BY CARTER HOYT
MIGHTY LOW-END BOOST
I’m a big fan of the low end. When it comes down to it, the bass drum might be my favorite piece of the kit. I currently play bass drum in a marching band and over the years have really concentrated on my bass drum sound, seeking out the best I can achieve. So when I got the KickPort in the mail, I was excited.
The stylishly designed KickPort looks a bit like a black plastic trumpet mute (it also comes in white) and fits into a 5″-sized port in your front bass drumhead. According to the company, “It ports the kick drum in the same manner as a bass reflex speaker cabinet, which boosts low frequencies.” The piece is designed to focus the exiting air, and this compression is designed to add punch to the sound.
In order to give the KickPort a true test, I installed it onto my go-to gigging kit, a custom-made maple-ply D’Amico 4-piece with a 20″ kick drum. Being a smaller size, my bass drum always had a bit more pop than boom, like a tight pinpoint rather than an airy puff of low end.
Truth is, I was always happy with my bass drum sound, although some of my bandmates weren’t. “It sounds like cardboard,” my bandleader seemed fond of saying every now and then. I would just smile and pretend to tune the batter head, but in fact, the idea of a device that would pull extra low end out of my kick appealed to me greatly.
The KickPort comes with a tip sheet, suggesting what kind of heads may work best with the product. Following their advice, I bought a Remo Powerstroke 3 for the batter side of the drum and a Remo Emperor for the resonant side.
Installation of the KickPort is relatively easy. It comes with a template/reinforcement ring for the port. The KickPort requires a 5″ hole, but according to the literature, can be fit in holes that are close in size. Following the instructions, I fixed the reinforcement ring onto the resonant head so that the port was positioned at exactly the height of my tabletop-type microphone stand, and used the template to cut a 5″ hole. I put the new heads on the drum with no muffling at all, and played a bit, noting its sound.
Next up, I installed the KickPort. It has a rubber sleeve that holds it in place on the head with, thankfully, no adhesive of any kind. To install the KickPort, you flip the rubber sleeve inside-out, put it in the hole, and then reach in with some device (they recommend a screwdriver) and pop the sleeve back in place. It was easier to do than to describe – very quick.
The change in sound was immediate, although I was a bit surprised by my first impression – my bass drum seemed louder, a characteristic the folks at KickPort don’t promote. But I also noticed that the pitch dropped, the tone grew punchier, and a small breath of air accompanied each beater hit. It was as if my 20″ bass drum had transformed into a 22″, or better.
On KickPort’s Web site, there is a video of a sound engineer using equipment to show measurable difference in bass response. I believe what I see, but the real proof would come on the bandstand. At my next gig, I intentionally didn’t tell my bandleader that I had installed a device that was designed to address the complaints he had about my bass drum sound. However, my ever-vigilant bass player – a diehard audio buff – noticed the KickPort and crouched down to inspect its design. “It’s really just a speaker port, isn’t it,” he noted, as he helped mike-up my kick drum. “Interesting.” I put an index finger to my lips and pointed to our bandleader. My bass player nodded knowingly.
The moment of truth arrived. At soundcheck, as we began line-checking the bass drum, my bandleader turned around with a quizzical look. “Did you change your bass drumheads or something?” he asked. “Your kick sounds so much bigger.” Well, what can you say? Good night, folks. My job here is done.
The KickPort is well designed and easy to install. Even better – it fulfills its promise to fatten your bass drum. It’s important to note that since every other bass drum sound enhancer is designed to muffle the tone, the KickPort stands alone by dong the opposite – adding punch while increasing volume and resonance. Going way, way out on a limb here, I believe that the KickPort might be the most important new drum set accessory since the Gauger RIMS system – and that’s saying something.
LIST PRICE $59.95
FEATURES The KickPort can be used on drums 16″—28″ in diameter; ports the kick in the same manner as a bass reflex speaker; adds punch, increases volume, and deepens the tone.
CONTACT KickPort International, kickport.com, 707-762-2100