Yamaha’s new DTX6 range is a force to be reckoned with.
Historically, Yamaha and Roland have shared the crown in the field of electronic drums, but the more recent introduction of Alesis into the frame and a relative paucity of new offerings from Yamaha has seen the latter fall beneath the radar somewhat, with only the entry‑level DTX402 range and DTX Multi12 in their current catalogue. The fantastic EAD10 (reviewed in SOS April 2018) did, perhaps, give us reason to believe Yamaha hadn’t abandoned the fray completely. However, that was really more of an incursion into the increasingly popular territory of hybrid drumming than anything resembling a full return to the electronic drum market.
There have been rumours of new products coming from Yamaha for some time, but the announcement of the new DTX6 range in November still came as something of a pleasant surprise to me, as I’ve been impressed with the kits I’ve reviewed in the past and the EAD10 was an innovative and exciting product. So does the DTX6 range put Yamaha right back in the game?
The new range comprises the DTX6K‑X, DTX6K2‑X and DTX6K3‑X, all three kits being based around the new DTX Pro module (see the ‘Kit List’ box for a full configuration run‑down of each kit). I’ve been sent the top‑of‑the range DTX6K3‑X to have a look at and test, so without further ado...
The most striking feature (no pun intended) of the DTX6K3‑X is the pads. Mesh pads are pretty much the norm on electronic kits these days, so the inclusion of something different instantly makes this kit stand out. Both the 8‑inch XP80 snare and 7‑inch XP70 tom pads feature Yamaha’s unique Textured Cellular Silicone (TCS) playing surface. This isn’t a new design — in fact, it has been part of the Yamaha range for over 10 years — but it may not be familiar to you. The playing surface is made from a silicone gel material that has the appearance and texture of a coated drumhead. During the manufacturing process, it’s filled with millions of tiny bubbles that give the head a very realistic and natural feel. Not only do these heads feel great to play, they are acoustically very quiet. This may not seem like a big deal when you’re bashing away with headphones on, but to anyone living in the same house it’s a definite plus point!
Due to the unique head material, the pads themselves aren’t constructed in the same way as their mesh head counterparts. There is no need for a drum hoop or tension lugs, so they take on a more solid and compact form. Surprisingly, though, the XP70 tom pad is only single zone, so you don’t have the option of assigning a second sound to the rim.
The XP80 snare is slightly larger, with an 8‑inch TCS playing surface and two rim zones: one for rim shots, and a second discrete zone at the upper right for cross‑stick playing. You can, of course, assign any sound to the rim zones, but these are the default settings.
The cross‑stick zone is a great feature and enables you to instantly play rim clicks using the normal technique of laying the stick across the drum. Oddly, the manual makes reference to an ‘XP125SD‑X multi‑piezo’ pad but, apart from a line drawing of a more substantial‑looking pad, that’s about as far as it goes for information. The manual does, however, state that the DXT Pro module supports positional sensing on the snare (with the appropriate pad), so unless Yamaha are suggesting you use other manufacturers’ pads, this would imply that a new snare is in the pipeline.
Bearing in mind that this is a flagship kit, Yamaha have perhaps gone against the grain a little by including relatively small pads that, because of the TCS heads, take on an even more scaled‑down form factor than their mesh counterparts. Your opinion on this is going to be primarily based on what you use the kit for. If you’re looking for something that has a big physical impact for live use, size may be an issue for you, but if you need a quiet and compact kit for practice and recording, the DTX6K3‑X is ideal.
The DTX6K3‑X ships with three PCY135 13‑inch, three‑zone cymbals. They have a fairly standard rubber construction, with a small slot to locate them correctly on the cymbal arms. To have all three cymbals supporting edge, bow and bell zones is a great feature. In addition to offering a far more realistic playing experience, by mimicking a real cymbal, this provides more flexibility when designing your own kit, allowing up to three sounds per cymbal. All cymbals also include the ability to choke, exactly like a real cymbal, when held at the edge.
Connecting one of the cymbals to the ‘Ride’ input of the module enhances its performance by adding positional sensing. A feature previously unique to Roland, positional sensing enables a cymbal sound to change (typically getting brighter to darker) as you move across the bow area from the bell to the edge. This massively adds to the realism of the experience, but I would have preferred a larger ride cymbal to take better advantage of this excellent feature.
