Review: Yamaha DTXPLORER VS. Alesis DM-7

For a while now, i’ve wanted to add an electronic drum kit to the studio. Though I’ve never been very good at it, I’ve always loved playing the drums. I think that having a kit adds a lot to any jam experience.

I’ve had my eye on the Yamaha DTEXPLORER for a while now (approx retail price of $700 pre tax). Then Alesis announced their DM-7 product, and I thought that I’d like to give it a try too (approx retail price $800 pre tax).

In an attempt to make the best decision, I wanted to do an actual head to head comparison. So I did what any good obsessive compulsive would do – I bought both of them, brought them to the studio, set them up, played with them until I figured out which one i like best, and returned the one that I liked least.

Here is my analysis and review of the two kits, which i used to make my purchase decision (disclaimer – i am not a professional reviewer, i am not an expert on drums or anything else for that matter – i’m just a guy who wanted to by some drums and decided to write about the experience :-)  ).

First off, here is a quick shot of the setup.

The DTX is on the left, and the DM-7 is on the right.

Here are some manufacturer images (taken from their websites) so you can get a better idea of what they look like, along with images of the ‘brains’ for each set.

A note about my setup: I am using Sonar Producer, and use an Alesis Multimix Firewire 16 mixer audio interface to bring in my signals. I connected both kits up to the mixer using the 1/4″ output jacks, and I also connected the midi cables to my recording pc. I checked the sound quality of the units by conducting tests using headphones and using my studio monitors.

General Notes:

  • Yamaha DTX comes with two single zone cymbals, one hi-hat pad (which looks the same as a tom pad), one hi-hat foot pedal controller, one single zone snare pad, three single zone tom pads, a kick pad, a kick pedal, a mounting rack, and the ‘brain’ or control module
  • Alesis DM-7 comes with one single zone cymbal, one dual zone cymbal (that is “chokable” – which means that after you hit it, if you grab it with your hand, the noise will stop), one hi-hat pad (which looks like a smaller cymbal), one hi-hat foot pedal controller, one three-zone snare pad (middle, and two rim strike zones), three single zone tom pads, a kick pad, and a mounting rack, a pair of drum sticks, and the ‘brain’ or control module.  NO kick pedal is supplied, despite it appearing in every picture of the kit I’ve ever seen. Note that although the DM-7 snare pad is coloured white, it is NOT a fabric pad as I was led to believe, but rather, it is the same kind of rubber pad used on the toms but coloured white.

Pros and cons:

  • DTX rack is more sturdy and robust than the DM-7
  • DM-7 has no kick pedal, so allow some $$ for that. The DTX comes with one, but I’m sure that a real drummer will tell you that it’s not that great.
  • I give the edge to the DTX for the tom pads – the Alesis toms felt a bit cheap – not a big deal though
  • DM-7 snare is much nicer that the Yamaha. It has three zones, which allows you to control three different sounds with one pad – very nice.
  • DM-7 has 50 kits, the DTX has 30 kits
  • Hi-hat on the Alesis is definitely nicer – more natural than playing a pad
  • I couldn’t really notice any difference between the hi-hat food pedals
  • The kick pedal mount on the DTX is definitely more sturdy
  • I give the edge to Yamaha for the quality of sounds
  • the cymbals on the DM-7 look more realistic, and have multi zones, compared to the single zone cymbals on the DTX. If you want to be able to have a bell noise as well as a crash noise on the same cymbal, then the Alesis is the only one that will do it
  • Kick noises are all too low on the DM-7 – this means that you have to go in and adjust all of the instrument levels each time you go to use any of the kits. This was  a major pain in the ass as compared to the Yamaha where all the instrument levels sounded great without adjustment.
  • DM-7 brain user interface is a little nicer, and little more user friendly than the DTX

I found the the output signal of the Alesis to be veryweak. That is to say that I had to push the slider on the mixer all the way to the top and crank the DM-7 module volume knob all the way to the max just to get the sound to be on par with any of the other instruments that I had connected to the mixer. This is much different from the DTXPLORER, which had a great output level (more than enough to cause peaking, which you need to watch out for when recording the audio signal – if you have it set too high, the recording will be a useless, crackling, buzzing mess). Also, I found the quality of the samples in the Alesis to be not nearly as good as the quality of the Yamaha samples, even though there are more kits in the DM-7 brain.

Midi Notes:

  • both units can export signals via MIDI to your computer, allowing you to control a virtual drum kit.
  • DTX uses a conventional MIDI cable, DM-7 uses a usb cable (this cable only transmits the midi data, not the audio data in case you were wondering like i was)

Final Decision:

In the end, I opted for the Yamaha. If I could have my choice, I’d make up a composite of the two kits, where I would take the Yamaha brain, kick, toms, and frame, and use the Alesis snare, hi hat, and cymbals. But I digress! I agonized over the decision, jumping back and forth between the two kits, trying to figure out which one made me happier. My personal opinion is that I like the Yamaha better. It works great as a midi trigger for my virtual drums, and the audio output drums sound great too. It is a great kit for jamming with friends, and improving your drumming technique. I hope you enjoyed the read, and if you have any questions, I’d be happy to try to help out.

Make more music.

chez