Yamaha Stage Custom Birch Hybrid Kit
An all-in-one setup for blending acoustic and electronic elements.
by Michael Dawson
Being that it manufactures acoustic drums, electronic pads, sound modules, drum triggers, and a full range of hardware, Yamaha is in a unique position to offer complete setups for modern players in contemporary situations that require them to start and stop loops, trigger one-shot samples, and layer electronic sounds on top of their natural drumset tones. The configuration that we have for review this month, the SCH2HP587, is the company’s most extensive package in this new acoustic/electronic category and offers more than enough to get you up and running right out of the box.
What’s in the Box?
In order to give the SCH2HP587 hybrid setup the biggest bang for the most reasonable number of bucks (street price: $1,599.99), Yamaha includes a professional-quality/entry-level-price Stage Custom Birch five-piece acoustic kit, the compact but feature-packed DTX502 sound module, a three-zone silicone-based XP80 DTX-PAD, a TP70 single-zone rubber pad, two stick-on DT20 acoustic drum triggers, and a complete set of lightweight 700 series hardware.
The Acoustic Side
The Stage Custom Birch is one of Yamaha’s most popular series—and for good reason. Although priced in the upper entry-level category, these drums are constructed with the same quality and many of the same high-end components as the company’s more expensive lines. The shells are made from six plies of 100 percent birch, and the plies themselves get thicker as the drum sizes increase, which is a concept borrowed from Yamaha’s professional Live Custom series.
The bearing edges of Stage Custom Birch drums are rounded for more head-to-shell contact, which helps fatten the sound. For increased resonance, they also feature Absolute-style lugs that attach to the drum with a single screw to minimize the number of holes drilled into the shell. The bass drum features strong die-cast claws and sturdy spurs with a stopper to make consistent positioning easier. Stage Custom Birch snares feature ten lugs, which allow for more precise and stable tuning. The snare and toms come with 1.5 mm triple-flange steel hoops.
The rack toms have YESS (Yamaha Enhanced Sustain System) mounts that connect to the drum with minimal hardware placed at strategic points on the shell in order to maximize vibration. These mounts are compact and discreet, so you can place the toms very close together, and they don’t get in the way during drumhead changes. The toms come with Asian-made UT clear single-ply drumheads on top and bottom, the snare has a UT coated single-ply batter and a clear bottom, and the bass drum has a UT clear P3 batter and an Ebony UT P3 front head (no hole).
The Stage Custom Birch setup included in the hybrid pack comprises a 17×22 bass drum, 7×10 and 8×12 rack toms, a 15×16 floor tom, and a 5.5×14 snare. Because the drums are birch, they had a strong, snappy tone at all tunings, making them an excellent choice for combining with electronic elements and for close-miking. The clear, single-ply batter heads on the toms required a bit of tuning finesse to bring the pitch into focus; you might want to consider muffling them with tape, rings, or gels to maximize punch and minimize sustain.
The bass drum needed to be dampened considerably in order for the trigger to function properly, so we tossed in a basic bedroom pillow. We also swapped out the solid front head for one with a microphone port. The result was a big, punchy tone that hit hard and got out of the way quickly.
The snare sounded the most mix-ready when tuned medium-tight or tight and when muffled with a couple of gels or a ring.
The DTX502 sound module is a compact, easy-to-use brain with 691 onboard sounds. It’s compatible with most electronic drum pads, pedals, and triggers and is small enough to be mounted just about anywhere on the kit (under the hi-hat is the recommended position). The SCH2HP587 hybrid pack comes with two pads and two triggers, but the module has space for up to nine inputs and a hi-hat controller. To create completely customizable kits, you can import up to twenty of your own samples into the module, as 44.1kHz/16-bit WAV or AIFF files up to twelve seconds in length. The module has a USB port for use with sequencing or sample software on a computer. Yamaha also created a free iOS app, DTX502 Touch, to allow users to configure the module and assign sounds more easily from their iPhone.
The three-zone XP80 pad has a silicone surface that felt close to an acoustic drum and performed flawlessly when used to trigger samples and loops at a wide range of dynamics. The single-zone rubber TP70 had a firmer feel but was still responsive at various dynamics. I tended to use the TP70 more for triggering single accents (like a sub-bass drop or handclaps) or for starting and stopping loops, while the XP80 excelled when I played more dynamic or intricate parts.
Yamaha’s DT20 acoustic drum triggers adhere directly to the drumhead, either with the included sticky pads or with your own gaffer’s tape, and they performed very well with the DTX502 module for layering samples on top of the acoustic drum sounds. I preferred to increase the threshold on the snare trigger so that it fired samples only when I hit loud accents. This provided my ideal blend of the nuance you get from acoustic drums (ghost notes, rolls, etc.) and the consistent, hard-hitting impact of electronic samples.
Given the trend toward live bands incorporating more loops and samples into their performances, it’s no surprise that drummers are now looking for easy and efficient ways to handle both acoustic and electronic components from one setup. Yamaha’s various hybrid configurations, which are also available in simpler setups and as separate packages containing just the electronics, are a great entryway.