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Following up on the remarkable feats achieved by the SD 2000 e-drum kit, Simmons decided to introduce the SD550, a 5-piece electronic drum kit with mesh heads. This iteration was a marked improvement over its older brother, which employed advanced, “tensionable” mesh heads for variable attack and expressiveness.
The SD550 comes in a familiar configuration that’s similar to the older generation e-drum kit, meaning that it also includes the 10” dual-zone mesh heads and cymbals. The kick pad came with a special twist, something that I had never seen on an electronic drum kit. It came with a built-in pedal without any slip-grip.
Electronic drum kits have absolutely reinvented the way we approach percussion for both intermediate and advanced players. For many, electronic drum kits are almost a no-brainer, thanks to their versatile nature of operation and playability.
Others gravitate towards e-kits because they simply want an economical option to owning a variety of different drum sounds, but without actually having to buy different drum kits for every style.
Electronic kits are also much quieter than their acoustic counterparts, making them a viable option for drummers who like to play at home. When you add an extensive collection of sound banks and effects to an already versatile kit, it turns into a veritable bottomless pool of creative ideas.
If you think buying an electronic drum kit is in any way similar to acoustic drums, then think again. The decision-making factors vary dramatically in both cases, mainly due to the fact that these kits are fundamentally different in nature and operation.
The overabundance of drum options on the market doesn’t help your buying decision, either.
Learning more about the product before you invest your valuable resources into it is a smart decision for any customer.
With that in mind, I’m here today to discuss with you all the critical variables that need to be considered when buying a new electronic drum set. I’ll be taking a gander at the Simmons SD550 to help figure out what makes this kit a worthy pick for drummers in 2022.
My Guide to Choosing Electronic Drums
The only common denominator between electronic and acoustic drums is the fact that they are both percussion instruments. Upon further investigation, it quickly becomes abundantly clear that these types of kits are miles apart from each other, although they do perform the same duties under the hands of a skilled drummer.
Most drummers focus on getting maximum utility out of their drum kits, whether it’s an electronic or acoustic drum kit.
Electronic kits mostly pop up in situations where artists are soaring for an amalgamation of different percussion sounds. Fusion bands are the perfect examples of electronic kits being put to multi-purpose applications.
The deciding factors for purchasing a new electronic kit are subjective to a player’s preferences and needs. This is why it is important to gauge your personal situation rather than looking at other people when it comes to getting sound gear advice.
To give you a sense of what goes through my mind when picking out a new e-kit, though, here are some pointers.
Key Decision-Making Tips
There were a few things I always take into consideration before investing in an e-kit. These include:
- Their Overall Cost
- The Noise Factor
- Their Recording Versatility
- Their Portability
- The Learning Benefits
- Unlimited Sounds on Tap
The Overall Cost
The increasing price of musical equipment and gear is turning into a rather unneeded challenge for musicians these days. If you’ve been eyeing an acoustic drum kit for ages, but you’re struggling to put together the money to buy it, then maybe it’s time for you to start looking at some electronic alternatives.
High-end drum kits and hardware are often out of the reach of many average players due to their preposterous price tags. Subsequently, a lot of players decide to go for electronic drum kits, which fall in their budgets to avoid this hurdle from taking away their beloved hobby.
If you find yourself in such a scenario, it’d be wise to settle for something that allows you to continue with your passion rather than put a stop to it altogether. You’ll want to check out alternative options in the electronic drums category, until the time you actually manage to save up for your dream acoustic kit.
The Noise Factor
There is no denying that acoustic drums can get extremely loud, which can be unpleasant for upstairs neighbors or cities with strict noise ordinances. Not to forget, exposing yourself to loud noises for long stretches on a daily basis can give you noise-induced hearing loss.
A lot of drummers prefer switching over to electronic drum kits when they find they find themselves facing this problem. For starters, an electronic drum kit is not only quieter, but with the right drum samples, they can sound surprisingly close to the acoustic drum kit of your choice.
Plus, with headphones and in-ear monitors, you can lower the volume of your kit to the point where you can only hear the sound of drum sticks striking those pads. Electronics kits are a huge relief for drummers who are surrounded by people with sensitive ears.
Their Recording Versatility
Ask any drummer and they will tell you how much they’d rather prefer getting their nose hair plucked one by one than preparing a drum kit for recording. We can all agree that the challenges around micing an acoustic drum kit are not for the faint-hearted.
