Almost exactly one year ago, DW unveiled its DWe range of electronic drumsets, showcasing a long list of innovative features including real DW drum shells, wireless triggering, all-new, multi-sampled drum sounds and more. Now, 12 months on, DW has announced the official launch of DWe, with kits arriving in stores imminently (Sweetwater and Guitar Center are both taking DWe preorders).
There’s a lot to delve into, so first let’s recap. DWe has been years in the making, and the DWe announcement followed just a couple of months after Roland announced that it had acquired the prestige US drum brand, along with the other brands in the DW family.
The curtain was lifted from DWe during DW’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, where we learned from the likes of Thomas Lang and Chad Wackerman that DWe would feature wireless trigger technology, a module-less, computer-based soundset under the DW Soundworks name, and that serial music tech democratiser Marcus Ryle (Line 6/Alesis) was involved in the development.
But with the official release now upon us, we can confirm exactly what the finished, retail version of a DWe electronic drum set comprises. Let’s take a look.
Given DW founder John Good’s Larry David-level respect for wood, it would be a mistake to expect anything less than full, genuine DW acoustic shells from a kit bearing the brand’s name.
That’s exactly what we get. There’s no official word that these are Collectors shells, but it’s worth noting that DW e33 shells are 9-ply, 100% maple, handmade in DW’s California factory — the same stable that brings us Collectors Series drums — with each shell layup arranged in DW’s VLT 333 ply orientation (previously only available in the Collectors range) “using the finest materials for the ultimate sound”.
Yes, sound. That’s because these aren’t simply drum-shaped electronic shells, they’re fully-convertible, acoustic/electronic drum shells. So, that means you can remove the mesh heads, fit acoustic heads, remove the trigger tray (which we’re told is is quick and easy) and play them acoustically.
Elsewhere, the shells are fitted with three-quarter-size versions of DW’s iconic turret lugs and triple-flanged hoops, and offered in a range of lacquered or FinishPly finish options. They look like DW drums, because they are!
One of the biggest reveals of DWe last year was that it will use cable-free, wireless triggering technology. So, it’s goodbye to cable snakes (or cables altogether). Inside, each DWe shell is loaded with a multi-sensor, internal trigger starplate. This is home to a centre-mounted FSR (Force Sensing Resistor), as well as piezo triggers placed at the edge of the drum.
Being wireless, the trigger section is battery-powered, however thanks to some clever built-in tech, DWe’s triggers remain dormant until they’re in use, which means one set of batteries will last around 12-24 months, even with heavy use.
The triggers send their signal to the DWe Drumlink Hub - a wireless receiver which plugs into your computer, allowing the trigger signal to interface with DW’s Soundworks software.
From here, the sound is output through DW’s RTAP (Real Time Audio Processor). This little box is essentially an audio interface giving you the audio connections you need to hear the Soundworks software (although you can use your existing interface for this). It’s bus-powered, with sockets for headphones, a stereo output via quarter-inch jacks, and a mini-jack mix input.
Zones and playing surfaces
The DWe snare is capable of creating ten (total) playing zones: centre, edge, rimshot, rim and cross-stick. Perhaps more interesting, though, is the inclusion of a DW eMAG throw-off. Users of Roland’s PD-140DS snare have long eyeballed the ‘Function’ button on the underside, wondering if it could somehow be employed as a digital throw-off, and that’s exactly what the eMAG does. Flip the eMAG, and you’ll switch to a snares-off sample in an instant.
The toms offer centre and rim samples, along with rimshot detection too, plus the internal triggers/sensors are capable of detecting pressure on the drum head, allowing for pitch bend when applying pressure with your stick or hand.
We know DW is fully aware of its onions when it comes to drum manufacturing, but what about the cymbals? DWe’s cymbals feature a 360-degree metal playing area, which separates into three zones. As expected, we get bow, edge and bell, and each cymbal can be choked at the edge too.
DW Soundworks Software
The DW Soundworks software is another huge part of this release, but what we didn’t know until launch is that DW Soundworks will actually be available as a product in its own right, and playable via MIDI from your current electronic kit.
DW started from scratch with the DW Soundworks library, as Chad Wackerman told us during the preview last year, and it’s a biggie. All of the sounds were captured at multiple dynamic levels, with Wackerman mentioning that they used 15 different microphone positions.
At launch, DW Soundworks comes with samples of six kits, including four from DW (Pure Maple, Maple Mahogany, Pure Almond, 50th Anniversary), a Gretsch USA Custom and a vintage Slingerland kit.
These are arranged into 60 presets, each captured in multiple different acoustic environments ranging from dry to roomy.
DW Soundworks allows for complete control over each drum’s close, overhead and ambient microphone levels, as well as the overall combined level for each kit part. There’s plugin-style dynamics and EQ on-board too allowing for a lot of sonic experimentation as well as tuning options.
When connected to the DWe kit and Drumlink Hub, DW Soundworks configures the drums’ assignment and dynamic response, with further tweaks available manually to dial in the kit and software’s playing response.
Configurations, finishes and pricing
DWe is offered in a number of factory configurations, ranging from four-piece (inc. snare) shell packs to five-piece setups including hardware. Of course, that hardware is DW 5000 Series throughout, with a 5300 snare stand, 5500TD hi-hat stand, 5700 cymbal stand, 5791 combo cymbal/tom stand (X2 with five-piece configurations), and a DW 5000 bass drum pedal.
At the time of launch, the lower-priced four-piece kits come with a smaller, 20”x14” bass drum along with bop-size 12”x9/14”x12” toms and a shallower, 14”x5 snare drum.
Meanwhile, the five-piece setups give a fully traditional ‘rock’-size kit with 22”x16” bass drum, 10”x8” and 12”x9” rack toms, a 16”x14” floor tom and 14”x6.5” snare drum.
There are five finish options available across the board, split into three categories. Starting with DW's FinishPly are Black Galaxy and White Marine Pearl. Next up are the lacquered, painted finishes which come in Midnight Blue Metallic and Black Cherry Metallic, and finally, DW offers DWe kits in a single Exotic finish: Candy Black Burst over Curly Maple. Scroll through the gallery below to see all of the finishes.
Price has been a big question for many of those interested in DWe, and we’ll start by reminding you that these are US-made, DW drums with some cutting-edge technology built-in and a ground-up development of a comprehensive sound library. With that in mind, we were surprised to see that the four-piece, FinishPly shell pack starts at $4,499, with a five-piece costing $5,399.
Of course, you’ll need to add cymbals, and DW’s premium hardware bundle brings the starting price of a straight-out-of-the-box four-piece setup to $7,699, or $8,999 for a five-piece.
The flagship DWe is a five-piece, with hardware finished in Candy Black Burst over Curly Maple, which will set you back $10,999.
For more information on DWe, head to DW’s website.