FROM DRUM! MAGAZINE’S MARCH 2018 ISSUE | BY NICOLAS GRIZZLE
There are acoustic drum sets with electronic features and electronic drum sets that can make acoustic sounds, but finding that elusive sweet spot between the two is a delicate balancing act. Alesis has made its best attempt thus far with the Strike Pro electronic drum kit. Its approach with this totally new kit is one that makes sense for both acoustic and electronic sets: Design an instrument that sounds good, feels good, and looks good that truly makes people want to sit down and play.
Alesis started from scratch with the Strike Pro, putting a lot of thought into the design of its new flagship drum kit. They recorded an exhaustive sound library and designed new software to edit those sounds and allow for recording even more samples — it sounds good.
They made drums in standard acoustic sizes with mesh heads and raised rims to feel like a big, powerful drum set and created a module that’s intuitive and easy to use — it feels good. And they did this with real wood shells and an eye-catching finish — it looks really good.
But what else is there? Let’s take a look at the detailed Alesis Strike Pro review.
Out of the box, this kit might be mistaken for an acoustic “traveler-style” kit, with its shallow wood shells in gorgeous, shattered glass-like red sparkle. The shiny chrome rack adds to the acoustic look — no plastic pipes here; this is heavy-duty stuff. It is only available in one color, but because the shells are made of wood they can be re-wrapped if desired.
The Strike Pro kit came with a snare, bass drum, four toms, three crashes, a ride, and hi-hats. Hardware included a four-post chrome rack; four boom arms, which mount in each of the rack posts; a double-braced snare stand; Velcro straps for the cables; and clamp-on mounts for each of the toms and another one for the module. While making for an impressive, “floating drum” appearance, the clamp-style mounts had one drawback:
Even after tightening them onto the rack as hard as I could, the larger floor toms still dipped forward when riding on the front of the rim with a decent amount of force. This can be avoided by mounting the clamps with the rod behind the rack bar, but making adjustments to the positioning will be a bit cumbersome in this position as the wingnut for the clamp will be in a tight space between the drum and the mount.
You won’t need any tools aside from a drum key (provided) and a screwdriver (not provided, but only needed for one-time use to mount the module to its base plate). Be sure to allow a couple of hours for the initial setup.
Though there are convenient notches at the end of each chrome bar to aid in setup, the rack is heavy and takes time to get leveled and adjusted, and you’ll want to make sure the cables are strapped on just right to maximize visual appeal and minimize possible entanglements.
The kit does not come with a kick pedal or hi-hat stand, as most players using this kit will have their preferred models already picked out, and it is compatible with all hi-hat and kick pedals as well as most trigger pads.
For this review, we used Axis kick pedals (single and double) and a Yamaha hi-hat stand. In case you’ve broken all your sticks and misplaced your drum key for the 174,000th time, the kit does come with drumsticks and a unique drum key, the latter of which actually came in handy for this review (I guess that would be my 174,001st time).
Alesis Strike Pro pads are as close as it gets to the acoustic drums.
The heads are familiar sizes, with a 14″ snare, 14″ kick, and 8″, 10″, 12″, and 14″ toms.
The cymbals are familiar sizes as well, with 12″ hi-hats, 14″ crashes, and a 16″ ride.
The Strike kit’s drum pads are tunable, providing you the option of increasing or decreasing the mesh heads’ responsiveness. All of the provided drum pads are dual-zone, allowing you to play separate sounds from the pad and the rim. However, the ride cymbal is a triple-zone, which is usually reserved only for higher-end kits. All cymbals are chockable and feature larger-sized bells for playing different accents.
Let’s check the other features of Strike Pro pads.
The trigger menu is the playability center, and its adjustments carry over between the predefined and user-created kits. Use your ears to find your sweet spot.
For me, the ability to adjust the level of crosstalk was useful for switching between lighter and heavier playing, and I found that setting the threshold under 3 resulted in some auto-triggering for most pads.
The first thing I noticed when playing this kit is how much it feels like an acoustic kit. The thin mesh heads bounce back like acoustic drums, raised rims on each drum are the same size and shape as acoustic drums, and tunable lugs allow for adjusting the feel of each head. Prefer an extremely snappy snare bounce?
Crank it up and feel the action. Do you bury your beater and need a looser head? Go lefty-loosey on those kick lugs, my friend. Once I had the placements dialed in, I could play with confidence, knowing that when I reached out to hit a crash or get funky on the ride bell, it would be where I was expecting it.
I had trouble dialing in the hi-hat pedal fully to my liking for delicate jazz playing, but this issue remains one of the bugaboos of all electronic kits I’ve played.
The Strike Pro’s hats were perfectly fine for most styles, however, and I liked being able to adjust the splashiness of the cymbals. The hi-hat responsiveness was improved with the November 2017 firmware (v1.3) update, which was included with our review kit, and may well be further improved with future updates from Alesis.
Just like an acoustic kit takes time to tune and get just right, electronic kits have their own kind of tuning that needs to be done. Fortunately, Alesis has made this process fairly painless.
For starters, the module, or brain, of the kit attaches in the most logical spot for easy access, right near the hi-hat. All the functions necessary for dialing in the playability of the kit have dedicated physical buttons on the multi-colored, 4.3″ LCD screen.
The “trigger” button brings up options related to the physical playing of each pad, which are easily selectable and tunable right on the module. It was interesting to see how much the sensitivity setting also affected the sound; a higher sensitivity allowed for more of the drums’ tone and resonance before reaching peak volume.
Everyone’s settings will be different, of course, based on individual playing styles. Working through each pad was a breeze thanks to the “note chase” feature, again with a physical button to turn on or off, which brings up the screen to adjust any pad just by hitting the pad.
The drum pads have two independent zones, one being the mesh head and the other being the rim. Each drum also has a physical sensitivity knob right by the ¼” output that focuses dynamics either toward the middle of the head or the outer edge.
When turning each knob, you’ll feel a convenient notch in the middle allowing for easy, no-look adjustments on the fly between songs.
The cymbals are also dual-zone with bow and edge zones, and the ride adds the bell to make three independent zones. All the cymbal pads can be choked as well, though the response is a bit delayed compared to grabbing a bronze crash.
The Strike Pro has a beautiful body, but the most attractive thing about this kit is its brain. With clearly labeled physical buttons for the most-used features and an arrow pad and big scroll wheel for navigating the menus, I found the module intuitive and easy to use.
It was helpful to watch Alesis’ tutorial videos on its website beforehand, as it gives a sense of the ecosystem and possibilities in the module and accompanying software. Let me walk you through the features of the module so you can see where I’m getting at.
Multi-layered instruments and samples
The kit had 117 different original kits loaded into the module, made up of over 1,760 multi-layered instruments and 14,000 individual samples. Most of the samples are of high-end and vintage drums and cymbals recorded at very nice studios.
Though they may be mysteriously labeled, some are easier to figure out than others. For example, there’s a Bonham-inspired kit called “Lavey Breaks,” as well as a sample-heavy kit called “Running Jewels,” inspired by the hip-hop duo Run The Jewels.
Both sound great and are tons of fun to play. The two new kits added with the November 2017 update are especially nice. I found myself going back to those over and over again.
The samples and instruments very accurately represent the tone and dynamic range of the acoustic kit, so even the most sophisticated ears will be satisfied.
Representatives from Alesis confirmed that the company will release more samples in future updates for the Strike Pro kit.
A huge part of what makes this kit special is the ability to edit samples and add effects to make unique instruments. It’s great for those who like to go above and beyond with the sound.
A mad scientist could spend hours combining samples of different drums to create that perfect Frankenstein snare and then take two more minutes to record and load a sample of someone shouting “It’s alive!” onto the rim of the snare pad.
