Since buying the Millenium kit, I also joined a band – something I was planning on doing for a long while. If you are interested, you can check out our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheRepeaters
After much debate and tinkering with sounds and settings on the Millenium MPS-850, I started thinking about ways to improve on the built-in sounds that come with the MPS-850 to see if there was any way to improve on them, especially for live performances. While the sounds on the MPS-850 are good in my opinion, I had a nagging feeling that they could be improved on, so tried using my own samples from various VST instruments (MT Power Drum, SSD5 etc) by recording them using Reaper, chopping them up in Audacity then loading them into the module as mono WAV files.
This did work, but as the samples are mono and single layered, I felt that they were lacking in expression, depth and articulation, so I wondered about acquiring an older Roland drum module to use instead of the Millenium MPS-850 tone module, to see if this could be an option. Everyone knows that Roland make some of the best electronic drum kits in the World, but they are just so damn expensive and were well out of my price range when I decided on the Millenium MPS-850.
So, to cut to the chase, I started looking for a possible Roland module that a) wasn’t going to break the bank and b) would work with my Millenium MPS-850 kit with 4 toms, 2 crash cymbals and a ride cymbal.
I’m not made of money and set myself a budget of £100. If money was no object, I would simply go out an buy a complete Roland kit for £1,500. But that is still not an option for me.
I needed a minimum number of inputs, mostly dual-zone, that would allow me to connect up 1 x snare, 1 x kick, 4 x toms, 2 x crash cymbals, 1 x ride cymbal, 1 x hihat and 1 x hihat controller.
I really wanted to find a module that uses generic 6.3mm jack plugs (stereo and / or mono depending on the pad/cymbal being connected) to connect up each pad/cymbal to the drum module, primarily to make things easier and cheaper to replace cables if they got broken. The Millenium MPS-850 comes with a cable loom plus 2 x extra auxiliary inputs (one for the additional tom and one for the additional cymbal), so if this cable ever became faulty, I would need to buy a complete replacement specifically for the MPS-850 (I think?).
Last, but certainly not least, I wanted a drum module that sounded good! Obvious really, but how difficult could it be on my budget of £100?
So I had my requirements firmly in place, I just needed to find a Roland drum module that would satisfy all three. By the way, I decided on looking for a Roland drum module, because they are quite simply market leaders in quality e-drums. I didn’t consider Yamaha or any of the other brand names, as in my head, I wanted a Roland module.
After considerable research (again!) I narrowed my choices down to three older Roland modules, based on (primarily) price:
Something I realised while on my search, was that Roland’s model numbers are confusing and don’t make much sense. The TD-6(v) is the oldest in this list (2003 – 2008), the TD-3 is the next oldest (2007), the TD-4 was released in 2009 and the TD-1 being the most recent products released in 2014. All four modules can be bought second hand on eBay for between £75 – £150, so all four were kind of in my sights.
OK, so without going into a load of detail, I chose the TD-6V module for the following reasons:
I’m not going to go into massive detail as to why I decided on the Roland TD-6v because, well, it’s pretty boring and tedious, but there were some fundamental reasons that I will list below:
The Roland TD-1 (being the newest model in my list) should have been my number one choice but it uses a cable loom similar to the one that comes with the Millenium MPS-850 – I searched everywhere for information on this but even the TD-1 owners manual does not specify the types on controller inputs (single-zone / dual-zone).
My Millenium MPS-850 kit has 4 x dual-zone toms, 2 x dual zone cymbals, a triple zone ride and dual zone hihats with separate hihat controller – I want to keep this configuration if at all possible.
The drum voices/sounds on the TD-1 are supposed to be very good (being a more modern module) but somewhat limited and to be quite honest, I felt a bit underwhelmed and rather disappointed by the videos I found on YouTube that were showcasing the sounds from this module.
They really didn’t impress me that much. Maybe its’ me, but I like fat, punchy snares and big toms and the TD-1 just didn’t seem to cut the mustard. Another reason why I discounted the TD-1 was the lack of editing features.
The TD-4 was a very close second in my choice, because it does have some really great built-in sounds, but again, it uses a cable loom for all the pad controller connections.
The voices are quite limited too, but while I was trawling through the forums, I read a post by someone who said the TD-3 (the predecessor to the TD-4) was still a great module , and the snare and cymbal samples were also better on the TD-3 (see below).
The TD-4 however, has limited editing capabilities and as I like to tinker, so I discounted this model too.
The TD-3 was a bit of a wild-card, as I hadn’t initially considered this. The Roland TD-3 module does use all 6.3mm jack controller connectors which (as you are now well aware!) is a big deal for me.
It was a really close decision between the TD-3 and the TD-6v, because both modules were widely regarded as excellent products in their day and still produce excellent sounds. But in the end, I liked the fact that the TD-6v has 11 inputs (the TD-3 has 10) and the TD-6v has a huge sound library plus the big added bonus of the VExpression modelling libraries that I could buy and install using MIDI sysex.
At the time of writing this post (10/03/2022) – I don’t actually know, as I’m waiting for delivery of the Roland TD-6v from eBay, but in theory it should. The Millenium MPS-850 is a ‘generic’ e-drum kit made by Medeli under the Thomann ‘Millenium’ brand. Medeli also make Alesis electronic drum kits, so there should be no issues with proprietary cabling, connectivity or compatibility issues.
Updated: 14/03/2022. Yes, it does work! So, I can use the Roland TD-6V module with my Millenium MPS-850 drum kit.
