Last time we looked at trouble shooting, but this time its more customisation.
Hopefully, if you have read the previous twenty odd articles, you should know that all pads, modules and accessories are not 100% cross compatible. What I mean by this is, you can’t just take a drum module from manufacturer ‘A’, plug in some pads from manufacturer ‘B’, and expected it all to work perfectly, without some (sometimes loads of) tweaking.
For example, you might have noticed that when certain pads are plugged into certain modules, the pads overload the inputs (show 100% input signal) even on a relatively light hit.
This is because there is absolutely no standard in electronic drums. So, every manufacturer, for example, makes their pads with a slightly different output voltage or impedance. Module ‘A’ expects a voltage of ‘X’ volts for a hard hit, while pads from manufacturer ‘B’ outputs quite a bit more than ‘X’ volts for a hard hit.
Is this a problem? Possibly most drummers wont notice it (but will be able to tell you that ‘B’ pads into ‘A’ module “doesn’t work that well” but be unable to tell you why), but what this means is that once you get past a certain velocity, the module doesn’t get any louder and you have a rubbish dynamic range – everything is loud and doesn’t get any louder from a medium hit upwards.
Is there anything that can be done? Well, yes, especially if you don’t mind getting a bit ‘hands on’.
Its easy to make quiet pads work well with any module – simply turn up the input gain, but making the signal smaller is a little more tricky.
To make a pads signal that is too hot for a certain module a little smaller, so it suits the input stage, you need to ‘leak’ a little of the signal – like drilling a hole in a pipe to reduce the water pressure. You can do this by soldering a resistor between the + and – wires (or the earth and signal, same thing). This, depending on the size of the resistor, can subtly or dramatically reduce the signal size.
Obviously I’m not saying to open up your drum modules and perform open heart surgery. Its much simpler than that – you simply make up a cable when the resistor is inside the jack plug. Its simple, cheap, non destructive, but very useful.
Now, you might be saying at this point that I could simply turn down the input gain on the module. Well, yes, but only if the input stage is analogue, or a little bit more advanced than most. Most companies choose the cheapest option and allow you to amplify (turn up) the gain of the pad inputs (to compensate for very low output pads) but don’t allow you to attenuate (turn down) the signal if it is too hot.
So going back to the cables, you need to try different size resistors to see what suits your gear. Plus, remember that the larger the resistance, the smaller the volume difference. If you use a really small resistor, most of the signal will ‘leak’ to the earth so there may be no usable signal for the module to work off. Use one that is too big, and there will be no perceived difference.
So, regain your dynamic range, get soldering, and make your perfect kit (‘B’ pads into ‘A’ module) a playable reality.