Hands-On Review:Yamaha DTXPLORER
Electronic drums priced for the beginner, built for the pro.
By Warren Rand
I've always played acoustic drums and have a Yamaha drum kit I love, but I've also hankered after an electronic kit. They offer significant advantages. The main reason I've been deterred is the relatively high price of good electronic kits. Now Yamaha, who makes some of the best, has introduced a kit that changes the picture substantially—the DTXPLORER.
Yamaha created the DTXPLORER as an entry-level electronic kit. They've made it simple and easy to use, and have taken technology developed for the DTXPRESS and DTXTREME—their higher-end kits—to make it good. Their goal was to offer an electronic kit that ordinary mortals could afford, but one with a level of performance that pro players could get behind. After giving it a long test drive, I would say that the DTXPLORER is everything Yamaha wanted it be.
Puttin' it all together
One thing I can tell you for sure, the DTXPLORER is a lot easier to assemble than any acoustic kit, mainly because you don't have to put on heads and tune them up. The Yamaha drum kit arrived in three separate boxes packed with pads and hardware, but I had it up and running in less than an hour, and it was the first time I had ever put an electronic kit together. A drum key is the only tool you need to put the rack together and mount the pads, plus Yamaha has bundled all the wires into a snake and coded the ends, so wiring it up is a no-brainer.
Once I had it plugged in I started hitting the pads to check out the feel. They seemed quite natural. They were a little different from my acoustic drums, but close enough to be perfectly playable, especially the drum pads. They have about the right amount of stick rebound. They are also reasonably quiet, which is good.
Firing it up
Next I switched on the module, and was greeted by a WELCOME on the backlit display. The display isn't large, but it is bright and easy to read. I pushed the SONG button to call up a demo track and hit it again to start the music. I was immediately treated to an impressive drum, bass, and synth groove that clearly demonstrated the sound quality and capabilities of the DTXPLORER. Whoever plays on the demo is a monster. One neat thing is that you can change the kit used for the demo song which gives an easy way to check them all out.
There are 32 different kits: jazz kits, standard kits, jungle kits, acoustic kits with different woods, techno, and so forth. I selected one kit after another, playing each to check out the sounds. They all sounded great and pretty balanced right out of the chute. You can tweak the sounds of each drum and adjust relative levels if you want, but every kit seemed already there to me. The important thing is just the sheer number of sounds it gives you. I spent the next couple of hours just working out on the set to get comfortable with it.
There's not a suggestion of cheesy to be anywhere in the DTXPLORER. The voices are great as should be expected. Electronic drums and sound engines have come a long way, and Yamaha is a leader in the field with vast experience. You expect good voices from Yamaha and the DTXPLORER has them.
Dynamically the pads seem much like acoustic drums in their response to how hard you hit them. The big difference, of course, is that you can set the overall level, which lets you play with a comfortable force but control the actual sound level, making it loud or soft depending on the situation. One thing I really hate on a gig is when you have to play so lightly it inhibits the energy of the music. With an electronic kit, having to hold back too much is never be a problem. The opposite is also true. You can play loud without having to slam.
Perfect for learning
For working on your chops, the DTXPLORER is xtremely helpful. Most importantly, it lets you play silently so you can practice more. It has basic stuff such as a built-in metronome. It has grooves for play-along with variable speed, with the drum part muted, or with everything except the bass muted.
It even functions to a degree as a teacher. If you are working on your time, for instance, the DTXPLORER has functions that focus your work. One is called Groove Check. It keeps track of your time by comparing your speed to a metronome clock setting. If you rush or drag it lets you know and tells you how much.
A more extreme time-work tool is the Rhythm Gate. It has three levels of accuracy settings. If you get off the set time too much, the sound is blocked. Thus, It makes you keep your time straight. As you develop your time consistency, you can narrow the accuracy parameters until you're playing rock-steady.
There are many reasons to like the DTXPLORER: the number of great sounds it gives you, the easy-access to a wild selection of ready-made kits, the many percussion instruments it puts at your fingertips. Its programmability lets you create your own unique kits and tweak the preset kits. The DTXPLORER makes setting up for recording or stage much easier (no micing), and tuning is way easier. Most of all you have to like the control it gives you over your volume. It is a simple but high quality kit that delivers great sounds for a very accessible price. If you're ready to go electronic, the DTXPLORER is a great way to go.
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