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Roland BT-1 Review and Three-Zone Ride Solution

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  • Roland BT-1 Review and Three-Zone Ride Solution

    Introduction
    Given the limited and sometimes incorrect information I've seen in reviews for the BT-1, I thought I'd provide a detailed review. I bought two BT-1 units to solve a very specific problem: enabling two three-zone ride cymbals on my TD-30 based kit. I'll discuss that problem (and its solution) as a precursor and then proceed with the BT-1 review proper.


    Three Zone Triggering Problem
    Fundamentally, Roland modules process two zones for each input. When more zones are needed (such as for a ride cymbal with bell, bow, and edge), the modules combine two inputs, adding switching / muting pseudo-intelligence to the aggregated pair. The result is you're limited to a single ride cymbal. All other ride cymbals are processed as two zones and lack either their bell or edge. This doesn't work for me as I use two ride cymbals, one on each side of my kit, playing patterns requiring bell, bow, and edge from both rides.

    I tried what appeared to be the simplest solution first, which is plugging in both outputs of the second ride cymbal (bell/bow and edge/bow) to another pair of inputs. It soon became evident why the pseudo-intelligence is needed for the special, aggregated ride inputs. The extra logic stops additional bow sounds triggering when the bell and edge are played, avoiding duplicate bow signals.

    When I plugged the second ride cymbal into two regular inputs, the result didn't work as hoped. Duplicate bow signals cause numerous problems (phasing when assigned to the same sound, extraneous MIDI data if assigned to the "No Sound" instrument, or two different sounds when assigned to different instruments). Also, the bell and edge often can't be heard because hitting either triggers the bow sound as well. Thus, the bow instrument (one or both of them) competes with the bell and edge sounds. No matter what I did with trigger settings, I could not adequately solve these problems.

    Roland's now discontinued TMC-6 (Trigger To MIDI Converter) supports up to three, three-zone ride cymbals and can be added to any Roland module that supports MIDI In and MIDI virtual trigger mapping. I decided against this solution because it is costly, requires many extra cables, and relies on the unreliable bell triggering of Roland ride cymbals. Those who use Roland ride cymbals know how hard one must hit the bells to get them to trigger. There are cymbal mods to fix this, but given the other problems I experienced getting three-zone functionality from the TD-30, I concluded a better solution is to avoid the bells of the cymbals entirely.

    (Side note: Another option I considered is the The TM-6 Pro, which replaces the discontinued TMC-6. However, the TM-6 Pro does not support three-zone triggering.)

    The TD-30 processes multiple two-zone rides (bow/edge) just fine, correctly muting the bow sound when the edge is played. Thus, my favored solution became "let the TD-30 process the bow and edge with one input, and add a completely independent bell trigger (using a piezo) to handle the bell with a separate input". This solution works for the default three-zone ride cymbal and supports adding more three-zone ride cymbals.

    I contemplated building small, DIY bell pads, using bells from brass cymbals and adding piezos. Once built, place a bell pad on top of each cymbal and plug the pad into its own input. Voila! All equipped cymbals now have three-zone triggering... edge and bow from the cymbal's edge/bow output, and bell from the output of the bell pad atop. This is when I discovered the BT-1 and decided to use these instead of DIY bell pads.

    Sorry for the long intro, but now the BT-1 review starts!


    BT-1 Review
    The BT-1 is a small, single zone, curved bar trigger pad from Roland. It fits on acoustic drums and electronic drum pads by attaching at a lug point. Or, it can fit over traditional 9 mm, 10 mm, and 12 mm rods used for mounting toms and other percussion equipment. An extra bonus is the BT-1's tube clamping mechanism is flexible enough that it can also clamp over the thread of a cymbal stand. This allows the BT-1 to stack on top of a cymbal. Now you can see why the BT-1 caught my interest!

    There is a lot of confusion on the Internet about how the BT-1 is connected and what its sensitivity is. After installing two BT-1s, I can see why. The manual says nothing about the fact the BT-1 can run in default "switch" mode or in "sensor" mode. That's the crux of the problem, so let's discuss this.