The possibilities are endless. And with so many different instruments at your disposal, you can finally make that perfect-sounding “jellybean” kit of different vintage drums, but with a completely uniform look.
The brain connects to a computer via USB, and my Mac automatically loaded the module’s external SD card on the desktop (it comes with an 8GB SD card preloaded with Alesis’ samples and can take an SD card up to 32 GB).
Strike Software Editor
Additionally, Alesis developed a Strike Software Editor, which you can use to construct new kits on your computer instead of using the module’s knobs. You can download the latest update of the software on the Alesis Strike or Strike Pro product page.
I found the Strike Pro Sample Editor software to be intuitive, if not a little overwhelming at first, with the vast array of samples, effects and editing possibilities at my disposal. Drummers who are passionate about the art of sound design can easily get lost for hours, or days, or weeks, or — wait, what month is it now?
However, it’s great for those who want to get down to the instrument level and construct entirely new multi-layer instruments or edit current ones.
You can import your own wav files and mix them with the various samples that are already included with the Strike module. Once you’re finished with the editing, you can save these samples to the SD card and load them into the module.
The Strike Pro has two ¼” stereo outputs as well as eight direct outs for recording or live use. The eight pre-fader outputs give individual control for the snare, kick, hi-hats, and ride, and group all the cymbals and toms into two stereo pairs. It also has MIDI In and Out, and the USB output can be used as a MIDI output on some DAWs.
I recorded MIDI, stereo, and direct outs using a Digi002 and Reaper on a Mac laptop with no problems, and it sounded like I had spent all week getting the drum sounds just right in my multi-million dollar recording studio.
It’s very easy to record your own samples as well through the ⅛” input on the module. To record samples from a smartphone, for example, connect an ⅛” cable from the headphone output of the phone to the Strike Pro module.
The physical buttons on the module make it easy to “punch in” and record your sample into the brain, and the intuitive editing screen makes it easy to trim to start and stop points or make it into the perfect loop for play-along.
Ease of use
The LCD display looks amazing and provides a wonderful visual depiction of each kit you’re using, as well as information about the preset. It’s quite responsive, and I think it looks better than the display on the TD-50.
Switching between kits is as simple as turning the scroll wheel. Each kit is playable about one second after selecting it, with priority going to the pads you hit first, but the detail and full velocity range of the samples take between four and 30 seconds to fully load.
If you are switching instruments on the kit during a live gig — say, swapping out a snare or some cymbals for a given song in the middle of a set — you may want to do some pre-production to make user-defined kits that share many of the same samples, which will cut down on load time.
Even with the minor delay, it’s still quicker than removing a cymbal on an acoustic kit and putting another in its place.
There’s also a physical mixer right on the module with faders for every trigger and the auxiliary input or internal play-along sample. The mixer affects volume settings for headphones and main stereo outputs. I sort of wish there was a fader for the metronome volume, but it’s easy enough to change in the menu settings.
The only thing that threw me for a loop was the metronome, which by default is programmed to output only to the main L/R outs, and not the headphones. It only took a couple of seconds to change once I figured out what was going on.
Frequently asked questions
Still have some unresolved questions about Alesis Strike Pro? I got you covered.
Here are some answers to the concerns you might have about this kit.
The difference between Alesis Strike Kit and Strike Pro Kit
The Strike Kit is a budget-friendly electronic drum set with lots of features for the price. It’s not as fully featured as the more expensive Strike Pro Kit, but it does include everything you need to start playing drums.
The difference between these two kits is mostly about what comes in the box and, of course, in the price. The Strike Pro Kit includes everything like Strike Kit.
However, it comes with some additional triggers, two 14″ dual-zone tom pads, an additional 14″ dual-zone crash cymbals w/ choke (3 in total), and additional mounting hardware.
