Drums are one of the most popular instruments to play. Unfortunately in a lot of cases it turns out that it can be quite difficult to find the space to set up a full drum kit. In such cases, products like Yamaha’s DD-65 can be an immense help. Not only does the DD-65 take up a fraction of the space but it also comes with 50 different drum kits to choose from and a whole host of features.

The pricing of the DD-65 means that it appeals to beginner drummers, especially young kids. The DD-65 won’t set you back too much money, should you be toying with the idea of learning the drums. The DD-65 is cheaper than most entry-level electronic drum sets. It’s got everything you need to learn the skills and coordination required to play you favorite drum beats and fills. You can carry the DD-65 virtually anywhere as it is lightweight and extremely portable. This is great news for parents who would like their child to play drums but are worried about the lack of space.

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Compact

The main selling point of the DD-65 is that it is far more compact than the vast majority of acoustic or electronic drum sets on the market. With the DD-65 you get 8 drum pads and 2 playable foot pedals. That’s a total of 10 triggering sources to make music with. You can also re-assign sounds on the drum pads to suit your playing preference. Left handed drummers can switch setups so that they mirror the configuration of the default right handed setup.

The two foot pedals that come with the DD-65 are basic but usable. There are two positions: on and off. Tapping on the bass drum pedal triggers the appropriate sample. Likewise when playing the hi-hat you can press your foot on the pedal to close it. In turn, lifting your foot off the pedal, opens the hi-hat. If you already are in possession of an electronic kit then you can use the foot pedals in conjunction with the DD-65 too. This is a nice bonus feature for those who prefer the feel of a real drum pedal.

The design of the DD-65 is symmetrical with the 8 pads split down the middle. Not all pads are the same size. The pads which are designated to snare and toms are larger than the ones used for cymbals, such as the crash, ride, and hi-hat. The placement of the pads means that it is easy enough to play beats with either a cross hand technique or an open hand style.

The size and shape of the DD-65 means that it is easy to find a place for it to play on. The unit is designed in such a way that it can be used alongside any regular snare drum for convenience. Simply place the DD-65 directly on top of your snare stand and then secure it by tightening the stand. The unit is nicely balanced and can even be slightly tilted so as to aid playability.

Sounds

When it comes to the sound of the DD-65, Yamaha has supplied 50 drum kits to choose from. There are kits that are modeled on Yamaha’s acoustic drum sets along with a host of others. The styles of drums range from pop to rock, hip-hop to jazz, electronic to world percussion, and more. There is even a setting on the DD-65 which allows you to switch to hand percussion mode. This mode is designed to emulate hand percussions, such as congas and tablas. The sensitivity of each pad is dramatically increased so as to respond to lighter hand strokes.

Along with the 50 built-in drum sets, you also have the option of storing up to 3 of your own custom sets. You can literally pick and choose from different drum samples on the DD-65 to create your own kit combinations. This is a great feature if you like to play around with unusual setups such as multiple hi-hats or auxiliary snares.

There are 100 preset songs on the DD-65 which you can use as accompaniment. Like the drum kits onboard, these songs range in style, tempo, and time signature. There are funk grooves and fusion jam sessions to test your chops too. Each song can be sped up or slowed down using the tempo function. This is especially useful if you are just starting out. It’s possible to isolate either the drums or the backing music for listening purposes. Using a combination of soloing the drums and reducing the tempo is a great way to understand how beats and grooves are composed.

With each drum kit preset you also have the option of adding effects. You can choose to play with or without reverb on each kit. Reverb is an added echo which gives the sound a sense of environment. It’s a commonly used effect which has been used on drums in the studio for years.

The DD-65 also lets you record your own performances. There is room for up to 5 recordings so you can easily monitor your progress as you improve on the instrument. It is also an invaluable tool for storing ideas for later use.

This video gives a good run down of the sounds that come with the DD-65::

Connectivity

If you’re looking for a low-budget practice tool, then the DD-65 ticks a lot of boxes. It has two speakers on the face of the unit which can provide a stereo monitor so that you can hear yourself. Alternatively you can plug your own set of headphones into the DD-65 to reduce the outside noise. Likewise, if you have your own practice amp or P.A., the DD-65 plugs directly in from the audio output.

