Introduction a foreword about AERODRUMS:
Drummers often struggle with the portability of their instrument: some are students in foreign cities living in student dorms with strict house rules regarding volume levels, some travel often far because of work, and some simply can not keep a drum kit in their bedroom.
The newest challenger in the portable drums game is Aerodrums. While drummers had to choose between things like bongos, drumming apps and electronic kits that are still cumbersome, now they have a pretty solid drumming emulation in a very small package.
It’s time to see what the buzz is all about, so stick around and enjoy our Aerodrums Review!
Quick review: What are Aerodrums?
Aerodrums are a novelty in the music world and are part of what is known as virtual drumming. Virtual drumming used to refer mostly to flash games, mobile phone games and rhythm games like Rock Band where you could slip into the role of a drummer with more or less freedom.
Nowadays, virtual drumming has a second meaning, referring to a specific way of practicing and recording drums without an actual kit.
Why should I use Aerodrums?
Many ambitious drummers will know it: shortly after you start playing the drums, you want to build your dream setup. For some it’s just an ordinary drumset, for others it develops into Gear Acquisition Syndrome. But what should an ideal, yet highly transportable and at the same time less disturbing drum kit look like?
Exactly this problem gave a British manufacturer an idea, and as you can see… well, you can’t really see anything, because Aerodrums perform, as the name suggests, in the air.
The portability, ease of use and the lack of extremely loud drumming sounds make this a great product for beginners, kids and travelling musicians.
How does it work?
Aerodrums is actually a software for playing and practicing drums, with various hardware components. You sit at your computer, make drum movements with hands and feet in the air, which are recorded and transmitted by a camera and hit drums and cymbals, which you can see on the screen.
This is possible because the included drumsticks have reflectors at the tip that are captured by the camera. The same goes for the feet to which you attach the reflectors. The sound of your playing can now be heard on the computer.
From the manufacturer’s website we get the following description:
Aerodrums is based on motion capture technology. A bright light illuminates retro-reflective markers on your sticks and feet and a high-speed camera tracks the motion of these markers and determines when sounds should be triggered in response to their movement.
It is easier to show it than to explain it, so let’s do just that:
Let’s start with the basics:
you can use this air drum kit on any computer, either Windows or Mac. You can take it with you wherever you go because the packaging is small and flat and fits in any bag or backpack.
When you use headphones, nobody but you can hear what you’re playing, because it’s absolutely quiet in the room. Your roommates and neighbours will thank you for that!
What’s in the box?
The set includes almost everything you need to get started right away:
- Sticks with sensors
- A camera
- Foot reflectors
- Camera lens with light
- Instructions manual
What the package does not always include is a camera, but we will get into that in a separate paragraph.
All you need to know for now that getting a camera for Aerodrums is not the most expensive investment, especially compared to the price of a full-size drum kit.
To start the whole installation process, just click here and you will be redirected to the Aerodrums website.
The included download code allows you to download and install the software in no time at all. After short formal settings such as selecting the language, setting the buffer size for low audio latency and assigning the audio output, the software is ready to start.
On the positive side, you don’t necessarily need an audio interface to use it (although it does work with Reaper 4, Garageband 10, Ableton Live 9, Logic Pro X and Digital Performer 8). Before the first drum is played, the software ensures that all four reflectors are in the camera’s field of vision and emit sufficient signal to the camera.
Additional setup and options:
The program has seven kits, each of which can be edited and are available in right- and left-handed versions. In addition, 32 samples can be used to create your own drum sets. If these are not sufficient, it is possible to control external sounds via MIDI. Using the playlist function, you can load any number of your own songs within the software, to which you can then drum. Your playing can be recorded solo as well as with the respective song via the Record function. A metronome can also be selected in the software for timing exercises.
Aerodrums can be configured to work with headphones or with speakers, so you can switch between having different experiences. That is why Aerodrums can be used even for live performances and recording songs.
Does Aerodrums include a camera and are there any alternatives?
Aerodrums ships from different vendors and to different countries and not all of the packages include a camera. That’s why you should always double check whether your package contains one. Amazon sets of Aerodrums do not come with a camera included and you have to buy one separately.
