Monday, 8 September 2014

Review: Drumlites

Drumlites - lighting for the inside of your drums!

I've been looking for lights for the kit area of the stage for yonks now.  I'm not (necessarily) talking big gigs where things like PA, foldback and lights are generally taken care of by people who know what they're doing - I'm talking more about the small/medium sized gigs where you're typically left to your own devices!

Regular Shlogg readers will know that I partially fixed this problem a few months back.  I got hold of a KAM Party Bar with floor mount that I have back behind the drum kit.  This is an inexpensive item and one that's fast and easy to set-up.  As well as providing 'some light' (I'm sure somewhere there is a graph that matches quality light against money spent?) it has basic DMX connectivity so can be controlled by something else, or even control something else to a limited degree.

That's all well and good for lighting the centre part of the stage (assuming that's where the kit is) from the back.  I know we all want supertroopers hanging from the ceiling directly over the kit, but away from large theatres and stadiums this just isn't going to happen.  So I've kept looking and that's when I found Drumlite.

These are basically LED strips that fit inside your drum shells.
Now I know what you're thinking, "I can go to Maplins and buy some LED strips and stick those inside my drums", and you can - but these guys have gone ahead and fixed most of the problems you will encounter doing it the DIY way.

  • They fit the drum

Yup, you give them your drum dimensions, and this will actually fit correctly.

  • You don't have to drill your shells

With clever use of 'pigtail' connectors, you'll not be making any holes in your shells.

  • They supply a wiring loom.  

Drummers have a lot of gear to set up, we are first in, last out at most gigs.  The last thing we want to to add just as much electronics to our set-up as the guitarist or lighting guy has!  The wiring look is also cut to length, so you will have the minimum cable mess and the fastest set-up possible.

  • They have a range of matched controllers available.

From wireless remotes, to sound activated, and simple or complex DMX systems - the guys have it sorted!

  • They will support you

This is two guys with some great ideas who genuinely want to make you, and their company, a success!

And I can tell you this from my own practical experience!

I ordered a set of Drumlites to fit my ten-year old DW collectors kit.  I gave them the sizes, but no more detail (perhaps I should have, as you will see later!).  I opted for the simple DMX controller (so I can hook it up to the stage lights) .  My package duly arrived a few weeks later.  As they are in the US and I'm in the UK, I actually received a Customs bill through my mailbox but this was as expected.  Ok I didn't expect the UK customs office to sit on my package for a fortnight in total - but that's a different issue!

I unpacked and checked the contents and everything was funky.  I won't go into detailed instructions here, but I will say read the instructions carefully, and rehearse the installation before you actually do it.  I found it difficult to feed the cable connectors through the drum air holes, it was do-able, but quite tricky and very frustrating.  When I later contacted the guys I found out that DW have smaller than usual air holes.  If I had told them I had a DW kit they would have supplied the 'slimline version' - doh! Still, I did get the kit installed and trundled-off to a gig that night to try them out!
I found it kinda hard to marry the plugs up with the sockets on the drums at a gig scenario.  In poor light, working against the clock it's not the easiest job, but I did manage it and the drums looking truly stunning.

A couple of weeks later, I decided to get the kit out in the drum room and see if I could make plugging-in the cables less of a chore.  This is where I found a second problem.
Either as a result of my ham-fisted cable plugging, or from trundling back and forth to half a dozen rehearsals in the mean time, the copper pins on the sockets were badly bent.  After hours of fiddling, I only managed to plug one of five drums in.  This was a serious problem.

Being late evening UK time, I detailed the issues as best I could in an email and shot it off to the guys across the pond.  Within an hour I had a response, apologizing for the bother, offering to send me a replacement set of (slimline!) cables free of charge, and promising that a 'heavy duty' solution was already in the pipeline.

Now that is what I call Customer Service!

This is two guys who've found a solution to a gap in the market and are working their butts off to fill it with satisfied customers.  For that reason alone they deserve to do well, but I'm not joking to say that this is a great product from a great company who are making great improvements to it all the time.

If you want your drums to look as good as they sound, I can't recommend Drumlite highly enough!