Roland Woes: Saving my Roland TD-10 (Exp.) Monster from Going into the Trash

Post created: May 7th, 2017 | Post last updated: May 7th, 2017 | [to be continued]

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Time heals all wounds, they say, but if you own Roland equipment, the exact opposite seems to be true. But, before I start rolling with this (presumably very long) post, some basics:

  1. I intend to update this post here and there until the long process of reviving my two-module Roland TD-10 monster electronic drum kit is finished, so, if you happen to be interested, bookmark this post and check for new additions once in a while.
  2. Also, I’m hugely indebted to the people providing help, both on the vdrums.com forum and elsewhere (YouTube, websites, etc.).

Introduction

When I dished out 15 thousand German Marks nearly 15 years ago to fulfill my life-long dream of having an electronic drum set in my rented apartment, it was – besides a nice kitchen I had bought a few years before that – the single-most expensive thing I had ever bought. I was still in the process of getting settled in here, I needed furniture, my day job required larger sums of money in form of initial investment into materials and books, I had a pretty hefty credit to pay off, etc. In short, getting those 15 thousand together was difficult. I managed, but it was tough.

I was one of the very few individuals (as far as I knew from the few dedicated forums and websites) who tried to do the seemingly impossible: I chained two Roland TD-10 (TDW-1 Expanded) modules together via a Mackie 1202-VLZ ProMixer and an 8-output headphone amp and I vividly recall traveling back and forth several times (350 kilometers each way), frequenting one of Europe’s biggest music stores, Music Store Professional in Cologne, trying, adding, setting up, testing and refining my idea of two kits chained together to create the ultimate electronic drum set. Crosstalk between the two modules proved to be insurmountable and I ended up with a “central” kit (bass drum, hi-hat, three toms and cymbals) attached to module 1, mounted on a blue Roland rack, plus additional toms, cymbals, cowbell, a second hi-hat and a second snare, etc., mounted on separate Sonor (mostly cymbal) stands and attached to module 2.

The whole process, including assembling seemingly hundreds of meters of cables plus programming about 20 good kits across two separate modules that couldn’t “speak” together, took me almost an entire year.

Then I played the hell out of the kit for more than 10 years.

When new neighbors moved in downstairs, neighbors that objected to the “downward” noise of the bass drum and hi-hat pedals, and when some parts started to show some wear and tear, I used the kit less and less and resorted to acoustic drums (elsewhere) again.

Because of my own stupidity, and because Roland used proprietary memory cards to backup the settings, cards which disappeared off the market and fetched insane prices on eBay, I let my setup stand around unused for too long until the batteries were depleted and all my settings were lost.

When that happened, faced with another somewhat dreary year of work, I covered everything up and decided to revisit it when I had the time to get things thoroughly into shape again.

Too much time passed, spare parts disappeared from the market … and, at the end, I was left with an antiquated monster kit that Roland simply didn’t support anymore.

I was pissed off and waited even longer.
Bad idea.

Because I started thinking about moving out of my place of residence for these past 25 years, a few weeks ago I sat behind the kit again, checked things and decided that within a few weeks the kit either needed to be rebuilt into working condition … or go into the trash. Because, since 2003/2004, Roland had pushed several new models onto the market, what I have simply doesn’t really fetch any worthwhile prices on eBay anymore and for a short while, I thought of just fixing some basic stuff and giving the whole setup away to an aspiring young drummer. Being a teacher myself, there are plenty of those I know who’d kill for a (free) kit like that, even if it is comparatively outdated.

But, 15 thousand German Marks, my conservative upbringing and, yes, a renewed sense of fun when I managed to turn the kit back on again, after I had replaced the batteries, made me decide to revive the whole thing.

This post here outlines the thought and work process to get this particular show on the road again.

Diagnosis

  1. The batteries were depleted when the kit was standing around here for too long and all my settings were lost.
  2. The hi-hat pedal, an old Roland FD-7, is broken and because of the noise it produces, I do not want to replace/fix it.
  3. My PD-120, a larger and older Roland mesh-head pad which I used as a snare drum (larger pad in this post’s featured image), doesn’t trigger properly anymore (a head strike will almost always trigger the rim or throw other weird stuff my way).
  4. The faders/sliders on one TD-10 module were scratchy and weren’t working reliably anymore.
  5. Although I used round dust covers I cut from a wax tablecloth to cover the mesh pads when not in use, the pads caught some dust and dirt anyway these past 15 years or so.
  6. The connected CD Player (an NAD C 521) had problems with the CD tray (it wouldn’t open/respond anymore).
  7. One Sonor cymbal stand that one tom and a ride cymbal are mounted on has a broken mounting thread. That is an old problem and not a new one.
  8. The bass drum pedal and the bass drum pad have to go in favor of a much more silent model in order for me to avoid any future problems with neighbors.

