is intuitive to use, with one large button for switching between functions (kits, songs, metronome etc), and simple up/down switches to select parameters within them.
"We applaud the thought that has gone into the TD-1's design, from the space-saving rack to the noise-killing bass drum trigger"
Sound-wise, the kits are good quality for practising but not mind-blowing, giving you a solid set of basic sounds in different styles.
However, given the user that Roland is targeting here, it'd be silly to expect the same definition as higher-end kits, and the sounds definitely stand up (and above, in some cases) to the competition.
The USB port also transmits MIDI, and we found that it controlled high quality sound libraries like EZ Drummer, Superior Drummer and Steven Slate Drums perfectly. Brilliant if you want to use some better sounds down the line.
Having previously played a number of electronic kits that use footswitches instead of a pad for the kick drum, we were somewhat concerned that the TD-1's beater-less design would make for an unrealistic experience - not good for beginners to become accustomed to. This isn't the case, though.
Fast double strokes are possible, without the trigger doing the work for you. It's quiet too - helping to alleviate one of the biggest problems with bass drum triggers vibrating through floorboards.
Let's get this straight: the TD-1 is not a shortcut to a gigging e-kit. It's designed as a practice tool for beginners, and for many, the pricepoint could be the difference between having a kit to play on at home or not.
The jam tracks, USB and Rhythm Coach functions will be very welcome inclusions for those just starting out too. We applaud the thought that has gone into the TD-1's design, from the space-saving rack and pad layout to the noise-killing bass drum trigger.
Yes, the sounds are functional, rather than amazing. The rack is sturdy, yet fiddly to adjust, but for every compromise, there's money off the price tag, although if you can afford it, stumping up for the TD-1KV's mesh snare is definitely worth the extra money.