E-drums year in review

Allan Leibowitz reflects on the e-drum highlights of the past year.
2021 was a hectic year for electronic percussion, with a large quantity of new product and strong demand fuelled by stay-at-home music under COVID-19 restrictions. But while demand increased, manufacturers struggled with supply chain challenges, from materials shortages to rising transport costs and freight delays.
COVID-19 also impacted heavily on music industry trade shows, the traditional launching ground for new products. The annual NAMM Show in the USA was held virtually in January, with little new product buzz among e-drum manufacturers. The event is due back next year, but moving to Anaheim in June, meaning that Summer NAMM has been scrapped. Organisers cancelled Musikmesse 2021, the European equivalent of NAMM, depriving the market of another product launch opportunity. And, at the last minute, the 20th edition of Music China, due to be held in October, was initially shifted to January 2022 and subsequently postponed again to October 2022. PASIC was held in November in Indianapolis, but the exhibits were noticeably thinner than previous years and the e-drum big names were conspicuous by their absence.
Roland kicked off the year with some widescale exposure for its high-end gear – including a TD-50 module and a Roland SPD-SX in Ricky Lewis’ kit for a performance by The Weeknd during the Super Bowl LV Halftime Show. This followed last year’s debut of the VAD-506 acoustic-style kit in Brian Frasier-Moore’s drum set-up for the Halftime Show.
Electronic percussion also played a key role in a new theatrical presentation which toured Australia, featuring some of the country’s top female percussionists. Drummer Queens was the creation of drummer Joe Accaria and featured eight multifaceted female musicians. The show’s e-percussion arsenal included Roland’s SPD-SX, HPD-20, VAD-506 V-Drums, TM-2, RT-30 series triggers and a range of trigger pads from the PD-8 to the PD-120.
Roland’s long-awaited digital hi-hat finally appeared in April. The VH-14D is an inch bigger than the analogue hi-hat it replaces, but also boasts a thinner profile, greatly improved sensitivity and positional sensing to detect if you’re playing the left- or right-hand side of the cymbal. Like the CY-18D, it features the touch mute, as opposed to the edge pinch.
The digital hi-hat was included in Roland’s new flagship VAD706 kit which features full-size wooden shells, four new colours and the revamped TD-50X module. This kit has proved popular worldwide despite its hefty price tag, and many dealers have waiting lists for the kits.
Roland also extended its acoustic design kit range at the entry level, with the launch of the VAD103 kit. In essence, this is a VAD306 kit with a lower-spec module – the TD-07 instead of the TD-17.
Like the VAD306, the kit features an 18” KD-180L-BK kick drum with KD-10-style trigger pad, a 12” dual-zone snare pad, 10” rack tom pad and 12” floor tom pad. The pads are the shallow-shell, single-headed variety, as opposed to the full acoustic-style drums of the 5 and 7 series VAD kits.
Yamaha released a new module and two new kit ranges following on from the DTX6 series. The new flagship DTX10 series is powered by a new DTX-PROX module. It features VAD-style wooden shells, Roland/ATV-style multi-trigger drum pads and, for the first time, a choice of Yamaha TCS (Textured Cellular Silicone) or Remo two-ply mesh heads. Also making a debut is a new three-zone 17” ride cymbal. The mid-range DTX8 series comes with the lower-spec DTX-PRO module and the same birch shells as the DTX10 range.
New gear making its debut in 2021 included three amps from Simmons, building on the success of the DA200s and the follow-up DA2012B. The range consists of the DA2112, DA2110 and DA2108, and was later augmented by a matched sub-woofer, the DAS12S.
KAT Percussion added two new kits this year – the entry-level KT-100 and a new KT-300 with new Remo mesh heads on the drums.
China’s Lemon brand shook up the cymbal market last year with its three-zone 16” ride. This year, it followed up with a nominal 18” three-zone ride cymbal and later added a 15” China and a 9” splash cymbal.
German e-drum manufacturer GEWA released its new mid-range kit, the G5 Pro BS. The biggest change from the G9 is the new G5 module which loses the large touch screen and gets a bunch of knobs and dials in its place. The G5 module also sacrifices some of the direct outs of the G9, sporting four direct and two stereo master outs.
The kit consists of an 18 × 14” acoustic-style kick drum, three toms (10”, 12” and 14”) and a 14 × 5” snare. The cymbal line-up has a 14” hi-hat, 18” three-zone ride and two 14” crashes from the G9.
Japan’s Efnote released a new flagship kit, the Efnote 7. The major difference from the Efnote 5 is the full-size pads and cymbals in the kit, which features a 20 x 15″ kick drum, 14 x 5.5″ snare drum, an 11 x 8″ hanging tom and a 15 x 15″ floor tom. Many will question the non-traditional tom sizes. The cymbals have also been supersized, with the inclusion of a 20″ ride cymbal, alongside the 14” two-piece hi-hat and 16” crash.
German music retail giant Thomann introduced the Millenium MPS-1000 e-drum kit, setting a new standard in house-brand electronic percussion. Priced at under €1,000, the kit features full-size, acoustic-style drums and an 18” three-zone ride cymbal.
The drums consist of a 20 x 14″ kick drum, 13 x 6″ dual-zone snare pad and 10 x 6”, 12 x 6″ and 14 x 12″ dual-zone toms, all fitted with dual-ply mesh heads. The cymbal array includes a 13″ dual-zone hi-hat, two 15″ dual-zone crash pads with choke, and the 18″ triple-zone chokeable ride.
It was a busy year for Toontrack, releasing its Gospel EZX, Singer-Songwriter EZX and Fields of Rock SDX.
After a difficult 2020, ATV Corporation changed its business model and appointed Edrumcenter as its exclusive distributor in the United States. As reported in digitalDrummer (Nov, 2020), ATV halted sales in the US and Australia after the collapse of its independent sales partners in the two markets. Under the new arrangement, Edrumcenter is the sole source of ATV products in the United States, with the brand now absent from major chains like Sweetwater and Sam Ash.

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