The rise of wireless solutions is seeing more Zendrummers cut their ties to the merge brick and go hands-free.
Those with some forethought ordered the 9v battery option when they had their instrument built. This means they are able to power their Zendrum from a battery rather than being forced to use the merge brick.
If you hadn’t chosen that option, powering the instrument could be tricky. Yes, there are DIY hacks to connect a battery to a MIDI cable, but Zendrum does not recommend this approach – on the contrary, there have been specific warnings against this.
So, a not-so-new solution, the Chris de Haas Battery Box Adaptor, is again showing its worth.
The adaptor was developed by de Haas when he was working as a drum tech for Roy Futureman Wooten. At the time, the box enabled Wooten to play wirelessly using a Midi Jet Pro.
The Midi Jet, which we reviewed in 2013, is still available, but it is quite large by today’s standards, also uses dedicated senders and receivers and costs around $450.
In the decade since the Midi Jet’s heyday, there have been a number of smaller, cheaper and easier-to-use wireless MIDI solutions, culminating in the WIDI Master, digitalDrummer’s Accessory of the Year for 2021.
We tested the battery box with a Zendrum ZX and the CME WIDI product.
What’s in the box
The Battery Box Adaptor, now badged as a Zendrum Custom Shop Battery Block, comes packed in quite a large box with heaps of packing material to keep the small plastic unit safe.
The box measures 6x9x2.5 cm and comes with a clip on the back with which the unit can be attached to the Zendrum strap.
The package also includes two short Hosa MIDI cables.
The short version is simply that it works and it works simply.
The Battery Block is powered by a 9v battery which needs to be inserted at the rear of the box. Then you connect the Zendrum using one of the included cables attached to the appropriate jack.
For our test, we plugged a WIDI Master into the MIDI Out.
Once everything is connected, all that’s required is to flick the power switch on the Battery Block and you’re set to go. The switch is quite small and very close to the MIDI jack, so a bit of dexterity is required here.
It’s a straight-forward, no-frills solution so very little can go wrong, and the WIDI powered up along with the Zendrum – literally plug and play.
The only performance variable is the quality of the 9v battery you use and there is plenty of discussion on the Zendrum Facebook group about what works best.
The beauty of the Zendrum is that it gets drummers out from behind a kit and enables more direct interaction with audiences.
To some extent, being tethered to the stock power supply, the merge brick, detracts from that performance freedom, especially in the wireless age.
So, the Battery Block is a great enabler, especially when paired with one of the new-generation wireless MIDI solutions.
There are, however, a couple of challenges. The Battery Blocks are all built by hand by their developer, so you may have to wait a while if he doesn’t have any stock on hand. And they can only be ordered direct from de Haas Labs, which doesn’t have a website or Facebook page – so you need to find an email address to place an order.
And the price – US$80 shipped locally in the US, a bit more for international orders.