    The BT-1 is designed to operate in areas where cross talk is a huge problem, such as when attached to the side of a snare drum. Hitting the snare drum may accidentally trigger the BT-1. Roland solved this problem by adding switch circuitry on top of the BT-1's single zone piezo sensor. Hitting the BT-1 closes the switch and only then is input from the piezo sensor processed. This piezo/switch configuration eliminates any possibility of accidental triggering from the snare drum. That's great, however, it comes with two tradeoffs. First, despite being a single zone trigger, for the combined piezo/switch configuration to work, the BT-1 uses both sides of a stereo input. Second, by design, one must hit the BT-1 quite hard to close the switch and this significantly limits sensitivity. Turning up sensitivity on the module has no effect because the heavy-duty switch filters out lighter strokes.

    That's the default operating mode of the BT-1 and consequently I read a number of negative reviews stating the BT-1 has limited sensitivity and requires a full stereo input. This is where Roland's manual omissions cheated the product. I'm not sure if this is the case with all modules, but on the TD-30 there are two trigger selections for the BT-1: "BT-1" (switch mode) and "BT-1 sens" (sensor mode). With "BT-1" selected, the BT-1 operates as described above. However, with "BT-1 sens" selected, the switch side of the BT-1 is ignored. This provides two benefits: the BT-1 becomes super sensitive - even light taps with the very tip of a stick are detected, and it is now possible to split two BT-1s across a single, stereo input.

    So with all that out of the way, what do I think of the BT-1 and did it solve my ride cymbal problems? Short answer: I love these things and (now) can't imagine being without them. And yes, they work wonderfully as cymbal bell replacements! The feel of the playing surface is lovely. The surface is a thick, soft, spongy rubber that provides lots of rebound, which is great for playing fast bell patterns. Equally important, the surface is quiet when struck... much quieter than a Roland mesh pad or rubber cymbal. When in sensor mode and with the BT-1's stacked on top of cymbal stands, I had no problems with cross talk. And, as mentioned, I was able to achieve superb sensitivity, equal to or better than a mesh pad.

    I did have to enhance the sensitivity of the inputs, raising the default of "8" to around "22". There is a roll-off in sensitivity as one moves from the center of the BT-1's bar to the outer edge. Given I'm playing mostly at the edges, that's why the gain increase is necessary. That said, I'm getting a full range of MIDI velocity values, from 0 to 127. Contrast this with the BT-1 in switch mode; when striking with enough force to close the switch, the BT-1 outputs a MIDI velocity value of around 60 to 70. That's the minimum velocity output and the resulting range is from 70 to 127. I can see why those using the BT-1 in switch mode are complaining about limited sensitivity. However, that's not really the problem here. As noted previously, switch mode is intended for extreme environments where cross talk is a substantial problem. The tradeoff for eliminating cross talk is limited dynamics. The real problem is Roland didn't document the different modes of the BT-1 and how and where to use them!

    Let's zoom in on using the BT-1 as a bell trigger. Attaching it to the thread of a cymbal stand is easy because all required parts are included. Each BT-1 includes a cable, but I found these cables much too short to reach my module. Thus, I had to sub in my own cables. I've not yet brewed a solution for stopping BT-1 cables touching the cymbals. However, while playing, I didn't notice any impact from the cables resting lightly on the cymbals - the cymbals still swing easily and naturally, there is no loss in sensitivity, and there is no false triggering.

    Normally, when playing bow-to-bell patterns, one approaches from 90 degrees off axis such that the tip of the stick contacts the bow and the shank contacts the bell. This isn't quite possible with the BT-1 because the unit doesn't reach far enough around the circumference of the cymbal. Also, one must reach slightly higher than where the bell normally is. In totality, I found a slight playing adjustment in bow-to-bell approach is required, but the result is well worth it. There's a confidence in having the BT-1 there (it always triggers reliably and with the lightest of touches) as opposed to the default bell on Roland ride cymbals which never triggers reliably. The sensitivity, feel, and overall performance of the BT-1 actually outshine the overall triggering performance of the entire cymbal!

    In terms of construction, the outer housing of the BT-1 is plastic, but the inner core is a thick, heavy metal. The clamping components are all metal and attach to the inner metal core so the unit feels completely solid when attached. Weight-wise, while I wouldn't say the BT-1 is overly heavy, non-the-less, it's not light either. It feels like a solid, well-built unit. The finishing of the bar and all components is top notch.

    Some reviews noted the price as a negative. The BT-1 sells for around $100. When considering the careful design that has gone into this unit and its overall quality, I think the price is very reasonable. I mean, let's face it... Roland isn't going to sell bucket loads of these things so they have to make up the design costs somehow. This is one of the rare occasions I think a V-Drums product is priced spot on.

