I thought I’d write this review on my blog as I couldn’t get access to the Pearl Forum pages to post a review.
Before buying this kit I found mixed reviews on the web and those have proven to be accurate. The biggest plus point for this kit is one that I think a lot of people have missed in other reviews. That being the size of it, you are playing a full size kit which is going to be a lot better for your technique than playing on an unrealistically small setup which most of the electronic brands are. This is the main reason why I got one, I was finding on my Roland Td9 setup that I was playing complex things fairly comfortably but then when moving over to my full size acoustic kit in a gig situation I had to adjust my playing style and ideas didn’t flow as freely. Secondly I wanted my students to learn on a full size kit as for some it was a real shock going from an electronic mesh head kit to an acoustic kit.
The playing surface on the Pearl kit is excellent, it’s a lot less forgiving than the springy mesh heads and again I think it’s better for technique,the pads are sensitive and feel nice to play, a little noisier than the mesh heads and I ended up going for the plastic cymbals as the metal ones were way too noisy in my view. Bass drum feels superb to play,very realistic to acoustic drums.
Now the not so good bit, The Pearl R.E.D Box module. When I tried it out in the store I wasn’t overly impressed by the sounds but I didn’t expect to be really. One of the reasons I didn’t let this concern me too much is that you can download one high quality lush sounding kit from the Red Box Sound-shop at around $40- $50 each and this is what I had planned to do. It’s a fairly simple process of connecting the module via USB and replacing the memory via the memory switch application. While the purchased kits sound quite good the problem is that the module doesn’t have enough processing power to handle the sounds correctly. When playing anything other than a simple rock beat the module cuts out some of the sounds as it’s gets overloaded. For example the cymbal will just cut dead or the snare will cut off making it unusable. I emailed Pearl customer Support about this and they knew of the problem and advised me to cut down on the decay of the instruments,especially the cymbals. This I did and it did help to some extent but cymbals with very short decay just don’t sound right and the problem still occurred though less frequently.
I tried 3 different memory switch kits and after several days of messing with trigger settings,velocity curve,thresholds,levels etc I got something that was usable but pretty uninspiring from a sound point of view. I lived with this for a couple of weeks but never felt happy with it. Eventually I decided to use the processing power of my computer and got some drum software called Addictive Drums. I used the Pearl RED Box to trigger the software via midi to usb cable and BAM! it sounds fantastic now. The drum sounds and especially the cymbals sound superb and a lot more dynamic with no cutting out at all. The RED Box module only had about 4 dynamic levels and you can hear the switch between them,addictive drums has lot more and sounds more realistic in a big way. I’m a bit peeved that I wasted over $100 on the memory switch kits and then had to spend another $200 on software to get the kit to work properly plus lots of fiddling.
So basically if you want to buy one of these,take it out of the box and use it I think you’ll be disappointed, not because the kit doesn’t feel great to play or lovely to look at but because the module just isn’t up to the job. If you’re willing to invest in software and run it from your computer it’s great and highly recommended.
One of the selling points of this kit is that you can switch between using it for an acoustic kit and an electronic kit. In my view this isn’t a realistic or attractive option. The kit took along time to set up, around 5 hrs and the thought of unplugging all the cables and putting acoustic head on and tuning them, doing a gig and then reversing the process is just too much hassle. Aside form this the shells are only cheap poplar so sound very thin and cheap anyway so it’s really not worth the effort.
Summing up. If you’re willing to put the effort into tweaking the setting and using a computer and software to trigger the sounds, then this kit is great. If you want a kit you can use out of the box as a stand alone e kit then I wouldn’t bother, Roland has much better offerings at a similar price. Recently Pearl have started selling the TRU TRAC heads separately and if I knew what I know now then I’d be buying the heads and fitting them to a cheap drum kit and buying a simple module to use as a midi interface. I would’ve saved a whole lot of time and money that way.