The RHH135 hi‑hat is one of the now familiar ‘moving’ units that fits on a regular hi‑hat stand, provided as part of the package. The base unit is placed where the lower cymbal would normally be and the 13‑inch rubber top cymbal sits above, held in place with a regular clutch mechanism. Two cables attach the cymbal to the module and carry the open and closed positional information, as well as whether the cymbal is struck on the edge or bow zone.
The bass drum is the part of a kit that receives the most punishment, so it needs to be up to the job, physically. Having a substantial bass drum is vital and the new KP90 kick pad is quite an impressive beast. Its wide‑legged design, spikes and industrial Velcro keep it solidly in place, while the new multi‑layered playing surface offers a very authentic ‘give’ that changes the harder you play. It also has a low natural pitch, which helps the kick remain acoustically quiet.
The new RS6 rack has a typical tubular construction but includes a couple of innovative features that add to its stability and functionality. The three upright posts locate into wide ‘feet’, similar to the older DTXtreme rack or the Gibraltar‑style rack system, which gives it a very solid feel. The right‑hand side of the rack has also been completely removed, which leaves more space for the free‑standing hi‑hat.
The module is located on the right, which is actually how I have chosen to configure the rack system for my own electronic kit, so I felt very at home with the setup. However, it’s flexible enough to let you relocate the module elsewhere. You may need to replace some of the cables, as the supplied loom is geared to locating the rack on the right, but fortunately the module has individual jack inputs for each pad rather than a proprietary multipin‑type connection (also great if a cable fails and needs to be replaced). All the pads connect to the rack using a range of substantial arms and clamps, with the snare employing a ball‑joint clamp for greater positional flexibility.
The DTX Pro module is ‘all new’ — which is a well‑worn phrase, but in this particular case you’d hope it was accurate, considering that Yamaha haven’t launched a new module since the DTX402 in 2017.
The rounded edges of the new unit give it a modern feel and although it’s not large, it has a substantial look. The rear panel is relatively sparsely populated and features 10 jack inputs for the pads and cymbals, which equates to 14 individual trigger inputs. The tom inputs can be configured as two single‑trigger inputs, each using a Y‑cable, and the kick drum also offers an extra input via an additional jack socket on the rear of the KP90. Output is limited to a stereo Left & Right, which is a pity, as I’m a big fan of multiple outputs, particularly for live use. That said, I do appreciate that it’s not something you usually find at this price. The TD27 from Roland adds a second pair of outputs, as does the 2box Drumit 3 (reviewed in SOS April 2021), but for multiple outputs you’re looking at the Alesis Strike Pro or Roland TD50 modules.
The DTX Pro only features a MIDI Out socket, but the included Host USB port allows for both MIDI and audio transmission to and from a connected computer. A second USB port for connecting to a USB flash drive is provided to save settings, record performances and load samples into the module.
The front panel is split into three sections. The largest section, on the left, features the familiar DXT Drums logo, with scroll wheel to the right for fast data entry and moving around the LCD display. This sits above three Kit Modifier knobs — Ambience, Comp and Effect — each surrounded by a ring of LEDs indicating their current value. Below this are the Master, Audio and Click volume knobs. The centre section includes a good‑sized LCD screen, which is a significant improvement on the two‑line display of the DTX502. Below the display are three soft keys that correspond with parameters displayed on the LCD above them. The remaining buttons offer direct access to the Menu, Kit, Training and Recorder functions, as well as Store and a very handy Exit button to step back through menu pages. Two large +/‑ data‑entry buttons act as footers to this central section.
The right‑hand side of the module is dedicated to the tempo and click functions, with a large, bright LED display showing the current BPM value and a Tempo knob to adjust it. A dedicated Click button switches you instantly to the comprehensive metronome edit screen and a large Start/Stop button... starts and stops the click! I was pleased to see a 6.5mm headphone socket rather than a 3.5mm one on the front of the unit (it has a more professional feel), alongside the more typical mini‑jack auxiliary input for connection to an external MP3 player.
The DTX Pro comes with 40 preset kits and 200 user locations for saving your own creations. You can use either the data‑entry knob to the left of the LCD or the +/‑ button to scroll through the kits.
