BY BRAD SCHLUETER | FROM THE SUMMER 2018 ISSUE OF DRUM! MAGAZINE
Miking or adding electronic sounds to an acoustic drum set typically involves several microphones, triggers, a module, pads, a mixer, and tons of cables. Plus, there is the near impossibility of getting it all to work together. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to record, amplify, and add effects to your acoustic drums, as well as trigger electronic sounds, using only a couple pieces of gear? What if you could use that same gear to add high-quality audio from your drums to your iPhone videos? Enter Yamaha’s EAD-10.
EAD stands for Electronic Acoustic Drum module. It comprises two main parts: a microphone/trigger unit (which Yamaha calls the “sensor”), and an interface module. The sensor mounts on the hoop of the bass drum and contains a stereo microphone and a trigger, allowing you to trigger sounds with your bass drum while the X/Y mikes pick up the acoustic sounds from your kit.
The module allows the use of triggers or pads, a varied collection of samples, and a full-featured metronome, all while handling the digital processing from the mikes. You can also load your own samples into the unit, record up to 30 minutes of audio to a thumb drive, or use the USB connection to record to a DAW. You can also send MIDI from the module into your DAW with trigger sounds coming from a virtual instrument. There’s also an aux input so you can practice along with tunes on your smartphone or MP3 player, and there’s even a free iOS app that allows you to record video with audio from the EAD and songs from your music library. It’s ideal for jobbing drummers who want to add electronic sounds to their acoustic kit with minimal hassle.
The EAD-10 includes the module, sensor, cables, 12-volt power supply, mounting plate to attach the module to your hi-hat (you’ll supply the clamp), and a well-written manual that’s simple enough for newbies. I received an optional DT50S drum trigger allowing me to trigger my snare as well.
The sensor attaches to the bass drum hoop via thumbscrew. There are two outputs on the rear of the sensor for the cables that connect it to the module. The cords are about six feet long, and cable wraps are supplied to keep things tidy.
You can set the module on a flat surface or use the plastic mounting plate to attach it to a stand. Thoughtfully, this bracket allows you to angle and lock the module in position via drum keypad screw when used with typical straight clamps.
How It Works
The sensor unit comes in a confidence-inspiring metal housing that contains a bass drum trigger that allows you to play one of the samples inside the module while its two microphones capture the acoustic sound of the rest of the drum set. This signal can be sent through the separate reverb channel, as well as through an effects channel that has compression, distortion, delay, and esoteric effects like a ring modulator, phasers, wah-wah, and flanger. Some of the presets are a little wacky, but they serve to give you an idea of the unit’s capabilities.
Operating the EAD-10 couldn’t be much simpler, so it’s perfect for drummers who haven’t yet dabbled in electronics. It’s easy to tweak factory presets or create your own from scratch and save them to the module.
It’s also easy to alter sounds on the fly with the dedicated reverb, effect, and trigger knobs on the front of the unit. Many of the more conventional patches have a compressor pre-set to the effect knob, so be careful of turning it up too high if you’re using it live with a band. Overuse of this compression can cause the mikes to pick up too much ambient sound and create feedback. I found that using just a touch of it brought my toms up in the mix nicely without killing the attack of the snare.
More detailed editing is possible, such as tuning the pitch of a sample, but this process could be a little easier if it were on a screen larger than the small backlit LCD with nested menus.
Setting trigger levels and crosstalk levels can sometimes be a pain, but not with the EAD-10. I used the “automatic” function to quickly set the mike input and trigger parameters. It worked flawlessly. Manual controls are also available for this feature.
The mikes alone will pick up your kit pretty well, but they won’t capture the deepest tones of your bass drum — that’s where the kick trigger proves its usefulness. Blending a sample along with the miked signal will help get the low tones you need.
The farther away things are from the mike, the softer they will sound in the mix. The microphones picked up my bass drum, snare, and immediately adjacent toms well. It also picked up my second floor tom, though the volume level was noticeably softer. The microphones picked up a little of my cymbals as well, enough to give a general picture of what I was playing but not the same as having a pair of mikes over the kit. Even so, it sounds better than what you’d get from a typical stereo camcorder or a cell phone.
The module comes with 757 internal samples, with 100 open slots for adding your own. There are also 50 preset scenes with room for 200 more, which allows the EAD-10 to keep pace with you as your needs change. Included are 21 mike effects, 10 trigger effects, and 11 dedicated reverb effects.
I brought the EAD-10 to a wedding gig with a jazz quintet, and for most of the night used it as a simple drum miking rig. The stereo mikes picked up the drums quite well, while the unit’s internal DSP helped everything sound better. I found myself making different musical choices because I could hear my drums so clearly through my in-ear monitors. It made the night much more enjoyable for me.
Though I didn’t need a lot of low-end reinforcement for this gig, I left the kick trigger turned on and found that the microphones picked up my bass drum at low levels and the trigger only engaged when I hit the drum more loudly for accents. I could have also quickly turned the trigger knob down if I didn’t need it.
I added the snare trigger toward the end of the night for the band’s louder R&B tunes, doubling my snare with one of the unit’s internal acoustic snare samples that I’d tuned to match my drum’s pitch. I couldn’t detect any lag time between the triggered sound and the mikes. It was simple to hook everything up before a gig, and after the show our keyboardist commented that it was a very cool addition to my kit.
Yamaha has created a fantastic free app to complement the EAD-10 with the Rec’n’Share app. This iOS-only app allows you to slow down a song, add a click track, and even loop sections to practice tricky bits. But wait — there’s more. Using the Apple Camera Connection Kit ($30 to $40) and a USB B-to-A cable, the iPhone can connect directly to the module. This allows you to play along with a song on your phone through a patch you’ve selected on the module, and even record video on the iPhone’s camera with audio from the EAD. If the levels aren’t perfect in your video, you can easily remix the balance between the music and drums in the app. You can then upload the video right from the app or save it to your phone.
I’d like to have additional compressor options. There is only one compression effect in the unit, which reminds me of a Urei 1176 compressor with the “all buttons in” setting engaged. Turning the knob too far noticeably affects the attack of notes, sounding as much like distortion as compression. It works well for extreme, squashed room-mike effects, but it isn’t subtle. And while there are several electronic sounds, as well as the option to add your own samples to the unit, I would have liked more preloaded acoustic drum samples to blend with my kit for situations where I’ll be using the EAD-10 solely for its miking functions.
Instead of plastic, I’d like to see a metal housing for the module and a bigger LCD screen, more trigger inputs, and separate outputs for mikes and triggers, though I realize those features would likely raise the price.
My biggest issue is the lack of a dedicated headphone volume knob. As it is, the master output controls the output of the unit and what you hear in your headphones. (Though it is possible to adjust the headphone volume by changing settings nested in the module’s internal menus to allow the master output knob to control headphone volume only.)
If you tried to put together a group of products that do everything this package can, you’d have to carry a rack of electronic gear, spend a small fortune, and dedicate a lot of time to tweaking so that everything works reliably. (Does anyone remember Dave Weckl’s rig in the late 1980s for Chick Corea’s Elektric Band?) The EAD-10 is a unique product with a wide range of capabilities. It allows novices an easy way to access electronic sounds and is quick to set up.
The EAD-10 would be specially useful in a cover band, where the drummer needs to have a wide variety of very different sounds immediately available. The ability to expand the unit with custom samples, optional triggers and pads only increases its usefulness. Frankly, there is nothing on the market like it. The EAD-10 fills a niche that will appeal to drummers across the spectrum.