    Would I buy the BT-1 again? Absolutely! Will I buy more? Probably! The BT-1 is such a useful, compact, great feeling trigger unit that I can't imagine any e-drummer not finding a use for them. It's great for ride bells, a second pair of close hats (an x-hat), and all kinds of percussion. In sensor mode, the feel, triggering, and sensitivity are equal to a mesh pad so you could easily use these to add extra drums in tight spaces, such as a secondary snare voice beside the main snare.

    Pros:
    - Switch mode guarantees no cross talk in high cross talk environments.
    - Sensor mode provides sensitivity equivalent to a mesh pad with full range of MIDI velocity, from 0 to 127.
    - No problems with cross talk when stacked on a cymbal stand and in sensor mode.
    - Can use a split stereo input to handle two BT-1s when the BT-1s are in sensor mode.
    - Feels great, with nice sponginess and lots of rebound (feels much better than a typical rubber pad).
    - Sturdy, reliable construction with internal metal frame.
    - Attaches easily to lug points, rods (9 mm, 10 mm, 12 mm), and cymbal stands.

    Cons:
    - Switch mode limits sensitivity to hard hits and provides only upper MIDI velocities, starting at 60 to 70 and up.
    - Included cable too short for many applications.
    - Instructions don't discuss BT-1 modes or how to enable them.
    - Custom wiring needed to obtain sensor mode with certain modules.


    Review Afterthoughts
    I read the BT-1 manual again (cover to cover) to confirm there is no mention of sensor mode. That is indeed the case. What became clearer this time is I suspect a customer's just-out-of-the-box experience with the BT-1 is highly dependent on the module they're using. In my case, the TD-30 supports both switch and sensor modes, but the default mode is switch (due to how the BT-1 is wired) and I suspect, given what I read in the manual, that this is the only option available on certain modules. In switch mode, the BT-1 absolutely would not work for my application.

    If the module you're using doesn't support sensor mode (some of Roland's modules don't even have a trigger setting for the BT-1), one can probably obtain sensor mode by wiring a custom cable. At that point, all the praise I've heaped on the BT-1 still applies, but the initial out-of-box experience is lackluster in these situations, especially given the manual makes no mention of how to obtain and/or wire for sensor mode.

    Given it's a reasonably simple wiring problem to move between switch and sensor modes (defeat the cross talk switch and have the piezo show up on the desired side of the stereo pair), I don't understand why Roland didn't provide just such a toggle switch on the BT-1. Perhaps production cost was an issue? Or, maybe Roland's engineers didn't realize customers would want to use the BT-1 with the cross talk filtering disabled? At any rate, this would certainly be a great improvement for the BT-1 version 2.

    Regarding my comment "no problems with cross talk when stacked on a cymbal stand and in sensor mode", this is true, but more explanation is needed. I fitted the threads of my cymbal stands with thick, clear, fish tank tubing. This tubing protects the threads from the BT-1's clamp and acts as a vibration insulator. Cross talk may be an issue without this insulation, but there were no issues with the insulation in place.

    Important: For the BT-1 trigger types to be present in the TD-30, the TD-30's operating system must be version 1.12 or later. If your unit has a lesser version, you'll need to update the operating system.


    Pictures coming in a following post.
    Last edited by TangTheHump; 12-16-19, 11:54 PM.

  • #2
    Here are the pictures.

    Front of Kit - Three-Zone Ride Solution with BT-1 Triggers
    bt1_kit_front.jpg


    Side of Kit - Three-Zone Ride Solution with BT-1 Triggers
    bt1_kit_side.jpg


    Left Ride - Three-Zone Ride Solution with BT-1 Triggers
    bt1_left_ride.jpg


    Right Ride - Three-Zone Ride Solution with BT-1 Triggers
    bt1_right_ride.jpg

    Comment


    • #3
      So, in your installation of the BT1s you are using a separate output on the module for the bell sound correct?
      It would still be necessary to use both ride cables on a cy15 to preserve bow, edge and choke correct?
      "It makes sense if you dont think about it"

      Mimic Pro, SPD-SX, 2-QSC K-10s, K-sub, Yamaha mixer, and a bunch of other expensive cool things!

      Comment


      • #4
        Intruder,

        So, in your installation of the BT1s you are using a separate output on the module for the bell sound correct?
        Yes.

