My first electronic kit was a Roland TD-1KV, an excellent beginner kit to see if I actually stuck to drumming before pursuing something more expensive. It’s a compact kit I found myself growing out of quickly.
When assessing my next kit, I knew I would stick to playing electric, so I could play quietly any time of the day and record without needing to mic anything up.
Roland was at the top of the list in terms of kit options, but I also considered Alesis. I played many kits, watched a lot of YouTube videos, and read blog posts and Reddit threads. I didn’t rush into choosing a new kit, especially considering I would be spending a couple of thousand Australian Dollars minimum.
First and foremost, Alesis was quickly scrubbed off the list. Although Alesis sounds good and is great value for money in what they give you, Alesis kits’ durability is still a let-down. When I was playing Alesis kits, they didn’t feel as nice as the Roland kits do. Roland kits’ response seems to be a lot better (but this is quite possibly subjective).
I am by no means a professional drum reviewer. This is my experience both researching and choosing the Roland TD-17KVX and setting it up and playing it.
If you don’t care about technical specifics and want to know whether you should buy this kit or not, keep reading.
What’s not included
There seems to be some confusion about what you get and what you don’t get in the box. You pretty much get everything you need in the package except the following you need to purchase separately:
- A hihat stand
- A single or double kick pedal
The Roland TD-17KVX doesn’t require anything special, any hi-hat or kick pedal will do the trick. In the spirit of keeping everything one brand, I did try and order a Roland branded hi-hat stand and double kick pedal. Sadly, they didn’t have the Roland double kick in stock, so I just got the Roland hi-hat stand.
If you are fortunate enough to have an old acoustic kit around, you can use your hi-hat stand and pedals from that. Just remember, you will need these to play the kit.
Setup and Unboxing
The TD-17KVX comes in two boxes, one smaller rectangular box with a stand and a larger box containing many smaller sizes boxes.
As you begin to unpack the TD-17KVX, the first thing you will notice is a lot of boxes. Each cymbal, each pad, the stand, the module and everything in between is wrapped in plastic and inside of a box.
Seriously, look at this mess. I actually found that half the time spent setting up the drum kit is just opening boxes and removing taped-on plastic and Styrofoam wrapped around the pipes. Be prepared to have a huge mess to deal with after you’re done unpacking and setting up.
The setup process is quite straightforward, but do yourself a favour and ignore the paper instructions that come in the box, they make no sense and will have you pulling your hair out.
The only assembly instructions you need are the following video:
Thanks to the instruction video above, I had my kit assembled in about 30 minutes.
The TD-17 module
The main component of the TD-17KVX is the module which controls everything, the brain so-to-speak. Sadly, my first experience with the TD-17KVX wasn’t good, and the module lasted a couple of hours as the display started to slowly fade away until the LCD was backlit, but had no text on it whatsoever.
I ended up having to send the module back to the music store I bought the kit from and they were just as shocked as I was this happened and said they’ve never had a defective Roland kit before.
Even the national sales representative for Roland seemed to be shocked to hear that my module was defective. So, this was a case of bad luck, and perhaps, the pandemic might have played a part in the failure as well (who knows).
The TD-17 module is quite fully featured. There are many buttons on the surface, a dial you use to navigate through kits and other menu items, a few knobs for ambience, bass, treble, and volume. And then you have a plethora of other labelled buttons you won’t interact with most of the time such as buttons for tuning and muffling.
The reality is unless you’re a power user, many of the features of the TD-17 while nice to have, you will end up ignoring.
How it sounds
Probably one of the biggest and most burning questions you have: does it sound any good? Here is where subjectivity factors in. Some people love how Roland kits sound and others hate the sounds entirely.
I am pro-Roland, so I think the sounds on the TD-17 are great and I believe it’s one of the best sounding modules around. The TD-17 module shares the same prismatic sound engine of the TD-50 (the flagship second mortgage model).
Are the sounds of studio-quality drum samples? No. You very much get that Roland drum sound, it is an e-kit after all, For studio real-like drums, you will need a VST like Superior Drummer 3 or Addictive Drums 2.
The Roland sounds are not going to sound like a real acoustic drum kit. Even the Roland TD-50, which is almost 10,000 Australian dollars, sounds very much like an electric kit. I think many confuse electric drum kits with acoustic kits and for the foreseeable future, they are never going to be comparable.
Buy some custom kits
I think the stock sounds depending on what you are going for are more than fine. However, you do need to do a bit of work tuning them to get them sounding how you like. This is where custom kit sounds come into play.
