The TD-30KV is the latest addition to the formidable V-Drum family, and has taken centre-stage from the former flagship TD-20KX.
The module of the TD-20KX was based on the excellent TD-20, which was subsequently updated (around three years ago), and marketed as the TD-20X - this now featured a new colour scheme and included a factory-fitted TDW-20 expansion board.
This was a welcome enhancement that gave an extended lease of life to the TD-20, offering many more sounds, improved V-editing facilities, additional ambient effects etc. However, the module lacked USB connectivity and was (even with the upgrade), beginning to be left behind in the technology stakes.
Enter the new TD-30. This is a 'next generation' drum module, the first of its kind (with other Roland kits following closely behind) to feature Roland's SuperNATURAL Behaviour Modelling digital signal processing technology.
This sound engine (which replaces Roland's COSM), was originally developed for the V-Piano and is now filtering down through the Roland ranges of pianos, keyboards and now V-Drums.
The SuperNATURAL drum sounds are created from high-quality multi-samples of real drum instruments and are said to be completely transparent to the player. Each SuperNATURAL sound is translated by the Behaviour Modelling engine, which acts as the go-between interpreter, remodelling or 'virtually' reconstructing the sound from the SuperNATURAL sound engine.
Every drum sound created responds dynamically, seamlessly switching the individual samples, depending on how hard the pads are struck and at which position, enabling a completely natural playing experience.
The rear panel of the hefty, metallic grey TD-30 is jam-packed with an array of sockets. These include trigger inputs (occupying the whole row of the lower jack sockets), a set of routable direct-outs (useful for recording or individual outputting though PA), mix-in input for iPod or any other music source, USB socket to connect to a computer (for MIDI, for example), USB memory socket designed to accept a standard memory stick which may be used for back-up purposes or to store playalong MP3s or WAV files.
First aired with the TD-20KX, the robust and rock-solid KD-140 kick pad weighs around the same as a conventional bass drum. The pad features a black-chrome wrap, chunky Sonor-esque spurs and light-catching black plastic front 'head'.
Also having made its first appearance with the TD-20KX, the superb MDS-25 rack again features with the TD-30KV. This has industry standard-diameter chromed tubing, boasts over-engineered clamps and features a cable management system that successfully and discreetly hides all but the ends of each of the 16 cables.
Each of the other pads feature upgraded rim triggers, taking full advantage of the TD-30's dynamic potential. Like the kick, they are finished in a black-chrome wrap and feature mesh heads and Pearl-type free-floater styled lugs embedded into the base of each drum pad.
The newly designed cymbal pads are finished in a silvery-grey on the surface, which feels strangely sticky. The newly designed VH-13 hi-hat has a new motion detector sensor (held in the lower cymbal) and sits on the centre rod of any standard hi-hat.
After a rapid set-up, the first kit to appear on the large graphic display is the Studio - a dry sounding set with few effects (controlled in real-time on the fader) to cloud the drum sound. After a few light strikes around each of the mesh pads, the kit sounds good - and quite similar to the TD-20.
Concentrating on the snare, we try a mixture of subtle delicate strokes, flams and the usual playing techniques - culminating into a full-on buzz roll, at which point the snare sound and dynamics are all kinds of awesome.
The sound is tight and realistic; with light taps close to the rim it is possible to detect a slightly higher pitch with a subtle overtone that would normally appear at the edge of a snare then, with a slow double-stroke roll moving towards the drum centre and away back to the rim again, the drum sound changes effortlessly and seamlessly.
The dynamic range of the toms is equally impressive. For example, by hitting 'tom 3' (equivalent of a 14" acoustic on the Studio kit) softly the tone remains the same, but when striking harder raises slightly in pitch and brightness, then lowers again, just as if the head was, for a millisecond, a little more taut at that increased stick velocity.
The 'larger' tom has less of this upwards tensioning effect, but has a slight increase of tone - and then you can actually detect two heads resonating as the sound slowly fades. Rimshots are also possible on each of the tom pads and, like any of them, can be set to trigger all sorts of additional sounds and effects.
At one point, we brushed-up against the hi-hat, causing the two pads to touch momentarily - and sound just like a real pair of hi-hats. Playing them with slight foot pressure of the hi-hat pedal and striking lightly, with the slightest pad contact, here the sounds change without any detectable jumps.
When the cymbals are fully closed and increased foot pressure applied, the tone alters - just as with their acoustic counterpart. While it is possible to choke each of the cymbals, the cymbal swells are extraordinary and it doesn't matter if you use ordinary sticks instead of mallets to obtain the sound.
No matter what position you strike each cymbal, the sound adjusts accordingly to that position. This is more pronounced and noticeable on the ride (with its extra sensor zone), which has a variation of sound from the edge, bow and bell.
The TD-30's onboard Song Player will play back the TD-30's preset patterns, preset songs or any song stored on a USB memory stick. The Song Player has four basic user controls: USB, PTN, STOP (which also halts any sound from the TD-30) and Tempo.
We copied some MP3s from the playalong CD supplied. One of the tracks is an 'after-dinner' type jazz track that warrants the TD-30's 'Brushes' kit - where every subtlety and nuance from each brush stroke is clearly heard through the headphones.
V-Drum technology enables a variety of kit components to be completely altered or simply tweaked, with a choice of shell types, drum and cymbal sizes, dampening, tension and so on. Creating a user kit from scratch is surprisingly easy via a menu system that's intuitive and drummer friendly - we started by copying over one of the basic kits, but wanted to create a big-sounding set of drums that were deep and with a large bass drum.
We chose a 24"x18" maple bass drum (which you might have to wait a while for if you're after the real thing), and had it in seconds!