Fixes So Far

  1. I replaced the batteries in both TD-10s (a breeze), reset both to factory defaults, and everything seems to be in perfect working condition again.
  2. The faders/sliders only needed some continued movement to to get them into workable condition again.
  3. I took the NAD 521 apart and greased the “tray cogs” … works as new again.
  4. I thoroughly checked and cleaned my VLZ1202 Pro Mackie mixer that everything feeds into and my HDB Audio HA 48 headphone amp (for 8 pairs of headphones) that outputs everything for me and other musicians … and they are working as new.
  5. I took the hi-hat pedal (FD-7) apart and noticed that I need replacement parts to fix it up. Those parts have become too expensive and because that pedal is also quite noisy, I decided not to replace it.
  6. I investigated a backup function that forgoes Roland’s proprietary memory cards (that some eBay sellers want more than $100 for). It involves connecting each TD-10 unit to a notebook via MIDI-to-USB cables and “dumping” the backup information into a so-called SysEx librarian. A vdrums.com forum member suggested something like MIDIox and I’m in the process of investigating this and other software which needs to run on Windows 7 (current operating system) and Windows 10 (future operating system) around here.

Plans

  1. I need to take the whole kit apart. That’s a pain in the neck, not only because it took me days to get the cables sorted out properly, but also because after much experimentation way back when, I was forced to separate the two TD-10s … the main kit is the core kit on the rack (snare, hi-hat, bass drum, toms, cymbals) and the pads connected to the “expansion” kit are all mounted on separate stands. That leads to the fact that, for example, the first three and the last tom in my full-range tom setup are connected to the second TD-10 module, whereas the three “center” toms are attached to the first one. Easy enough, but a lot of work to copy settings from one unit to the next for a whole tom range, etc.
  2. Because of the neighbors, I thought that I would replace my DW 5000 bass pedal and the KD-120 bass drum pad with a single-piece KT-9 bass drum trigger and the old hi-hat trigger unit with a new FD-9 pedal. Just for the hell of it, I thought I’d add two noise eaters beneath each new pedal. I have the money, but all this Roland stuff is outrageously priced (for what is, for example, a piece of carpet with rubber noise-reducing feet, Roland wants 100 Euro!).
  3. I need to replace the trigger cone on the PD-120. I took the pad apart and everything seems to be fine. Although Roland recommended to change the mesh head once in a while because an old one could lead to trigger problems, mine is fine, as far as I can see. But, looking into the PD-120 from below, I can see there’s some space between the trigger cone (a foam cone that  accurately relays trigger impulses to the trigger electronics below when the head is struck) and the head. As far as I recall, the cone needs to touch the head snuggly. In my case, it doesn’t. Needless to say, Roland doesn’t produce those trigger cones anymore … but other people do.

Current Status

Waiting. I intend to order the two pedals, a KT-9 and an FD-9 plus two noise-eaters from a site called thomann.de. Those orders are waiting in the shopping basket until I can confirm via vdrums.com that those two will indeed work with my ancient modules.

Planning & Cleaning: I have marked all the cables going from the two modules to the many different pads and I have started cleaning each part carefully. Once I can pull the trigger on the above-mentioned parts, I will continue work on the kit … and on this post.

Update May 9th, 2017

Purchase: Instead of waiting for replies on the above-mentioned forum, I bought four parts to either replace or supplement my TD-10 kit. Instead of the KT-9 kick pedal, I opted for the KT-10, which should, according to my research, work fine with my module. The reason I opted for the KT-10 is that a) the KT-9 is comparatively more silent but apparently has a tendency to squeak after a while and b) that, apparently, the KT-10’s response and playability is light years above that of the KT-9. The build-quality is apparently also several classes above and all the tests I studied in German drum magazines were full of praise. It didn’t really cost much more, so I’ll give that one a try, although it is not much more quiet than my current setup for which I would have had to buy four additional noise eater rubber feet for the kick pad stand.

The other items, the FD-9 hi-hat pedal and the two noise eater NE-10 sound isolation boards to go beneath the two pedals, stayed in the shopping basket and were bought together with the KT-10.

From Amazon, I bought myself a bottle of rubber protection liquid that many e-drummers raved about. Reviews tell me that I should be able to polish up my various rubber cymbal and (old) tom pads (PD-7) so they look like new.

[to be continued]

 

Posted by Volkher Hofmann

Volkher Hofmann (deus62) has been blogging on and off since the 1990s and deus62.com is all that is left. He loves music, literature, drumming and, most of all, real life. He thinks the open web is much more important than social networks, closed-in ecosystems and other severely commercialized online endeavors.

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