Roland TD-11KV Review
One of the main features of Roland’s TD-11 series of electronic drum kits is the introduction of a ‘SuperNATURAL’ and a behavior modeling drum module. This new sound engine has previously only been available on Roland’s top level TD-30 series so it’s a welcome addition here.
The SuperNATURAL sounds on the Roland TD-11KV make for some enjoyable playing experiences. There is an increased sensitivity and better sound sampling than previously heard on Roland’s TD-4KP and TD-1K models.
On top of better sounds and drum kit replication, the TD-11KV includes some very handy features such as Rhythm Coach, input and output ports, play-along songs and even a quick record option. Let’s get into the full details.
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Who Should Buy the Roland TD-11KV?
This kit is aimed at mid to pro level players on a budget of under $2000. It’s a good enough kit to play live gigs on and functions well as a practice tool. It’s not out of place in the recording studio and is very user-friendly when it comes to desktop compatibility. The inclusion of extra mesh heads on the TD-11KV means it is ideally suited to those who need to keep noise down to a minimum.
Drums, Pads and Other Hardware
The TD-11KV is the advanced upgrade of Roland’s TD-11K and comes with many pluses. It uses the same TD-11 drum module as well as coming with the same MDS-4V drum rack on which to position everything. One of the improvements in this model is the inclusion of PDX mesh heads for better playability. Roland have also made upgrades with multi-zoned cymbal pads for ride and crash.
Cymbals are readily adjustable and the toms feel secure when struck. There is a small amount of wobble but nothing that will be of issue. The TD-11 drum module is placed over the hi-hat in this case, as opposed to the central placement on the TD-4KP, for example. Having the drum module at arm’s length makes for a pleasant playing experience.
The display is easily read and it’s possible to make adjustments with one hand while keeping the beat. The TD-4KP had the module positioned between the front two toms and, along with being a bit more distant, it meant that you were required to keep a substantial distance between the toms in order to easily access the module.
The bass drum supplied with this drum kit is a Roland KD-9 and, thankfully, it’s a freestanding pad. Cheaper kits on the market often come with ‘beaterless’ pedals which can make for a clunky and unnatural playing experience.
The KD-9, while not the best pad ever produced by Roland, performs well under duress. It has a nice cloth-type feel from the pad and is robustly built to withstand heavy heel-up style playing. The pedal connects to the TD-11 module and has an impressive range of dynamics. You can adjust the settings in the drum module to factor in your own playing preferences. The pad can be set to trigger to heavy or light playing, depending on your technique.
One of the benefits of the bass drum unit being freestanding is that it is readily moved and replaced should you be swapping over, as in during a drum lesson with a student. It does mean though that there is potential for the pedal to shift around if you’ve not secured it properly. Two spikes on either side of the pedal allow it to grip into your drum mat or carpet.
The noise in the room when the KD-9 is being played is a lot louder than the more expensive Roland mesh bass drum pads. Playing can be heard from the next room or from downstairs in most cases.
Should you wish, you might want to consider purchasing a Roland NE-10 Noise Eater. This is a specially designed footboard that can be positioned under any V-Drum pedal to reduce unwanted vibration and noise. Drummers who are into their double bass playing will be pleased to see that the KD-9 also accommodates double pedals. The pad on this unit is wide enough to fit two standard bass pedal beaters.
The hi-hat is also a freestanding pedal without any hi-hat stand and just the one cymbal. It’s a CY-5 dual-zone hi-hat with a choke function. The cymbal itself can be tightened or loosened for playing comfort as there is no typical clutch in this set-up. The CY-5 is a 5 inch cymbal with a playing surface of just under half. The cymbal is easily adjusted and does not rotate even when on a loose setting.
The hi-hat pedal is a FD-8 hi-hat controller which feels well built yet not too heavy. It can easily be placed to suit your own preference and stays in position well. You can also purchase a NE-10 here too if you want to cut down on even more unwanted noise. It’s worth noting that having just the one Noise Eater in place on either pedal will mean that your feet will end up at different playing heights. This can be disconcerting and may affect your balance and comfort on the kit.
The crash that comes with the TD-11KV is a Roland CY-12 cymbal pad. This is a 12 inch dual-zone pad with a choke function. Triggering the choke function is done by gripping the outer edge of the cymbal after striking it. This is particularly useful during stops in songs or immediate endings. The response of the CY-12 is admirable and there is an impressive dynamic range when used with the TD-11 module. The feel of the pad is hard rubber, which is typical of most V-Drum cymbals, but it’s nice that the cymbal is slightly bigger than some other electronic cymbals.
Like the crash, the ride cymbal comes with a choke function, only this pad is both larger than the crash and has a more impressive three-zone response. The CY-13R is a 13 inch cymbal pad with a playable bell.
As mentioned, the main selling point of the TD-11KV is the inclusion of an all mesh setup. There are four mesh head pads in total, including snare, floor tom and two front toms. The snare and floor tom pads are the Roland PDX-8 model. This is a 10 inch drum pad with a dual-zone white mesh head. The two other toms pads are the PDX-6 which is a slightly smaller sized pad. They are 8 inches in diameter but also come with dual-zone technology.