Electronic drums, with their MIDI capability, can cut the hassles of recording by nearly half. This also happens to be on top of other aids they provide you with during this process. With the help of a USB MIDI cable, you can plug directly into a computer or a sound mixer and start recording drums at the press of a button.
Not to mention, the incredible amount of drum sounds and other sound effects that are available at your dispense are pretty dang sweet. If you are using electronic drum kits to record your drum parts, know that you will be limited by your own creative potential.
Some e-drum kits also feature an in-built record function that lets you record samples directly to the module. This is a great tool for songwriters and studio engineers, who love tinkering with the tiniest details of their projects.
If you frequently travel or perform at live venues, the portability of your drum kit will be a huge concern for you. Nobody wants to lug around a kit that weighs a ton and can only be used in particular scenarios or songs.
This is why drummers tend to veer toward more lightweight options, which are much easier to disassemble and carry in a personal case.
Most electronic drum kits come with folding capability, meaning that you can assemble or take them apart within minutes. Electronic drum brands often include a carry case with their products, but if you are looking to customize or expand your own kit, then you may have to hunt for a suitable carry case.
The Learning Benefits
While purchasing your first electronic kit, you have to consider its relative benefits over time for beginners. Even if you are being brought up under the guidance of a drum teacher, you want to get your hands on a kit that connects with you on the same level.
Many drum modules come fitted with training programs and other in-built utilities to help budding drummers learn the basic concepts of drumming. They also keep you from getting bored easily by keeping a steady flow of ideas and lessons running through your head.
If you are purchasing a drum kit for kids, you’ll find out that a high-end drum kit will have little to no extra benefits for them.
Chances are, they’ll just end up tossing that kit aside because it’s either too big, too loud, or it simply doesn’t evoke any excitement in them anymore. Instead, it’s wiser to get a starter kit that comes with a handful of learning modules and different drum sounds.
Unlimited Sounds on Tap
Fifty years ago, drummers could never imagine a single drum kit being able to output a huge palette of unique sounds. When it comes to acoustic drum kits, you are locked to a particular sound, which can only be altered by either changing the drum heads or the shells entirely.
Today’s modern drummers are generally involved with multiple projects and prefer working with a diverse range of sounds. You might regret putting a huge chunk of your resources into a single acoustic drum kit if your end goal is to work with several drum sounds.
An electronic kit certainly has more to offer to musicians that are juggling multiple musical genres simultaneously.
What is the Simmons SD550?
The Simmons SD550 5-piece electronic drum kit creates an atmosphere of ultra-realism with its powerful drum module. Its launch took many by surprise (including me!), as we were still having a great time with the SD2000.
The SD550 is not only a significant upgrade over its older sibling, but it also brings some interesting new features to the table.
After spending a few hours on the kit, the first thing that stood out about the SD550 to me is the natural orientation of drums.
From the size of shells to their positioning, everything is designed to mimic a real drum kit. The tensionable mesh heads are another feature worth noting about this kit. These are specially crafted to replicate the bounce and feel of acoustic drums, too.
Key Features of the Simmons SD550
The main features of the Simmons SD550 include:
- The Drum Pads and Controllers
- Its Sound Module
- The Input and Output Option
The Drum Pads and Controllers
This is the list of drum pads and other controllers that come with the kit:
- 1 x 10″ crash cymbal with choke function
- 1 x 10″ tensionable dual-ply, dual-zone snare drum
- 3 x 8″ tensionable tom pads
- 1 x 12″ ride cymbal
- 1 x hi-hat pedal
- 1 x 10″ hi-hat pad
- 1 x kick pad module with integrated kick pedal
Dual-zone drum pads are the reason drummers are able to perform rim shots on electronic drums. Its tensionable mesh heads can be fine-tuned to get the desired feel and hit back you want. The 10” snare comes in very handy when you want to tap into aggressive playstyles (metal drummers, I’m looking at you).
Simmons boasts about their variable attack response technology (VAR), which adjusts the attack and sustain of pads based on the intensity of strikes.
This is really important if you are looking to play accents on your drum kit. I also want to stress the fact that you get a solid kick pedal with this kit, which is integrated directly into the kick pad module.
