Anyone else notice the price drop on several Alesis kits over the last month or so? I did, although I wasn't sure why at the time. A bit of Googling revealed an announcement from Alesis that several of their existing models would come with mesh heads this summer.
Nice, and one of the few critiques I've read about their kits while I've been researching. Mylar heads may be what we have on our acoustic kits, but by their nature we don't really want acoustic noises coming from our electronic kits if we can help it.
Of course, we've been able to buy mesh for some time now and a few companies even produce 'kits' for you to convert your Alesis kit - so it was a sensible move for them. Nothing fundamentally wrong with the drum kit, let's just give people the improvement they've been asking for.
For anyone looking to buy one of their kits right now, this represents a dilemma. Do you buy now and take advantage of the slight price drop, or do you wait for the summer and pay over the odds for the relatively minor upgrade. I was all for the latter, but after being messed around with unrealistic delivery dates from certain suppliers (you know who you are G4M!) I changed my mind and decided to take the 'current', bargain priced DM10 Studio. After all, I can always change to mesh heads at a later date and there are no other changes to the package (none you can't update for free via USB anyway).
I ended up placing my (online) order with not the cheapest retailer (although it was close) but a reputable company I knew, and who would deliver next-day at no cost ... as well as throwing in some extras to help sweeten the deal. They were true to their word and the kit arrived 24 hours later in perfect condition. Nice one Andertons.
Everything came in two boxes. One huge one with the entire kit inside (that can barely be moved by one person) and another with headphones, pedal, stool and sticks. This constituted the 'extras' I alluded to earlier. I won't bother reviewing those items as they will probably end-up on eBay anyway.
This is very well packaged. By this, I mean It's a whole bunch of components which are individually labelled, bagged, boxed and padded and fitted snugly into a very large box. You will need a knife or scissors to open the many boxes and 'a lot' of room in which to toss the empties!
It took me a good couple of hours to unpack everything, flick through the excellent instructions and assemble it. There was nothing difficult in here, even if this is your first drum kit. However, if you are familiar with drums, racks and electronics you will find the experience reassuringly straight-forward and well documented.
Before I used the kit in anger, I decided to perform all the software updates first. There are a bunch of them, but they are available as a single download from the Alesis website. Just unzip the file and run through the updates one-by-one.
Things to note:
#1 The USB cable isn't included, even though they say it is. However it is a standard peripheral one (I'm sure your USB printer will have the correct one to borrow).
#2 Follow the instructions in the PDF document included in the download.
Yes I know #2 should be obvious, but I'm a bloke and didn't even open the PDF document. Needless to say, I was scratching my head in confusion before I finally caved and read the (short) document. The instructions are simple and clear and all the updates installed flawlessly - even if they took a few minutes to run (the soundfile update is massive!).
Assured I had made a reasonable first-stab at positioning all the pads, and feeling a little smug that all the updates had been installed - I started plugging the cables into the back of the module.
I know the DM10 module crosses at least two kits, but I've never seen a DM10 configuration that wasn't 1 x snare, 1 x kick, 4 x toms and 4 x cymbals. So why isn't the module labelled up this way. The cables are, and most of the module inputs are, but towards the end you are faced with perc 1, perc 2, perc 3 etc. This meant that plugging in the last few toms/cymbals was a bit of a lottery. Not a massive problem I know, but surely a tom pad is a tom pad .... regardless of whether you're using it to trigger a helicopter sound? Pity they didn't stay consistent for what was otherwise a faultless process, although I should point out that that separate assembly poster does give you some hints for which channels to plug the pads into - even if the back of the module itself does not ;-)
Donning the headphones and flicking on the module for the first time revealed everything working, straight out of the box, but there was a lot of crosstalk going on. If you're familiar with electronic kits you know what this is, if you're not .... imagine striking the snare drum and (also) hearing a cymbal trigger. Even worse, imagine hitting a tom and hearing a cowbell (set to a drum rim on the other side of the kit) trigger about a hundred times!
Crosstalk and (re)triggering is nothing new on electronic kits, I've never used or even heard of one that doesn't experience it when first set-up and even on the cheapest kits it is usually 'dialled-out' as part of the set-up and calibration process. There are a lot of settings for each trigger and I don't need to go into them here. I recommend checking out the guys on the unofficial Alesis drummers forum. I read one thread there in ten minutes and it was enough to get my kit completely calibrated in under an hour.
The Unofficial Alesis Drummer Forum
I'm now 90% happy with the config. In my experience you will continue to tweak and adjust over time, but I'm comfortable that I have a very workable set-up which may need a little fine adjustment to be perfect.
So, the kit is up and running. What are the first impressions?
- The rack, pad and cymbal set-up is very solid. We are not talking the build quality of my DW stuff, but nor are we talking anything like the same money or weight.
- The sounds are amazing.I used to have a D4 and for it's time, it was spectacular. 20 years on I really wasn't expecting the sounds this much more realistic, useful and so damned good!
- Mylar heads are not going to last long.I'm a fairly heavy hitter, but I'm not mental. I can see me getting one of those mesh head conversion kits sooner rather than later.
- I am used to electronic kits and am happy to configure/calibrate it. But I can't shake the nagging feeling that Alesis should have done most of this themselves with the default settings. There are already a bunch of updates on the Alesis site ... why don't they add another or even better update the settings in one of them.
Some people, probably newcomers to electronic percussion, will doubtless be put off. Which would be a crime - this is a stunning drum kit!
- The bass drum pad wobbles a bit. It's not fallen over yet, but it doesn't seem completely happy about being attached to my DW 5000 double pedal.
Two days after taking delivery of the kit, and only two short evenings to fiddle with it, I'm happy enough to take it to a (new) band rehearsal. For me, that speaks volumes. I'm the guy who likes to be 100% prepared for everything. I'm the boy scout who has spares of everything, won't play a song unless I know it, and won't use any piece of kit until I'm completely convinced it won't let me down.
As I suspected, the DM10 won't be replacing my DW kit anytime soon. But it does have it's place and for me at least, that place is for practising at home and for gigging with the function band. I love it.Alesis DM10 Studio Page