Porter & Davies
by Michael Dawson
Easy-to-use, silent, and portable bass drum monitoring system.
Porter & Davies is a UK-based company whose silent bass drum monitoring systems are being used by many top touring drummers, such as Ray Luzier (Korn), Billy Cobham (fusion legend), Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree/King Crimson), Jojo Mayer (Nerve), and Tomas Haake (Meshuggah). The company’s initial offerings included the BC2 and the BC2rm, and now there’s the more compact/portable Gigster.
All three of P&D’s systems are designed to thump the underside of the seat each time the bass drum is struck, via a throne top with built-in tactile generator, an external engine, and a microphone (not included). The BC2 amplifier is housed in a 10″ flight case, and the BC2rm is designed to fit within two spaces of a standard audio rack. The Gigster, which we have for review here, has a smaller, lighter amplifier so that working drummers can experience the same powerful, precise low-end “thump” provided by the BC2 and BC2rm without having to lug around extra cases.
The Gigster has two parts: a throne top with built-in tactile generator and an engine containing all of the electronics (amp, mic preamp, mic/line inputs and outputs, and controls for level, volume, and tone). The system also comes with a 6.5′ cable to link and lock the throne top to the engine. Not included is a microphone and the mic cables needed to send the signal from the kick drum to the Gigster and then out to the PA system (when required).
To dial in the best response, adjust the mic input on the Gigster, while playing the bass drum, until the level lights are activated but not peaking, turn the master volume up until you feel the generator activating, and then adjust the low-end tone control until you get the desired punch and sustain. You can use dynamic or condenser mics with the system, as long as the output of the Gigster is fed to a mixing console with phantom power if you’re using a condenser.
We tested the Gigster in the studio, where we were recording acoustic drums with in-ear monitors, and on live gigs with different-size PA systems that included full-production setups with subwoofers and monitor wedges as well as smaller configurations with no drum monitoring.
In the studio, the Gigster is indispensible. Not only does it bring the exciting, powerful experience of playing through a huge PA with subwoofers into the controlled environment of the studio without adding any additional sound, but it also helps you to settle into the groove better because you can literally feel how your bass drum is fitting into the track.
The Gigster responds to the tone of your bass drum naturally, so if you bury the beater, the generator vibrates for a shorter amount of time. Conversely, if you let the beater bounce off the head and the drum is unmuffled, the Gigster sustains longer. This super-accurate response is a great way to get immediate feedback on how your touch on the kick is affecting your tone.
On gigs with big PA systems and monitor wedges, the Gigster is great for cleaning up your monitor mix and the overall stage sound because you won’t have to have the bass drum cranked through the wedge. And on gigs without monitors, where I often get the false feeling that I have to overplay the bass drum to be heard, the Gigster allowed me to settle into the groove and play with a more relaxed and confortable touch.
The Gigster throne top is firm but very comfortable. We were sent a round top, but saddle and extra-wide options are also available. The top is a bit thicker (9.5″) and heftier (12.5 lbs.) than regular thrones, so you may need to accommodate if you pack your seat in your hardware bag or floor tom case. My recommendation is to transport the top and the engine together in a separate 14×16 hard-shell floor tom case, which can then be used as a stand for the Gigster engine. The Gigster seat top and engine sell for $999.
Size: 14.5×14.5×9.5 (seat), 13.5×6.5×4 (engine)
Weight: 12.5 lbs. (seat), 7.5 lbs. (engine)
Cable: 6.5′ connector from seat to engine