I've played drums for more than a quarter century now, and last October I made my first foray into the world of electronic drums when I purchased a TD-3 set on eBay. My new TD-4 brain arrived this morning, and I thought I'd share my first impressions here. I've never played any of the higher-end modules (beyond hitting a store demo or two) so I think I can offer a good perspective on how these two entry level modules compare.
My kit consists of three PD8's, three CY-8's, a CY-5 with FD-8, a KD-8 and a PDX-8 -- pretty much the basic kit that came with the TD-3 and now the TD-4. First off, the setup was a breeze. What I don't like is that the TD-4 HAS to be mounted in the middle, no way around it. The cables for the toms are just too short. I wish Roland would have just made the cables a little longer so the module placement was up to me, but I understand this has to do with the new rack and Roland's idea of ergonomics and aesthetics. The single connector to the back is a nice touch, although separate inputs for each pad would have made for more versatility. The upshot is that it makes the module very compact, and it's not in the way, even though it's mounted between the two toms.
The sound quality, compared to the TD-3 is nothing short of amazing. In comparison, the TD-3 sounds like a cheap toy. The default kits are terrific, especially the acoustic kits. There's a depth and a resonance to the sounds that is very close to the real thing. I did have to go in and adjust the cymbal panning for the crash and the ride for all kits, since I like my ride to be on the far right and apparently that's not how Roland had it in mind. Again, no big deal, the menu is very accessible. In fact, it's a lot more accessible than the TD-3 since everything is labeled in plain English, unlike the old-school "calculator" style display of the TD-3.
Cymbals are much improved. The sound library now has separate bow and edge samples for each cymbal, which dramatically increases the realism. You can now ride on a crash cymbal if you want to and it sounds good. Similarly, doing swells is much better and the choking action is smooth and top-notch, compared to the rather abrupt choking of the TD-3. Also, the weird choking sounds that I reported here a while back on the "Jazz" ride cymbal of the TD-3 are gone. The ride performs beautifully and realistically, especially between bow and bell.
Everyone who has a TD-3 loves to hate the CY-5/FD-8 hihat. With this new module, it's actually become a joy to play. The range between open and close is greatly improved, and you can now do both a heel chick AND a heel splash, and they're audible! I'm still going to get a VH-11 at some point (the TD-4 supports it) but for now, the CY-5 will do the job quite nicely.
More on the sounds: there are obviously a lot more samples for each of the instruments, giving a much bigger dynamic range. I will have to re-adjust my playing style to take advantage to the much greater sensitivity of each drum. While I'm sure there's still some "machine gunning" in there, it's a lot less noticeable due to this expanded range.
In closing, I think Roland did a great job with the TD-4. Like I said, I can't compare it to the high-end modules, but for an entry level set-up, this is miles beyond the TD-3. Anyone want to buy a TD-3 for cheap?