Since techslaves.org is still decently ranked on google for searches concerning the Hart Dynamics Studio Master 6.4 electronic drum set but the original post that got ranked for such searches is gone from the site due to the migration to WordPress, I figured I’d post up a new updated review of this electronic drum kit so as to not let anyone down who is clicking through to techslaves looking for a review.
My Studio Master 6.4 came with a beautiful chromed 13″ snare, four 10″ toms, one 8″ kick, the plastic ECYMBAL crashes and a metal ECYMBAL ride and metal hihats with a fully functional and moving hi-hat stand. It appears the modern Studio Master 6.4 now comes with the ECYMBAL-II cymbals instead, which I have not had the pleasure of playing yet.
The included rack is sturdy but it’s not entirely rock solid. I still have some sway while really hammering on the kit but that could be a result of the fact that I’ve often be labeled a “hard hitter” when it comes to drumming. The rack is nice but it’s entirely standard, nothing special.
The kit also comes with cables and basically everything you need except one crucial element: the module. As I’ll describe later, I decided to take a chance on a DIY project called MegaDrum instead of buying a commercial module. It saved me cash and it works really, really well (after a lot of tweaking).
Mesh vs. Rubber
My only other previous electronic drumming experience comes on a Yamaha DTXpress IV, which has rubber pads unlike the mesh pads of the Hart kit.
I can only say that for my style and comfort, there is no comparison. Mesh all the way. I used to get wrist pains from acoustic drumming many years ago and I found the problem was even worse on the rubber Yamaha pads. After switching to the mesh pads of the Studio Master 6.4, all my wrist pain associated with drumming went away.
The playability of mesh is also night and day. With the ability to set the head tension like you would with an acoustic kit, the mesh snare and toms allow for just as much or as little bounce as one might like. Personally? I’m liking the heads tight at the moment. It allows me to play faster rolls more accurately and with less effort. Another big difference when moving to mesh was the kick response. The rubber kick pad of the Yamaha was “dead”, it had no rebound whatsoever and was actually rather acoustically loud. I was never able to achieve my desired level of kick accuracy with the rubber pad.
Overall, the mesh is entirely superior for my drumming.
Plastic vs. Metal
As far as cymbals go, my kit came with the (now discontinued?) original plastic ECYMBAL crashes and metal ECYMBAL ride and hihat. My only major comment about the cymbals are that there is no question the metal cymbals are superior in feel. The ride is very heavy and sits like a nice good acoustic ride. Same with the hihats. The plastic crashes on the other hand are very light and they don’t play the same way a good acoustic metal cymbals does. That’s not to say they are bad, but if there was one instant upgrade for the Studio Master 6.4 that I would recommend, it would be replacing the plastic crash cymbals with something more solid and more accurate feel.
The ride cymbal is two-zone: bow and bell. The hihat is also two zone: bow and edge. The crashes are single zone with a switch-based choke. Both the ride and hihat come with an included rubber pad to minimize stick noise. Neither of the plastic crashes come with noise-reducing rubber but I’ve added my own, lighter rubber to the crashes to achieve the same goal.
Playing the Kit
Playing the Studio Master 6.4 is a dream come true: Nearly acoustic feel but quiet enough to play in an apartment building (if you’ve got the kit raised off the floor with some kind of mat to dampen the “thud, thud, thud” from the kit, that is). Since getting things setup perfectly, I’ve been playing this kit just as I remember playing my old acoustic kit. I’m not making any serious compensation for the fact that this is an electronic drum kit.
Electronic drumming isn’t for everyone, but for those of us who either prefer the versatility or have no other option, the Studio Master 6.4 is a good mid-range kit that provides excellent acoustic-like feel without the acoustic output of a “real” drum kit. As far as playability is concerned, Hart gets a major thumbs up for the Studio Master 6.4.
The best part of this kit has to be the snare. Being 13″ it’s much bigger than your average Yamaha or Roland snares. It’s super heavy because it’s made out of some serious metal with a nice chrome finish. The size of the playing surface along with the tensionable mesh head provides a great snare experience, which is key to a great drum kit experience.
What about the Module?
As mentioned earlier, the only thing the Studio Master 6.4 doesn’t come with that you’ll need right away to get drumming is a drum module that converts the piezo triggers into sounds (or MIDI). The two big players here are Roland and Yamaha. Alesis also offers a few modules, but none with the reputation of Yamaha or Roland’s modules.
After using a Yamaha DTXpress IV with it’s included module for several months and playing demo Roland kits at the music store, I knew I wasn’t ever going to be happy with the sounds that come with these modules. As such, we began trying out MIDI triggering of BFD1.5 with my Yamaha module instead. It wasn’t easy at first but we eventually got things going fairly well but I still wanted more tweakability as the Yamaha module only had very basic trigger settings.
Right about that time, I ditched the Yamaha kit for the Hart kit and started to build myself a MegaDrum to play the role of trigger to MIDI interface instead of buying a commercial module. There’s no looking back! I had ordered a MegaDrum kit offered by a forum member that included quality professional PCB and most of the parts necessary. Building the MegaDrum with this kit was more like “assembling” than building due to the high quality of the kit. My friend even did all the board soldering for me! It took some time to get the MegaDrum mounted in a case and working but it was worth it.
We’ve since upgraded to BFD2 and made many, many firmware upgrades for the MegaDrum since first building it and it’s sweeter than ever. If you’re not a DIY kind of person, it might be a bit daunting to build a MegaDrum, but for anyone out there wanting to trigger MIDI from their electronic drum kit and with some DIY skills, I would highly recommend the MegaDrum. It’s far, far, far cheaper than anything Roland or Yamaha make and it’s far more tweakable too. Unfortunately, this can mean more setup time but it also means that a wider range of pads are better supported with MegaDrum because of it’s inherent tweakability.
The Hart Dynamics Studio Master 6.4 kit totally rocks!