Hands-On Review:Roland TD-3SW V-Compact Electronic Drum Set

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Groove-wise new features enhance this affordable V-Drum kit

By Bob Alexander


Roland TD-3SW V-Compact Electronic Drum Set

The TD-3SW distills many of the hippest features of the elite high-end V-Drum kits into a set with a price that won’t make working drummers’ hearts skip a beat. The Five-Piece drum set includes the TD-3 drum module, three single-trigger PD-8 tom pads, one CY-5 and two CY-8 cymbal pads (all dual-trigger), KD-8 kick tower, FD-8 Hi-Hat Control Pedal, and MDS rack.


Your brain on drums


The TD-3 "brain" that is the command center of the TD-3SW contains 114 drum and percussion sounds. Another 10 click track sounds are used with the metronome and Rhythm Coach functions. The TD-3’s sounds were designed from scratch and feature a nice balance of modern and old-school drum sounds.


Among the 30 snare sounds are assorted bright, vintage, brass, and brushed snare sounds that are a lot of fun to play, especially on the great-feeling, responsive mesh PDX-8 pad. Electronica-oriented tones include Roland 808 and 909 vintage drum machine sounds, plus electronic toms recalling the Simmons drums of the ’80s. Also included is an essential selection of Latin percussion. Sounds are organized into 32 preset kits covering most popular musical genres. All of the drum sets can be modified to create your own customized kits.


There are 15 pre-programmed Ambience settings available to enhance the sounds. The presets feature various room and hall reverbs for adding depth and richness, and some apply compression for enhancing punch and presence.


The emphasis is on a well-chosen selection of very good sounds and user-friendly functionality. The TD-3 doesn’t pile on features and complex programming that would drive up the price and most drummers would never use anyway. If you find yourself wanting more sound options, the TD-3’s MIDI connectivity allows you to trigger sounds from external MIDI drum or sound modules. Each drum kit can have its own set of MIDI note numbers to be transmitted to or received by each kit.


Put me in, coach, I’m ready to play


The TD-3 Rhythm Coach feature lets you match your playing skills against a number of feels, accents, programmable time signatures, and sticking exercises, with seven different coaching modes and endlessly programmable variations.



A "Rhythmic Notes" exercise leads you through a series of different note intervals and beat divisions to get you in the groove. The "Time Check" exercise displays visual feedback to show if you’re rushing, slowing down, or are right on the money. "Quiet Count" develops your internal timing by playing selected measures at a fixed volume and then drops the volume to a barely audible level while you see if you can stay on beat. Several tempo acceleration and deceleration exercises build stamina and precision. Rhythm Coach is a godsend for any drummer who wants to build chops and tighten timekeeping sense. And by using headphones, you can practice anywhere and anytime without disturbing anybody. A Mix In jack allows you to plug a sound source such as a CD or MP3 player into the TD-3 module so you can play along with your favorite tunes.

Roland TD-3SW V-Compact Electronic Drum Set
Roland TD-3SW V-Compact Electronic Drum Set


V-Drums: always evolving


Roland research into sound modeling technology led to the development of their V-Guitar in 1995. The possibilities that modeling held for electronic percussion soon became apparent, as Roland was besieged with requests to create a virtual drum set. The company responded to popular demand with the release of their TD-10 V-Drum module. You can hear the excellent results of all the years of Roland’s research into drum and percussion sounds with the TD-3 module.


Roland has continually refined and improved its trigger pads. The inspiration for its breakthrough mesh pad came from an unlikely source—a Roland designer happened to see a trampoline at a store and was struck by the idea that the bouncing mat surface would work well for electronic drums. Roland worked with the Remo company to develop a mesh head that delivered the sought-after responsiveness and sticking quietness. Next they developed a rubber-molded rim that allowed rim shots to be played with the same quietness as the mesh head.


The TD-3SW set features Roland’s new mesh snare V-Pad, the PDX-8. Its 10" rim allows separate head and rim triggering. The PDX-8’s rim features a velocity-triggered crossfade function that responds to hard hits by triggering a rim shot, and reacts to soft hits by triggering a cross stick sound. This allows you to play the PDX-8 the same way that you play your acoustic snare. You tension it up with a drum key just like a real snare, and the feel and rebound are extremely realistic.


Roland’s current V-Cymbals have improved triggering accuracy, are steady and rotation-free on the stand, and mimic the motion and feel of a metal cymbal. The CY-8 cymbals feature bow and edge triggering that allows you to access two separate sounds, and, most important, you can choke the cymbals just like the real thing.


The CY-5 V-Cymbal Pad features a 12" playing zone and a natural swing movement for more realistic play. The pad is dual-trigger, providing separate bow and edge triggering. The CY-5 does double duty as an additional crash or splash cymbal.


The TD-3SW scored a hit with its combination of great sounds, authentic playability, and straightforward functionality. Drummers of every skill level will find the Rhythm Coach feature to be a valuable practice tool. The sound selection will open up musical possibilities for any player, while the mesh snare and improved cymbal designs help to give the satisfying feel and response of playing an acoustic set. I expect the TD-3SW’s combination of value, quality, and well-conceived design will put smiles on the faces of many drummers in the years ahead.


TD-3 Sound Module:

  • Drum Instruments: 114
  • Click Instruments: 10
  • Drum Kits: 32
  • Effect: 15 ambience types
  • Click Tempo: 20–260
  • Coach Mode
    • Menu: 7
    • Variation: 20
  • Display: 7 segments, 3 characters (LED)
  • Connectors:
    • Trigger Input Jack x 9
    • Hi-Hat Control Jack
    • Output Jacks: (L/Mono, R)
    • Headphone Jack
    • Mix In Jack (stereo mini-phone type)
    • MIDI Connectors (In, Out)
  • Includes AC Adapter (DC 9V)
  • Dimensions: 8-11/16"W x 2-3/8"H x 5-11/16"D
  • Weight: 1 lb. 4 oz.


  • Three single-trigger PD-8 tom pads
  • One PDX-8 mesh dual-trigger snare pad
  • One dual-trigger CY-5
  • 2 CY-8 cymbal pads
  • KD-8 kick tower
  • FD-8 Hi-Hat Control Pedal