Alesis DM6 USB Kit Review
The Alesis DM6 USB Kit is an entry-level electronic drum set with five drum pads and three cymbals. Along with the drum rack and pads, you get the Alesis DM6 drum module. This module houses all the different drum kit sounds as well as a few extras, such as playalong tracks and a metronome. Priced as a typical entry-level electronic drum kit, the Alesis DM6 USB comes with notable extras over lower end kits, such as a single bass drum pedal.
Who Should Buy the Alesis DM6 USB Kit?
This drum set is clearly not a professional level kit, has a number of target customers. The low noise production from this kit will suit anyone who needs a quiet practice drum kit. For this reason it will suit both beginners and established drummers alike. The price range makes it affordable to many parents looking to introduce their child into drumming.
This kit is not really aimed at anyone who regularly plays live with a band, as the range of sounds is just not of a high enough quality to be considered passable. That said, the kit does have some cool and useful features.
Drums, Pads and Other Hardware
With the DM6 USB Kit you get a typical five-piece setup along with a hi-hat, ride and crash cymbal. The snare on this drum kit is a dual-zone pad, unlike the rest of the toms and bass drum. The dual-zone here means that you can play both on the surface of the pad and also on the rim. Both areas can be assigned to different samples so, for example, you could assign a tambourine to the pad surface and a cowbell to the rim.
The sensitivity of this snare is not the best around. It struggles with light playing in particular. This means that quite often ghost notes and ruffs are not always sensed by the pad. Unfortunately, Alesis do not allow you to adjust the sensitivity of the pads here. It appears that controls like this are only available on the higher-end modules such as the DM-10 onward.
The three toms are not dual-zoned so they have no playable rims. The response of each pad is soft and spongy and makes for a pretty quiet playing experience. The range of velocity at which you can trigger a sound from these pads is quite limited and they are not ideally suited to a very light touch. This is not to say that these drums are not suited to younger kids but more that they are not ‘ghost-note’ friendly and therefore may not suit more advanced players.
The DM6 USB kit includes a bass drum pad, which makes a change from both the DM Lite and the Burst Kit. Both of those kits came with freestanding bass drum pedals and were effectively beaterless. You can connect your own single bass pedal up to this bass drum pad and play away instantly. Alesis do supply a single pedal and it’s good to know that the pad will accommodate a larger double pedal if needs be.
The hi-hat is a freestanding pedal in the same mold as on the Alesis Burst Kit. This hi-hat hooks up to the drum module by way of a connecting cable. On the base of the hi-hat pedal controller there are strips of Velcro which help secure it to carpet and drum mats. This works surprisingly well and makes for a solid playing experience. The sensitivity of the hi-hat controller pedal is quite basic and limited to three positions; open, closed and semi-open.
Also connected to the module is the hi-hat cymbal pad which functions alongside the foot pedal controller to trigger your sound. Each cymbal pad is the same size and model. Half of the circular surface consists of a rubber area which can be played to trigger sample sounds. The response from these rubber pads is quiet and produces a dull thud which is good for keeping the volume down.
The crash and ride cymbals function in the same way as the hi-hat in that they have one playing area. Like the drum pads, there isn’t a great deal of dynamic range in these pads which could grate on more experienced players.
The Alesis rack that comes with the DM6 USB Kit is compact and easy to setup. Each drum can be angled to suit your playing style, and there are long stands on which to place the cymbals. This kit is designed to be setup as a typical five-piece kit with two toms up front and a floor tom to the side.
Included in this drum set is the DM6 drum module. This is the same module that comes with the Alesis Burst Kit. You connect all the drums and cymbal pads to the DM6 with a cable snake. This means setting up is a less messy affair and easier to keep track of where each cable is running.
The DM6 comes with 108 individual sounds and ten preset drum kits. There’s also the ability to store 5 of your own kit configurations on the module. This is a neat feature as no doubt most users will differ in which snare, bass drum, toms and cymbals they prefer the sound of.
The kits sounds on the DM6 can be quite harsh and are not of the highest quality for a kit in this price range. Some of the kits on the module are based on regular acoustic drum sets, while you also get a few electronic ones and some percussion sounds too.
