Hands-On Review:Roland HD-1 V-Drums Lite
Heavy sounds in a lightweight, portable V-Drums set
By Mike Fitch
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer
It’s hard to overstate the impact that Roland’s V-Drums have made on the world of electronic drums and percussion. The combination of a vast library of excellent drum sounds with a constantly improving pad setup has made V-Drums irresistible for many top drummers.
The recent introduction of the HD-1, or V-Drums Lite, is good news for those who have been lusting after a set of V-Drums but are short on cash and the space it takes to accommodate a large V-Drum set. The HD-1 takes a core group of essential V-Drum sounds and integrates them with an elegant, simplified pad setup and rack that are extremely easy to operate. It’s a design that should attract a lot of beginning drummers as well as professional players who want a versatile, playable electronic kit that sets up and breaks down in minutes.
The HD-1’s drum pads come attached to the set’s rack, which consists of a couple of center posts with arms. To set it up I just stood the whole thing up, unfolded the arms, attached the legs and module, and plugged everything in.
No need to add any external pedals to the HD-1—both the hi-hat and kick pedal are built right into the unit’s support legs. Both pedals have smooth, noise-free action that feels quite natural. To take the kit to a gig, all you have to do is fold down the legs and arms and pack the kit in the back seat of your car.
The HD-1’s sound module includes five drum kits with two variations for a total of 10 kits accessed by pressing large buttons. Pressing any number plus the “variation” button offers an alternative set. Kit number 1 is a basic rock set suitable for playing everything from blues to metal. This acoustic set’s variation is a crisp-sounding jazz kit. A big-sounding acoustic “power” set is perfect for everything in the hard rock zone. Always wanted to play double bass drums? The second patch gives you a thundering double setup with bass drum sounds on both pedals.
The mesh snare pad has an extremely natural response and feel, and is tunable with a key just like a traditional snare. The velocity-switching feature provides a second sound when the pad is hit hard, giving you a ringing rim shot with several kits, adding to the realism.
A drums and percussion set allows you to trigger a djembe, congas, and timbales in addition to drum and cymbal sounds. The World Percussion set is all percussion with a fat cajon (the Afro-Cuban wooden box instrument), kick drum, cajon snare, and quejada/caxixi shaker sounds, plus berimbau, pot drum, and pandeiro crasher samples. Velocity-switching really makes these kits come alive, with heavily accented hits giving a timbale rimshot, an alternative berimbau sound, and cutting slaps on the djembe and conga.
The HD-1 includes several sets ideal for techno/dance/hip-hop. The Droid kit is especially appealing with an industrial/science fiction sound set ideal for jungle and drum ’n’ bass beats. The voices kit is a lot of fun to play, triggering vocal phrases and “human beat-box” sounds that resemble a choir gone berserk when you lay down a busy pattern.
Right on time
For improving your timing, the HD-1’s metronome is a great practice aid. Using the tempo knob, you can adjust the tempo from 40-220BPM. You can use a click, cowbell, or maraca sound. Three levels are provided so you can customize the metronome’s volume to your playing.
The HD-1’s drum module, while simplified and easy to navigate, still offers some very nice capabilities for both students and professional drummers. Ten drum patterns are provided to play along with. Even better, a Mix In jack is provided so that you can plug your MP3 or CD player into the module, allowing you to play along with your favorite tunes—a great way to develop chops and learn songs. And a headphone jack lets you rock out without disturbing others.
A MIDI out option adds substantially to the HD-1’s versatility and power, particularly for the professional player. Via MIDI, the pads can be used to trigger sounds from any MIDI-compatible module or synthesizer, and also allows the unit to be used to play rhythm patterns into an external sequencer. I ran the MIDI cable into a couple of external MIDI percussion modules and enjoyed being able to play hundreds of drum and percussion sounds with the great feel and response of the HD-1’s pad set.
PM-01 – V-Buddy
The PM-01 is a compact personal monitor designed expressly for V-Drums. With 15W power and a 4" full-range speaker, the PM-01 sits comfortably at the base of the HD-1 set, allowing you to hear yourself clearly.
Of course, if you’re playing along with a loud band, for sound reinforcement you’ll want to plug into a PA system or amplifier with more volume than the PM-01, which is intended primarily as a personal monitor for practice.
Lite it up
The HD-1 V-Drums Lite drum set is a great way to gain entry into the world of electronic drums for a modest admission price. And for players with limited space, the set tucks quite comfortably into the corner of a bedroom or garage. It’s a great set for students and there are many pros who will doubtless find its hassle-free operation and versatile connectivity to be right up their alley.
Features & Specs
HD-1 V-Drums Lite
Kit configuration: Kick pedal, mesh snare pad, hi-hat pad, hi-hat pedal, 3 tom pads, crash and ride pads
- Drum kits: 10
- Patterns: 10
- 5 drum kit buttons
- Variation button
- Metronome button
- Volume knob
- Tempo knob
- Tempo: 40-220BPM
- Sounds: 3
- Volume: 3 levels
- Output: Stereo 1/8"
- Headphone: Stereo 1/8"
- Mix In: Stereo 1/8"
- MIDI out
- Trigger cable connector
PM-01 Personal Drum Monitor
- Power: 15W
- Speaker: 4" full-range
- Controls: Volume knob, standby switch
- Connector: Stereo 1/8"