As well as receiving Dream Cheeky’s iPlay Piano recently to take a closer look at (see here for review), they also included their other new product which is simply called iDrum.
This slim, portable gadget features 7 circular drum-like pads on the top, which are designed to be tapped with your fingers (no drumsticks required!). The iDrum is powered by a removable, rechargeable lithium battery, and like the iPlay Piano, it conveniently connects to your iOS device wirelessly via a Bluetooth connection.
For the most part, the device feels solid and well built, the spacing and placements of the pads is good, and the sensitively of the triggers in the pads is consistent. There’s an on and off switch on the back, plus a mini USB port for recharging it.
Like with the iPlay Piano, this gadget only works with Dream Cheeky’s own free apps, but at least there are 3 to choose from instead of only one for the keyboard.
The first, and main ‘music’ app is called Sound System for Drum, which has a similar layout and features as Dream Cheeky’s Sound System for Piano. Here you have the option of a Free Play mode for jamming away on the pads either by themselves, or you can access any songs from your iTunes library, and play along to them. There is also the option to record your performance, either soloing or playing along to a song, and save these ‘jams’ to listen back to later. Like the piano app, there also an Learning Mode that offers 2 built-in songs to play along to, and you’re scored on how well you can play along to them as you follow the falling coloured dots, ala the Guitar Hero video game series on console.
The other two free apps currently available that are compatible with the iDrum are more games than playable drumming apps, which I guess does expand the appeal of this device beyond just drummers. The first of these is called Hysteria which simply requires you to tap on the correct pad at the correct time as coloured dots move over a marker at the top of the screen. Again, it borrows ideas from the Guitar Hero games, only there is no music at all, apart from sounds that play when you hit the correct pad. Most people will find this game frustrating at the start as the pads are not coloured coded, so until you can memorise which pads are which colours, its just plain confusing. It’s a simple game, and I did find it addictive, but I can also see much more potential for it to be developed into something more ‘rhythmic’ and drum focused.
The other free app is called Smash, which is another simple game where you are required to hit the correct pad when the coloured dot momentarily appears on screen. A timer counts down from 1 minute, and you have to see how many you can get right before the time runs out. Again, this game largely relies on you memorising what colours are assigned to each pad and also where each pad is located, as you don’t have a chance to look down at the pads during the game. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Hysteria, but my kids actually spent more time on this than any of the other iDrum apps, so I guess it comes down to the user experience.
As for the actual on-board drum sounds, there are 7 sound sets covering different styles, including Classic, Rock, Jazz, African, Funky, and Country. Each with 7 different sounds, one for each pad, and all sound pretty good. There is no sound editing available, and you also can’t configure the pads and choose the sounds you want on on them. The pads themselves are also not touch sensetive, so you simply get the same velocity of volume from each hit.
In talking to the team at Dream Cheeky, prior to these products arriving, I was told that iDrum does experience a slight delay of ”less than 20 milliseconds” between when you hit a pad, the signal passes over Bluetooth, and when the sound comes out from within an app. I know this doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is noticeable, especially when tapping the pads along to a song from your iTunes library. When you’re in Free Play mode of the iDrum Sound System app, or one of the other ‘game’ style apps, the slight delay isn’t as obvious. The only real time you notice the delay here, is when playing fast drum rolls as the pads and the app struggle to keep up.
So is the Dream Cheeky iDrum a piece of kit a professional musician is going to get some use out of? No, I’m afraid not, as there are much better (and more expensive) products available that are aimed at pro musicians. Is it a product purely aimed at entertaining? Absolutely! Since it is reliant on Dream Cheeky apps, I do hope they continue to add to the library of free apps, as the initial investment is pretty high for only 3 apps, and only one of those is really for drumming.
For more info on the iDrum head here - http://www.dreamcheeky.com/idrum