Hands-On Review:Yamaha DTXPRESS III

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Xpress yourself!

By Tim Stamper

Electronic drums have come a long way in the last decade or so-and the DTXPRESS III kit from Yamaha is a good example of just how far. I remember playing a gig on one of the first Simmons electronic kits. The sounds were decent enough but it felt like playing on a masonite counter top, and by the end of the evening my hands and wrists were in considerable pain. Things have improved considerably through the years, with rubber pads, high-quality sampled sounds, and better hardware. With the introduction of the latest incarnation of their very popular DTXPRESS series, the DTXPRESS III, Yamaha has set a new standard of excellence and affordability.


A drummers garden of delights

The DTXPRESS III was easy to get up and running; the rack was configured so that all I had to do was unfold the support legs and cymbal arms. I just attached the pads, plugged in the snake cable with labeled jacks, and it was ready to rock. I plugged in a pair of headphones (a great feature for promoting harmony between families and roomates) and started playing.


As I cruised through some of the 48 preset drum sets, the superb sound quality was the first thing that hit me. The preset kits parallel the range of contemporary music, programmed in a wide ranging spectrum of rock, jazz, latin, and special effects sets. The hip hop and techno industrial kits are especially impressive. Many preset kits are set up to trigger sequences (which can be up to 999 measures long) from a pad, which opens up a lot of creative possibilities. You can create your own customized sets with the 32 user-programmable kits. There are 990 drum and percussion sounds, plus 128 General MIDI voices to choose from, so you have a very large sonic palette to choose from. Yamaha has upgraded the sounds of this edition of the DTXPRESS III-kits have been re-voiced, and cymbal wave forms have been imported from the acclaimed Motif series synthesizers. These cymbal sounds are some of the best I've heard in a drum module, full, rich, and shimmering.


The pads are made with a new, pliable rubber for an enhanced, softer feel. The rebound is lively, very close to what you get with real drumheads, without the excessively 'spongy' feel of some mesh pads. These are pads you can play for hours without hand or need fatigue. The TP65S 3-zone pad delivers the varied tones drummers require in a snare drum, with the ability to trigger a snare, rim shot, and cross stick from the same pad.


Your brain on drums
The DTXP3 module that comprises the "brain" of the kit includes 95 songs in a range of genres. You can play along with the full band, or mute the drums for a music-minus-one experience. It's an excellent way to develop your timing, sense of groove, and ability to play different musical styles. Groove check is a very cool feature that analyzes your performance and shows your beat placement accuracy. It indicates if you're playing right on, ahead of, or behind the beat. Groove Check is a useful tool to help you with your timing precision, or even to help you pull or push the beat to change the feel.


Your drumming performances can be recorded into the 2-track sequencer, a great feature for constructing rhythm section parts and analyze performances. An audio input jack accepts a jack in from CD or MP3 players for playing or practicing along with tunes. An easy-to-read backlit yellow display allows for smooth, eye-strain-free navigation. The DTXPRESS III connects directly to a PC or Mac via an external MIDI interface or the included TO HOST connection.


Special Edition

The DXTPRESS Special Edition extends the capabilities even farther. This high-end version adds an ergonomic curved rack and 3 round cymbal pads, including one 3-zone PCY150S ride, one 2-zone PCY, and one mono. The ability to alternatively trigger bell, ride, and edge sounds from one cymbal on the 3-zone pad adds a nice realistic touch. The cymbals also allow for choking, by grabbing the edge. The Special Edition also includes a high-end hi-hat controller, which combines an acoustic-type stand with an electronic pad. This hi-hat configuration captures the nuances of hi-hat performance, with realistic heel-sounds and a wide range of semi-open and closed sounds. The Special Edition includes a throne and single bass drum pedal.


Drummer's Dream
The DTXPRESS III and DTXPRESS Special Edition are more than a novelty, with the ability to be powerful, expressive instruments in the hands of a good drummer. These Yamaha drum kits put a great collection of realistic sounding acoustic sets at your command, as well as a vast range of world percussion, plus a good number of up-to-date techno, hip-hop, and special effects sounds ideal for soundtrack, DJ, and jingle use. They're perfect for churches and small venues where too much volume is often a problem, as you can simply turn them down, They're popular in studios for getting a great recorded sound quickly and easily. Electronic drums offer the modern drummer flexibility, power, and versatility. With the DTXPRESS and DTXPRESS Special Edition, all that power is now available to just about any player.


Features & Specs:



  • 990 drum voices
  • 128 General MIDI voices
  • 48 factory presets
  • 32 user programmable presets
  • TP65S (1), TP65 (4), PCY65S (1), TP65S (1), TP65 (1), KP65 (1)
  • 32 notes
  • 16 part
EffectsTrigger Inputs
  • 11 reverbs
  • 1, 3-5, 8 dual zone, 2,6,7 3 zone, 9, 10 single trigger x 2
  • MIDI In & Out
  • To Host
DTXPRESS Special Edition
(All the features of the DTXPRESS III plus)
  • 3 round multi-zone pads (1 - 3-zone, 1 - 2-zone, and 1 mono)
  • Ergonomic curved rack
  • Advanced high-hat controller combining traditional acoustic stand and electronic pad