Dixon’s new Precision Coil bass drum pedals incorporate an innovative rotary spring mechanism, which promises a more efficient action and improved playability.
While not being a completely novel concept (similar ideas have featured in a handful of vintage pedals), it’s a fairly radical departure from mainstream pedal design and the level of engineering and degree of adjustment available combine to make a thoroughly modern piece of kit.
With a few notable exceptions, bass drum pedal designs have remained largely unchanged for decades. Yes, the materials have become lighter and more exotic and the names more outlandish but, by and large, the blueprint centres around a vertical tension spring located either inside or outside the upright shaft.
Each depression of the footboard stretches the spring and its ensuing contraction returns the beater and footboard to their starting points. Dixon considers such a design to be inefficient, leaving drummers having to “devote considerable time and energy to developing technical solutions that compensate for what is essentially a mechanical problem”.
So, the Dixon team set out to build a pedal that offers a “mechanical solution to this mechanical problem”.
During the painstaking two-year development process no option was discounted as the company stripped pedals down to nuts and bolts before reassembling the chosen components in what it considers the ideal format.
A total of four prototypes were built, each one an evolution from its predecessor with the aim of producing a pedal with as few moving parts as possible.
There are a few examples of rival manufacturers dispensing with tension springs, stretching from decades ago right up to the present. Back in the day, Ludwig was something of a pioneer in this field, producing both the legendary Speed King (compression springs) and the equally forward-looking Ghost (coil-sprung). Images of rickety-looking vintage coil-sprung Slingerland and Sonor pedals can be found online while Premier’s ahead-of-its-time 252 model and contemporary high-end Trick pedals also feature compression springs.
Dixon concluded that the best option was a coil spring and proceeded to build the Precision Coil pedal around this design. The result is a purposeful-looking pedal carefully contoured to emphasise the acres of gleaming metal punctuated by azure blue highlights. The coil spring is housed in the cylinder to the right of the beater at the top of the upright.
From a machined slot in the cylinder one end of the spring protrudes to locate in the blue collar that partially overlaps the cylinder. This in turn drives the beater/pedal gearing, ensuring that all of the torque is generated and released in line with the rocker shaft. Adjusting the spring is achieved by turning the knurled wheel at the end of the cylinder and locking off via the standard tension rod on top.
Various springs were tested and discarded before the carbon steel spring was settled on. Dixon is confident that it’s good for the life of the pedal, but it can be renewed by a Dixon dealer.
In order to facilitate maximum customisation to each individual’s playing style both the footboard angle and the beater angle can be adjusted independently of one another. Embossed scales for both components make an incredibly handy visual reference point so that you can remember previous positions, while the dual surface beater pivots to make full contact with the kick drum’s head.
Dixon sent the Precision Coil pedal to an impartial Swiss inspection and certificate company called SGS for testing. SGS confirmed that the Precision Coil’s transfer of energy is superior to conventional pedals - which, in layman’s terms, translates as smoothness.
So, is it smoother than a car dealer one sale away from hitting his annual bonus? Well, yes... the action is silky, silent and definitely quick. Straight out of the box it’s obviously a flighty pedal; taking the time to tailor the individual adjustments to my preferences it soon begins to feel like an extension of our right foot.
Particularly impressive is the way it copes with dynamics, taking in barely-kissing-the-head to full-on sumo-style stomping with equal composure. The pivoting beater is bang on target as well.
Moving onto the double version brings more of the same and any lag from the slave unit is as good as undetectable. It really is twice the fun and stops my left foot from feeling left out; full marks to Dixon for not only making a left-sided double version, but for doing so (quite rightly) at the same price. Despite the visual flourishes incorporated to make the pedal look sleek there’s no getting away from the fact that it is big.
Such bulk - while probably leaving jazzers and buskers looking elsewhere - does bring with it a feeling of solidity and reassurance. Stamp on it as hard as you like all night long and all you’re likely to dent is the head.