Hands-On Review:Yamaha DTXpress IV Electronic Drums
Super sounds, powerful pads, and time-keeping tools
By Charles Tierney
The fourth generation of Yamaha’s DTXpress Series electronic drums is here with a sleek new module, improved sounds, and an impressive list of features for playing live and increasing the effectiveness of your practice sessions. When Musician’s Friend asked me to review Yamaha’s DTXpress IV drum set, I was curious to see what the state-of-the-art in electronic percussion held in store after several decades of mostly playing a traditional acoustic drum kit.
Keeping it real
The DTXpress IV’s rubber pads have a lively response that realistically mimics the response of acoustic drumheads. The DTXpress IV Special version that I tested includes three single-zone tom pads, three round cymbal pads (two three-zone cymbals, plus a single-zone ride), a kick pad, hi-hat controller with stand, and the tubular rack. A three-zone pad serves as the snare drum, allowing you to play the essential snare sounds—snare, rimshot, and cross-stick.
The KP65 kick module attaches to a sturdy bracket for rock-solid action, accommodating any standard foot pedal. The kick sounds it creates with the module are slamming—this would be a great drum set for crowding the dance floor. The swinging motion of the PCY cymbal pads gives you the feel of playing a real cymbal much more convincingly than a static surface does. The three-trigger PCY150S cymbal allows you to play individual sounds on the bell, ride surface, and edge.
The is easy to set up and break down. You simply fold up the rack, which can be done without even removing the drum pads or hardware. An included labeled cable snake makes plugging in the pads a no-brainer. During my first test drive, I jacked in to my home studio’s sound system for amplification, using headphones for this late-night session so as not to wake the neighbors.
The hi-hat controller pad mounts on the included HS650 Yamaha hi-hat that comes with the DTXpress Special, letting you generate authentic-sounding open, closed, and splash hi-hat sounds.
The DTX IV module gives you 427 drum and percussion sounds with an additional 50 keyboard/effects voices. There are 50 preset kits and 20 user presets for creating your own custom kits. Among the presets you’ll find excellent samples of some of Yamaha’s acoustic drum sets, among the world’s finest, including their Maple, Oak, and Beech Custom models.
The sounds on this Yamaha drum kit are excellent, crossing a wide range of styles with vintage drums, power rock kits, jazz brush kits, ’80s electronica, drum ’n’ bass, industrial, reggae, hip-hop, and various world percussion kits. Effects sounds range from scratches and other turntable sounds to didgeridoo to trains and police sirens to vocal hits.
A kit called Social Cuban features bongo, conga, and bell voices. It’s configured with the bass drum playing a cowbell sound and the hi-hat foot playing a wood block, so if you’re into Latin rhythms you can work on your left-foot clave technique.
A Drum Corps kit lets you practice your field drumming chops complete with marching snare and field toms, while an Orchestral kit includes tympani, crash cymbals, and other symphonic sounds. Some of the presets trigger loops and phrases by hitting different pads, so if you like you can sound like a whole band ala Akiro Jimbo. Overall the sound set is high quality and quite extensive.
Get with the program
Programming your own custom drum kits and songs into the DTXpress IV is made easy via a compact set of buttons and a jog wheel for front panel navigation. Extensive control over the volume, tuning, pan, decay, filter, MIDI characteristics, and more let you sculpt the sounds to your preferences. You can even adjust the "tightness" of the snares on the snare drum.
Onboard digital reverb adds depth and ambience to the sounds with 16 effect presets to choose from. A two-band master EQ lets you dial in the desired amount of bass and high-end frequencies. There are 20 user spaces for storing your customized drum kits, with another 20 user spaces for one-track songs you can record with the sequencer.
Personal time-keeping trainer
Musicians many levels of experience and expertise will get a lot of use out of the extensive metronome and rhythm training features here. A sophisticated programmable metronome gives you an assortment of click tracks to play along with to refine your timing or you can create your own metronome tracks. You can also play along with any of the onboard songs and, if you like, mute the drum part to see how your playing compares.
The Groove Check function further hones your rhythmic skills by giving you a display that shows whether your playing is behind, ahead, or right on time. The rhythm gate function takes this method a step further by only playing the notes that are accurate and silencing errant strokes. The tolerance automatically narrows if your hits are accurate and widens if your hits are inaccurate. These are invaluable training tools for increasing accuracy of players at any skill level.
The enhanced sounds, recording and rhythm training capabilities, and natural-feeling pads have a lot to offer for drum students and advanced players. The ease of integrating electronic drums into digital recording should make the DTXpress IV tempting to home recording enthusiasts as well as studio pros. Whether you’re a veteran drummer or an up-and-coming talent, you should check out the DTXPress IV.
DTXPress IV Electronic Drum Set Pads:
- DTXpress IV: 3 TP65 single-zone pads, 2 TP65S dual zone pads, 2 PCY130SC 3-zone pads, one KP65 kick pad, one HH65 hi-hat controller, hi-hat stand, and rack
- DTXpress IV Special: 3 TP65 single zone pads, one TP100 3-zone snare pad with controller knob, one PCY150S 3-zone pad, one PCY130SC 3-zone pad, one PCY130 single-zone pad, one RHH130 stereo hi-hat controller, hi-hat stand, and rack
DTXPress IV Module:
- Polyphony: 32-note
- Voices: 427 drum & percussion, 22 keyboard/effects
- Drum Kits: 50 preset, 20 user
- Dual voice capability
- Effects: Reverb x 16 types, master EQ Trigger
- Trigger setups: 7 preset, 4 user
- Pad controller: snare adjust, tuning, tempo
- Pad functions: drum kit INC/DEC, Click set INC/DEC, Tempo INC/DEC, Click ON/OFF
- Pad songs: Start/Stop, Chase, Cut Off, 3 simultaneous songs
- Note capacity: 16,000
- Note resolution: 96 PPQ
- Track: 1
- Songs: 3 demo, 41 practice songs, 19 pad songs, 20 user
- Tempo: 30-300BPM, tap tempo
- Beat 1-9
- Timing: Accent, quarter note, eighth note, sixteenth note, triplet
- Click sound sets: 6 preset, 1 user
- Click presets: 30
- Click timer: 0-600 seconds
- Trigger inputs: 8
- Outputs: L/Mono, Right
- Headphone jack, Aux in
- MIDI out