Techtonic DD512 review

The last time that our pages played host to a Techtonic kit, it was the entry-level DD502 that was the subject of our attention.

Given its modest £429 price tag, we concluded that it was a decent choice for those just starting out or wanting a budget e-kit for practice. Nothing blew us away, but neither did it disappoint when judged against its price.

"It allows even serious woodshredders the chance to work on their groove without seeing their bank balance fall off a cliff."

Now it's time for the DD502's big brother, the DD512, to step into the spotlight. With a more substantial rack, upgraded cymbals and a new brain, the new addition looks to offer real improvements over the 502.

And it still manages to come in at £449. Could this be the new budget benchmark?

Build

Where the DD502 has a simple rectangular rack with side arms for mounting hi-hat, module and tom three, the DD512 goes a step further, with legs at the side to support the rack sections that support these elements of the set-up.

It's still a very simple, lightweight type that needs its plastic clamps firmly fastened to prevent slippage, but it's a definite step up from the 502.

The new, smaller, round module also delivers more than previously. Forty drum kits and 350 sounds is more than we should expect at this price, and these are now editable in terms of EQ, pitch, pan and so on.

It's all simple stuff, but the editing procedure is very straightforward, so quick tweaks are never more than a couple of button prods away.

Other new benefits include rimshots on pads - although this doesn't bestow as organic a response as vastly more pricey products, it nevertheless adds an extra dimension to the playing experience.

Chokeable crash pads are also an upgrade over the 502 and the round, rather than triangular, cymbal pads feel better.

There are compromises to be made in terms of set-up with a kit like the DD512, for all its improvements. The physical size of the rack might feel a little restrictive for those much over six foot, and placement of cymbal pads in particular is limited with the hardware supplied. But as a whole, it acquits itself well.

Hands on

Such has been the rather underwhelming sonic performance of cheaper electronic kits in the past that expectations tend to be pretty low the first time you sit behind something like the DD512. But Techtonic's newie actually punches above its weight, both in terms of sound and feel.

The drum pads offer a reasonable rebound and are certainly comfortable on the wrists, and the round cymbals, as mentioned above, are more rewarding to play than Dairy Lea-style alternatives.

So once it's tweaked to as near-perfect as you're going to get, laying into the kit with sticks is remarkably enjoyable.

And while the DD512 module isn't a DTX or V-Drum challenger, it's much nicer to listen to than I'd hoped. Dynamics are limited, for sure, and the snare pad will simply refuse to respond to the most subtle ghost notes, but a good selection of the basic sounds are surprisingly playable - with crisp acoustic snares, some nice full toms and well-balanced rides in evidence.

There's not too much clanky reverb slathered over everything, and there's evidence of multi-layered samples being employed, so rolls are elevated beyond machine-gun status more often than not.

There are odd gripes, as you might expect. The combination of lightweight plastic hi-hat pedal and single hi-hat pad means that the 'half-open' sound mentioned on the Techtonic website remains elusive. It's there, but it ain't easy to find.

But on the whole (and yes, bearing in mind the price again) the DD512 shines brighter than you might expect. And with MIDI and USB connections, triggering top-class samples is eminently possible too.

Don't for a minute think that the DD512 is a revolution in electronic percussion that allows you access to champagne tone for beer money. It doesn't. But it does sound more than okay.

And at a time when major players are adding myriad (fantastic) features to mid-range and flagship kits, there seems a place for an honest-to-goodness practice kit that allows even serious woodshedders the chance to work on their groove without seeing their bank balance fall off a cliff.

MusicRadar Rating

4 / 5 stars
Pros

Amazing price. Huge range of sounds. Feels good to play.

Cons

Size might be restrictive for some. Half-open hi-hat sound difficult to achieve.

Verdict

It might not be fussy and it might need careful setting up, but the DD512 seems set to earn its place in the market in convincing fashion.

Sounds

385

Drum Voices

40

Review Policy
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.

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