Because of that, Alesis Strike Pro is more expensive than Strike Kit, but it offers more, so you will get your money’s worth.
Are there any settings I’ll need to adjust while setting up the kit for the first time?
If you are afraid that all these various features of the module will be too complicated for you at the first play, don’t worry. The Strike Pro kit is already optimized for playing, and you can get onto it ruth after unpacking it from the box. It’s pretty simple to use, and even a beginner drummer can set up the kit and start playing without tweaking anything in the module.
However, it’s possible to adjust sensitivity, threshold, or other settings in the module. If you want to fine-tune the module according to your personal taste – go for it! You can make almost endless experiments with the sounds and add your own samples for expanded creativity.
Will Alesis Strike Pro work with pads from other Alesis kits or pads from other companies?
Since most triggers use the same basic technology, the majority of the pads will work with the Alesis Strike Pro kit. You will maybe need to change the settings a bit and adapt the trigger. It means you will need to choose the correct trigger type in the module (switch or pad) and adjust the sensitivity and threshold.
However, it’s possible that some pads will not work with the kit because of the design differences. In any case, if you want to switch the pads, it is recommended to use the included pads for the kit or at least stick with Alesis pads, so you get the most effective response.
Alternatives to Alesis Strike Pro
If you are still not convinced you should get the Alesis Strike Pro kit, or you are searching for cheaper alternatives, I understand. There are so many electronic drum kits available out there, and it’s reasonable to research all of your options before spending a good buck. Although Strike Pro really sets the standards of a good drum kit, there are other options that may satisfy you.
First of all, there are other Alesis kits that follow the same high standard, but they are a bit cheaper, such as the Alesis Strike kit.
The Alesis Strike electronic drum kit is a complete electronic drum set that includes a 14″ kick drum pad, 14″ snare pad, 8″, 10″, 12″ tom pads, 16″ triple-zone ride cymbal, 14″ crash cymbal, and 12″ moveable hi-hat. It features dual-zone pads with a natural feel and response for striking and choking and a double-pedal functionality.
The Strike Performance Module uses Alesis’ exclusive multiple contact points and patented multiple-sensor design to evenly distribute sensitivity across the entire drum head. And it’s programmable with a full complement of sounds from Alesis’ high-definition sound library.
It comes with an onboard MIDI interface for connecting to your computer and an 8GB SD card for storing user kits/instruments or importing your own audio files.
You get over 1,600 multi-sampled instruments and over 110 kits to choose from. The Strike Performance Module includes a 4.3″ full-color LCD screen with easy-to-use navigation controls and all-new sounds — so you can create your own signature sound or choose from thousands of professionally created kits.
Roland V-Drums TD-17KVX
If you want to check out another brand, the alternative could be the Roland V-Drums TD-17KVX kit. It doesn’t come with the same vintage look or the same features as Alesis Strike Pro, but it’s a decent electronic drum and considerably cheaper.
Roland TD-17KVX electronic drums bring the sounds, pads, and features inspired by Roland’s top-level V-Drums. You get 50 kits, 310 drum/percussion sounds inspired by Roland TD-50 and tunable mesh pads that deliver a custom playing response.
Every pad has an adjustable reverb, compression, and EQ per pad, global bass, and treble controls. You will also have an onboard Bluetooth 4.2 transceiver so you can stream music from your phone or send MIDI data out. With USB input/output, you can trigger virtual instruments within your DAW and capture pre-mixed audio for song building and safekeeping.
The Strike Pro features a solid build and, above all, a convenient set of features without sacrificing quality. The price point is fair considering its build quality, and it offers a good value to drummers who need a versatile instrument that can perform casually or professionally.
The Alesis Strike Pro kit looks great, sounds great, feels natural to play, and offers tons of sound editing options. It’s a good value and would be a good fit for anyone looking to record tracks in their home studio, drummers looking for an inspiring kit to practice on, and live settings as a versatile and attractive backline drum set.