        It would still be necessary to use both ride cables on a cy15 to preserve bow, edge and choke correct?
        No. Chokes are handled by the edge sensors, which are plugged in along with the bows using the bow/edge outputs. All bells are handled by BT-1s so no need for the bell/bow outputs from the CY-15s - they are not plugged in and are left unused. I've set the special "Edge" input of the TD-30's aggregated ride input to support the BT-1 so no extra input is needed for the first BT-1. The "Ride" input of the TD-30's aggregated ride input is rotated. It normally powers the bell and bow. I've set it to power the bow and edge, and altered the instrument assignments accordingly. The second BT-1 uses another input. If I had a splitter cable, provided the BT-1s are in sensor mode (which they are), I could use a single input for both BT-1s.

        Last edited by TangTheHump; 12-01-14, 09:13 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Getting less confused now thanks but what do you mean by "I've set it to power the bow and edge" how is that done? I would be using it in that way.
          Good review by the way nice to hear you say something good about Roland for a change!
          "It makes sense if you dont think about it"

          Mimic Pro, SPD-SX, 2-QSC K-10s, K-sub, Yamaha mixer, and a bunch of other expensive cool things!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Intruder View Post
            Getting less confused now thanks but what do you mean by "I've set it to power the bow and edge" how is that done? I would be using it in that way.
            Good review by the way nice to hear you say something good about Roland for a change!
            Normally, the ride input of the TD-30 is comprised of two stereo inputs: Ride and Edge. The Bell/Bow output of the CY-15 goes into Ride and the Edge/Bow output goes into Edge. For the trigger settings, the Ride input is set to "Three Way Triggering". This is the default configuration.

            I've changed the default configuration as follows. I plugged the Edge/Bow output of the ride into the Ride input and altered the instrument assignments so that instead of bell and bow sound normally output, it now outputs edge and bow sounds. Also, I turned off "Three Way Triggering" on the Ride input. That's key because when you do that, it un-links and frees up the Edge input. The Edge input now becomes a generic input and you can set it to any trigger type you want. I set it to "BT-1 sens" to operate a BT-1 in sensor mode. This way, I get my first CY-15 and BT-1 without using any extra inputs.

            I probably could have used the Ride input for the BT-1 and plugged the CY-15's Edge/Bow output into the Edge input. That would avoid the need to make new instrument assignments and it means all the default ride sounds would continue working with no instrument changes. Oh well. Just thought of that now! The only caveat is, I'm not sure whether the Ride input converts to a generic input when "Three Way Triggering" is turned off - the Edge input does, but I don't know about the Ride input. Worth testing to find out so I will! (Edited to add: I tried this. It doesn't work. See follow-up post to Intruder, below, for details and summary of proper setup.)

            Last edited by TangTheHump; 12-02-14, 02:10 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Great, I forgot about the 3 way triggering setting it makes sense now. Thanks. I see a BT-1 under the tree in a couple of weeks! (not a guess).
              Hope your test on the ride input works out. Let us know as that really would make it a no brainer.
              "It makes sense if you dont think about it"

              Mimic Pro, SPD-SX, 2-QSC K-10s, K-sub, Yamaha mixer, and a bunch of other expensive cool things!

              Comment


              • #8
                Intruder,

                TangTheHump wrote:
                I probably could have used the Ride input for the BT-1 and plugged the CY-15's Edge/Bow output into the Edge input. That would avoid the need to make new instrument assignments and it means all the default ride sounds would continue working with no instrument changes. Oh well. Just thought of that now! The only caveat is, I'm not sure whether the Ride input converts to a generic input when "Three Way Triggering" is turned off - the Edge input does, but I don't know about the Ride input. Worth testing to find out so I will!

                Intruder wrote:
                Hope your test on the ride input works out. Let us know as that really would make it a no brainer.
                Tried it. BT-1 into Ride input. CY-15R into Edge input. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. Two problems occur: (1) the Edge input does not allow positional sensing for the bow whereas the Ride input does, and (2) the instrument assignments still need correcting. We're worse off with this setup. Therefore, I recommend the original configuration, which provides three zone triggering and positional sensing for the bow, as follows:

                Set Ride input's Trigger Type to CY-15R.
                Set Ride input's Three Way Trigger option to Off.
                Plug CY-15R edge/bow output into Ride input.
                Leave CY-15R bell/edge output unplugged.

                Set Edge input's Trigger Type to BT-1 Sens.
                Set Edge input's Sensitivity to 22.
                Plug BT-1 output into Edge input.

