Airlogic Bass Drum Pedal Tested!
I live in California within 100 miles of the Silicon Valley. Out here, we’re all baby-faced millionaires who drive around in classic cars. We all own huge, expensive custom-made drum sets. The explanation is that we’ve sold our dot com companies to mega-corporations who have enticed our secrets away for a gazillion dollars worth of stock options. I tell this truth because I want drummers who read DRUM! Magazine throughout the world to move to this area, and while waiting to become rich, steal my $40 gigs away from me.
The other reason is that I have a fecund imagination. It has come up with a Regis Philbin hosted scenario that goes something like this. The colossus Turtle Drum Co. from Mongolia in the Far East (with regional headquarters in the U.S.) sends a faceless squad of middle management representatives to the corporate offices of Airlogic Percussion in Parma, Ohio. They wear diamond ear studs, sport coats and cowboy boots, and carry monogrammed executive leather briefcases and Palm Pilots. A summit interface is at hand. Within months of this fateful meeting, the principle officer of Airlogic Percussion finds himself happily unemployed, smoking a Cuban cigar, and gazing out across calm turquoise and cobalt seas from a beach in the Bahamas.
Exactly what has occurred?
You may think the answer is that I have been working around glue too much lately, however, please bear with me. The point of the ramble is that Airlogic Percussion has developed an interesting pedal concept that some company with takeover-itis could target as a potential acquisition. A large firm stymied in research and development but looking for a cool new product need look no further. That is, of course, unless Airlogic has other plans (like taking over the Turtle Drum Co).
The Airlogic pedal forgoes the standardized use of a tension spring (or springs) in favor of a pneumatic air cylinder. The cylinder, which is mounted on the right side of the pedal facing the batter side of the bass drum, has an air pump, a pressure release valve, and a pressure gauge. The air pump is located on the bottom of the cylinder and slides up and down, just like your old bike pump, only inverted. This action increases the pressure. The ball-shaped pressure release valve is located directly underneath the pressure gauge. Pumping up the pressure controls the return force of the beater.
I was advised that most drummers choose to set the gauge to within the 40-45 PSI range, but little old lead-footed me pumped it up to the maximum recommended dosage of 80 PSI. The PSI has a forced increase by approximately 20 pounds every time the pedal is depressed and the gauge is set to top out at 100 PSI. It is possible to experiment with the pedal’s tension settings by alternately up-stroking the pump shaft or bleeding the release valve to let air out. I tried the pressure setting at various levels and noticed discrete pedal feel changes within 10-PSI variations. I thought the pump-up method was more accurate to dial in than springs. Plus, how many of us have had a tension spring snap off or fly away mid-song in a darkened club? Whenever you’ve faced that predicament, did you ever wish that a steel spring had been attached from the bumper of your friend’s car to the upper lip of the pedal manufacturer?
An added tweak function of the Airlogic pedal design is the ability to adjust the cam drive sprocket. Loosening and re-applying two T-bolts can re-position the cam that supports the drive chain to one of three positions. As you move forward to reset in the holes drilled for each position, you, in effect, move the cam farther back on the axle. This varies the distance and momentum of the chain’s pathway arc on the beater axle. No tools are required for these changes. I selected the true center position, the point recommended by the manufacturer as the closest in feel to a number of historically popular pedals. Since I’ve always been comfortable with my old Speed King, this made sense to me. The next setting is the off center or “cam” position, which provides more speed and less power. The “reverse cam” position enhances the stroke power but backs off the velocity.
The pin that connects the chain to the cam can be moved forward or back on the sprocket to raise or lower the footboard. Again, this can be done without tools. I moved the chain forward to lower the footboard angle. This useful ability to change the angle of fulcrum and weight distribution may help somebody decide where he or she wants to literally come down on the issue of heel versus toe playing. My suggestion to Airlogic is to extend the actual footboard surface and place the heel pivot nearer to the back of pedal’s base plate to accommodate a larger foot.
The beater angle can be adjusted independently of the footboard using a T bolt, which provides another choice for customizing the pedal to individual taste. I decided to put the beater far back on the axle hoping that it would overrule my tendency to bury it into the head. The industry standard felt beater provided is a bit of a letdown, and about as interesting as the current presidential campaign. Considering the other innovations of Airlogic’s pedal, I hope the company will be inspired to create a more personalized and unique beater design in the future.
The pedal is supplied with both a chain-link drive and an interchangeable strap drive that can be attached and adjusted with an enclosed Allen wrench. I experimented back and forth with these two choices and eventually chose the strap. Even though the chain had a smoother feel, the comparative rigidity of the strap drive reminded me of my old Speed King and offered me more kinesthetic feedback. It’s definitely nice to have the drive options provided by the company, right off the bat.