Several weeks ago, our church purchased a new electronic drum kit. And a new kit deserves new cables and new direct boxes, right?! Ever since, the kick drum has sounded truly anemic, everywhere except the headphones. It's been awful for me. I recommended the kit, I bought the direct boxes.
One weekend, one of our vocalists even asked me, "Dave, what happened to the kick drum sound?" I told her that I didn't know for sure, and that I thought that maybe the kick sound for that particular electronic kit was not so good, but that I'd figure it out.
Trust me, I've blamed everything from the drum beater to the trigger to the kit. Finally on Sunday at 4:00AM, it dawned on me. It was that direct box. We've used the Rapco DB-100 direct box for years with pretty good results. With the new drum kit, I threw in a couple new direct boxes, and those were the newer DB-1. A-ha!
In a moment of audio snobbery, I had had enough. "No more cheap gear!" I promised myself. In the middle of my 4:00AM fog, I thought, "New version, made in China, undoubtedly cheapened to make Rapco more money, a 'conspiracy.'" I even considered what I'd say to the folks at Rapco and was planning how to do our own recall of the DB-1's from those of you who had purchased one.
So Sunday morning, as we wrapped up sound check, I was again discouraged, and looked down to the channel strip where I had added +10dB of 100Hz, trying to make anything good out of the kick drum and just shook my head. "Could that direct box really sound that bad?", I thought to myself.
The first Sunday of each month, the choir sings. I noticed that a few of the choir members were on their way in, so I checked those channels to see what adjustments I might need to make. As you can expect, I use a high-pass filter (bass roll-off) on the choir mics to prevent feedback. Just for kicks, I began to look at each channel just to see how those filters were set, and then it hit me.
I quickly selected the kick drum channel, and what do you think that I saw? The high-pass filter was set at 130Hz, for the kick drum.
Unknowingly, and sadly unchecked, I was rolling off virtually all of the low frequencies that make a bass drum a bass drum. I can hear my thoughts, "It's an electronic kit, it's plugged into the same channels on the console, nothing ever changes, why bother to check the channel settings?"
I wouldn't get to hear the worship band again until the first note of the worship set, and a rush of thoughts kept me distracted with myself. "How could you have missed that? Could it really have been so easy? It took you how many weeks to figure that out? How could you think the worst of one of your main suppliers?" and on and on.
On about the fifth measure of the first worship song, I backed down my +10dB boost at 100Hz, as I rolled the high-pass filter down from 130Hz to 0Hz. The sound came together quickly, and as it turned out, I added back +2dB at 100Hz. The kick sound was perfectly solid and deep, just like it should have been all along.
When something isn't right, take the time to figure it out, especially when what you're hearing doesn't make sense. At about $35, the Rapco DB-1 is a great, inexpensive direct box. No, it doesn't compare to a $199 Radial JDI, and if it did, there's be something wrong - maybe another conspiracy to make excessive profits by one of our suppliers. Not a chance on the conspiracy part.
With equipment, you get what you pay for. The DB-1 works really well for electronic kick drum, as long as the sound technician has his head on straight.
And we don't need a new sound system, after all.