There is also a MIDI in/out on the back of the DD-65 which can be used to connect to any Mac or PC. This MIDI connection allows you to send your playing to your computer as data information, rather than wave audio. MIDI is an extremely handy tool for song composition and it has the added benefit of very small file sizes. You can play directly in real time on the DD-65 and record onto your home recording setup using the DAW of your choice. Once you have the take captured in MIDI on your computer, then you can go about assigning different sample voicings to the captured pattern. This means you can later mix and match your playing with the latest custom drum samples.

If you are a fan of playing along with backing music then you have more options with the DD-65. On the back of the unit there is a convenient ‘Aux in’ which allows you to plug any audio device through the DD-65. This is perfect for iPods and MP3 players and means you can easily jam along with your favorite tracks and albums.

Using USB-MIDI you can also connect the DD-65 to the internet. Once connected you have access to even more backing songs which can be downloaded onto the device. There are many songs to choose from which increases the longevity of the DD-65. To see the full list of downloadable songs, visit the official Yamaha website.

Pros

One feature of the DD-65 that will come in handy is the self-recording ability. Yamaha has supplied room for a total of 5 personal drum takes that you can store and listen back to later. A feature like this is extremely handy in a variety of situations. You might be working on a new drum beat or fill for a song and want to keep a record of it. The built-in record feature means you can instantly save your ideas. Alternatively it can be used in a student-teacher scenario. Each week the teacher can play and store the student’s homework exercises for later consultation. Like all the preset songs on the DD-65, these recordings can be altered in tempo, slower or faster, for variation.

The fact that Yamaha has made the DD-65 compatible with standard electronic hardware is a nice touch. For many experienced drummers the pedals on the DD-65 will feel a tad underwhelming. There isn’t much sense of realism and they really only respond well to heel-down playing. For drummers who really depend on heel-up playing, it might be worth considering another compatible pedal.

One welcome feature is the DD-65’s ability to sit on any standard snare stand. This means you are not limited to flat table tops to play on. Using a snare stand allows the drummer to place his or her legs underneath the unit for easy access to both foot pedals. It’s also surprisingly stable, as long as you are using a reasonably high quality snare stand. For drummers who like to get playing right after unboxing, you’ll be pleased to know that Yamaha has also included a pair of drum sticks too.

Cons

One of the main benefits of the DD-65 is that it is compact and portable. This unfortunately means there must be a few compromises. One such compromise is the pad size on the device itself. They are quite small and the whole setup might feel a little cramped to certain drummers who are used to space behind the kit. You need to be aware that this kit does not necessarily feel like playing on a real acoustic drum set. It’s great for working on coordination and pattern ideas, but it’s really hard to play with any real gusto. This is partly down to the small playing area and partly down to the rubber pads. The pads themselves are robust and judging by the amount of working used DD-65’s around, they can last a long time too. That said there is a big difference in stick response between these pads and a real Mylar drum head, or even an electronic mesh head.

The touch response of the DD-65 pads is not amazing. With certain preset drum kits it can feel like the individual drum levels are not perfectly matched. What this means is for example, dynamically the bass drum can feel a little heavy at times, i.e. too loud.

When it comes to the hi-hat you have two playing positions, open and closed. This is the same as with some entry level electronic drum sets such as the Alesis Nitro Kit. The transition from open hi-hat to closed hi-hat can feel a little clunky and with certain kits it lacks realism. This is kind of to be expected with a triggering system that only works with two positions.

Conclusion

As we’ve seen and heard the DD-65 is a portable drum set with a lot going for it. It would suit a beginner, a young child, or even a practicing drummer who is always on the move. It’s fair to say that many experienced drummers wouldn’t get a lot of satisfaction out of the DD-65 as it feels a little like a toy drum set in comparison to a real acoustic kit. It does have some nice features and play along songs so if you’re the type of drummer that is happy to tap along on a table top, then check it out.

If you have a higher budget than a couple of hundred dollars and you would prefer a full size electronic kit, then definitely check out either the Alesis DM Lite or the Roland TD-4KP. Both of these kits are designed for drummers with limited practice space and are easy to carry about too.

The standout appeal of the DD-65 is that it requires virtually no setting up. You literally plug and play. It’s the type of drum set that once a friend or family member see it, they’ll want to play on it. You can use headphones or an amplifier to play along. It connects via MIDI to any computer and can be used for tracking. These are all convenient plus points that make the DD-65 appealing to many.