Roland TD-50K Review
The new TD-50K is part of Roland’s flagship series of electronic drums. It is a culmination of all the best designs and developments of previous kits. With this kit you get a high quality fully mesh head drum set with the best sample sounds and triggering that Roland has to offer.
The TD-50 module has what Roland call ‘Prismatic Sound Modelling technology’ which aims to work with every characteristic of your individual playing style. Along with the updated drum module, the Roland TD-50K features a total overhaul of the drum and cymbal pads. There is the most advanced trigger-sensing technology yet along with some larger drum sizes for maximum playability. Let’s break down and discuss the TD-50K in more detail.
Who Should Buy The Roland TD-50K?
There’s no doubt that this kit is aimed at the professional drummer with a passion for electronic drums. It has some appealing features such as the easy to use interface and the rock solid and portable frame. It’s slightly less expensive than the TD-30KV, which arguably has an inferior sound module but some better pads on the toms, hi-hat and bass drum. A TD-50K should set you back thousands of dollars, so if you are in the market for a high-end kit and have this kind of budget – give this kit a test run.
Drums, Pads and Other Hardware
First up for examination on the TD-50K is the new and improved snare drum pad. This pad is a PD-140DS digital snare with a high-resolution multi-sensor system.
This snare boasts ‘unparalleled dynamics’ and is positionally sensitive. The triggering on the PD-140DS is so advanced that it can detect a playing style and respond accordingly. Switching from single strokes to a buzz roll can now be detected instantly for an ultra-realistic drumming experience.
This snare drum is 2 inches bigger in diameter than the snare that comes with Roland’s TD-30KV, the PD-128S-BC. The new 14 inch playing area look and feels much more like a typical snare drum. There is also an increase in the triggering beneath the mesh head. Playing in different areas of this snare drum produces distinctly varying sound results.
There are three toms on the TD-50K but, of course, this kit is also expandable so you can add more if you wish. The toms themselves are the same PDX-100 pads that come with the TD-30K kit. It’s a bit surprising that Roland decided against upgrading the toms to match the super-responsive snare, but that’s how it is. The PDX-100 is still a very playable and responsive drum pad with a fully triggered rim. Each tom is 10 inches in diameter, which is markedly smaller than the 14 inch PD-140DS snare.
All drums are tunable with a standard drum key, meaning you can customize the head tension to suit your playing style. The triggering works perfectly as long as the head has a reasonable amount of tension in it. But don’t over tighten these mesh heads. You can cause irreversible damage to the head by putting it under too much stress. In many ways these heads have much in common with standard acoustic single and double ply drum heads.
The VH-11 is the hi-hat that comes with the TD-50K as standard. It’s a fully mountable cymbal pad with clutch that can fit any standard hi-hat stand.
The VH-11 responds to cymbal positioning by triggering different samples, and depending on how you play the pad. You can get a range of different sounds from the VH-11 by opening and closing the hi-hat, much in the same way a real setup works.
This is not the flagship hi-hat for Roland. If you want that, you’ll have to fork out for the TD-50KV which comes with the superior VH-13 cymbal pad. This is a more sensitive pad with better triggering for more expressive playing. It also comes with the TD-30KV kit which is actually a more expensive option than the TD-50K.
The new 18-inch CY-18DR ride is a noticeably bigger cymbal than earlier Roland iterations. It has accurate positional sensing and improved dynamics as the triggering used covers a wider playing area.
The ride produces a wide range of sounds, from standard ping, to more of a crashy sound, to crisp and clean bell. The new cymbal uses an innovative multi-sensor system to create realistic and expressive playing. Like earlier ride models by Roland, this cymbal can be choke-muted by gripping the outer edge of the pad. The triggering is so sensitive with the CY-18DR that you can even mute the sound by gently pressing on the ride surface with a finger.
The two crash cymbals with the TD-50K are dual-zoned pads of differing sizes. You get both a 12 inch and a 13 inch crash to go with the ride and hi-hat. The 12 inch crash is a CY-12C and works well with any of the assignable sound samples. The 13 inch crash is a CY-13R which is slightly bigger but with more triggering available. This cymbal functions as a ride on some earlier iterations of Roland’s kits so it has a three-way triggering system. You can play on the edge, the surface or the bell to create different sounds.
When it comes to the bass drum, we have a KD-120BK pad. This is a fully mesh, 12 inch bass drum pad with a robust design and sturdy build. The mesh head absorbs much of the beater noise here and feels comfortable to play on.
Roland have produced their own plastic beater which they recommend for usage on their mesh bass drum heads. This is mainly due to the fact that with wear and tear and heavy play in particular, some beaters can damage the mesh head. Be careful that your beater has no sharp edges and make sure it is flat rather than pointed.
