The investors at the Dragons’ Den had better read an Aerodrums review before they judged…
For when the Aerodrums founders, Richard and Yann, walked into the UK TV show, the investors offered £75,000 in return for a whoopin’ 30% of the company. And the Aerodrums founders declined.
Now, I personally don’t know about Aerodrum’s current net worth – or whether they regret their decision. (If the Guardian is correct, they had sold 3,500 drum kits by January 2016.)
But this little episode tells one thing very clearly:
They guys behind Aerodrums are drummers like you & me. And they were fed up with not being able to have a drum set around – regardless of how big one’s apartment is or how tolerant one’s neighbours.
Yet, a worthy cause doesn’t guarantee a worthy outcome. And this is what this Aerodrums review is all about:
Can Aerodrums do all that a real drum set can do? Can it do even more? And how does it feel like to drum when you don’t have to carry a 60-pound kit & spend half an hour setting it up?
You’re about to find out…
Aerodrums Review at One Glance
Aerodrums Air Drumming Kit
Sound quality8.5 /10
Sound range (on board)5.0 /10
Price / performance ratio10.0 /10
- Quick & easy guided setup
- Preset kits & sounds can be expanded infinitely
- Helpful visualization of drum kit and movement of sticks / foot pieces on screen
- Considerably cheaper than the best electronic kit on the market (Alesis Nitro)
- Restricted range of sounds compared to electronic drum kits (but see Pro #2)
- Camera won't work in very bright environments (e.g. outside)
How Do Aerodrums Work?
You play Aerodrums using nothing but a pair of specifically designed sticks.
And the sticks’ heads look so funny, because they are designed to tell the reflect light. And not just any light, but the one emitted by Aerodrums special lamp.
Finally, Aerodrums use the Playstation Eye camera to capture the differences in light reflection when you’re moving your sticks around as if playing a drum set.
And voilà: it then sounds like a drum set too:
This is made possible by the Aerodrums “brain” which comes in the form of a software. This matches your movement with different cymbal, drum and bass drum sounds – & creates the sound of a drum kit as a whole.
Oh and a propos bass drum sounds: they are not captured via your sticks of course. For that purpose, Aerodrums comes with two foot reflectors that will fit around any foot or footwear.
What’s in the box?
The box – which looks pretty sleek in itself – contains everything you need to get started with the Aerodrums:
- 1 pair of sticks with reflector heads (plus a pair of spare heads)
- 2 reflector foot pieces
- The Aerodrums lamp
- 1 pair of cardboard sunglasses (No worries: you don’t have to wear them. They are in there only in case the bright light emitted by the lamp annoys you. Looking straight into the lamp isn’t comfortable. But you don’t have to do that in order to play. So I’m perfectly fine without the glasses.)
- 1 product key
- 1 PS Eye camera (NOT if you’re buying from Amazon US)
As you notice: the software is not in the box. And that’s because we live in the 21st century – & can download it without wasting CD-ROM material (*environment thumbs up*).
So to download Aerodrums’ brain, simply go here and enter your product key. You can then download either a Windows or Mac version of the software. Note that you cannot use the Aerodrums software on an iPhone (as long as it doesn’t run Windows or Mac).
Is the camera included? Any alternatives?
I found conflicting information on this, so I checked back with Aerodrums themselves:
“In the US the camera needs to be ordered separately. In the rest of the world the camera comes attached to the box.” (Aerodrums Support – very quick to respond by the way.)
Can you use any alternative, such as a PS4 cam? Or any other camera you have lying around?
No! Aerodrums is designed to be used in conjunction with the PS Eye high speed camera.
The good news is: you can add it to your Aerodrums cart in the “Frequently Bought Together” section (a bit below the product picture) – and it will be only a handful of dollars.
Difficult To “Set Them Up”?
If you can read, click a mouse and insert 2 cables into your USB ports – you’ll be fine!
It’s as easy as this:
- After opening up Aerodrums, click “Setup”
- The software tells you everything you need to do (such as sticking the lamp onto the PS EYE camera and where exactly to sit down). Do that and click “Next”
- Next, Aerodrums visually shows you where to sit down. Before you do so, you might have to remove objects in your background that reflect light well – otherwise the camera won’t be accurate.
Also, if your environment is too bright overall, the camera will ask you to reduct brightness. This is the reason why Aerodrums won’t work outside in the sunlight. (It would work fine at night though.)
- Once setting and upon clicking “done”: ready to play.
You can see below where I held my sticks at that moment (purple & pink dot). This is helpful at the beginning to become familiar with the position of the various drums and cymbals.
To my mind, this is as straightforward as it can be. If you follow the instructions, Aerodrums will be up and running in 5 minutes.
I think that’s a considerable advantage for drum beginners who’d otherwise have to spend an hour or longer on setting up their first physical drum kit.
You have three ways in which to actually hear what your playing on the Aerodrums:
- Leave everything as is and have the sound play through your computer’s standard sound output (which are the built-in speakers by default)
- Plug a pair of quality drumming headphones into your computer. I’ve reviewed the best budget models here.
- Connect your computer to an amplifier via a cable like this. Depending on the jack of your amplifier, you might need such an adapter too.
Do Aerodrums Sound Good?
