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My review of the new Roland TD-4

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  • My review of the new Roland TD-4

    MY REVIEW OF THE ROLAND TD-4

    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?
    Last edited by monospace; 02-28-09, 11:19 PM.

    TD-4 | VH-11 | KD-80 | PD-120 | 3 x PD-80 | 2 x CY-8 | CY-15R | Iron Cobra | Buttkicker Gamer
    MacBook Pro (13", Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB) | Superior Drummer 2.2.1 | Logic Express 9.1
    SDX: Avatar, Allaire, Hit Factory, Music City, Custom & Vintage, Metal Foundry

    My band: KiLiFAX
    Solo stuff: monospace

  • #2
    My sentiments exactly. Iv'e been playing my TD-4 module with Roland and a DYI mesh kit for a few weeks now in a live setting. I really like it!
    Raptor
    Hebrews 11:6

    Roland spd-30, Simmons DA-200s monitor, JBL 515xt
    Ludwig 4-piece Club Date in silver sparkle
    Future Ekit (5 piece Jobeky kit in Bubinga fade with 2box module)

    Comment


    • #3
      Oh, forgot about the tuning and muffling options. They work as advertised, what can I say? Haven't fiddled with it much yet, but I'm sure it will come in handy when I start creating my own custom kits.

      Also: Rhythm Coach. I never used it on the TD-3, but I'm sure some will find it helpful. Same with the Quick Record feature. Kind of neat, but I don't expect to be using it all that much.

      ------------------
      Okay, on edit: tuning and muffling kick ass! Unlike the TD-3, you'll finally be able to get your drum sounds just right. I was quite happy with the factory presets, but I've already been able to put some sounds together that work for me. You'll get much more than the built-in 125 instruments this way, especially if you're into somewhat weird sounds and you go to the extremes with tuning up and down.

      And finally, the new Ambience effects are quite spiffy too. I'm really pleased as punch with this new module.
      Last edited by monospace; 03-02-09, 11:06 PM.

      TD-4 | VH-11 | KD-80 | PD-120 | 3 x PD-80 | 2 x CY-8 | CY-15R | Iron Cobra | Buttkicker Gamer
      MacBook Pro (13", Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB) | Superior Drummer 2.2.1 | Logic Express 9.1
      SDX: Avatar, Allaire, Hit Factory, Music City, Custom & Vintage, Metal Foundry

      My band: KiLiFAX
      Solo stuff: monospace

      Comment


      • #4
        I think the TD-3 and TD-4 are ultimately the way to go as software based VSTi sounds will continue to dominate long-term. So your module sounds will really not matter - except for a good backup live when your VSTi hardware and/or software crashes. The promising trend (which is going too slow IMO) is to directly trigger real recorded drum samples than than going to all the trouble and expense of trying to approximate the sound synth-ethically using COMOS and other derivatives. What you ultimately want to a reliable way to trigger real sound samples that have been recorded in pristine studio environments and have those sounds directly available to you either through a midi trigger io or an inexpensive TD-3 or TD-4 acting as a trigger io. In 5 years from now, I think modules will take a completely different approach - in that they will allow you to download any VSTi sound from any VSTi source software or simply trigger the sound that resides on your laptop computer. Any way, the current approach will be displaced as is already happening now. Good news is keep those low cost modules because they will be more valuable then TD2Os, as the sound source model is moving away from the current approach to something so much more expressive, reliable and better sounding.

        Dan

        Comment


        • #5
          Hello,
          Thanks to all here. I've gleaned a lot from the generous knowledge shared in the posts here. I've been lurking for a little while unregistered.

          TD-4 is my first edrum kit. I'm a guitarist primarily, and I'm somewhat acquainted with MIDI and recording. I apologize for my gross ignorance in all things drumming and edrumming, but here's my general impression so far:

          I am quite pleased with the sounds in the kit. For me to practice my chops in my apartment, more than adequate. I'm not looking to become Neil Peart here, I just need enough chops to play drums with my Guitar Students a la "School of Rock". So for these purposes: fantastic.

          However, my secondary goal with the TD-4 was to use it to drive drum VST's. In particular, Reason Drum Kits 2.0. I have read elsewhere on this forum that Reason isn't the most edrum friendly app. Fair enough.

          However, as it stands right now, I'm a little disappointed in the lack of MIDI flexibility on the TD-4. You can't edit all of the MIDI notes that the Hat sends. Only the 2 notes (edge/bow OPEN) are user assignable. The closed edge/bow notes are automatically assigned values that are 4 MIDI notes below their respective Open notes.

          The Hi Hat Pedal note is assigned to the OPEN BOW -2. You can't change it independently. I don't understand why this is the case. It doesn't really make sense to me. Why isn't it assignable independently?

          Lack of Midi IN is not an issue for me yet, but I could see how it would be if I actually want to use the sounds in the TD-4 for recording.

          And then there's the whole riddle of mapping the cc#4 from the Hi Hat pedal to the various open/closed states available in RDK2, and, no doubt, in other VSTs.

          For those interested, some folks over at the propellerheads forum are helping me to create a MIDI mapping utility to MAP the TD-4 into the RDK2 in Reason. It hasn't been dialed in yet, but it's getting there. I'm excited.

          http://www.propellerheads.se/forum/s...d.php?t=109984

          If it works out, I'll be pleased with this relatively inexpensive solution to my wanting a drumkit at home that will drive Reason's (I think) great drum sample library.

          If it doesn't, I'll have to make a choice between returning the TD-4 for a more flexible Module, or laying out the cash for another Drum VST that plays a little more friendly with edrums.

          I just wish that the TD-4 was a little more MIDI flexible. then it'd be perfect to drive VSTs.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by plutocohn View Post
            For those interested, some folks over at the propellerheads forum are helping me to create a MIDI mapping utility to MAP the TD-4 into the RDK2 in Reason. It hasn't been dialed in yet, but it's getting there. I'm excited.

            http://www.propellerheads.se/forum/s...d.php?t=109984

            If it works out, I'll be pleased with this relatively inexpensive solution to my wanting a drumkit at home that will drive Reason's (I think) great drum sample library.

            If it doesn't, I'll have to make a choice between returning the TD-4 for a more flexible Module, or laying out the cash for another Drum VST that plays a little more friendly with edrums.

            I just wish that the TD-4 was a little more MIDI flexible. then it'd be perfect to drive VSTs.
            Please keep us updated on the midi map for Reason 4. I have both Reason 4 and the TD-4, but have not tried to use them together yet.

            Comment


            • #7
              The td4 works great with bfd2. I don't have reason,so I am not sure how to get that working.

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm guessing that Reason doesn't have a MIDI remapper capability the way BFD2 and Superior 2.0 do. Either that or you haven't found it yet.

                Assume for a minute it's like EZD in that it has no remapper. Search in here using the terms "loop be" (or "loopbe") and "chaotic box". Those are two add ons that will allow you much of the mapping capability found in the the above mentioned products. It's what I use and I'd say I get perhaps 90% of the functionality for a HH.

                www.myspace.com/rubberuniverse
                Mix and Match Heaven: TD-12 or EZDrummer, Diamond Drum 12" snare, Hart Acupad toms, Roland CY-5 mounted on a Hart Ecymbal II Pro Pedal, Hart Ride, Hart Acupad 8" bass, 2 Roland CY-14 crashes, two Concept 1 cymbals, a Yamaha PCY-10, all on a red Roland V-Sessions rack. Pads on hiatus: PD-7, Kit Toy Splash, Hart single-zone HH, Alesis DMPad ride and an entire Concept 1 kit.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by grog View Post
                  I'm guessing that Reason doesn't have a MIDI remapper capability the way BFD2 and Superior 2.0 do. Either that or you haven't found it yet.

                  Assume for a minute it's like EZD in that it has no remapper. Search in here using the terms "loop be" (or "loopbe") and "chaotic box". Those are two add ons that will allow you much of the mapping capability found in the the above mentioned products. It's what I use and I'd say I get perhaps 90% of the functionality for a HH.

                  www.myspace.com/rubberuniverse
                  Good tips, thanks!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by DPTrainor View Post
                    I think the TD-3 and TD-4 are ultimately the way to go as software based VSTi sounds will continue to dominate long-term. So your module sounds will really not matter - except for a good backup live when your VSTi hardware and/or software crashes. The promising trend (which is going too slow IMO) is to directly trigger real recorded drum samples than than going to all the trouble and expense of trying to approximate the sound synth-ethically using COMOS and other derivatives. What you ultimately want to a reliable way to trigger real sound samples that have been recorded in pristine studio environments and have those sounds directly available to you either through a midi trigger io or an inexpensive TD-3 or TD-4 acting as a trigger io. In 5 years from now, I think modules will take a completely different approach - in that they will allow you to download any VSTi sound from any VSTi source software or simply trigger the sound that resides on your laptop computer. Any way, the current approach will be displaced as is already happening now. Good news is keep those low cost modules because they will be more valuable then TD2Os, as the sound source model is moving away from the current approach to something so much more expressive, reliable and better sounding.

                    Dan
                    Interesting opinion DPTrainor,

                    I just can't agree with it though - a few reasons below.....

                    The TD-20 is light years ahead of any other module - the only thing it really lacks is the ability to sample.

                    The "trouble and expense" involved in configuring a TD-20 is significantly less than the trouble and expense involved in purchasing, configuring and maintaining a PC or Laptop running multiple applications and I/O hardware
                    (I use all of these items so I don't have a particular preference other than using the best tool for the job).

                    I would challenge anyone to pick the difference between a well tweaked TD-20 kit and a sampled acoustic kit, and I'm not saying that either is better than the other.

                    If they can get a PC with all the apps running to boot up in the same amount of time it takes to turn on a module (i.e. 3 seconds) I would be very happy indeed. I haven't heard many stories of modules crashing either - something that afflicts PCs (and Macs) still.

                    only just 2c worth ....

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      On an recording I would find it very easy to tell the difference betwenn a td20 and BFD. It is true that the sample direction is still more trouble for live work,although the 2box may change that.

                      I previously owned the tdw20 and now have the td4. There is no difference that I can see in triggering BFD except the number of inputs,edge snare sound,and hi hat pressure sensitivity.

                      The tdw20 sounds are better than the td4 but I still didn't think they were as good as I would like for that price.I think the td20 module with expansion should be about $1200. That seems reasonable considering any serious pro recording will need samples anyway.

                      Peter

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by grog View Post
                        I'm guessing that Reason doesn't have a MIDI remapper capability the way BFD2 and Superior 2.0 do. Either that or you haven't found it yet.
                        Reason does map midi exactly in the way that you are talking about. Absolutely. Select a knob or what have you, enable MIDI mapping, hit the button you want to trigger it. Boom. Done.

                        And if I wanted to simply run the ReDrum drum machine in Reason, mapping would be a cinch. Easy peasy. The ReDrum is like a GM drum machine: Two states of Hi Hat: Open and Closed. That's it. So I'd just select those, hit the hat, and off to the races. I could even have a second one for edge vs. bow.

                        However, it's programming a more sophisticated sampler (Reason's NN-XT) to access all of the various states of the FD 8 that is the trickiest. In reason's Drum Kits 2.0, for example, the varying states of the hi hat are mapped to different MIDI notes:

                        66 = Surface
                        67 = Sequence Surface/Edge (Alternates between surface/edge samples. Cool for keys, not cool from an edrum perspective. Or maybe.)
                        68 = Edge
                        69 = Open 1 (A little open)
                        70 = Open 2 (More)
                        71 = Open 3 (Most)

                        So, I'd need a bunch of different triggers to get to those states of the hi hat.

                        OR, if we can map the cc#4 sent from the FD8 to transpose the MIDI notes sent by the Cy 5 to the differing open samples, then we should be able to play all those sounds as we would on a hi hat.

                        That's what we're trying to accomplish.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          JoshLevy over at the Propellerheads forum got a Midi Pipe working to do the Hi Hat translation. It works well. I'm still testing the MIDI latency.

                          He posted the Midi Pipe here:
                          http://www.propellerheads.se/forum/s...=109984&page=3

                          Here's the Pipe itself:
                          http://www.propellerheads.se/forum/a...9&d=1237599687
                          (Ctrl or Right click and select download linked file. It'll download a zip with the Midi Pipe)

                          If that link doesn't work for y'all, let me know.

                          Here's where to get Midi Pipe:
                          http://web.mac.com/nicowald/SubtleSoft/MidiPipe.html

                          This is a mac OS X solution, though one could do the same thing with Midi Yoke on the PC.
                          Last edited by plutocohn; 03-21-09, 10:25 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Nice review! I just have a few questions about the TD4: can you set the hi hat to "fixed" for when you play double bass? Also, if you buy the module seperately from the kit do you get the special wire you need to connect the module to the pad (the one that has a single jack on one end and like five or six jacks on the other end) with it? Thanks in advance for any help :-)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Guz2 View Post
                              Nice review! I just have a few questions about the TD4: can you set the hi hat to "fixed" for when you play double bass? Also, if you buy the module seperately from the kit do you get the special wire you need to connect the module to the pad (the one that has a single jack on one end and like five or six jacks on the other end) with it? Thanks in advance for any help :-)
                              The module comes with the db25 connector, no worries. I saw your other question about the fixed hihat, and read through the manual, and couldnt find anything to help you. Sorry. I might have missed it, but it doesnt look like it...
                              TD9+6v module, KD-8, custom Diamond Electronic 12" snare + 2x8" + 2x10" toms, PD-85, 4xPD8, 2xCY8, CY-5, CY-12r/c, Pearl P902 double pedals, Diamond Electronic COWBELL!
                              HPD-10 ATH-50M phones and 4 Vex Packs for the TD-9

                              Gibson Les Paul. + pod xtl, Norman acoustic, Fender J-Bass + gt10b

                              Clavia Nord Stage 2 Synth/Stage Piano Samson SR850 'phones

                              cubase, garritan personal orchestra, JABB, symphonic choirs, Sibelius, reason 6.5, IPAD 2 with lots of soft synths...

                              three shelter cats

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