Something that I found out while doing my research, was that older Roland modules (such as the TD-6) do NOT need specialist cables for dual zone inputs – you can use regular stereo 6.3mm jack cables for this. Newer models need a specialist cable that contains a resistor. No doubt there is a very valid reason for this – maybe it helps reduce cross-talk between the individual pads or the pad and the rim or maybe it just improves accuracy and sensitivity? Whatever the reason, I was quite pleased to read that the TD-6 module does not need specialist cables as this helps to keep the setup costs down quite considerably.
OK, so after a bit of fiddling around looking for cables and plugging everything in, the moment came to turn on the module and giving it a blast. I was really very surprised that everything just worked right away. There were no glitches or head scratching problems at all – I tried out every pad and cymbal and they worked exactly as expected straight away. Great stuff.
I wanted to use all four of my toms on the Millenium MPS-850 drum kit, so I knew I would need to use one of the split inputs on the Roland TD-6V for this. To do this, you need 2 x stereo jack leads (one for each of the top pads) and a stereo to 2 x mono jack splitter cable (to plug into the aux in controller input on the module. You then need to configure the module to use two separate inputs for this controller input – the Roland TD-6V manual explains how to do this very clearly.
Flicking around the different drum kits on the TD-6V, I was surprised at the very different sounds than the Millenium MPS-850. Some of the samples are quite dated by todays standards, but seriously, I quite like some of the snare sounds – especially the fat ones. The piccolo snares are also nice and fast and crisp and the toms sounds are really very good.
One thing that does let this Roland module down slightly in my opinion, is the lack of cymbal sounds. In fairness, there are 35 cymbal voices to choose from with about 6 being decent and realistic. That’s enough for me. The ride cymbal sounds are also limited but again, if I find one that I think sounds good, I will just use this all the time. The ride cymbal I like is the ‘Pop Ride (voice 639 – 642) with the ‘Pop RdX (voice 642) being my favourite, as it has a decent bell sound when striking the bow harder – quite handy.
There are just so many sounds on this module that I’m not going to go into any more detail about this in this post – needless to say, you could spend a whole day going through each sounds and putting together your own custom kit – not a bad way to spend a day 🙂
This is where the Roland TD-6V module really becomes interesting. Each voice within each kit can be tweaked quite a bit, including pitch, decay and ‘ambience’ (reverb) effect. In additional to this, there is also a global EQ settings, so that you can further tweak your sound to suit the environment you are playing in. I’m still messing about with the module at the time of writing this section, so as I find new functions, I will add to this section.
The ‘decay’ setting on the Roland TD-6 works slightly differently that the decay setting on the Millenium, as you can extend the decay of each instrument on the Roland module. On the Millenium MPS-850, you can’t do this – you can only reduce the decay of each instrument. This is a nice touch if you want really looooong cymbal sounds!
OK, so one of the main reasons I decided to buy an old Roland TD-6 module, was so that I could install a few of the ‘VEXPACKS’ that I had read about and listened to on the various drumming forums. The Roland TD-6 is the oldest module that is supported by V Expressions and for those of you who are reading this post and haven’t heard of ‘V Expressions’ yet, here’s a basic overview.
V Expression (sometimes referred to as ‘VexPacks’) is a small company who specialise in editing and modelling drum sounds for the Roland and Yamaha electronic drum range using some advanced MIDI control functions. They adjust various settings within the module itself and tweak everything to get to best possible sounds from your drum module. Each VexPack contains a number of finely tuned drum kits that you simply ‘upload’ to the drum module using MIDI SysEx (system exclusive) data. This is done using a USB to MIDI cable and whatever MIDI library software you like to use (such as VDrumLib or MIDIOX).
UPDATE: 15th March 2022 – To send and receive SysEx (System Exclusive) MIDI data to Roland drum modules, you do need to be careful which USB-to-MIDI adapter you use, as the cheap ones that you find on eBay may or may not work. Apparently, some of the cheaper cables do not support SysEx data – just standard MIDI note data. Worth noting this for future reference.
That is all I am going to say about this in this post – if you want to know more about V Expressions, just take a look at their website and have a listen to the various demo samples.
(Custom Kit Using Roland TD-6V Built-in Sounds)
Below are a few sound recordings taken directly from the Roland TD-6 module using the Millenium MPS-850 drum kit as the trigger.
I have discovered that YouTube uses some kind of compression on videos, which taints and messes with the audio on videos, so these are straight WAV files recorded using the TD-6v stereo audio out into an M-Audio DUO audio interface, recorded using Audacity.
(Custom Kit Using Millenium MPS-850 Built-in Sounds)
As a comparison, here are some direct recordings using the built-in sounds from the Millenium MPS-850 module.
Again, these are straight WAV files recorded using the Millenium MPS-850 stereo audio out into an M-Audio DUO audio interface, recorded using Audacity.
Below are a few sound recordings using the ‘Session’ expansion pack from V Expressions. This pack is one of the cheaper ones that is available costing $35 (around £28 GBP). These are straight WAV files recorded using the TD-6v stereo audio out into an M-Audio DUO audio interface, recorded using Audacity.
I will be writing a complete article on these VexPacks soon, with a complete walk-through describing exactly what you need to do to get these amazing files loaded into a Roland TD-6.
There are a couple of stumbling blocks that I had to get past myself and I feel like I should share these, in case anybody out there is considering trying out the V Expressions packs. Check back soon for details.
Round up on thoughts after a few weeks of use.
The Millenium MPS-850 is an affordable, practical and very good value electronic drum kit sold exclusively by Thomann. You can find it here on the the Thomann website: