Roland released a couple of exciting new electronic drum products. I went to Los Angeles to attend the release event known as #totallydrums and had the honour to test each new drum kit. In this article, I will share my impressions with you and I give you a detailed overview of the new Roland TD-17 V-drums Series.
Roland TD-17 Series
Roland released a new version of the TD-50 and TD-25 drum set. Each comes with a bigger kick drum for a better stage appearance. However, the major release was obviously the new entry-level set called Roland TD-17.
A set at the size of the former Roland TD-11 and its predecessor Roland TD-4.
The TD-17 drum kit comes in 4 different variations, which vary from each other through different hi-hat, snare and tom pad configurations plus particular module types.
The Roland TD-17K comes with the 8” dual-zone PDX-8 mesh snare, 3x single zone PD-8A rubber tom pads, two chokable CY-8 cymbal pads (crash & ride) and a CY-5 as a hi-hat pad. These exact pads are a proven concept since 2004. They are part of the Roland TD-3SW, TD-4K, TD-9K and the TD-11K. So nothing new here.
The hi-hat pedal is an improved version of the former Roland FD-8, which is known for mail functioning after a couple of years. This new hi-hat control pedal is called Roland FD-9. It is made out of quality metal components and comes with a different sensor technology that seems to be “wear -resistant”. This pedal will probably never fail and is also insanely quiet.
The new Roland KD-10 is an improved version of the former KD-9. The KD-10 comes with an identical cloth mesh head but seems to be more steady than the KD-9, which was known for wobbling through the room when played with a double pedal. However, I could not really feel any differences in terms of rebound, which is decent. It’s noise emission level has been improved, but it is still a noisy kick pad that might require a Roland NE-10 Noise Eater for “apartment drummers”.
The rack of all 4 versions of the TD-17 is the MDS-4KVX rack, also popular since the existence of the Roland TD-4. It is steady and compact enough for all kinds of practice places. The only new upgrade (the “KVX” in the name) is the ball joint where the snare is mounted. Adjusting the pad becomes easier this way.
2. Roland TD-17KV-L
The Roland TD-17KV-L comes with some nice upgrades. Instead of the small PDX-8 snare pad, you get Roland’s new PDX-12 snare. A 12” dual ply mesh snare that is essentially a bigger version of the PDX-8.
One great feature of this pad is the side mounted trigger. Center mounted triggers are great, but also known to cause hot spotting issues (volume peek when hitting the center), which is an annoying problem if you want to use your electronic drum set for VST recordings.
The PDX-12 is, therefore, the first “big” Roland snare pad with a side mounted pick up that delivers a great trigger result without hot spotting problems. The pad is lightweight, very flat and has a unique new rubber rim. A positive side effect of its physics is the low noise emission.
The TD-17KV-L comes with 3x dual zone PDX-8 mesh pads instead of PD-8A mono zone rubber pads as toms. The TD-17 module supports head and rim zones on each tom, which is why the PDX-8 pads are great, as you can assign any instrument to the tom rims, such as a cowbell.
I love the fact that Roland did not choose their tiny 6” PDX-6 pads as rack toms like known from the former entry/mid-level sets. The TD-11KV for example, came with small rack mesh pads, despite costing the same as the Roland TD-17KV.
Every other part of the TD-17KV is identical to the TD-17K.
3. Roland TD-17KV
What is the difference between “KV” and “KV-L” you ask? There are 2 different versions of the Roland TD-17 Sound module. The TD-17-L (L stands for Lite) and the regular TD-17 module. Both modules are identical, except one feature. The “lite version” does not include Bluetooth. Other than that, TD-17KV and KV-L are identical.
More about the Bluetooth feature later.
4. Roland TD-17KVX
The biggest and best version of the TD-17 has the same sorts of mesh pads as the KV version but also 3 very important upgrades. Namely, hi-hat, crash and ride cymbals are in an entirely different league.
The 12” Roland CY-12C crash cymbal has 2 zones (bow and edge). The 13” CY-13R is a 3-zone ride with bell, bow and edge triggering. Both CY-12 and 13 behave very naturally in terms of motion and triggering. The looks and overall playability make those cymbals a better deal than the entry level CY-8 pads.
Not only does the TD-17KVX come with better cymbals, but with one additional crash cymbal including the cymbal mount.
Roland VH-10 Hi-hat
The most exciting kit component of the TD-17KVX (besides the new module) is the new 12” Roland VH-10 hi-hat. It is an improved and less expensive version of the Roland VH-11.
The top part is lighter and more flexible than the heavy VH-11 top.
A light top part solves a major problem concerning a lot of VH-11 users:
Those types of hi-hats are mounted onto a real hi-hat stand. But the spring of most stands is too weak to carry the heavy VH-11 top part. Ergo, quick open/close actions were only possible with a decent hi-hat stand. Not so with the Roland VH-10. This lightweight hi-hat pad can be opened and closed much quicker and comes even with another nice side effect. It is not as loud. (pad noise comes from the weight, less weight means less noise).
The hi-hat controller is similar to the VH-11 controller, it is a cylinder that is placed on the hi-hat stand.
The new Roland VH-10 comes at a price of approximately 300$, which is a great deal for such a good and well-functioning e-drum hi-hat.
Roland TD-17 Sound Module
The heart of this incredible new drum set is the new Roland TD-17 drum brain. It looks like a smaller version of the flagship module Roland TD-50 and it sounds like it too.
