By Brad Schlueter Originally published in DRUM! Magazine’s September 2009 Issue
The winter NAMM show is like a second Christmas for adult musicians, eliciting the same gleeful, ravenous response a child feels when first laying eyes upon that much-anticipated tree-load of presents. This year’s NAMM show was no exception, offering a cornucopia of great new products that you’ll be hearing lots more about in the coming months. As usual, a few items generated a particularly strong reaction. One such standout was Pearl’s new Demon Drive Eliminator pedal, which took home the coveted “Best In Show” award. This pedal is designed to compete against any top-of-the-line pedal on the market. So, naturally, I was giddy with the prospect of taking one for a spin.
A LOOK AT THE FIELD
Currently, the elite list of uberexpensive pedals includes (but is not limited to) the Sonor Giant Step, the Trick Pro 1-V, the Axis A, the DW 9000, Yamaha’s Flying Dragon pedals, Taye Metalworks XP1, and now the Pearl Demon Drive. The good news is that for most drummers who don’t play speed metal or music with a lot of double bass, there are plenty of excellent mid-priced pedals that will do the trick as well as any of these higher priced models. Since a pedal will only play what your feet tell it to, most of us will benefit more from extra time spent practicing than by emptying our wallets on the latest new gear innovation. However, if a few bpm will actually make a discernible difference in the music you play, or if you want the smoothest pedal you can find, you should definitely check out these upper echelon models.
OUT OF THE BOX
Pearl sent me a P-3002D double pedal, but I also was able to spend a little time with the single version, the P-3000D. The first thing I noticed is that this is a damn sexy pedal. It has lots of aluminum with a shiny footboard, flush with orange accents. The pedal includes a nice nylon carrying case, just like the original Eliminator, but this one has orange piping around the edges. The bag may prove useful if you also own an interchangeable-cam Eliminator.
Inside the bag, each footboard rests in a separate compartment, and the linkage is secured via a sleeve and Velcro strap in the lid. There’s a small zippered pocket that contains a shoulder strap for the bag, the beaters, a few Allen wrenches, six small pieces of Velcro to secure the pedal to carpeting, and a small bottle of Ninja bearing oil. The pedal also has a special T-shaped multi-function lug/Allen key for adjusting anything on the pedal. This key attaches to a clip on the slave-side base plate.
BELLS AND WHISTLES
Naturally, this thing is loaded with new features: Ninja skateboard micro-polished-steel bearings in the pedal axles for low friction and greater speed, spherical heel-plate bearings, rotating traction plate, Zero Latency U-Joints, Control Core felt beaters (wood optional) with an internal elastomer to control vibration, a unique pivoting hoop clamp that keeps your pedal flat on the floor even if you angle your bass drum toward you, and a click-lock spring tension adjustment. Other features include footboard-height and beater-angle adjustment. One of the cleverest design options is Pearl’s Duo Deck design, which enables this pedal to be set up with a standard-sized heel plate and footboard or converted to an extended, quasi-longboard design. A longer footboard offers a slightly lighter feel but greater speed and is the preferred setup for many speed-metal drummers. To switch the footboard you have to remove four Allen screws on the bottom of the pedal and extend the bar under the footboard to allow room for the heel plate to be attached, and then reconnect the hinge to the base plate. It only took me about five minutes per side to do this.
I applaud Pearl for allowing drummers to choose their style of footboard without requiring an additional purchase. If you haven’t played a longboard pedal before and didn’t want to commit a lot of money just to try one out, this is a great feature. However, if you’ve been considering an Axis or a Trick longboard and are now considering the Demon Drive, note that the longboard on the Demon Drive doesn’t extend as far as on either of those pedals, and also has a small hinge/mini heel plate at the rear of the footboard. For the sake of comparison, the extended Demon footboard is 10.5" long while an Axis A longboard is 11.75" long.
BUILT FOR SPEED
Like the Axis, Trick, and Yamaha Flying Dragon pedals, the Demon Drive uses a direct-drive linkage. Since all these pedals use a solid piece of metal instead of a belt or chain, there is less energy and momentum lost once the pedal is in motion. For this reason, it often feels as if a direct-drive-style pedal hugs the bottom of your foot a bit more than a standard pedal. While this may make for greater efficiency, some drummers prefer the feel of a chain or belt.
This pedal also uses a new click-lock spring-tension adjustment. Like many pedals, the spring and threaded rod pass through a tab on the upright post of the frame assembly and the whole unit is tightened via a nut underneath the tab. Also like many other pedals, Pearl includes a nut above this tab that, when tightened, will help keep the pedal tension where you set it.
