FSR pads get second zone

Friday, 21 June 2019 10:21 am

Alternate Mode’s FSR trigger range has had an update, resulting in more versatility and easier connections.

Alternate Mode (AM) and Aquarian Drum Heads have had lots of support for their FSR head offerings, the inHead and the onHead. The former is a mylar head with a trigger printed into it; the latter is a synthetic NuBounce trigger pad that sits on top of an acoustic head.

Both products have attracted fans, but there were some niggles which probably prevented their widescale adoption. Firstly, the FSR triggers need to be powered, so drummers needed a special unit, an inBox, powered by a 9 volt battery that, potentially, could die in the middle of a set. It was also a clunky box that was hard to hide – and you needed one for each pad.

The second limitation was that both the inHead and onHead were single-zone triggers. Alternate Mode did make a clip-on rim trigger, but again, some people found that a bit fiddly.

AM has addressed all those “shortcomings” with a new line consisting of two new trigger surfaces and a new interface box.

The FTB (FSR Trigger Box)

This interface box is meant to replace multiple inBoxes and can support six triggers. Simply plug your FSR triggers into the input jacks on the one side and then connect the FTB outputs to your drum module.

The box supports both mono triggers like the old inHead/onHead offerings, but also works with the new dual-zone FSR heads which we’ll discuss later.

There is one global volume control which adjusts the output of all the triggers simultaneously and Alternate Mode’s advice is to use the lowest setting possible on the dial and then adjust using gain settings on your drum module, as you would any trigger input.

There are six inputs and six outputs as well as a HD15 connector that can be used with AM’s jamKAT or HybriKIT controllers.

The FTB is powered by an external power adapter, which is supplied.

In action, it is absolutely plug and play. The only DIY intervention required is in the mounting. The FTB does not have any mount attachment or screw holes like a regular module, so I attached Velcro to the base and used a module mount with the opposite Velcro tape. Because the unit is so light, that is all that’s needed to keep it in place.

It sells for $249, but is slightly discounted if you bundle it with a pad or two.


The onHEAD has been relaunched as the HybriHEAD, with the main difference being a new ¼” jack replacing the old 1/8” version designed for the inBOX. The new jack plugs straight into the DITI, AM’s advanced universal trigger to MIDI interface, and into the new FTB.

digitalDrummer reviewed the original FSR trigger solutions in August 2014, and we were impressed. While we were initially skeptical about the onHEAD, we soon saw the value of electronic sounds to augment the acoustic sounds.

The same holds true of the new HybriHEAD. Accepting that it’s a performance tool rather than a silent practice solution, the performance is impressive. Sensitivity and dynamic range are excellent and the addition of a second zone, a two-inch ring on the outer edge of the head, makes a huge difference. Better still, there is absolutely no crosstalk between the two zones, even though they’re right next to each other. Hit the head zone and that’s what you’ll hear – no hint of the second sound, no matter how hard or close to the “border” you strike.

Like the inHead, the new surface has a dead spot on the outer edge, so you end up with about an 8” “head” zone in the middle of a 14” head.

The new dual-zone heads come in 13”, 14” and 16” sizing, priced from $130 to $140 each.


On the HybriPAD, the triggering surface goes all the way to the edge. Performance of this pad is identical to the onHEAD, which our review described as “a pleasant surprise – a quiet, super-responsive playing surface with perfect triggering”.

“There’s no crosstalk, false or double triggering, and the feel is very realistic. In fact, after onHEADs, it could be hard to go back to rubber or mesh.”

So, the major limitation, pointed out in our initial review - “rim triggering appears to be an afterthought and requires a separate unit – and on some modules, a separate input” – has been addressed fairly elegantly.

The second zone consists of a concentric circle around two inches wide, on the edge of the pad.

Like the HybriHEAD, there is zero crosstalk between the two zones, so you can trigger two distinct sounds from the same drum with no hint of unwanted sounds from the “other” zone – unless you hit it intentionally.

There is one limitation – there’s no visual clue about where one zone ends and the other begins. We have suggested that the second zone would be even more user-friendly if it was marked in some way – either a shaded section or even a printed ring on the surface to show the border between the two zones. Of course, after a bit of playing, it becomes second nature, but there is a learning curve which would be easily avoided.

Overall, the new pad is more versatile than the original onHEAD, and thanks to the new cabling designed for the FTB or the DITI, it’s a neater, more robust-looking trigger unit that still fits comfortably on top of an acoustic head for a quick and easy e-makeover.

The new dual-zone pads come in 13”, 14” and 16” sizing, priced from $135 to $155 each.