In my opinion Aerodrums sounds as good as you’re going to get with an in-the-flesh kit. But this is obviously hugely subjective so judge yourself. (And note: the virtual reality headset is NOT part of Aerodrums. They only used it as an addon for the NAMM fair) :
And remember: this is just one sound configuration (“preset kit”) that George Borlai is playing here. And Aerodrums actually comes with 7 of those on board:
These preset kits contain the following instruments:
- “My first Aerodrums Kit” is a very basic kit with only a Snare, a Kick Drum and a Hi-Hat
- The other ones all represent full kits with Snare, 3 Toms, Kick Drum, Hi-Hat, Crash and Ride cymbal – even including a Ride bell & a snare cross-stick sound
Admittedly, 7 preset kits is not much when compared to a good electronic drum kit. But, you can create as many new kits as you want and FREELY choose all the drum / percussion / cymbal sounds used in them.
The only limitation here is the number of sounds. For Aerodrums do come with 32 different drum / cymbal / percussion sounds on board. And you can create as many drum kits as you want by combining the sounds. BUT: the (in my opinion) most electronic drum kits come with 385 sounds on board. (Read on for a way around this limitation…)
But what if you don’t like the sound samples inside Aerodrums? Simply change them by importing a sample from your own computer:
Can Aerodrums also be used with as a MIDI trigger?
Yes, that’s possible too. Meaning: you can pull up your favorite VST (recording software) and use Aerodrums to trigger any sound in the world. That is, any sound that you have in your virtual sound library…
Aerodrums is proven to work with…
- these VSTs / recording software: Logic, Pro Tools, Reaper (free version available)
- these virtual drum sound libraries: EZ Drummer, Superior Drummer, BFD, SSD, Studio Drummer
Do Aerodrums accommodate left-handed playing?
As you can see below: Yep!
Matching Sound & Movements Well?
Generally, I’m very impressed with how accurately Aerodrums has been able to match my movements to the intended drum sounds.
I had to take 10 minutes at the beginning to find out where exactly the individual drums were placed. But it’s acutally a pretty cool feeling to hear the accustomed drum sound – while placing strokes in nothing but thin air. And the visualization of the drum kit and the sticks & foot pieces on the computer screen helped me a lot to find my way around the kit.
There was only 1 tricky part about distinguishing the various drums & cymbals:
On the bigger kits, there are so many drums that there isn’t much space left between them. And the problem for me occurred between HiHat and cross-stick snare:
For when playing standard grooves (which means hitting the HiHat continuously) I would produce a cross-stick snare sound every once in a while. For me, the two were simply positioned too close together.
Luckily, you can also set up the kits according to your personal preference. To that end, Aerodrums asks you (upon completing setup) to “place a firm snare hit” somwhere in the air. And whereever you do hit, the software will position your snare drum.
You then repeat the process for all drums and cymbals to create your personalized setup. Mine looks like this:
With that the matching worked just fine. There was no confusion between any drums whatsoever any more.
Apart from this, Aerodrums can also “spot” the following – more subtle – sounds:
- Rim Shots
I’m really impressed by how well Aerodrums can distinguish between normal Snare strokes and intended rim shots even at very high speed. I’m not entirely sure how the software does it, but as soon as I begin a snare stroke higher up in the air (thus also giving it more speed), the rim shot is recognized.
- HiHat taps & splashes
Taps will be recognized by the standard HiHat trigger. For splash-taps you need to add an extra trigger like in the screenshot of my personalized setup above)
Finally, there’s one thing that you cannot do playing Aerodrums: chocking the China, Crash or Ride cymbal.
Do Aerodrums Feel “Realistic”?
I asked the queston this way, because that’s literally what many people have asked me. I suppose they mean: does playing Aeordrums feel like playing on an acoustic or electronic drum kit?
They answer is no! And how could it? After all, there is no surface that you’re hitting. It’s an air drumming system.
At the same time, that doesn’t imply ANYTHING negative. It just means playing Aerodrums feels DIFFERENT.
And not even different in all respects. Only in the following:
- Less Stick Rebound (But Same Results)
Since you only have the Aerodrums sticks and you don’t actually hit a drum head, rebound will be different. If you think there would be none at all, think again.
For when you let the drum stick fall (as you were hitting), it will inevitably hit the fleshy part of your palm at some point. And from there it will bounce back.
Not as hard as from a wooden surface of course. But bounce back it will. And this is your rebound.
This is all good in theory, but I suggest you get a pair of sticks (or something similar such as a large wooden spoon) – and try it out for yourself. I’m sure you’ll feel what I mean.
And by using that kind of rebound you can actually go as fast as this (jump to 1:41):
As you can see at about 2:25, you can also do double stroke rolls with the rebound Aerodrums provides.
- Same Foot Techniques – Different Response
Aerodrums will recognize your bass drum strokes regardless of whether you’re playing heel-up, heel-down or any mixture between the two:
Obviously there will be no pedal rebound like on a real bass drum pedal. If you’re dead set on foot rebound and pedal response use such a training pedal. To me this feels exactly like playing with a real one. (See the training pedal applied to Aerodrums in action at 2:30 in the video above)
So there you have my Aerodrums review. If you have tried Aerodrums yourself, please tell me what you think about it in the comments. I’m always interested in your story – and open to any objections to what I’ve said here.
I’m also more than happy to answer your questions in the comments below!
Aerodrums has been the only sophisticated virtual drum kit for about 4 years. As such it marks the second stage in the evolution of mobile electronic drum kits (the first one being electric drum pads).
However, Aerodrums meanwhile has gotten some competition. It’s called Freedrum and I’ve compared Aerodrums to Freedrum here.
Let me know what you think about Aerodrums in the comments. Or ask me a question. Or yell at me if you found this review to be crap.
I’ll get back to you in any case!
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