VAR is an essential tool if you are looking to record and loop your samples. Capturing the right intensity and dynamics of notes becomes imperative when you are looking to transpose your music into a workable mix. Aside from that, you also get intelligent playback of your samples all thanks to the VAR technology.
Its Sound Module
With the SD550’s drum module, you get your hands on virtually every type of drum sound. It features twenty-five drum presets, ten slots for custom kits, and 371 drum sounds, in case you felt the cymbals samples were cut short.
On top of the built-in presets, you also get sixty songs with fifty customized drum patterns for practice.
Detailing each and every preset would not be possible in such a review piece, but from what I could gather, the presets sounded pretty close to the real deal.
The quality of drum samples should not be a concern to you if you are mainly looking to practice your rudiments on this kit. With that said, amateur musicians can still rejoice in experimenting with different drum sounds and training programs.
I should also include that Simmons opted for Round-Robin alternating samples on the snare and ride cymbal. It’s probably hard for the untrained ear to pick up, but they do help in improving the dynamics of cymbals.
The Input and Output Options
With USB MIDI connectivity, you can start recording drum loops and samples in the comfort of your own home. Dedicated drummers would love to kick things up a notch during practice sessions with the 1/8″ stereo TRS input for audio from their MP3 players.
There are a total of eight total trigger inputs on a single multi-pin connector, as well, which makes for improved cable management.
A rugged steel frame gives this kit a sufficient amount of durability and strength. Looking at the joints, hinges, and build quality, I can tell it’s designed to take on a beating. This would be a great pick for newcomers and drummers with a heavy hand, as this drum kit is built to last.
Overall, I would recommend this kit to beginners and intermediate players alike. It’s loaded with ample resources for players to get familiar with the basics of drumming. This kit is perfect for ear training which would also ease your transition to a high-end kit in the future.
- Has a natural layout of drums
- Plenty of input and output options for home-based or studio recording
- Tensionable mesh heads that sound and feel great to play
- Intuitive drum module with tons of utility for beginners
- Proprietary wiring cables are weak and prone to breakage
- Drum sounds are not professional quality
- No option of expanding the drum kit with external trigger inputs
Not in love with the Simmons SD550? No worries, you also have other choices!
If somehow the SD550 did not make the cut for you or missed your expectations by a slight mark, then definitely be sure to take a look at the SD600. This is another mid-level compact kit from Simmons that includes all mesh heads, a full kick tower pad, and a kick pedal.
The SD600 is an ideal kit for players who want an unparalleled performance for rehearsal, practice, and recording music. Considered a pioneer of electronic drumming, the SD600 is the closest a kit can get to an acoustic feel and sound in the mid-range category.
The Key Features of the SD600
- 3 x 8” tensionable dual-ply, dual-zone tom pads
- 1 x 10” tensionable dual-ply, dual-zone snare
- 10” hi-hat pad, 12” ride cymbal, and a 10” crash cymbal with included choke function
- Included bass drum pedal, which you can swap with your own pedal
- Full-size kick pad tower with an included mesh pad
- SD600 Module with an easy-to-read, backlit LCD screen
- Detachable stick/headphone/iPad/iPhone rest
- 35 Preset Drum Kits, plus 10 User Kits
- 336 high-quality drum sounds
- Variable Attack Response (VAR) technology with intelligent sample playback
- Wireless Bluetooth MIDI connectivity to computer and iOS devices
- 1/8” Stereo TRS input for MP3 player audio
- Solid steel rack with durable custom t-fittings and sturdy rubber feet
This is a sleek-looking e-kit with an acoustic feel and stay-in-place design. Even though it’s a compact kit, it does sport many customization options for drums and cymbal pads within its rack. There are also plenty of drum sounds to keep you going for hours at a time, too.
Simmons’s unique VAR (variable attack response) technology is a godsend for beginners, in my opinion. It’s the next best thing drummers can get their hands on if they can‘t afford to buy an acoustic kit. All the drum and cymbals pads respond differently based on the dynamics and intensity of your strikes.
All the toms are tunable, meaning you can adjust the tension of the pads to get the desired feel and bounce back.
Moving on to the drum module, I have to say, this is one of the most sophisticated sound modules in this price range. You get over 300 drum sounds, which can help you build up momentum in the early days of drumming.