The response from each drum head is a healthy spring and welcome lack of noise. Each drum is designed like a regular acoustic drum, with lugs that can be tightened or loosened depending on your choosing. Having the snare slightly tighter than the other three toms is a common configuration and is closer to a real kit experience. That said, you can pretty much tune these drums any way you like and still get a good trigger response from the TD-11 module.
The dual-zone technology means that each drum can trigger more than one sample. This allows for drum techniques such as rim clicks to easily be played. The rims of each tom can also be assigned to other instruments such as cowbells, tambourines and other percussion items. Although the PDX-8 is a 10 inch drum, about 2 inches of that is not a playable mesh surface. The same goes for the smaller PDX-6.
The TD-11 drum module has clean and user friendly interface which consists of buttons, a large dial and a display. By spinning the dial you can flick through the features onboard. Each function is easily started and stopped usually though the use of one button.
Roland have gone out of their way to make this interface completely fuss-free and intuitive. Access to songs is made much easier with the ability to create and save a folder of your own favorites. Each folder stores up to 100 different songs for easy categorization and playback. Roland have included 14 songs to start with. These range in style and function as handy play-along tools for which to hone your drumming skills.
There are 50 drum kits of different styles, including many acoustic live kits and a selection of digital drum kits too. In total there are 190 sounds. The quality of sample sounds is a marked improvement from the TD-4KP.
There’s a totally new set of drum kits and percussion instruments which function really well with the TD-11 module. You can also load your own samples into the module through the USB port on the back.
Editing and storing kits is made easy by the navigational controls. You can add effects like reverb to different drums and save the preset for later use. Along with effects you can tune your drums up or down in pitch. This works well with cymbals too. There’s also a muffling option for added control. Muffling sets the level of overtone ring and snare buzz that is audible around the kit. You can choose to play with anything from a totally clean and muffled sounding kit to a loose and unmuffled live sound.
On the back of the drum module you’ll find two USB ports. One port can be used for loading songs and samples into the TD-11 sound banks and folders. The unit can read either MP3 or Wav audio files for playback. The other USB is for connecting to laptops or desktop computers. It’s fully compatible with Mac and PC and all major DAWs too. You can send your playing to your computer in the form of MIDI or use the audio outputs to send audio.
Also on the TD-11 drum module are a number of input and outputs for sending and receiving audio. You can use the standard headphone output for simple practice sessions or if you prefer to use a monitor you also have a separate audio output on the back. For play-along purposes you can plug your iPod or MP3 player into the input provided and set the level from there.
The coach function provides the user with an array of challenging exercises to improve your drumming ability. The ‘Time Check’ function basically monitors your ability to play to the metronome click. It will provide a visual display to show how accurate you are with your timing. Play behind the beat and the cursor will show left of the center. Play ahead of the beat and the cursor moves to the right. Playing perfectly with the metronome is easy to determine with this neat little feature.
The metronome itself is adjusted by the large circular dial on the interface and can be customized to your preference. The click sound can be changed for various percussion sounds like a cowbell, for example. There also a voice count and a quiet count which will drop out in order to test your internal clock. If all this is not enough then you can always purchase Roland’s DT-1 V-Drums Tutor program which has a whole host of tricky challenges for drummers of all abilities.
Take a look at the ‘Time Check’ mode here:
There’s no doubt that Roland’s decision to include mesh heads on both toms and snare is one that enhances the TD-11KV experience. Better stick response and lower noise levels mean everyone’s a winner. The cymbals are also improved with a three-zone ride which plays more like an actual real-life cymbal.
The lack of a physical hi-hat stand means that you are relegated to the same free-floating hi-hat pedal of lesser models. Also, if you do make the purchase of a TD-11KV, be aware that you will have to supply your own bass drum pedal, drum throne and sticks.
Other Kits You Might Consider Instead
It’s worth looking around at some of the other electronic drum set options in this range if you want to be sure you’re getting the right kit for your situation. Yamaha and Alesis both have similar level kits that give the TD-11KV a run for its money.
Yamaha have one viable option in the Yamaha DTX-760K, although it is a considerably more expensive drum set. The DTX-760K is a fully mesh drum kit, including a mesh bass drum head, with impressive capabilities. It is approximately 50% more expensive than the TD-11KV.
On the other hand, Alesis offer their Crimson II which is a fully mesh head drum kit with no less than four cymbal pads included. It has many of the same features as the TD-11KV and comes with 74 preset drum kits. The great thing about the Crimson II is that it’s available to purchase for in or around half the price of the TD-11KV, so it’s definitely worth giving it a test run.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, The TD-11KV is a great kit and gives good competition to its competitors. The addition of mesh heads on snare and toms will be a welcome relief to your wrists. The pads are a pleasure to play on and create very little in-room noise. But one disappointing thing is that Roland have chosen to include two smaller 8-inch pads as well. They are still perfectly playable but having the larger drums here would make for a much better playing experience.
The hi-hat in this kit is a bit ‘beginner-level’ and it would have been nice to see a more advanced one that uses a hi-hat stand.
The cymbals are a big improvement from the TD-11K cymbals and make for a more realistic sound all round.
The sample sounds are professional standard and hold up well in a band situation. Plus the ability to add your own sounds and songs to the drum module will mean you’re less likely to grow out of playing this drum set.
Another nice thing about this kit is that if you are looking to add another tom or cymbal, there is room on the module for that too.