Preset 1, ‘AbsolHybMaple’, is a fantastic‑sounding acoustic maple kit featuring a beautifully recorded 14‑inch snare, tight kick drum and warm toms, along with bright rock cymbals, all bathed in a natural room ambience. Preset 4, ‘Bop Groove’, is a far more jazzy affair, with an open sound and lighter cymbals, including a very articulate ride that really benefits from the PCY135 positional sensing. The ‘Swedish Metal’ preset takes us in a very different direction, with a much darker, more aggressive‑sounding kit that introduces a compression and reverb effect via the Kit Modifiers that we’ll come on to later. Acoustic kits are very well catered for within the first 20 presets, before we move onto the electronic kits and percussion setups, including ‘The Classic 8’ and ‘RX‑5’, which emulate the iconic 808 and possibly less iconic RX5 drum machines. As is often the case, a more experimental feel develops as you advance through the presets. The final few offerings use the AbsolHybMaple from preset 1, adding a selection of different effects via the Kit Modifier knobs, to give you ideas of what is possible with the DTX Pro.
All of the sounds in the DTX are new for this module, and many were recorded at some of Europe’s top studios, including Real World. I mention this because in addition to close‑miking the drums, Yamaha have also sampled the room ambience...
All of the sounds in the DTX are new for this module, and many were recorded at some of Europe’s top studios, including Real World. I mention this because in addition to close‑miking the drums, Yamaha have also sampled the room ambience, which can be dialled in using the Ambience Kit Modifier I mentioned above. As a result, the presets sound absolutely fantastic and make playing the kit a very enjoyable experience. The triggering is very fast and dynamic and the 256‑note polyphony enables the cymbals and hi‑hat to sound incredibly realistic, with no cutting off of notes even when you’re playing fast single strokes immediately after a large crash to the edge zone.
We’ll come to some of the in‑depth editing features later, but at a basic level it’s very easy to edit a preset to create your own kit. In the kit screen, pressing the INST softkey below the display brings up the Instrument window, where you can quickly select a new sound to assign to the currently selected pad. The DTX Pro features over 700 sounds split into 12 categories; Kick 1 and 2; Snare 1 and 2; Tom 1 and 2; Cymbal 1 and 2; HiHat 1 and 2; Perc; and Effect. Group 1 in each case includes the real acoustic sounds, complete with ‘RealAmbi’ natural room ambience, while Group 2 focuses on electronic and processed voices.
The second softkey to the right of the LCD brings up a very handy mixer that allows you to quickly balance each individual element of the kit. This is a global mixer that is adjusting the relative levels for every kit, exactly as you would find on larger modules that feature individual physical faders. A second press of the same softkey opens the effects window, where you can quickly adjust the current effects and their respective levels.
From the main Kit screen you can access detailed editing functions via the Menu button and Kit Edit option. As with so many of today’s drum modules, the editing options are vast to the point of being overwhelming. The Kit Edit sub‑menu features Kit Modifier, Inst, Inst Effect, Voice and Volume, each with their own long list of parameters. Tuning, panning and decay parameters are found within the Instrument option, and further processing, in the form of a three‑band EQ, Compression, Transient control and Effects, is accessed via the Inst Effect option. The combination of these two sets of parameters alone is enough to let you subtly tweak a snare drum or cymbal or to radically alter the sound of any of the included waveforms beyond recognition.
The Kit Modifer knobs enable you to apply Ambience, Compression and Effects to a kit in real time. Selecting the Kit Modifier option within Kit Edit enables you to edit these features and how they are applied. As I mentioned earlier, many of the drum sounds in the DTX Pro were recorded along with a natural room ambience, stored as a discrete WAV file that can be mixed with the dry drum sound using the Ambience Kit modifier knob. An additional reverb can also be selected to ‘take over’ from the ambience as you turn the knob further. The Comp knob, as you might expect, applies compression to the overall kit — in addition to the compression that can be applied to each individual Instrument.
The effects arsenal of the DTX Pro is comprehensive, to say the least, featuring three effects processors: a Master Effect applied to the whole kit, and two further effects (FX1 and FX2) that can be applied to each instrument independently, by way of effects sends. All the usual suspects are provided, from Early Reflection reverbs and Halls through to modulation effects and delays — with a fair few that you really wouldn’t expect (or use?), such as a ‘Spiralizer with Tempo Sync’ed LFO’. You can choose which of the effects will be controlled by the Kit Modifier knob, and these can be introduced in real‑time, so the single Effects knob could turn up delay on the toms and a reverb on the kick and snare. Two final EQ processors affect the Master output, and there’s an independent EQ for the headphones.