The eight trigger inputs are laid on a single multi-pin connector, allowing for better cable management. Even first-timers with no experience can take apart the kit and put it back together in thirty minutes tops.
With MIDI compatibility, extra trigger inputs for crash and toms, this kit has more resources to offer than you will need in your first five years of drumming.
- Comes with a huge range of high-quality diverse drum sounds
- Backlit LCD provides ease of access in dark environments
- All tunable mesh-heads give you the sound and feel of acoustic drums
- Slightly bulkier than other starter models
- Cymbals tend to lose sensitivity over time
Alesis Nitro Mesh
This kit has been reviewed countless times by many renowned journalists and drummers since the time it was released. Although you can get better and cheaper options on the market right now, some still swear by their Nitro Mesh Kit to date.
If you were looking for a standard mesh kit that doesn’t break the bank and carries the reputation of a reliable brand, go with the Alesis Nitro Mesh. You definitely won’t regret this decision.
Key Features of the Alesis Nitro Mesh
- Mesh drum heads for a natural response
- 3 x 8″ tom pads
- 1 x 8″ dual-zone snare pad
- 3 x 10” cymbals (hi-hat cymbal, ride cymbal, and crash with choke)
- Kick drum, kick pedal, hi-hat pedal
- 4-post aluminum rack (super solid for stability and flexibility!)
- Connection cables, drum sticks, drum key, and power supply included
Aesthetically, there’s not much that stands out about this kit, but the hardware installed in there looks high-quality, without a doubt. You get the standard number of controller pads (eight), each with an extremely shallow profile and plastic rim. The rim adds to your ability to adjust the tension of the mesh heads.
The most notable aspect of the Nitro mesh is the aluminum frame which makes this setup very lightweight and occupies less space.
That being said, if you are tall, say over 6 feet, it might prove to be slight discomfort. The pads are placed much closer to each other than most standard drum layouts, so you should factor that in when purchasing this kit.
Also worth noting is the drum module which is loaded with 40 drum kits that work out as 24 factory presets and 16 editable slots.
You will find close to 385 onboard drum sounds, including some that can be used to create a custom kit of your own. You get 60 built-in MIDI sequenced play-along tracks, something that is unique to the Alesis brand.
- Lightweight and portable
- Included mesh heads are quiet, yet realistic in feel
- Comprehensive sound library and module
- Scaled-down version not ideal for advanced and most intermediate players
- Pads are very close together
The V-drums from Roland have been making quite a splash in the drumming community lately. I figured there’s definitely more than one reason to fit this kit here, so why not? Most V-drum kits are out of bounds for average drummers because they can come with a pretty steep price tag.
The TD-07DMK takes the expressiveness, playability, and sound of high-end V-drums and packs them into an affordable package. Apart from the tunable mesh heads, you get hands-on a series of bundled tools for learning and practice.
Key Features of the Roland TD-07DMK
- PDX-8 mesh snare
- 3 x 10″ PDX-6A mesh toms
- 10″ CY-5 hi-hat
- 2 x 10″ CY-5 crash/ride with choke support
- 1 x KD-2 trigger pad for the kick drum
- 30 x Multi-effects, EQ, ambience
- 143 instruments with 25 stock presets and 25 user presets
- USB/Bluetooth 4.2 (audio/MIDI)
The TD-07DMK‘s sound module comes with twenty-five of Roland’s premium drum kits, comprising 143 instruments to create the essential sound library. If you are into EDM and R&B music, then you will find the drum sounds in this kit resonating with your vision quite a bit.
For the recording musician, they have both Bluetooth 4.2 and USB/MIDI capability in-store. You also get a couple of ⅛” analog input and output triggers for connecting headphones and mixers. The TD-07DMK’s drum module is inspired by the flagship TD-50, which set the benchmark for other e-kits during its time of reign.
- Roland V-drums with mesh heads are the best of their own on the market
- High-quality samples, from over 143 instruments, to challenge your creative potential
- Sturdy build, yet still manages to lightweight
- Slightly pricier than other mid-range e-kits
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Do I Need to Purchase a Drum Amp?
Answer: Unless you are planning on playing to a room full of people or practicing with full volume, there’s really no reason for a drum amp to be on your buy list. A solo drummer can easily get away with a pair of headphones or portable speakers – and still enjoy their music at full blast.
