October 31, 2010

Gearhead Thoughts: Some New Gear

I've been busy these days, which is why I need to catch up with my blogging.  In addition to my usual gigs with K24/7, I am currently having a few activities outside my band, such as session work (thanks to my friends from Hit Productions) & drum lessons under the mentorship of great Filipino drummer Mike Alba (which I plan to blog about next time).  Being busy is a good thing for me, and I feel blessed because of these opportunities coming in.  It also enabled me to purchase some new gear, which is not only a case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), but also a necessity.  Most of the new stuff I got are for the sake of replacing some of my old gear which recently broke down or needed to be updated.

Here are some of the new gear which I recently acquired.

I got this Zildjian 17" A Custom Rezo Crash cymbal from JB Music (Zildjian's local distributor) through their trade-in program.  I traded my broken 17" K Custom Dark Crash for this new baby, which is among the latest line of cymbals from Zildjian.  I love dark and contemporary-sounding cymbals, which explains my preference for K Custom cymbals all these years.  I love how it blends in with my band's style of music & how elegant it sounds especially during recording situations.  The rides and hats are beautiful stuff worth keeping.  However, when it comes to crashes, I was beginning to look for something else.  I've had Custom Darks and Hybrids.  Though they all sound awesome, they are fragile, thin-profiled models & I don't get enough sound from them on some live situations, particularly with bigger venues.

When Zildjian introduced the new A Custom Rezos early last year, I thought these may be the solution to my search for a fresh new sound.  Am I glad to have a Rezo Crash now, because I'm loving it!  Prior to purchase, I made my research regarding the Rezo Crashes.  Some said that if you like the K Custom Hybrids (which I do), you'll like the A Custom Rezos as well.  The product review on the March 2009 issue of Modern Drummer, which described the Rezos as "having a great balance of volume, reaction, and quality of sound", was helpful too.  The MD review was spot on!  I love how the Rezo Crash explodes with just the right amount of tone and volume, with just enough sustain, and just enough cut without piercing our eardrums.  My bandmates love it too, and complimented a number of times regarding how nice it sounds.  This is among the sweetest-sounding crash cymbals I've ever used.  It's also an added bonus that it's also a handsome-looking cymbal, with its different bands of lathes and the combination of brilliant and traditional finishes.  Plus it's got a medium-thin profile, so this would be more durable than my previous K Customs.  I think I'll get a bigger 18" or 19" Rezo for my right side next time.

The Drum Dial is a gift from my US-based genius godfather Chit Ramirez (my uncle who gave me my Magic Drum).  This is a really helpful piece of equipment.  First of all, I can say that I'm pretty much used to tuning drums, based on feel plus all the years of experience.  I thought I'm quite fine with my drum tuning skills, which is why I never really took notice of those drum tuning assistance gadgets coming out on the market in recent years.  Until, my uncle got me this nifty piece of equipment which he and his musician friends from the US claim that it will be very useful for my craft.  One week after using the Drum Dial to tune my drums, I can definitely hear and feel the difference!  I'll be writing my review of the Drum Dial soon.

My trusty five-year old Behringer Eurorack UB802 compact mixer's power supply blew up recently.  Before this happened, I was already having thoughts of retiring this workhorse for home use (I'm planning to set-up a sound system at home for my play-along practice needs).  So I need to have that power supply fixed.  A few days ago, I got a new compact mixer for my stage monitoring requirements.  I got Behringer's Xenyx 502 mixer.  The eight-channel UB802 served me well, even if I'm unable to maximize it because I only use two channels most of the time - one for the live band mix & another for the sequenced tracks, plus an optional third channel for my metronome (when needed).  So the five-channel Xenyx 502, which is almost similar to the old Eurorack UB502 used by former South Border drummer Paul Benitez back in the day, is pretty much just right for my basic stage monitoring set-up.  It's also great that it's smaller (its footprint is just around 5"x7"), it's more lightweight, and it looks sleek with its black/gray finish (compared to the Eurorack's colder and more industrial-looking steel silver finish).

Up to this day, I'm still frustrated over the loss of the left earpiece of my M-Audio IE-20 XB in-ear earphones (which I mentioned in this May 2010 blog).  How I wish that somebody can help me with acquiring, if possible, just the left-side piece of this high-quality listening equipment (hope you're reading this, Drum Shop Manila and/or JB Music).  Anyway, I've been reading and hearing stories about some side-effects of using in-ear earphones, which may damage the ear canal when not used properly.  So I thought of using traditional headphones as an alternative.  My top choice (and only choice) is the already-proven Vic Firth SIH1 Stereo Isolation Headphones,which are specially designed for drummers.  Essentially, these are traditional earmuffs which have built-in speakers, which makes it an excellent play-along tool because it is highly effective for listening to music while blocking outside noise.  Its fit is quite tight and snug, which is a good thing.  That means I can still bob my head during live situations, and I don't need to worry about the headphones slipping off my head.  The stereo sound may not be at par with my M-Audios (which have become my benchmark in sound quality), but the playback quality is decent enough for its purpose.  By the way, thanks to my source, Vinci Rodriguez of Drum Shop Manila.

These new equipment, plus the used DW 5002 double bass pedal I got last month, enable me to complete my essential gear requirements.  After a few months of struggling with sub-par, missing, or worn-out gear, I'm finally able to update and upgrade.  It feels great to be back to normal again.  And with the help of all these nice gear, I don't need to worry that much anymore with my equipment, which would allow me to focus more on the music and my drumming.  I'm blessed that I still have my gigs with my band, I have some opportunities coming in, and I'm able to rise up from the months of gear frustration I had.  I just need to keep working hard and play better, so that more bright opportunities can come in.  I'm grateful.