Transform your iPad into a fully-functional drum module loaded with sounds and training tools to sharpen your chops.
By Nathan Duchene
Serving as the central brain for your electronic drums, a good drum module provides the user with a catalog of sounds, training tools and more. In our age of technology, it seems only natural that modules should have all the familiarity and ease of use of a tablet device.
Enter the iPad DM Dock from Alesis. The DM Dock module converts your iPad into a fully interactive drum module that empowers you to step up your sound without breaking the bank. Your generation 1–4 iPad will fit nicely into this sleek, lightweight plastic dock. Once connected via the built-in adapter, and with the download of the free DM Touch app, your iPad transforms into a fully functional drum module.
After download of the app, the setup of the DM Dock is straightforward. The end of the dock unclasps to enable your iPad to slide in and connect, then deftly closes over it for a seamless aesthetic. The only external controls for the device are two volume knobs—one for headphones and another for main output. Unlike most drum modules, all further adjustments to your drums take place by way of your touch-sensitive iPad screen.
The DM Touch app display is that of a basic 5-piece rock setup with the usual cymbal outfit of a hi-hat, three crashes and a ride. The kit was easy to play and fairly responsive. Additionally, there’s a conspicuously placed cowbell (on the tom mount between the toms) that I only noticed after playing with the virtual kit for a while. On my iPad 2 with iOS 7.0.6, the responsiveness of the drums during play on the app itself seemed to vary.
One major positive of the DM Touch app is the wide range of individual components available to the player. Every playable element of the kit (minus the fixed configuration) is customizable. This includes throwback vintage, ’80s and maple drums, and cymbals, with additional style preferences such as funk, trash, jazz and more available. Swapping out elements from the left menu is as simple as clicking and dragging.
While limited in breadth, the sound library is of sufficient quality and easily navigable. Also, every element is tunable (yes, even the cymbals), and the full-scope onboard mixer allows the drummer to adjust the volume of all kit components to taste. Additionally, the mixer offers a few effects (reverb and dampening) and has presets to help you further drill down to the desired sound or environment you’d like to replicate.
The DM Touch also contains a bevy of training tools to help an early player grind out those rudiments. The built-in metronome is adjustable up to 999 bpm (for all you black metal fans), while also offering an infinite range of time signatures, a trio of click sounds, MIDI sync and an independent digital volume control.
Connectivity is a big plus with this dock. In addition to 30-pin and Apple Lightning connectors, the dock offers a dozen 1/4" trigger inputs, USB connectivity and MIDI I/O. The trigger settings (settings menu) accommodate dual and triple-zone cymbals and drum pads including choke functions. There are also a half-dozen customizable settings like velocity, crosstalk and retrigger, so you can lose days tinkering to get your drum sound “just so.” An assignable footswitch jack also provides added control for your hi-hat.
Two balanced ¼” outputs make recording with external devices simple, and the headphone volume control lets you easily manage in-ear decibels. Also, the cross-functionality of the device enables you to play along to any song from your digital library. The hardware is compatible with GarageBand and most other core MIDI applications making it a great tool for creating everything from simple sketches to fully arranged songs.
As mentioned, the DM Dock is best used to supplement a drum module on an entry-level kit. Its stock sound library is sufficient for semi-professional use and the download of new sounds is quick and easy. An additional sound pack, Blue Jay, can be purchased and downloaded at Alesis.com/bluejay.
It’s worth mentioning that, in all likelihood, the DM Dock won’t fit your current module stand. So, be sure to check out the Alesis Module Mount.
Editors note: The Pintech Metal Module Mount also works with the DM Dock.