Ghost notes don’t translate very well on the DM6 USB Kit and it can be prone to ‘machine gunning’. In fairness to Alesis, the quality of sound samples is usually one of the major factors that separates the cheaper kits from the not so cheap ones. That said, when comparing the DM6 sounds side by side with the sounds on the Yamaha DTX400K entry level kit, there is only one winner, and that’s the Yamaha.
To hear some of the DM6 USB Kit sounds in action click here:
This drum module is fully compatible with all the major DAWs from Garage Band to Ableton to Logic to Pro Tools and more. You can connect the DM6 USB Kit to your Mac or PC by way of a USB cable. This allows you to send your playing to the desktop or PC as a MIDI file. With this connectivity, you can use the pads to trigger sounds that come with advanced VST drum instruments, so the kit will work as a kind of MIDI controller.
A nice feature of the DM6 module is that it allows to you record snippets of your playing in real time. If you ever find yourself playing a newly improvised beat or solo then you can simply use the record function to store it on the module for playing back later.
There is a stereo jack input on the back of the DM6 which means you can hook up your laptop, iPod or MP3 player to play along with albums or YouTube videos. Monitoring the sound from the DM6 can be done in a number of ways. You have a stereo headphone output, which will be the most popular option for many a drummer, and you also have a separate stereo output with which you can use to connect any speaker system such as a P.A. or powered monitor.
If you like drumming with playalong songs, then you’ll be happy with the 40 built-in tracks that come with the DM6 module. You can choose to play along with each track while adjusting the tempo and volume to your liking. Each track has a drum or percussion track which can be easily muted should you wish to go it alone.
On the front of the DM6 module there is a section for pad indicators. This means that every time you strike a drum or press on a pedal trigger, this will display in real time on the module face. It’s a bit of a novelty addition but enhances the overall look of the DM6 module.
A big bonus of the DM6 USB Kit is that it comes with a separate bass drum pad. The fact that you can connect up your favorite bass drum pedal to this pad will be a major plus for many drummers. It’s also compatible with larger double bass drum pedals too. Alesis have included a single bass drum pedal with the DM6 USB Kit package so that will save you forking out more money unnecessarily. The DM6 module has 10 drum kits already supplied but having the ability to store another 5 of your own is also a big plus.
The 40 playalong songs included in the DM6 module are more than most other kits offer at this price range. You get fewer songs on the Yamaha DTX400K and the Roland TD-1K.
The DM6 USB Kit falls flat when it comes to pad sensitivity and response. Playing light on this kit is not always detected and Alesis have neglected to include the option of adjusting the sensitivity.
Many users have reported unwanted sound spillage when playing this kit too. This means that, for example, striking loudly on one drum such as a tom can in some cases lead to sound triggering on another drum, such as the snare.
The sounds on the DM6 module are not the best around for this price. They lack the subtlety of many competitors and are quite harsh to listen to for the most part. Don’t expect a huge amount of dynamic response and expressiveness from this kit.
Other Kits You Might Consider Instead
If you’re not concerned with having a bass drum pad, you might consider the Alesis Burst Kit instead. It comes with a beaterless bass drum pedal for quieter playing. The Alesis DM Lite is another entry-level drum set with a heavy emphasis on being light and portable. If you’re a drummer on the move, take a look at that kit and also the Roland TD-4KP. Both can fold up into incredibly small configurations and can easily be carried by one person. They also have some nice drum coaching functions onboard their modules although the Roland is more expensive. It’s also a better build and has better sounds.
Roland offer a carry bag which is tailor made to fit the TD-4KP. You can carry the rack and pads in one bag and your pedal, module and sticks in another bag.
The extreme portability of the Alesis DM Lite and Roland TD-4KP means that they are also ideally suited to kids in cluttered bedrooms. You can rest assured that either kit can be folded up and stored neatly in a closet when not being used.
Roland also offer the TD-1K and the TD-1KV, which are entry-level kits roughly on a par with the DM6 USB Kit. The TD-1KV comes with a mesh snare drum head which is superior in sound and feel to rubber pads. Yamaha also offer the DTX400K which is a great kit for the money and has some very nice sounds. Be sure to check them out before you make your purchase.
The Bottom Line
The DM6 USB Kit is a pretty good kit for the money. It feels good to play on but is perhaps lacking in the realism of some of the drum sounds. It’s a perfectly good kit for beginners and has the added benefit of having a real bass drum pad over a beaterless equivalent. It also comes with a single bass drum pedal which is a bonus and helps keep your costs down.