I highly recommend the drum-tec or The Drum Workshop sounds if you want to make your TD-17 sound a little less robotic and nicer. I ended up buying all three Drum Workshop packs as well as a couple of the drum-tec kits. Unfortunately, the TD-17 doesn’t have enough space for all sounds, so you have to pick and mix.
The biggest issue I have with the stock sounds is the snare on the default TD-17 kits, and it lacks any kind of punch or personality on any of the kits you will try. The above packs (both come highly recommended) if anything is great for getting a better snare sound.
For some perspective, I upgraded from a Roland TD-1KV, so the TD-17 is a MASSIVE upgrade for me, the sounds are so much better; the response and feel are astronomically different. It’s like upgrading from a Ford to a Tesla.
Here are some uploads showcasing sounds directly from the kit. These were recorded using the audio outputs on the back into my Presonus Audiobox. No plugins were used, only editing of the kits on the module itself.
Cymbal, Pad & Kick Quality
The cymbals are the Roland rubber that adorns all of their e-drums. You get a CY-13R ride (which is three zones). There have been some complaints online about needing to hit this quite hard to trigger the bell, and I recommend you mess with the pad sensitivity settings to address this.
You get three PDX-8 toms which are eight inches and have mesh heads. They’re not the biggest, but much bigger than they sound and easy to play. You get three two-zone CY-12C crash cymbals as well, and they have a nice swing to them when you hit them.
One of my favourite things about the TD-17KVX is the PDX-12 snare pad. It’s twelve inches and while other kits do have a 14″ snare, this snare is technically 14″ if you factor in the plastic shell around it. The snare is plenty big for an e-kit and can be tuned for feel.
For the hi-hat, you get the VH-10 hi-hat which mounts onto a normal hi-hat stand. You get the pad itself and a trigger which works using some spring mechanism. You will need to spend some time calibrating and adjusting the sensitivity to get this working to your liking, but it allows you to work on your hi-hat technique.
You get the KD-10 kick pad for the kick drum, which works with both single and double kick pedals. I am using it with a Mapex double kick pedal, and it works quite well. I do implore you to consider third-party Roland kit sounds (recommended above), giving you tuned kicks that sound much nicer than the default ones.
There are some known knowns, and then there are some unknowns with electric kits. While the Roland TD-17KVX is not top of the range like the TD-50, it’s an intermediate kit that is more than capable of meeting most people’s needs.
Can you play ghost notes and dynamics on the snare?
While the snare on the TD-17KVX is anything but a real snare, it is quite responsive and sensitive (it can also be adjusted). You can play ghost notes and practice your dynamics no problem on this snare. Hit it softly, it plays a quiet note, hit it hard and it’s loud.
Can you blast beat on this drum kit?
Some cheaper kits are notorious for latency in speedy playing, particularly metal genres that command a faster bpm. The TD-17KVX allows you to blast beat until your hearts content no problem.
Does the TD-17KVX suffer from machine gunning?
Another common complaint with e-drums as a whole is the concept of machine-gunning, in which the snare sounds like a machine gun when you do rolls on it (no dynamics or variety to the notes). You will be happy to know that the snare samples are stereo (left and right are different) so rolls on it won’t sound like someone firing a machine gun.
Can you play along with music on Spotify and other sources?
Yes. The TD-17 not only features a 3.5mm stereo input so you can connect an audio source directly to the TD-17 module, but it also has Bluetooth support, which means you can play music through Spotify, YouTube and other audio sources and it will mix with your kit sounds.
Can I record my playing?
Yes. You are spoiled for choice. First and foremost, you can connect using the two 1/4″ outputs (Left and Right) and run them into a board or audio interface. The TD-17 supports MIDI over Bluetooth, you can connect the module to a PC using the USB cable and record the audio, or you can record directly to an SD card.
Can you use a double kick pedal?
Yes. While the KD-10 kick pad might look tiny, you can easily use a double kick pedal on it and not just a Roland one, you can use any double kick pedal on this kit and the beaters will align with the pad just fine.
How does the TD-17 compare to the TD-27?
I played the TD-27, and I thought it was a fantastic kit, but you’re looking at almost double the price in Australia to get it compared to the TD-17KVX. If your budget extends to the TD-27, it does sound better, the snare is bigger, and it’s more akin to a TD-50. The TD-17 is a good buy for the price.
I don’t regret buying my TD-17KVX. For the price I paid for it, I am pleased with what I got. I love the large snare, the all mesh toms, the ability to practice hi-hat techniques with a real stand. This kit is great for a beginner, intermediate or even an experienced drummer looking for a practice kit or quiet studio kit.