This eleven-piece set is as professional-grade as it gets, yet somehow keeps the cost-conscious consumer in mind.
For a number of years, Alesis has positioned itself as the leading producer of affordable electronic drumsets, multipads, and drum machines best suited for hobbyist, amateur, or student applications. With the development of the Strike series, however, Alesis has made massive strides to serve the discerning and demanding professional market with products that not only match current industry standards for durability, sound quality, and functionality, but surpass them.
The Strike sampling multipad was the first fully redeveloped product launch in the series, and it was met with an overwhelmingly positive response. (See our review of the pad in the November 2019 issue.) This year, Alesis dropped this beastly Strike Pro Special Edition kit, which is an all-inclusive eleven-piece mesh-head setup with a full-sized 20″ bass drum and an unprecedentedly powerful module. List price is $2,499.
Here’s a rundown of what you get with a Strike Pro Special Edition kit. First, there’s a 20″ bass drum that comes with two mesh heads, a shallow birch shell, and standard hoops, lugs, and spurs. All of the electronics are housed inside the drum, and the cable input jack is drilled into the shell, like a vent hole. Unlike electronic bass drum towers or trigger pads, this drum feels and responds exactly like an acoustic drum. The spurs keep the shell locked into place, even when you’re playing at full velocity, so I didn’t have to adjust my touch or technique when playing this kit. I don’t know if Alesis has plans to offer this drum à la carte, but adding one of these to any electronic kit will improve comfort and realism exponentially.
The Strike Pro SE snare and toms mirror the kick, with matching red sparkle finish, shallow birch shells, and black-finished lugs and mounting hardware. The tom sizes are graduated (8″, 10″, 12″, and 14″), which, like the bass drum, gives these toms a feel that’s very similar to those on an acoustic kit. The snare is 14″. Each drum is dual-zone (head and rim) and features an adjustment knob in the shell that controls the sensitivity of the internal triggers. The drums come with white mesh heads and black-rubber-coated rims, which provide for very quiet yet super-sensitive response and a soft, comfortable feel.
The cymbal setup comprises three 14″ crashes, a three-zone 16″ rubber-coated ride cymbal pad complete with edge, bow, and bell triggers, and a realistic hi-hat system that includes a 14″ cymbal pad, a specially designed clutch, and a spring-activated sensor system that sits atop the cup of any standard hi-hat stand (not included). All of the cymbals are designed to have a soft feel, realistic rebound, and natural swaying movement. The included cymbal boom arms come with a locking system that prevents the pads from rotating during use.
The kit is rounded out with a black-colored rack system, a pre-labeled cable snake, and the super-powerful Strike Pro module, which comes loaded with more than 130 kits, 1,800 instruments, and 45,000 samples. The module offers onboard sampling and has a pre-installed 16 GB SD card, plus USB and MIDI connectivity that allows you to use the module as a controller in any computer DAW. Alesis has also created a powerful new software editor for this kit for users who want ultimate control over uploading custom sounds, assembling multisample velocity groups and round-robin instruments, and other creative configurations.
The physical layout of the Strike Pro module’s front panel includes individual volume sliders for each pad, a 4.3″ full-color display, various function buttons, a data dial, separate knobs for the main and headphone outputs and an auxiliary input, and play/stop/record/rewind transport buttons for controlling playback of loops or tracks that are loaded into the kit. The back of the unit has thirteen 1/4″ trigger inputs, 1/4″ mono outputs for the kick, snare, hi-hat, and ride, and separate mono L/R outputs for the toms and cymbals. These outputs can be routed to separate channels on your audio interface or console for independent mix control in your recording software or PA system.
I don’t know about you, but I loathe building e-kits from scratch. The racks are usually cumbersome to piece together, the connecting joints and clamps are often frustratingly tight, and the wires inevitably end up looking like a mess of spaghetti strung across the floor. Thankfully, the design team at Alesis made some subtle but effective tweaks to the components to allow for a more hassle-free setup. First off, the horizontal rack bars are slotted at the end so that they lock securely in place within the vertical pipe joints. This removes any guesswork regarding the rack pipe angles, and it keeps things from slipping and drifting as you configure the rest of the rack. It also helps maintain positioning as you play.
Similarly, the cable snake is labeled and color-coded; this makes connecting the pads to the module foolproof. The snake also makes for a much tidier look, preventing individual cables from being strewn around the kit. The toms affix to the rack via standard mounting brackets and sturdy knurled L-arms. The snare sits in an included snare stand. The cymbals sit atop sturdy steel boom arms that offer a lot of positioning flexibility and stability. And the module connects to a separate, shorter arm on the left side of the rack.
The Strike Pro hi-hat system functions very similarly to an acoustic hi-hat. The cymbal pad connects to the pull rod via the included extra-long clutch, and the sensor and spring are placed on the stand’s cup. Set the pedal distance as you would with acoustic cymbals, and you’re good to do. Just make sure you’re using a stand with a fairly firm pedal spring, since the Strike Pro hi-hat pad is a bit heavier than most top cymbals.
One thing to point out, which is clearly notated in the accompanying manual, is that the bass drum batter head is shipped with the tuning tighter than you’ll want it to be during play. I learned the hard way—because I’m impatient and didn’t look at the paperwork first—that if you try to play the bass drum with the head tight, the trigger will overreact and flutter multiple extra hits on every stroke. Once I detuned the head, the extra triggering went away.
Plug and Play
The pads and module of the Strike Pro SE kit are configured to be as plug-and-play as possible. And the huge range of sample collections in the preset kits provides more than enough variety to get you up and running right away. All of the drums responded perfectly out of the box, as did the crashes and ride. I made some minor tweaks to the response curve of the bass drum to better match my playing dynamics, and I adjusted the sensitivity of the hi-hats a bit to get more natural response. The volume faders also helped for quickly dialing the proper mix of drums versus cymbals. And it was super easy to access the EQ, compression, and effects sends within the module to tweak the mix further.
We don’t have enough space here to dive deeply into all the tones and advanced functionality of the Strike Pro SE module, but I can say that this kit has some of the most realistic, musical, and versatile samples I’ve heard in any e-kit. The multilayered sample sets for each pad provide extremely smooth transitions between soft and loud strokes. This basically means you can play this kit pretty much exactly as you play an acoustic kit and it responds accordingly.
Some of my favorite presets were those that featured sequences of melodic and chordal samples layered onto the drum and cymbal sounds. Those unique sound sets allow you to improvise full musical compositions on the fly without having to play along to prearranged tracks or a click. There are endless real-time creative possibilities waiting to be explored by utilizing the unique features of this high-powered Strike Pro SE kit, which have been sorely lacking in the electronic drum world. And we just barely scratched the surface of what this thing can do.
By Michael Dawson