Each drum and pad on the TD-50K can easily be positioned with Roland’s MDS-50K drum rack. This is Roland’s flagship rack and has been engineered for maximum functionality. It’s strong yet weight-balanced and comes with protective sleeves that will save against cable damage, especially when in transit. The cymbal mounts are an improvement on the previous MDS-25 meaning you can position them more easily and they feel more robust overall. The tom clamps are easy to fix into position and offer a secure base on which to play on.
The TD-50 is the module that comes with this kit and it is the flagship, top of the range, drum module available from Roland. There are 100 drum kits with totally new sample sounds from famous recording studios around the world. One major strength of the TD-50 is its ability to offer stunning sound customization.
You can adjust pretty much every detail of your drum sound from the drums themselves to the heads to the room and more. Pick a snare drum and swap the shell for another type. Change up the drumhead for a different attack and sustain. Re-position, activate or deactivate microphones for incredibly realistic studio-style control.
On top of the stunning customizing options, there are also a host of FX options. You can apply EQ, delay, saturator, flanger and many more to your overall drum mix. There is also a two-band multi-compressor and four-band equalizer, which allows you to make final alterations to refine your mix. A really handy feature with the TD-50 module is the new Snapshot feature which lets you compare and contrast any new setting with the previous one before storing the changes.
For a full rundown of the TD-50’s impressive capabilities, check out this video link:
The TD-50 module also lets you load your own samples via an SD card. This is great fun to play with and leaves for endless new kit configurations. You can also load on audio tracks to the module for play-along purposes.
There is also a full 10-channel audio out built-in that can be used for recording. This is done all through a single USB cable. The module has faders for each instrument on the kit that are easily accessible, allowing you to adjust your sound on the fly. On the back of the module there are eight individual outputs for each drum pad which gives you further control over the mixing, be it out of house or in the studio.
The TD-50 has many of the same features we’ve seen before with Roland modules such as metronome ‘quiet count’ and easy recording/playback controls for quick monitoring. Playing along with your favorite audio tracks is made a breeze by the connectivity on the TD-50, allowing for a stereo jack input.
One big advantage of the TD-50K over many of Roland’s kits is the larger snare size on offer. This 14-inch mesh head is a pleasure to play on and feels just like you’re on a real acoustic drum. The snare is also freestanding which means it’s easier to position and swap in and out of your live setup. You will have to supply the snare stand here though.
Some of the features on the TD-50K are inferior to the TD-30KV. The hi-hat is a downgrade with the VH-11. The bass drum is a smaller downgrade too with the KD-120BK. The toms that ship with this TD-50K are the same PDX-100’s that come with the TD-30K and not as prestigious as the ones on the TD-30KV. It’s slightly disappointing that Roland have not made an upgrade here but that is reflected in the reduced price of this TD-50K.
The toms on the TD-30KV are the PD-128 and PD-108, which are 12 and 10-inch, highly responsive pads. They’re closer in quality to the snare that comes with this TD-50K. On the other hand, the TD-50K comes with three PDX-100’s, which while still great pads, lack some of the capabilities of the newer drums.
Considering the marked improvement with the snare on this kit, you might have expected Roland to make a similar statement with the tom pads. As it is, you will be required to fork out for the TD-50KV if you want a higher standard of tom pad to match the snare. Or you could buy extra drums individually but that would work out to be more expensive.
There are a few cons with this kit in comparison to the TD-50KV. The hi-hat here is the same as older models and inferior to the hi-hat that comes with the TD-30KV. Again, you will have to opt for the more expensive TD-50KV should you wish to have the top of the line in all areas.
Other Kits You Might Consider Instead
For an alternative to the TD-50K, you could go for the fully mesh Yamaha DTX760K which is less expensive and fully mesh. It also offers many of the same features as the TD-50K with well over 1000 sounds. It’s about two-thirds the price of the TD-50K and well worth a look.
There’s also Roland’s TD-30KV which has the older drum module with many improvements elsewhere. You’ll get a better standard of hi-hat, bass drum pad and tom pads than on the TD-50K, but will have to sacrifice that 14-inch snare unfortunately.
For those with bottomless pockets, the TD-50KV could be an option. It has the best of both worlds from the TD-50K and the TD-30KV, offering the best module with the most responsive pads. Be prepared to pay thousands of dollars more for a kit of this caliber, although in most cases at least, it comes fully supplied with all the necessary hardware.
The Bottom Line
The TD-50K is a great electronic drum set and with its relatively manageable price tag will appeal to many professional drummers. It lacks some of the flagship features of Roland’s TD-50KV but has enough there to satisfy most players. It’s an ideal kit for recording in the studio or playing live, and as is the case with most Roland V-Drums, will hold its worth for many more years to come.