Add backing tracks to the Stompblock

Zendrummers familiar with the Stompblock will agree with its developer that it’s a “simple, effective, and affordable pro quality sound player” which works totally plug and play with the percussion controller.

For the uninitiated, the Stompblock is a small sample player which connects via MIDI to the Zendrum. It also powers the Zendrum, eliminating the need for the Merge Brick power adapter.

Not only does the Stompblock come with an array of rich, high-quality samples, it can also import new sounds, with the companion software even able to extract samples from drum modules and VSTs.

But if there’s one thing missing from the Stompblock, it’s play-along ability. You can’t plug in your phone or any other source of backing tracks and play along, the way you do with a drum module.

Of course, there are workarounds, especially for those using amplifiers or PAs – you simply plug in an additional sound source and mix them in the amp.

My wish – and possibly that of others who use their Zendrum for silent home practice – would be for an additional audio circuit in the Stompblock, allowing you to mix your drum sounds with a backing track. Of course, a separate Audio In would also require a rudimentary onboard mixer allowing you to adjust the relative volumes of the drums and backing. And that would add to the complexity, the size and, ultimately, the cost.

With little prospect of a Stompblock 2, I began searching for a cheap, portable solution to allow me to play along to my favourite tracks without too much additional gear. Enter the digitech AM-4230 Portable Audio Mixer.


What’s in the box

The tiny mixer (10.5 x 7.5 x 4 cm) has a ¼” mic/instrument jack, a 1/8” line in and a 1/8” line out.

The unit is powered by an internal 1,500 mAh Li-ion battery, which has a play time of up to 10 hours from a three-hour charge via a micro USB lead.

The mixer also comes with a bunch of leads for the audio connections and a ¼” to 1/8 ” adapter.


In action

Operation is pretty simple: take a lead from the Stompblock audio out to the mixer’s mic in. You can adjust the level (volume) as well as the tone via three dials (Treble, Mid and Bass). There is also an Echo adjustment to add some crude reverb.

To add the backing, simply connect your phone, tablet or computer’s headphone out to the Line In on the mixer. There is no separate volume control for that input, so you probably need to start with that and adjust the Stompblock volume to suit (via the Mic Vol dial).

And now for the added bonus – in-built Bluetooth. The AM-4230 has wireless audio that allows you to stream music from your smartphone, tablet or computer via Bluetooth (4.2). Pairing is effortless and the latency is almost imperceptible.

I tested the unit with headphones and with a powered amp and found it to be effective – although volume levels via headphones (especially high impedance headphones) were not overly strong. And the Bluetooth capability was an added bonus, especially for streaming via apps like Spotify.


Bottom line

If you want a cheap, portable solution that allows you to combine backing tracks with your Stompblock, the AM-4230 ticks the boxes.

The unit is made in China and distributed under different brand names in different markets. For example, in some Asian countries, it is known as the UltraProLink UM1002. I couldn’t readily find the make and model number for the US or Europe, but perhaps some intrepid e-drummer will locate one there. If not, there are plenty of basic portable mixers on the market, but none with Bluetooth, as far as I could see.



Power consumption: 500mA  (max)

Audio inputs: 3.5 mm Aux input & 6.5 mm Mic input

Audio output: 3.5 mm line output

Charging port: Micro USB (cable included)

Street price: A$39




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