The DTX Pro allows you to import up to 1000 of your own sounds via USB stick into its 64MB of onboard memory, and assign them to pads and individual zones in exactly the same way you would internal voices. This opens up unlimited possibilities for designing kits comprised of unique sounds and loops — which is often a requirement of the modern drummer. As is the case with internal voices, you can stack up to four samples and either layer them dynamically or cycle them in a round‑robin fashion. You can also import loops, or even complete backing tracks, that will start and stop each time the pad is struck.
A further extension of this is user voices, wherein each pad zone can have four user samples assigned to it (A, B, C and D), which play in a round‑robin cycle. These can then be stacked in 10 velocity layers, giving a total of 40 samples per zone and 120 samples per three‑zone pad — and culminating in an incredibly realistic, dynamic result. I have to confess to this being a fairly involved process to set up, and the documentation currently available doesn’t make it any easier. However, having heard the results, it is definitely a very powerful feature.
Selecting the DTXPro as the source in the DAW enables you to record your performance as MIDI notes, as well as using the kit to trigger a VST Instrument such as Superior Drummer.
The USB port isn’t limited to importing user samples and saving kits. The Recorder option lets you stream backing tracks to play along to and also record your performance in real time back onto the USB drive. Audio files for playback should be 16‑bit, 44.1kHz WAV files, and any performance recordings are saved in the same format. If you choose to record your performance while playing along to a backing track from the USB drive, a new WAV file is created, comprising your performance mixed with the backing track. As this is a standard WAV file, you can simply pop the USB stick into your computer and share the file with band members or load it into your DAW.
If you might like to use the USB drive for playback of backing tracks in a live situation, the DTX Pro provides some useful routing options in the Input/Output section of the Utility menu. Handy preset configurations allow one channel of the stereo file (typically containing a click) to be routed to the headphones output, while the other channel (containing the backing track) is routed to the Main outputs and the headphones (panned centrally in both cases). A particularly cool feature is that the backing track and click channels are routed individually via the Audio and Click volume knobs, so you can easily adjust their respective levels in your headphones.
A second USB port is provided for connection to a computer and enables you to send and receive both MIDI and audio information. If you’re using a Windows computer, you’ll need to install the Yamaha Steinberg USB driver (regardless of your DAW). If you’re using Mac OS, no driver is required.
Connected to my Mac, the DTX Pro popped up immediately in Audio/MIDI Setup and subsequently in my DAW. Selecting the DTXPro as the source in the DAW enables you to record your performance as MIDI notes, as well as using the kit to trigger a VST Instrument such as Superior Drummer. The MIDI implementation of the DTX Pro means that even the positional sensing of the ride cymbal can be interpreted by the VST Instrument. In addition to recording your MIDI performance, you can also record a stereo mix of the currently selected kit as audio. As the DTX Pro only offers a stereo physical output, it would’ve been nice to be able to record the drum channels discretely via USB, as you can with the Roland TD27 I reviewed a couple of months ago.
As well as being an input source, the DTX Pro can also be selected as an output source inside your DAW, enabling tracks to be sent to the module for playback monitoring. In a studio environment, you could route the foldback mix directly to the DTX Pro module from your DAW.
For me, the star of the show is the DTX Pro module. It sounds very, very good. The natural ambiences are a unique feature that really adds to the realism of the acoustic kits, and the exceptional editing features really empower you to shape the sound of the drums exactly as you want to. Yamaha’s vision is to offer something comparable to a VST instrument in a module, and I think they’ve come pretty close. The ability to import custom samples isn’t a new concept, but its implementation in the DTX Pro, with up to 40 samples per zone (so 120 on a three‑zone pad) takes things up several notches. I’d like to have seen an extra pair of outputs and perhaps multichannel USB support for DAWs.
