BY JAKE WOOD
Everything is better with lasers. For instance, put a laser on a shark’s head and it becomes extra dangerous. Add laser sounds to your dance moves and you become unstoppable. Make a kick drum pedal with a laser and it … Wait, huh? Now, who on Earth would combine lasers and kick pedals? Axis Percussion would, and did, with its new line of A21 Laser pedals, including a single, a double, and a Derek Roddy Signature Edition pedal (the latter featuring an electronic trigger).
THE LOW DOWN
Continuing with Axis’ groundbreaking longboard approach, the new A21 series features laser-engraved floorboards that are true to the end – no heel plate. The boards are now much wider (at 5″ they are the widest on the market), and the pedals feature a 21 degree angled beater for touted greater power.
As with all Axis pedals, the A21 series features a direct-drive: no chain, no strap, just raw, solid metal. So, why join the direct-drive camp? Although debatable, some claim it’s faster and more responsive on the rebound. Regardless, the coolest feature about all Axis pedals is their Variable Drive Levers. With just one drum key drummers can tango between speed and power and flirt with different levels of torque, an adjustment on chain-driven pedals that requires laboriously switching out the cam.
All three pedals are lightweight, incredibly sturdy, and machined with a precision similar to tools found in a laboratory. They come with obnoxiously strong preinstalled Velcro (that thankfully mellows out after kissing a few filthy stage rugs) and a set of seven individual Allen keys (begging to be lost on the gig on account of no included storage case).
TALKIN’ ’BOUT FEELINGS
The pedals’ overall adjustability makes them very agreeable to almost any environment, from light jazz to heavy rock, but the brittle beater isn’t exactly feathering friendly. The longboards make it possible to play a little faster (by playing lightly and low down on the board), which is great for blastbeats, and the double pedal’s slave is a sturdy anchor that’s fairly similar in feeling to that of the master. For those with power-hungry complexes (yours truly), the A21s accommodate handsomely, like a baseball bat one size too big. Dissimilarly, the Derek Roddy pedal is incapable of kicking mass, as its streamlined for speed with a very light feel.
The true gem of the Axis R&D department is the electronic kit conversion. It’s an innovative trigger assembly that comes factory installed on the Roddy pedal. It eliminates issues like crosstalk and retriggering (although its sensitivity can be an issue for dynamic drummers that dig into the head), and it can even be adjusted to trigger slightly before the beater hits in an effort to combat latency. Genius! It’s a tad dainty, however, and I wouldn’t throw it to the mercy of a hardware case without some serious protection. Unfortunately, none of these pedals come with their own case.
BEAST OF BURDEN
Having snapped many a beater rod and crippled many a drive shaft, it’s absolutely imperative that a pedal be earthquake retrofitted if it’s going on tour with me. After a week of unrestrained punishment (some songs I stand up and play, literally jumping up and down on the pedal with all 185 lbs. of my man-fat), the A21 pedal showed zero signs of wear.
With this kind of durability, versatility, and response, the A21s won a special place in my heart (a place women stopped coveting years ago), and a not-so-special place in my hardware case. Of course, my experience was colored by my body type, playing style, and musical idiosyncrasies. Since every drummer has a little Cinderella on the inside, head on down to your local drum shop and find out for yourself if the pedal fits.
The Derek Roddy pedal is sleek and speedy, and the electronic trigger assembly is a true stroke of genius. But such delicate accoutrements require delicate handling. Bruiser beware. The A21, on the other hand, is beefy, brutal, and seemingly indestructible. Not for the faint of heart – or foot. But being Axis, both pedals are engineered like atomic clocks. Only bummer is no included carrying cases.
MODELS, SIZES & LIST PRICES
A21 Single $345
A21 Double $900
Derek Roddy Signature $400
Solid construction and incredibly smooth action; torque is easily adjustable; innovative MIDI trigger on Roddy pedal is innovative and awesome, and can even combat latency.