It comes with 50 pre-programmed drum sets and another 50 user kits consisting of the sounds of the Roland TD-50 library.
The module sounds are definitely an improvement to any other Roland module except the TD-50, as both TD-17 and TD-50 have an identical sound engine. The two modules are supposed to simulate the sound of real acoustic drums. Many e-drummers know that those sounds are not top notch and nowhere near the quality of good VST drum sounds. However, the module allows you to import your own wave samples in order to layer them with the module sounds. The samples are accessible via a dedicated button.
Furthermore, it is possible to customise the TD-17 drum sounds in order to achieve a better sound quality. Instrument adjustments and EQ can make a huge difference.
Note: I personally like the TD-17/50 sounds. I think it is a matter of taste whether one likes them or not.
The drum module comes with a cable harness for all the standard pads and 2 additional pad inputs in case you want to connect a second crash and a 4th tom pad. The TD-11, for example, had only 1 additional input on top of the standard inputs. This time Roland gave their entry-level module the same number of stereo pad inputs as implemented at the TD-25 or ATV aD5.
Note: The 2nd crash of the Roland TD-17KVX is taking one of the 2 additional pad inputs.
Thankfully the headphone port is made for small size jacks this time, no annoying adapter is necessary.
You will find the usual 6.35mm stereo outputs and a MIDI out, as well as USB port to connect the module to a computer and an SD card slot for importing your own audio files.
The audio input is great to connect any audio player via 3.5mm jack cable. Bluetooth is not necessary to get your audio into the module (But it is still nice to have it).
Another simple but very effective feature is the lowered edge on top of the module. This place can be used to place your smartphone. A genius idea, since it saves you the cost of a dedicated smartphone mount in case you want to jam around to music from your phone.
The new Bluetooth feature, which is not available on the TD-17 Lite version, allows you to connect your smart device to the TD-17 sound module. No more cables are needed to stream music from your smartphone to your module. I find this a revolutionary idea and would not buy the module version that does not come with Bluetooth.
Music streamed to the module can be slowed down or speed up with 2 buttons. The TD-17 has a record function and a coach mode for timing practice.
Additional muffling and tuning buttons allow you a fast access to instrument settings. Four analogue knobs for volume, bass, treble and ambience make it possible to quickly adjust the drum kit sound. Each trigger pad is represented by a small LED, the LED goes off as you hit the respective pad.
The TD-17 sound module comes with the usual trigger settings (Sensitivity, Threshold and more… ) and is compatible with former Roland pads, except the digital ride & snare from the TD-50K and KV.
The triggering, especially in combination with the VH-10 hi-hat is very good. The “module-trigger-unit” responds at a high speed and comes with an improved dynamic range (Prismatic Sound Modeling technology). This processing technology makes the drum set feel more natural.
Price: 600€ (L); 650€ (Full version)
The Roland TD-17 is a revolutionary new electronic drum set. It comes with high-quality components that used to be very expensive in the past. Now you get a modern low latency module with one of the best electronic drum hi-hats on the market for an incredible price.
The sounds of the TD-17 module do not reach the level of a Pearl Mimic Pro nor the Alesis Strike Pro, but they are close and become even closer if edited well. The module sounds in combination with Roland’s low latency triggering capabilities make the TD-17 Series the best electronic drum set in its pricing range. Even the more expensive sets from competitors like Alesis or ATV can hardly beat the Roland TD-17KVX in terms of triggering, build quality, pricing and even some of the sounds.
Which version of the TD-17 is right for you?
I would buy the Roland TD-17KVX for obvious reasons:
- The Roland VH-10 hi-hat is vital and would cost you around 300$ if you upgrade later
- The 3 way CY-13R ride is fun to play and feels realistic, while the 2 zone CY-8 is not great as a ride cymbal
- You get 2 quality CY-12 crashes instead of only one not so good CY-8 pad. Both CY-12C and CY-13R move naturally and look great, while the CY-8 and CY-5 cymbals are very old concepts that work well but only serve the beginners
- The big PDX-12 snare is a must have, as the small PDX-8 is not nearly as nice as a snare drum
- The PD-8A rubber pads are noisy and do only feature one trigger zone, the PDX-8 mesh toms are quieter and feel better and they have additional rim trigger zones
- The Bluetooth feature is very handy, I would not want to make sacrifices here.
Let’s say you buy the TD-17K-L version and upgrade bit by bit. The amount of money you would pay for all those pads individually would almost double the original price of your Roland TD-17K-L.
However, if you are a beginner and your budget is limited, you are good with any of those 4 versions of the Roland TD-17. Accurate hi-hat triggering, 2nd crashes, 3 zone rides and rim triggers for toms are not important for a learner.
Who should buy the TD-17 Sound Module?
If you own a Roland TD-3, 4, 6, 11 or 15 you should consider the TD-17 module as an upgrade. This new module is better than each of those Roland modules. The TD-17 Sound Module is also a great option for “ATV aDrums – owners”, as it is compatible with the whole set.
I would recommend getting the Bluetooth version of the module, as the difference of both the Roland TD-17 and TD-17L version is only 50$. It really is a nice feature to have.
I hope my impressions can help you to make a purchasing decision. Thank you for reading and big thanks to Roland for inviting me to this great event.
Please consider buying your TD-17 at drum-tec.com in case you want to support me. I get a commission if you click this link and order your set at drum-tec, which helps to keep my website up and running.