The XP70 pads feel fantastic and, if you’ve not played the TCS heads before and are a dedicated mesh fan, I strongly suggest you give them a try. I like the three‑zone snare a lot, and the cross‑stick zone is a great feature that allows you to use a fairly natural playing technique. It’s surprising, though, that the TCS tom pads are only single zone. A moving hi‑hat with supplied stand is a definite plus point, as is the fact that all cymbals feature three zones, and that the ride cymbal takes that a stage further by adding positional sensing. However, as I observed earlier, a slightly larger cymbal would be nice to take full advantage of the feature.
The DTX6K3‑X looks to me like the pick of the new DTX6 range, sitting somewhere between the Roland TD17KV and the TD27KV in terms of price and features, and offering a great alternative in the mid‑range of electronic kits. There are larger and more impressive beasts, should that be what you need, in the form of the Alesis Strike Pro and new Roland VAD range, but while these offer more of a visual impact, they also weigh in at a significantly higher price.
I can only comment on the rest of the DTX6 range on the basis of its spec, but at first glance the DTX6K‑X and DTX6K2‑X don’t, perhaps, deliver the wow factor I’d expect from a company making a big re‑entry into the electronic kit market. That rubber pads are specified on these two kits was quite a surprise to me, as I think people have come to expect mesh pads on all but modestly priced, entry‑level kits such as the slightly leftfield 2box Speedlight or Alesis DM10 MkII.
That doesn’t, however, take the shine off the flagship DTX6K3‑X, which is a great‑sounding kit, offering some unique and innovative features. Alongside the mention of an XP125SD‑X pad in the manual, and the support for Multi Piezo pads with position sensing, it feels rather like the beginning of a new chapter in the Yamaha electronic drum story.
- DTX6K‑X: DTX6R rack; DTX Pro module; XP80 TCS three‑zone snare; TP70 tom pads x 3; PCY90 9‑inch, two‑zone crash and hi‑hat; PCY135 13‑inch three‑zone ride; RH65 hi‑hat controller; KP65 kick pad.
- DTX6K2‑X: RS6 rack; DTX Pro module; XP80 TCS three‑zone snare; TP70 tom pads x 3; PCY135 13‑inch, three‑zone cymbals x 3; RH135 13‑inch hi‑hat pad; HS605A hi‑hat stand; KP90 kick pad.
- DTX6K3‑X: RS6 rack; DTX Pro module; XP80 TCS three‑zone snare; XP70 TCS tom pads x 3; PCY135 13‑inch three‑zone cymbals x 3; RH135 13‑inch hi‑hat pad; HS605A hi‑hat stand; KP90 kick pad.
Yamaha are big on education, and the DTX Pro comes with 10 excellent training functions, accessed via the dedicated Training button. An impressive 37 demo songs are provided, covering genres from pop and prog rock through to jazz and EDM. They’re used to great effect in the first four training exercises.
You can play along to a complete song, and practice phrases with one instrument or one part at a time by muting certain drums. The ‘Gate’‑based exercises enable you to test your timing against a click, drum sounds muting themselves if you play outside a preset margin of error. Other exercises work on dynamics and speed. There are a number of difficulty levels within each exercise, and the module rates your performance with a percentage accuracy score. It also adds words of encouragement if you do well — apparently!
The DTX Pro also interfaces via USB with the Rec’n’Share app that Yamaha introduced with the EAD‑10. Now available for iOS and Android, the app allows you to import any track from your music library (iTunes, Dropbox import, and so on) and play along to it. In addition, you can slow down or speed up the track (while preserving pitch) and create A‑B markers to loop a section of the track, making it easy to listen to and practice a particular part of the song. Using your smartphone camera, you can even create your own performance video, combining the imported track with high‑quality audio straight from the DTX Pro. It can be uploaded to YouTube with a single button press, or saved to your photo library.
- TCS heads feel great.
- Moving hi‑hat, with stand supplied.
- Three‑zone cymbals with positional‑sensing ride.
- Impressive natural ambience feature on acoustic samples.
- Tom pads only single zone.
- Only two outputs.
The DTX6K3‑X is the highlight of the new DTX6 range, with the real star being the excellent DTX Pro Module, featuring impressive natural ambience and in‑depth editing features.
DTX6K‑X £899, DTX6K2‑X £1499, DTX6K3‑X £1779. Prices include VAT.
DTX6K‑X $999, DTX6K2‑X $1499, DTX6K3‑X $1799.