“We developed a whole new technology for the [flagship] TD-50 series,” says Jules Tabberer-Stewart. Roland’s global strategic product marketing manager spoke to Modern Drummer during a brief interview at the Totally Drums product launch event held at the company’s Los Angeles headquarters earlier this year. “What we learned from that enabled us to introduce something to make the drumming experience richer for the midrange V-Drums user.”

Tabberer-Stewart is referring to the new TD-17 series, which consists of three five-piece drumkits—the TD-17K-L, TD-17KV, and TD-17KVX models. The KV and KVX setups come with a redesigned PDX snare pad with a tunable mesh head and a more realistic rim, as well as a streamlined TD-17 sound module.

The set we received for review is the most tricked-out in the series, the TD-17KVX. It includes a PDX-12 12″ mesh-head snare pad, three PDX-8 8″ mesh-head tom pads, two CY-12C 12″ rubber crash cymbal pads, a CY-13R 13″ rubber ride pad, a stable yet soft-feeling KD-10 kick tower, and a VH-10 hi-hat pad and controller, which fits onto most standard stands so that the pad moves up and down on the pull rod like an acoustic cymbal. The snare, toms, and cymbals mount to the sturdy, compact, and lightweight MDS-4KVX or MDS-Compact rack-style stand. Also included are cable ties, a presized and clearly labeled cable snake, a plastic sound module mount, an AC adaptor, a drum key, and a separate cable for the second crash. The TD-17KVX kit sells for $1,699.99. The other models—the TD-17KV (with a fixed hi-hat pad and one crash) and the TD-17K-L (with rubber tom pads)—are available for $1,199.99 and $999.99, respectively.

Setup and Feel

The initial setup of the TD-17KVX was fairly quick and easy, with the bulk of the time being spent assembling the rack. Thankfully, Roland includes easy-to-follow instructions, and there aren’t any excessively complicated steps. Every adjustment is made via plastic thumbscrews or a drum key, and once the rack was configured, attaching the cymbal arms, snare mount, and pads was as simple and intuitive as assembling an acoustic kit.

The cable snake is organized with proper lengths of wire for each pad, and each connector is clearly labeled to remove confusion or guesswork. The rack is very compact; we were able to position the kit comfortably within a small, desk-sized nook in our photography studio. The set, excluding the throne, bass drum pedal, and hi-hat stand, weighs around 55 lbs., so it can be moved to different locations relatively easily.

Even though the TD-17KVX has a small footprint, it felt very stable and durable. The tom, cymbal, and snare arms locked firmly into place and didn’t droop during our test. The KD-10 kick tower had a cushy but solid feel, and it didn’t rock or slide when I really laid into it. The rubber cymbal pads had decent rebound, and they swayed just enough to mimic the response of acoustic cymbals.

The hi-hat controller was very impressive. It responded accurately to foot pressure, whether I went for super-tight closed sounds, fully open sloshes, or partially open inflections. The elevated rim on the new PDX-12 snare pad accurately replicates the feel and spacing of the hoop of an acoustic drum, which made the playing experience on this pad more natural, familiar, and expressive.

Sounds and Customization

The TD-17 sound module comes with fifty preset kits that should cover whatever sounds you need for general, everyday use, as well as more esoteric configurations for situations requiring more produced, percussive, or electronic tones. Most of the acoustic snare samples are fairly resonant, but you can adjust sustain by pressing the Muffling button and adding some virtual tape or a dampening ring. Each drum, cymbal, percussion, and electronic sample can also be tuned and processed with EQ, reverb, and other effects.

The snare, toms, and cymbal pads all responded accurately to whatever dynamic level I played, and certain presets had layers of sounds that transitioned naturally from one to the other as my playing volume increased. This was particularly effective on the ride cymbal, where soft bell strikes triggered a more integrated bell and bow sound, while hard hits triggered a strong, bell-only sample.

Roland’s engineers also set the hi-hat samples to have a slight pitch increase when the pedal was pressed hard, which is similar to the shift that happens when you squeeze acoustic cymbals together very tightly. The blend between the tom rim samples and head tones was very natural, so there were no jarring jumps from one sound to another—unless you configured the triggers to react that way intentionally.

The inherent unnaturalness of an electronic kit is most apparent when playing rolls, quick strings of accents on one pad, or delicate figures at low dynamics, but the TD-17 module and pads responded with exceptional accuracy that well exceeded my expectations for a mid-level e-kit. I was especially knocked out by the hi-hat controller’s realistic response. Once I figured out its breaking points—the striking locations, pedal positions, and playing dynamics that caused more obvious jumps between samples—I was able to finesse quite a bit of nuance from it.

You can also upload your own sounds and backing tracks to the TD-17 module, via an SD memory card, to build fully customized kits. The TD-17 module has two additional trigger pad inputs for expansion. On the TD-17KVX V-Drums model reviewed, one input supports the second crash cymbal that comes standard with that model. The TD-17KV and TD-17K-L models are supplied with one crash, so two pads or cymbals can be added to those models. A USB port enables you to send audio and MIDI from the TD-17 into recording software on your computer.

Teaching/Practice Tools

One of the slogans associated with the TD-17 series is “become a better drummer, faster.” To facilitate that quest, Roland included several features to assist more effective and efficient practicing. First off, the TD-17KV and KVX kits include Bluetooth functionality, which enables wireless access to music playback on most mobile devices. Additionally, the TD-17 module has a Mix In jack, so you can plug in any audio device for play-along practice. Roland also stored a handful of backing tracks within the module to be used for tightening up grooves in different genres.

The Coach mode of the TD-17 includes the Time Check tool, which monitors and accesses how accurately you play different subdivisions along to the metronome. The Quiet Count function allows you to program phrases where the metronome drops out for one, two, or four measures at a time. Both of those options are incredibly valuable for honing your ability to control subdivisions and maintaining a steady internal pulse. The Warm Ups mode takes you through five-, ten-, or fifteen-minute courses that begin by guiding you through subdivisions that become smaller every two measures. The second portion of the course, Auto Up/Down, increases the speed of every beat, from the current tempo to a predetermined maximum, and then brings it back down. The third step uses the Time Check tool to assess accuracy against the click. Each Warm Up session concludes with an overall evaluation of your performance.

The three coaching functions in the TD-17 module are incredibly valuable chops/timing-building tools for teachers, students, and professionals alike. Add to that the improved playability of the PDX pads and the detailed, expressive, and useful sounds included in the TD-17 module, and you have one of the strongest outputs—in terms of form versus affordability—by any manufacturer in recent memory.