If you are not enjoying the grainy sound of standard speakers, then definitely consider switching to a drum amp.
These bad boys are tuned specifically to amplify sounds coming from drum machines and electronic drum kits. While using other alternatives, you will be sacrificing a chunk of that high-end detail and dynamics, so keep that in mind.
Now if you gig a lot and like to play outdoors, then you again have a choice between drum amps and PAs. If the venues you are playing at employ front house speakers, you can again get away with a pair of in-ear monitors as you won’t be needing a drum amp for stage sound.
The need for drum amps arises when you are playing smaller venues that totally depend on the stage sound.
Answer: There are two ways of answering this question, and surprisingly enough both are polar opposites of each other. If you are wondering about the maximum volume threshold of electronic drum kits, then it is similar to acoustic drums.
Both drums can be amplified using drum amps or speakers, which is how they are usually employed during live performances.
On the other hand, if you are concerned about the natural sound of striking the drum pads, without any external speakers, the possibilities differ a lot. If you are using mesh pads, the sound coming from the drum pads will be muffled and less intense. This is what makes mesh pads a desirable option for drum kits at home.
Contrary to mesh, rubber pads are significantly louder. They may not be as loud as acoustic drums, but if you had a neighbor living close by, they would certainly notice it.
Answer: Even though a lot of low to mid-tier electronic kits are considered as a cheaper alternative to acoustic drums, the stakes can get really high once we start talking about advanced drum modules and premium sound libraries.
You can buy the cheapest electronic drum set off the market for less than $500, but if you are looking to get the best technology and hardware, a high-end kit will not cost you any less than $3000.
With that out of the way, the amount you should be spending on a new electronic drum kit is totally subjective to your situation. Beginners and intermediate players can easily settle for a starter kit without having much to lose. They will still have enough functions and sounds to play around with, having spent less than $500.
Seasoned players or drummers looking to take their skills to a professional platform are going to need professional tools. This is where high-end e-drum kits come into play, offering a huge selection of premium drum samples, in-built functions, and a plethora of mic options.
Answer: If you are reviewing a drum kit for practical reasons, then you also have to consider its sound, playability, and long-term value. Soundwise, beginners won’t be able to tell the difference between a high-end kit and a starter kit. So there’s no point in investing in an expensive drum kit, be it electronic or otherwise.
When it comes to playability, electronic drums are considered much more user-friendly than acoustic kits. Electronic kits are assembled in a compact fashion, which makes it easier for players to reach all the components and strike them.
Turns out, this is a huge benefit to kids and people with shorter limbs. If your main priority is playability, electronic drum kits score far better than acoustic kits in this test.
If you’re talking about the sound, though, then any professional drummer will tell you that the sound of real acoustic drums is simply unmatchable. That does not go to say that electronic kits are inferior in sound quality, of course.
They can easily make up for any lacking qualities with a huge collection of drum sounds and effects. At the end of the, you have to evaluate whether genuine sounding drums are more valuable to you than a kit loaded with tons of different utilities.
Answer: All drum manufacturers don’t necessarily share the same goals or priorities. This is why it’s important to check what’s included in the kit, and what’s not, at the time of purchase.
While every standard drum kit will include a snare, kick drum, toms, cymbals, their number at any given point depends on the brand or the type of drum kit.
Apart from the hardware, you also get a drum module, which is the powerhouse of your kit. Accessories like drum sticks, keys, thrones, and connecting cables will again depend on the manufacturer. Some brands will include all the above accessories, others may include a part of it or none at all, to cut prices.
Some players like a stripped-down bebop style kit, carrying one of each drum, while others like to have an array of toms and cymbals floating over their kit.
The choice is all yours when it comes to putting together your dream drum kit. However, you do want to make sure that you are only adding in the necessary elements to avoid making your kit bulky.
My Final Thoughts
Embraces by hobbyists and professionals alike, electronic drums are paving the way for modern musicians with their innovative technology and creative take on songwriting.
If you are intrigued by what an e-kit could do under your hands, maybe it’s time for you to get one of these excellent instruments. You can’t go wrong with the Simmons SD550, and I definitely recommend it.
If this is your first time stepping into the world of electronic drums, though, be sure to take a moment to evaluate your goals before you rush to the music store to buy them. This will allow you to land on the one kit that deals with all your needs perfectly and fits your budget comfortably.