Ahead Switch Kick Quick-Release Bass Drum Beater System
by Michael Dawson
One of the highlights of the 2015 Winter NAMM Show was an accessory item by Ahead, the Switch Kick, which allows you to adjust beater height to nine different positions without having to use any tools other than your hand. You can also swap out the standard two-way hard felt/plastic beater for alternative sounds, like a fleece-covered ball or a wire brush (sold separately). We were sent the complete range of Switch Kick products, which included the Two-Way Starter system ($59.99) and the Sonic, Wire Brush, Felt, and Boom Kick replacement beaters ($39.99 each).
Two-Way Starter System
The basic Switch Kick includes a lower assembly, which connects to a bass drum pedal just like any standard beater, and an upper section with a DW-style dual beater with hard felt on one side and hard plastic on the other. The upper shaft is made from aircraft-grade aluminum for durability and lighter weight. The lower section is made from stainless steel and is notched so that the upper portion can be locked into place.
Installing the system is super-simple. Just affix it to your pedal as you would any other bass drum beater, secure the lower shaft with a drum key, and then unlock the upper shaft by turning the beater head to either side by a quarter turn. Once unlocked, you can raise the beater to your desired position (there are nine options) and then twist the beater again to lock it back into place. The beater can be extended from 6.25″ to 8.125″, which gave me plenty of options for striking various-size bass drums (18″–24″ were tested) at an optimal point.
Adjusting the beater height wasn’t a completely smooth experience; you’ll notice a bit of metal-on-metal friction as you move the top section up and down. But the Switch Kick operates very quickly, whether you’re looking to change beater height or flip the beater from one side to the other. I use a range of beater types, including lightweight vintage round felts and heavier Danmar wood models, and the Switch Kick Two-Way beater is on the heavier side of the spectrum (106 grams). Because the Switch Kick is a bit heavier than a traditional felt beater, you might have to tighten the springs on your pedal a bit to give you the best response. Sonically, the Two-Way beater provides a big, solid punch, whether using the felt side for a slightly softer attack or the plastic side for increased snap.
In addition to the Two-Way beater that comes with the Switch Kick, you can also purchase various others to provide a greater variety of sound choices. There’s a basic round felt option, which weighs a few grams less than the Two-Way and produces a classic, fat, punchy tone (my personal favorite of the bunch). The Sonic Kick plastic beater has a reversible cup-shaped top that gives you a brighter, louder sound with extra attack.
The Boom Kick has a hard-felt core covered in a fleece jacket, which softens the attack and produces a rounded, fluffier tone that pairs perfectly with unmuffled bass drums when you want a boomier symphonic-style sound.
The most unusual beater for the Switch Kick features a stainless-steel wire brush top and an adjustable band that allows you to control the spread of the bristles. The Brush Kick provides a cool new texture that can be explored in a variety of creative ways, such as on quieter jazz gigs where you’re playing on a tightly tuned bebop kit or when using a hybrid percussion setup that incorporates hand drums, shakers, and other ethnic instruments within the kit.
Materials: aircraft-grade aluminum removable top, stainless steel notched shaft
Range: 6.25″ to 8.125″ (nine positions)
Options: two-way reversible, round felt, fleece-covered felt, wire brush, and hard-plastic cup beaters
Prices: Starter System (with Two-Way beater): $59.99, additional beaters: $39.99 each