                Mount CY-15R on cymbal stand.
                Put fish tank tube or other insulating tube on remaining cymbal stand thread.
                Mount BT-1 above CY-15R, clamped to the insulated thread.
                Ensure there's enough space for CY-15R to move without hitting bottom of BT-1.

                Make new instrument assignments as follows:
                CY-15R Bow = (ride cymbal bow sound)
                CY-15R Edge = (ride cymbal edge sound)
                BT-1 = (ride cymbal bell sound)

                Voila! You're done!

                If you want a second ride cymbal with three zone triggering, repeat the procedure with another CY-15R and BT-1, and a pair of inputs. And, again for a third three-way cymbal, and so on.
                Last edited by TangTheHump; 10-30-17, 02:40 PM.

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                • #9
                  For those who read the review already, I added a "Review Afterthoughts" section at the end. Please check this new section as it contains important, qualifying details.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Good solution there, expensive, but tidy.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by airflamesred View Post
                      Good solution there, expensive, but tidy.
                      Thanks for the feedback. I did consider cost, but getting back to playing was my priority. The BT-1 units provided a quick, easy solution with limited prototyping and debugging required. Also, I felt the BT-1 units likely perform better than what I can build on my own. That said, had the BT-1 not suited my purpose, I'd have built the DIY bell triggers discussed in my review.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Tang,

                        Thanks for posting your settings. They will come in handy soon!
                        Now we need some DIYer to slide the inerds of the BT-1 into the CY15 or otherwise copy the technology into the cymbal.(you listening Roland?).
                        It would also be nice to hide the BT-1 wire. Mine won't show quite as much as my CY15 is black.
                        "It makes sense if you dont think about it"

                        Mimic Pro, SPD-SX, 2-QSC K-10s, K-sub, Yamaha mixer, and a bunch of other expensive cool things!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Intruder,

                          Intruder wrote:
                          Now we need some DIYer to slide the inerds of the BT-1 into the CY15 or otherwise copy the technology into the cymbal. (You listening Roland?)
                          I thought about modifying the CY-15R with one of the popular "bell mods" and/or as you're describing above. However, I'd have ended up with customized cymbals that have little resale value. That's why I decided to do something that required no mods to the cymbals. I suppose the bell mods aren't that invasive, but from what I saw in several videos, the mods improve bell sensitivity while creating other problems in the cymbal... dead zones and such. And, as noted, you no longer have a stock Roland cymbal.

                          Using the BT-1 may seem like the lazy/easy solution, but it addresses many factors and, when set up correctly, provides flawless bell triggering. With the DIY bell triggers I considered building, I thought about how to hide the wires (drilling through the cymbal under the bell) and how to attach the bell trigger to the cymbal (with felt strips for isolation and double-sided tape or and adhesive). See where this is going? More mods plus damage to the cymbal surface.

                          The BT-1 solution makes a lot of sense for those (like me) who want to keep their cymbals virgin. Roland really should fix the bell triggering issue in their ride cymbals (both the CY-13R and CY-15R exhibit poor bell sensitivity and inconsistent bell triggering) and provide more three-way inputs in their modules. My guess is Roland will do this at some point, but I don't see it coming anytime soon.

                          At any rate, I hope you have fun with your BT-1. It really is a super little trigger unit and it's a great bell replacement, too. Playing bell patterns on the BT-1 feels wonderful and the triggering is spot on, with plenty of sensitivity and the full range of MIDI dynamics. Just remember, you MUST run the BT-1 in sensor mode. (i.e. In the TD-30, set trigger type to "BT-1 Sens" not "BT-1".) If you run the BT-1 in its default switch mode, only heavy-handed strikes register.

                          Important side note: For the BT-1 trigger types to be present in the TD-30, the TD-30's operating system must be version 1.12 or later. If your unit has a lesser version, you'll need to update the operating system.
                          Last edited by TangTheHump; 10-30-17, 02:39 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Nice solution. A small splash would be even better, but there's no such small splashes on the market AFAIK ...
                            electronic drum triggers >>> | electronic cymbals >>>

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by triggera View Post
                              Nice solution. A small splash would be even better, but there's no such small splashes on the market AFAIK ...
                              Kit toys seem to be making an effort with getting up and running. They have an 8" splash which I suppose translates to a 4" bell.but I would have thought you would need at least a 16" underneath. Certainly room for a Triggera solution in this?

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