Hands-On Review:Simmons SD7K Electronic Drum Set
They’re not your dad’s Simmons
Musician's Friend Staff Writer
I remember the old Simmons drums from the ’80s, and even played a few gigs on those famous hexagons. The electronic percussion market has gone through many permutations since the era of Reaganomics and MTV. Related to the original, British-design Simmons electronic drums in name only, a new generation of Simmons drums are on the scene. I brought a couple of the new Simmons offerings, the SD7K electronic drums and the optional companion DA50 monitor, into my home studio for evaluation.
It’s a pad world
The SD7K is a five-piece electronic drum pad configuration, plus crash and ride cymbal pads. The pads are round, have resilient gum-rubber-like synthetic surfaces, and are single-trigger with the exception of the dual-trigger snare drum pad, which creates separate rim and head sounds.
The pads’ playing surfaces are bouncy and responsive with good velocity sensitivity (the correlation between how hard you hit and the volume produced). Velocity response may be customized to your playing style with a choice of six velocity “curves.”
The hi-hat pad is controlled via a separate footpedal, while the bass drum pad accepts the kick pedal of your choice. A lightweight curved rack and mounting hardware and cables are included.
The electronic cymbals have a certain amount of “give” to them like real cymbals. The hi-hat pad/pedal combination feels and sounds very natural with a smooth transition between open and closed hat sounds and with a useful and convincing half-open hat sound. You can even play foot splashes with your heel like on a regular hi-hat.
The SD7K’s drum module, or “brain,” is stocked with 300 sounds divided into 20 preset and 30 user drum sets. When you power up the module, the default drum set that comes up in “Kit” impresses with its deep, ultra-fat sounds. The other acoustic sets are of similar quality, ranging from clean, resonant, country and pop tones to tight funk and house kits as well as large rock concert hall kits.
There is a good hip-hop-oriented kit, vintage drum machine emulations, and patches that pay homage to the original ’80s Simmons electronic drums. Trashy industrial and junkyard sets add myriad metal percussion sounds to the mix, and a DJ effects set provides scratch and turntable sounds. Some patches use velocity cross-switching to trigger a second sound when played harder.
GM (General MIDI) percussion sound sets are included, along with a complete selection of GM instrument sounds. Other drum sets include a full Latin percussion section, an Indian tabla setup, and a cartoon set, as well as several house and fusion variations. An orchestral patch puts you in the symphony, complete with timpani, triangle, and orchestral cymbal explosions. The brush kit is well done, giving you a nice slow brush snare sweep for ballads. These sounds are suitable for playing everything from metal to Mahler.
Reverb, the effect most often used for sweetening and adding spaciousness to drums both live and in the studio, can be added to any kit with the touch of a button.
Drummer at the controls
Navigating the SD7K’s sound module is simple, with arrow keys to scroll through the kits and individual sounds. A set of buttons corresponds to the various drums, and you can select any drum sound for editing by pressing the button. The individual drum sounds’ volume, tuning, and panning can then be adjusted.
An integrated metronome allows you to check your timing. The metronome can be set for a click sound with a bell accenting the one, or with a voice counting out the beats (“one,” “two,” “three,” “four,”) and so on. Five time signatures are supported.
The Song section provides 50 songs to play along with, including a range of styles from rock, funk, and jazz to blues and Latin. The buttons that correspond to the drum sounds light up in time to the voices being played, giving you a miniature light show as well as providing valuable feedback as to how the beat is put together. By dropping the drum track out of the mix with the touch of a button and playing the rhythm track yourself, you can use the song feature to learn the basics of the various beats used in the songs.
USB and MIDI I/Os offer versatile options for interfacing the SD7K’s MIDI output with computers, sequencers, sound modules, and other external digital gear. An aux input lets you play along with your favorite music player while the headphone jack lets you practice in private.
DA50 Drum Monitor
In order to hear yourself play electronic drums, you need a sound system of some kind, unless you’re always going to use headphones. Fortunately, Simmons has made your choice easy with their DA50 Electronic Drum Set Monitor. This compact, wedge-shaped, 50-watt combo sits alongside the set and provides punchy percussion sound so that you and your band mates can stay right on beat.
The DA50 has a well-defined, crisp sound with soft-touch rubber knobs that let you dial in bass, mid, and treble to tailor the sound to your liking. 1/4" aux and 1/8" MP3 inputs make it easy to run a signal from your CD or MP3 player or mixer into the monitor to play along with. The DA50 also includes a headphone jack.
Taking advantage of the advances made in recent years in sampling and other technologies, the new Simmons deliver a solid selection of high-quality, up-to-date sounds and pads that feel good to play. It’s to the credit of the “new Simmons” that they have come out with some very playable digital drums that sound great and cost less than most of the competition.
Features & Specs
Simmons SD7K Electronic Drum Set
- 4 single-trigger and one dual-trigger pads
- One hi-hat and 2 cymbal pads
- Curved mounting rack
- Hi-hat foot controller
- SD7K Sound Module
- 300 voices
- 50 drum kits (20 preset, 30 user)
- 50 songs
- Metronome with 5 time signatures
- 1/4" left/mono and right output jacks
- MIDI I/O
- USB port
- 1/4" headphone output
- 1/4" aux input