The least expensive audio system is nothing more than a set of ear buds. Plug the jack into your drum brain or computer system, and you’re ready to rock. But, what if you want other folks to hear what you’re doing, or if you’re playing at a large venue? You’ll need some sort of higher-end system.
AUDIO CARD: You won’t be dealing with an audio card if you’re playing a single electronic percussion instrument with its own audio outputs. But, if you have sounds coming from a laptop or desktop computer, you’re going to get a higher quality of sound from a dedicated sound card than from the audio output of the computer itself. The audio card can be an actual card that’s housed inside a computer, or it can be an external box that is connected to your computer gear by a USB or FireWire cable.
MIXER: If you’re playing an electronic drum kit, there’s a good chance you’ll be working with a mixer to balance the volumes of the individual instruments within the kit. If you want more cowbell, a trip to the virtual mixer inside the drum brain can make that dream a reality. Computer DAW programs use virtual mixers to combine the signals from digital recordings, plug-ins, and virtual synths. Hardware mixers take the audio signals from a number of different physical devices and mix them together so that they can be sent to an amplifier and speakers.
AMPLIFIER: An amplifier is a device that takes the audio signals from your sound module, your computer, or your mixer, and increases their strength so that the signals are strong enough to drive a speaker system. Many small speaker systems are self-powered with the amplifier built into the speaker box.
SPEAKERS: The speakers are the boxes that actually produce the sound you’re ultimately going to hear. Speakers come in different shapes and sizes. Subs are larger speakers dedicated to reproducing the lowest frequencies of the sound. Midrange speakers are smaller, and take care of the sounds in the middle of the audio soup. Tweeters are the smallest speakers, and are used to make the highest frequencies crisp and clear. Electronic percussion instruments will sound best with a speaker system designed to cover the full audio range from the lowest sounds of the kick drum to the highest sounds of the cymbals.
FSR: An acronym for Force-Sensing Resistor. This is one of the methods for translating percussion performance gestures into electrical signals. If a drum pad is equipped with FSR technology, it will respond to the strength of a stroke by measuring the pressure on a conductive polymer film. FSRs can also register continuous pressure in addition to a single stroke.
RAM: An acronym that stands for Random Access Memory. RAM is computer memory that can be stored, erased, edited, and stored again.
ROM: An acronym that stands for Read Only Memory. This type of computer memory is burned into a chip at the factory and can’t be erased or edited.
ACOUSTIC TRIGGER: An acoustic drum trigger is a small device that attaches to an acoustic drum to generate electrical signals that can be read by the device that can generate MIDI information from those signals. You can plug triggers into a TMI box.
TMI: An acronym for Trigger-to-MIDI Interface. A TMI will read the electrical spike from a trigger attached to an acoustic drum or an electronic drum pad and generate MIDI data from that spike.