Pearl e/MERGE review: What is it?
The Pearl e/MERGE is one of the latest to join a rapidly growing list of stage-ready e-kits, cunningly disguised as acoustic drums. This however is not Pearl’s first foray into the e-drum market as some may remember the E-Pro Live which used full-size acoustic shells long before products such as the popular Roland VAD series existed.
Despite the shallower shell depths, the full-size 10”, 12” & 14” diameter toms and 14” snare of the e/MERGE make for an enticing setup. With the addition of the optional 18”x12” bass drum, heavy-duty Icon rack system and large cymbal pads, our review kit looks suitably convincing. The cymbal pads are made up of an 18” triple-zone ride, 15” dual-zone crash and 14” dual-zone hi-hats. They have a familiar black rubber coating although a little more rigid than most, with additional red accents and a mirrored plastic plate sporting the Pearl logo for a unique look.
The MDL-1 module developed by Korg boasts ‘Wave Trigger Technology’ which is, according to Pearl, “partially based” on the tech that powers the Japanese company’s classic Wavedrum.
Unlike standard triggering technology, Korg use a special algorithm which actually takes audio from each strike of the drum and layers the acoustic samples on top. Through this they boast a much higher level of sensitivity, imperceptible latency and smoother sample layers.
The focus behind the drum pads has been to faithfully replicate the feel of acoustic drums in terms of rebound and of course size. Pearl’s PUREtouch electronic pad system aims to do this through a combination of heavy-duty tension-able mesh heads and an internal dampening ring which reduces the ‘spring’ found in some mesh pads.
Pearl e/MERGE review: Performance & verdict
It won’t surprise you to learn that the in-built sample library of the MDL-1 module is comprised mostly of Pearl acoustic drum samples. The kits, which were all recorded Nashville Tennessee, are separated into natural, modern, studio and vintage categories which can be selected via the dedicated buttons at the bottom of the wedge-shaped module. The total number of preset kits is 35 which also include the electronic, hybrid, and world categories - a total of 700 sounds.
The drum samples are generally of a good quality, which is to be expected from Pearl, although some of the snare drums in particular lean a bit too far toward being completely natural for our tastes and possess a lot of overtones, especially on rimshots.
In terms of general playability, the kit performs well and it quickly becomes apparent that Korg wasn’t kidding about the sensitivity. The dynamic range on the drums is not only vast but also incredibly smooth. Tiny whispers of notes on the snare drum are picked up effortlessly at ludicrously low levels - whether as ghost notes whilst grooving our way through the Rosanna shuffle or grace notes in the flams of a Gadd inspired Crazy Army, the response was pleasingly organic. At higher dynamic levels though there was some detection of machine gunning with faster playing; noticeable on some kits more than others.
The new PUREtouch pads do feel natural to play and have a surprisingly less bouncy feel than a regular mesh head. It almost leans more toward playing a rubber pad which has a bit more of a solid feeling under-stick. The heads can be tensioned to preference though, so there should be something for everyone here. The pad design also makes them extremely loud acoustically which is potentially bad news when it comes to using the e/MERGE as a practice kit at home.
The snare pad uses two separate jack inputs to run a total of three zones, one for the head and two for separate rimshot and cross-stick. There is no cross-talk between the two rim triggers and not having to switch between modes on the module like most do is a welcomed addition. The tom pads share the same raised rim trigger as the snare but in the same far-side position on each drum which works brilliantly for playing things like percussion sounds or electronic samples but not so fluidly for tom rimshot sounds which is what the majority of presets are programmed with.
The module has a very simple interface but underneath it boasts a fair amount of features. These include being able to record audio directly to USB memory (which can also include the mix input for playing along to songs), user sample import, eight routable direct jack outputs for separating audio live or in the studio and three aux inputs for additional pads. The unit also has a powerful effects engine with 36 separate parameters which can be controlled by a handy ambience fader on the module for rapid adjustments.
Pearl e/MERGE review: Hands-on demos
Pearl e/MERGE review: Specification
- Key features: Wave Trigger Technology, 16GB e/MERGE sound module, PUREtouch pads and cymbals, Pearl chrome plated Icon e/Rack
- Pads: 14″ Snare, 10″, 12″ & 14″ toms and traditional style bass trigger. PUREtouch cymbals, 18″ three zone ride, 15″ two zone crash, 14″ two zone hi-hats
- Contact: Pearl