Alesis produce a wide and varied range of electronic gadgetry for stage and studio, including effects processors, mixers, amplifiers, etc.
Fortunately, we drummers have had a reasonable share of the Alesis R&D budget, with a selection of products ranging from the Performance Pad percussion controller, SR-16 and SR-18 drum machines, D5 and DM5 drum modules to the ever-expanding catalogue of electronic kits in the DM series.
Following in the footsteps of the DM5 and DM6, this competitively priced five-piece kit is sited mid-range in between the DM6 and flagship DM10 Pro.
This new DM7 kit is a complete electronic set-up (apart from kick pedal and stool), including the DM7 module itself, drum rack, three single-zone 8" tom pads, a 10" triple-zone snare pad, 8" hi-hat pad, 10" ride and 10" crash pads, hi-hat pedal, mini manual, a pair of sticks and a copy of Toontrack's EZ Drummer Lite.
This piece of software is a virtual drum 'plug-in' which, in conjunction with your favourite sequencing package or midi software and USB, will allow access to thousands of new drum sounds. The DM7 module also features a line-in and line-out ¼" jack socket for connection to a CD player or iPod and external amplification.
There are many features available on the DM7 that are more often found on electronic kits costing several times more than this. For example, the crash cymbal pad has a 'choke' facility to produce life-like cymbal actions and the snare is capable of producing rim shots and cross-sticking with its triple-zone pad.
The DM7 module features a sizeable selection of over 400 individual sounds, including over 60 snares, 70 toms, 20 crash cymbals, 50 percussion sounds, 48 effects and over 60 kicks. Each voice or kit has a wide range of editable features such as dynamics, equalisation and pitch.
The sturdy rack comes virtually ready-assembled out of the box, taking literally minutes to unfold and place each pad and DM7 module in position.
Thanks to the D-type connector and clear labelling on the wiring 'snake', each individual jack goes where it should. Grabbing a quick taster of each kit highlights the good (and not so good), of the many available rhythm variations and individual sounds, but certainly warrants deeper delving.
Immediately noticeable is the stick and wrist-friendly feel on the bouncy rubber of each tom pad. The snare pad is a slightly harder and denser pad but this also gives a fairly accurate representation of the 'real' thing in stick response.
However, it is subject to some of the dreaded 'machine gun' effect when attempting a buzz or single stroke roll. Some of the most impressive sounds are from the ride cymbals which have a crisp, cutting tone with just the right amount of body and decay to give the illusion of real cymbals.
There are some drum-along songs which feature tasteful arrangements and make good use of the available GM midi-type sounds. While others are, at times, so 'loose' the preset drums (especially the snare) appear out of sync.
An example of this being 'Irish Song' where the programmer has attempted to squeeze a 6/8 into a 4/4! Then there is a rather odd 'Shuffle' which appears to fall apart at the rims with a total lack of 'swing' to the rhythm.
Fortunately muting the drums from arrangements was just a matter of clicking the 'Mode' button and playing along to the backing track with our own drum interpretation, which hopefully sounds a tad better!
Whisking through each editing function is fun, intuitive and demonstrates the surprising level of editable parameters, especially considering the price-point.
Altering global parameters such as overall kit tuning and levels of equalisation makes an immediate and noticeable difference to the sound. While the individually editable settings such as voice, pitch and reverb further demonstrate the ease of customisation.
To see how my laptop would react to the DM7 module, we plugged a USB lead (not supplied) into a spare slot in our laptop. Immediately Windows XP displayed, "Found New Hardware… MIDI Example… USB Audio Device," and that's it, installed!
Configuring it proved slightly more difficult, but, briefly, we installed the EZ plug-in, loaded some sequencing software and managed to 'route' the MIDI output to trigger some stunning drum samples from the EZdrummer sound library - awesome!
Apart from the slightly amusing idiosyncrasies of the preset tunes, there are many great features offered here, which more than make up for any misgivings. With the inclusion of a USB interface, this opens up a whole new world of additional sounds to make this kit and any potential e-drummer bloom