For at least the past four or five years, Roland TD-12 and TD-20 owners have become increasingly frustrated as their LCD screens began to die. The display tended to dim and fade and eventually die completely.
Replacement screens were no longer available and many had to resort to desoldering and resoldering troublesome displays in a last-ditch attempt to prolong the life of their modules.
Since then, many drummers have been desperate for replacement displays, without which their modules are useless.
Well, the wait is over, with not one, but two sources of replacement screens emerging almost simultaneously.
The first was from Freedom Products, a one-man Brazilian company headed by professional drummer Netto Scaff.
Like so many others, Scaff was faced with a TD-20 “with the burnt display”.
“I reverse-engineered it and, after a lot of fighting with the old display protocol, I managed to create the TD-120,” he says.
Scaff began selling his TD-120 display, which can be used with either a TD-12 or a TD-20, earlier this year. Faced with growing demand, Scaff teamed up with a Brazilian friend
based in China who has started manufacturing the replacement units there and will soon offer them for sale on Aliexpress, the Chinese equivalent of Amazon.
The TD-120 sells for $200 and comes with a one-year warranty. Readers can order one here.
American e-drummer Lance Ward began tinkering with LED displays last year and went through a number of solutions before arriving at an OLED replacement display. He has completed a round of beta tests and is preparing to make his displays available shortly.
One of his first units went to former television broadcast engineer Rick Seaby who had been looking for a solution to a failed TD-20 LCD display for nearly two years when he discovered Ward’s project on Facebook.
“The installation of the prototype display took me about one hour. I had already taken the unit apart at least three times trying to find a suitable replacement, so I was very familiar with what it took to disassemble all the boards and internals,” he recalls.
For Seaby, who undertook the mod with no installation instructions, the biggest challenge was making sure to keep track of all the various screws used that are different sizes, lengths and threads.
“The other challenge is knowing how to handle the removal and insertion of the many boards and ribbon cables that connect the various boards without damaging them. They are very fragile and the boards are static-sensitive! Additionally, you need the mechanical skills and techniques to install the required spacers to the display board and unit’s power supply to avoid any short circuits, and the experience to tighten all the fasteners without stripping or cracking the plastic supports moulded into the TD-20’s case is critical.”
After completing the display replacement, Seaby is more than impressed: “The display looks great! The blue OLED looks very sharp, bright and clear. The response is snappy and doesn’t have the lag that the original backlit LCD display had.
“I would highly recommend this replacement display to anyone looking to resurrect their TD-12 or TD-20 that has a failed display,” he says.
And the process will be much easier for anyone attempting this now, thanks to Seaby’s detailed step-by-step instructions.
Ward will sell his units through Reverb and will also provide stock to a couple of e-drum businesses.
Initial units will go for $189.99 before rising to $199. Interestingly, when replacement screens were available, for around $200 plus labour, e-drummers complained about the cost.