The new clip lock is basically a wire that flips upwards to further prevent the spring from loosening. This strikes me as an aesthetic, if not a functional design flaw. Yes, it works, but it looks like what a friend aptly described as “a jumbo paperclip” that flips up. This design seems out of place on such a thoughtfully designed pedal. Other companies have found simpler and less-obtrusive solutions to this problem. On the Pearl Demon Drive, this is one more little thing to set, it looks flimsy, and after a few months, I can’t help but wonder how many of these things will get bent or lost on the road.
I went to a friend’s live-band karaoke gig last night and loaned him the pedal. Six songs into his set, he sheepishly held up the clip-lock wire, which had fallen off the pedal, worried that he’d broken it. Fortunately, or perhaps not, it popped back on as easily at it had popped off. This is the weak link in an otherwise stellar list of clever features, and I think Pearl would do well to redesign it.
ALL ABOUT THE FEEL
One very clever and useful feature is the ability to easily upgrade a single pedal to a double using an add-on hardware pack. However, if you think you’ll want a double eventually, buy one upfront, since it’s a little cheaper that way.
The Demon Drive has several other ways to adjust its feel. The Beater Stroke adjustment offers a choice of two positions to accentuate either finesse or power. To adjust this, loosen the clamshell and slide the beater forward or backward and then retighten. I found I had to retighten and reposition it a few times to relocate my previous beater-angle setting. However, handy markings on the pedal do help with this and many other adjustments.
Another option is the Direct Link adjustment. Again, you’re given a choice of two positions providing either a heavier feel or a lighter one. To change this, simply loosen the bolt with your drum key and move the rod to the adjacent slot.
Combined with the two styles of footboards, short or long, you have a total of eight basic feels to experiment with on this pedal. Each position elicits a noticeably different response. My advice is try a few until you find the one that’s close to your ideal and then tweak the spring tension from there. However, finding your optimal setup may take an afternoon of experimentation. Switching cams on the previous Pearl Eliminator pedal takes less time (under a minute) compared with adjusting the bolts and clamshells on the Demon Drive. However, since these sorts of adjustments are usually made rarely, this is probably a non-issue for most players. Besides, thanks to the Duo Deck, the Demon Drive may offer a wider range of feels than just about any other premium pedal on the market.
I tried every available feel, but since I don’t like very light pedal action, I settled on position 3 (and sometimes position 4) in the longboard setup. Position 3 uses the lighter Beater Stroke adjustment position with the heavier Direct Link position, and position 4 uses both in the heavy position.
I also played a gig with the pedal set to position 3 and in the standard shortboard configuration. After a song, I forgot I wasn’t using my interchangeable-cam Eliminator. However, when I played double bass fills I noticed it had a lighter action (which I didn’t prefer) than my cam Eliminator. Some of this could obviously be fixed by changing the spring tension, which I had left for this gig at the factory setting.
How does it feel? Very smooth and fluid. And while I’ve never noticed any “latency” from the slave side of any pedal that wasn’t broken, the slave side of the Demon definitely felt tight and smooth, if not exactly the same as the primary pedal. I really only noticed the difference when I moved the same foot between the two pedals. I tried some heel-toe doubles on the slave pedal and was easily able to play a one-footed shuffle at a tempo equal or above ZZ Top’s “Tush” for quite a while.
I was able to play everything on the Demon Drive that I could on my cam Eliminators or my Axis (AX-A2). I put the pedal on my teaching kit and let my students and some of the other teachers play it for a few days. The comments were all positive. One teacher lamented that he could play cleaner and quicker on it from the get-go, but had unfortunately just bought another double pedal.
P-3002D double pedal: $1,149
P-3000D single pedal: $559
Demon Drive (single to double)conversion kit: $729
FEATURES Switchable Duo Deck footboard, Ninja skateboard micro-polished-steel bearings in the pedal axles, spherical heel-plate bearings, rotating traction plate, Zero Latency U-Joints, Control Core felt beaters (wood optional) with an internal elastomer, a unique pivoting hoop clamp, a click-lock spring-tension adjustment, footboard height and beater-angle adjustment; converts to a double pedal; includes a nylon carrying case.
CONTACT Pearl Corporation pearldrum.com 615-833-4477
Overall, the Pearl Demon Drive Eliminator is a superbly designed pedal with a very fluid action and almost limitless versatility. Speed-metal drummers, in their endless search for optimum rebound and momentum combined with lightning-quick action, have gravitated to either the Axis A or the Trick Pro 1-V pedals. But to my feet, the Demon Drive pedal feels just as good, and should prove to be a strong competitor in the market. Pearl’s big advantage may be for drummers who aren’t sure if they want a longboard, or who may want to switch between different pedal feels depending on the gig.