Drum triggers trigger interesting conversations about the originality of music and if they’re considered cheating or not. We won’t go into detail about this 50-year-old post-modern discussion, but instead, we’ll discuss what can be achieved with drum triggers in your drumming career. Transforming acoustic sound waves to electronic signals can give you a lot more options, save money, and makes it easy to curate and mix the music, overall. In this article, we’ll explain how drum triggers work and what makes them popular in addition to reviewing the best drum triggers on the market today with their pros and cons.
Drum Triggers Basics
First things first, what are drum triggers ? Acoustic drum triggers are sensors that can be attached to different parts of your drums, which depends on the type of trigger used to pick up the vibrations produced when a tom, snare, or kick is struck. Those sensors are velocity-sensitive and can detect how hard drums are hit, and transfer that signal to a pad that can allow you to trigger a simultaneous sound of your choosing or even convert the whole signal to a different sound completely.
1. Roland RT-30HR
This list has a few Roland drum triggers, we’ll be starting with the Roland RT-30HR Dual Zone. This trigger made an impact 4 years ago when it was launched and it’s still being heavily used to this day. It’s considered practical and mobile because it can fit most drum hoop designs due to its small and compact size. High-quality materials make this trigger well-built and able to sustain intensive action without needing to worry about its location, since it’s small, it won’t come into your crosshairs often anyway, Roland recommends placing it on the snare for ease of access and to make use of its dual function. The reason it’s called Dual Zone is because it can sense and differentiate between rim and head sounds, this helps in simplifying your setup since you won’t need 2 different drum triggers to pick up those sounds. While this trigger can be used with any drum trigger interface and module, but it’s best compatible with Roland’s modules. The RT-30HR may be more expensive than most single triggers but the dual trigger action helps give you a plethora of options to make use of it.
2. Pintech Percussion RS-5
Do not let the price of this trigger fool you, it may not match most professional triggers in price but it sure matches them in quality. The most interesting feature is called “Kwik Clip”, it’s a mounting system that makes mounting this trigger a piece of cake without causing any damage, since it doesn’t use adhesives to be mounted. It can easily be mounted anywhere on the head or shell, with a tough cover that helps protect it from straying sticks. The Pintech RS-5 is quite the multitasker, it can be used in a home studio and recording, or it can be used to make a noisy acoustic drum kit to a silent electronic drum kit. The ability of recording without a mic and the Kwik Clip mounting system can allow the RS-5 to record even other acoustic instruments like guitars and violins. Unlike the Roland RT-30HR, RS-5 is perfectly compatible with any drum trigger interface, pad, and module. Mesh heads are also sold separately if you’re serious about converting an acoustic kit to an electronic one, the only downside is that you may have to wait longer to get replacement discs and lock down the module settings to prevent false triggering.
3. Roland RT-30K
Launched around the same time of RT-30HR and it sure made similar thunder. This drum trigger was specifically designed and built to capture kicks and trigger some smooth bass. Ideal for hybrid kits, it can be attached to any kick drum available. Its compact size also helps in keeping it hidden from those powerful kicks, yet the RT-30K is still very tough and can handle its own thanks to the fiberglass ABS material reinforcing it. The mounting system is one of a kind; guiding the sensor automatically to the best position on a drumhead to avoid false triggering and to capture the whole frequency range. Its superb quality may suffer a bit when used with a non-Roland module or pads but that still doesn’t make it inferior. It can be a bit pricey but it should be considered an upgrade thanks to the accuracy and reliability of the sensor in addition to its durability, so it’s perfect with the notorious double-bass footwork. it’s sold with its connection cables included.
4. DDRUM Acoustic Pro Set
If you’re interested in converting your bass, snare, tom-tom to triggered drums then DDRUM Acoustic Pro is the right set for you. Buying those triggers separately can cost you a bit much, buying this package can save you a lot of money on the long run. DDRUM has been used by pros and amateurs alike over the years, their triggers are known for their simplicity and minimalism, yet being simple doesn’t mean that they lack in term of features and quality. The mounting system is so simple it takes less than a minute to place it safely and securely on a drum hoop, using a bracket to secure it. The XLR connectors provide a sense of safety giving you the ability to just plug and go. The triggers look similar but there are some differences to allow different sounds to be recorded; the snare drum trigger has an extra transducer mounted that connects to the rim making it dual triggered by both the rim and the head; the kick drum has a plate where the trigger is mounted on, making it easy to adjust the clipping to suit any bass drum hoop. The dynamic range is superb whether its ghostly rolls or full-blown bass kicks. The weakness of the DDRUM Acoustic Pro kit is a physical weakness or risk, nothing will protect your drum head from getting damaged or marked from the triggers if any mishap happens; perhaps some protective strip can be added to ensure the safety of the drum heads.
5. Yamaha DT-50K
This isn’t the first time Yamaha made drum triggers , their main focus were electronic pads and modules, but the DT-50 drum trigger series is one of their finest. Previous DT models used to have a few functions like internal mounting and single triggering, the DT-50S has dual-zone capabilities while the DT-50K is single zone specifically designed for bass signal. The trigger is mounted easily with a clipper and tightened so it wouldn’t move with a practical thumb-screw, the body is metal and it’s coated with chrome to make it extra sturdy and durable. Perfect for use in studios and live performances, and it’s in the same price range of the Roland RT-30k. A common problem in drum triggers is crosstalk, where a different trigger than the one only intended can catch a signal and produce sound, especially with dual zone triggers, this is one of the issues that the DT-50 tackles greatly with almost no crosstalk in most settings. It’s highly reliable and sensitive without compromising, false triggering, or dropping notes. It’s best recommended to use new and updated modules with the Yamaha to get the most out of it, but that’s not necessary because it’s virtually compatible with all modules.
6. Aquarian Kickzone Bass Drum Trigger
The Aquarian Kickzone is a great and a cheaper alternative than the Yamaha or Roland bass drum triggers . It’s mounted using the classical adhesive technique, where you stick its adhesive back on any bass drum head, simple but does the trick. You may not expect a lot of sensitivity and accuracy from it, but once it’s mounted, you’ll notice some superb quality and reliability from it. You can also buy the Aquarian Inhead Kick and Snare pack if you would like to expand on the use of triggers on your kit, and the Kickzone bass drum trigger will fit right home. It’s great for recording and live performances. The cable being short can cause some issues, and the adhesive used for the cable bracket isn’t of highest quality which could cause some trouble if unnoticed early. If you’re budget isn’t big and looking into making your drum kit hybrid then the Kickzone drum trigger is a perfect start, the sensitivity provided by this trigger matches the best ones in the market.
Choosing the Best Drum Triggers
Once you decide that you’d like to have a taste of the electronic —without becoming a cyborg— you should focus on a few aspects to make sure you get the best drum trigger for you. Durability is one of the most important features in a good drum trigger which can make durable drum triggers expensive, also make sure to know the type of cables you need; whether they use XLR to ¼ or ¼ is important. Always make sure that your triggers don’t end up muffling or killing the sound of your drum kit, going with adjustable triggers is the wisest path. Drums are expensive instruments, so when you shop for drum triggers you shouldn’t muffle your kit for the sake of saving an extra 50$, if you’re on a tight budget you need to do enough research to know the best drum triggers for your budget that will also produce a good sound.