To be an in-demand professional drummer these days requires not only an incredible groove, a diverse musical vocabulary, and a great-sounding drumset, but you also have to have at least a working knowledge of electronics, especially when it comes to incorporating loops and samples into a live show.
Roland has been the leader in the electronic drumming world for decades, especially in regards to full e-kits. But over the past few years the company has developed a catalog of products designed to serve drummers looking to create multipurpose hybrid setups that could involve sample pads, drum triggers, and backing tracks. The TM-6 Pro trigger module is the company’s latest offering for hybrid drummers looking to break out of the confinements of a multipad to build a more customized, flexible, and versatile setup.
What Is It?
The TM-6 Pro is a 9x9x2 module loaded with 500 one-shot samples, some of which were custom-recorded at world-class studios especially for this unit. There are also 268 sounds borrowed from Roland’s highly expressive V-Drums library. Eighty preset drumkits incorporating those sounds are included, and up to 1,000 original samples can be imported into the module via an SD card.
The interface of the TM-6 Pro is simple and easy to navigate. There are separate knobs for adjusting master, click, and song volume independently. And there are similar knobs for edit controls of each sample in the kit. These include volume, pitch, decay, transient attack, transient release, and effects level. Six stereo trigger inputs on the back panel allow you to use up to twelve sounds per kit, as long as you use two-zone pads and triggers or a Y cable to split the stereo input between two single-zone devices. The module also includes inputs for a footswitch and hi-hat controller.
In addition to standard L/R master outputs and a stereo headphone jack, the TM-6 Pro includes four 1/4″ mono outputs, which provide a lot of flexibility for routing the triggered sounds to different destinations, such as separate channels of a mixing board or audio interface. If you plan to use the TM-6 Pro for an advanced setup that incorporates full backing tracks, loops, and one-shot samples, you or your sound engineer will definitely appreciate having these four direct outputs so that those elements can be mixed independently of one another.
The TM-6 also has MIDI Out and USB connections for situations where you want to use the module as an audio interface or controller for other MIDI devices or software instruments.
Is It Easy to Use?
Aside from six 1″ round touch pads, there isn’t a way to play sounds in the TM-6 Pro without attaching triggers or pads. You can, however, use the module as a playback system for backing tracks. Simply drop WAV files of your music and their accompanying clicks (also as WAVs) to an SD card, import them into the TM-6, and press the play button. The audio output of the music is automatically routed to the headphones and main mix, while the click is routed to the headphones only. (The outputs can be routed differently, if desired.)
While the TM-6 proves to be foolproof as a stable playback system for backing tracks, the unit is much more powerful than that. (Roland’s SPD::ONE WAV pad is a much more basic and affordable option if all you need to do is start and stop tracks.) What I like best about the TM-6 Pro is that it can be utilized for very different types of setups, whether they require layering triggered samples on top of acoustic drums, firing samples from drum triggers and pads while also controlling loops and tracks, or all of the above plus tweaking individual sounds with real-time effects.
I also really appreciate how easy it is to configure the TM-6 Pro to work with various Roland triggers and pads. There’s a dedicated button (Trig) that opens up an edit menu where you can select the trigger type, assign sounds, and tweak the threshold and crosstalk parameters. The stock sounds comprise many modern and classic electronic drum, cymbal, percussion, and special effects samples, and there are plenty of well-produced acoustic sounds to utilize for a more natural vibe.
You can layer two sounds per trigger, and you can import up to 1,000 (or forty-eight minutes’ worth) of your own samples. The volume, pitch, decay, attack/release, and effects level of each sound can be adjusted individually, and effects options include EQ, transient design, compression, reverb, tape echo, delay, flanger, phaser, distortion, bit crusher, pitch shifter, and more.
Although they are not included with the TM-6 Pro, we were sent a pair of RT series drum triggers to test. These included the RT-30K for the bass drum and the RT-30HR for the snare. The RT-30K is single-zone, while the RT-30HR has separate sensors for head and rim strikes. Both triggers have sturdy, low-profile plastic bodies with self-guided mounts that are shaped to allow the triggers to sit flat and flush on the hoop or rim. The thumbscrew on the back of the body holds the triggers in place very well, and the jack is positioned on the side to keep the cable out of the way.
The RT-30 series triggers performed flawlessly during our test of the TM-6 Pro, tracking dynamics very accurately. They never missed a note or misfired a sample. The upgraded, slim design of the RT-30s allowed the triggers to be positioned discreetly on the drums. Combine a few of these triggers with the TM-6 Pro module, an acoustic drumset, and a few other triggering devices—like the compact BT-1 bar pad, super-responsive PD series V-Pads, and KT series V-Kick trigger—and you’ll have yourself a super-powered hybrid setup capable of handling any level of production.