Aerodrums are designed to work with the inexpensive Sony Playstation 3 Eye camera. Make sure to add it to your cart before finalizing your purchase.
Aerodrums is not compatible with other cameras, not even with the PS4 camera. That is why you must make sure to get a PS3 camera, or else you will not be able to use the software.
For even better results and ease of use, we recommend getting the Aerodrums Camera Stand, as well.
Setting up Aerodrums for Ableton Live, Garage Band, Logic Pro, etc.
While Aerodrums works great without additional MIDI and DAW features, combining it with additional elements can give you even more versatility and better results. Different hardware and software elements need to be configured in different ways, but we will walk you through one example.
One of the good features of Aerodrums is that they can be used for recording. The US drummer Johnny Rabb mentions that he often uses Aerodrums to record MIDI tracks at home and notes that the results are nearly indistinguishable from studio recording.
Aerodrums can be used to produce MIDI signals, which allows you to use a MIDI sampler or record drums into a sequencer or digital audio workstation (DAW). To do this, you need a MIDI software port. You can imagine a MIDI port as a virtual MIDI cable: you can use it to connect MIDI-compatible programs when connecting MIDI equipment via cable.
For starters, in a Mac environment, you have to open the Audio MIDI Setup application, then navigate as follows: Show MIDI window > IAC Bus > tick the “Device is online” box. Windows users have to use a software like LoopBe1, which we recommend as it is free and does not require any configuration.
Second of all, drum samplers map which MIDI notes respond to which part of the kit. This is possible on both Windows PCs and on Mac computers. You have to point Aerodrums to the MIDI port. To enable MIDI, select either “MIDI Only” or “MIDI and Sounds”. You then have to select the correct MIDI software port to send the notes to.
Lastly, you need to setup an audio output device, as well as a MIDI input device. The Aerodrumswebsite recommends CoreAudio on Mac and ASIO/WASAPI on Windows computers. If you have done everything correctly, you should be able to connect your Aerodrums to Ableton.
For more information, visit the MIDI Manual Page of Aerodrums, consult your user manual, or take a look at one of the following videos.
A big rival of Aerodrums is Freedrum. Which of these two solutions is better for you might depend on your own needs and preferences, but the basic principle is the same, so the experience is very similar, as well.
For starters, Freedrum is even simpler than Aerodrums and comes with fewer equipment items, which makes it slightly better than Aerodrums for holidays and traveling.
Freedrum offers a starter set which is slightly more affordable than Aerodrums, but the full version of Freedrum is more expensive. If you want to just try out virtual drumming, the Freedrum starter set might be alright, but for the full experience, Aerodrums is more affordable. The biggest disadvantage of the starter set is that it comes without the pedals.
Freedrum works with Android devices, but we are unsure of whether that is the most reliable solution for drumming.
Aerodrums has the added benefit that you can freely arrange all the kit’s parts, which gives you more expressive and artistic freedom.
Freedrum has some slightly weird control solutions that require you to twist your hand in a position that is not really the most natural emulation of a real drum kit, but it can be done easily once you get used to it. However, Aerodrums offers a more realistic drumming experience.
In conclusion, we think that Aerodrums is a better home-studio solution that can be used for the occasional traveler, while Freedrum is better for people who already have a solid physical kit at home and just want something for traveling.
Price-Performance-Ratio: what does the fun cost?
Aerodrums are a real musical instrument, which means that you have to buy them and set them up. Luckily, the package contains all you need.
Investing in a new musical instrument can be costly. Getting a new drum kit, even from the tight-budget pile, can cost you a few hundred dollars. And when upgrading to better kits, a single snare can cost more than a beginner’s kit. Keep in mind that drums are a percussion instrument, which means that many parts need regular replacement, especially cymbals.
Aerodrums, on the other hand, has all the kits already there. You need a minimal setup and all the parts can be easily replaced or already come delivered to be used as spare parts. This makes the whole package far more affordable than a full drum kit.
The exact price and shipping cost depends on your delivery address. Make sure to double check whether the PS3 camera is included, as well. To find out the current price, click down below!
Do Aerodrums Sound Good?
Are movements and the sound matching?
Do Aerodrums Feel “Realistic”?
Let us summarize everything up until now. Aerodrums are, after all, an emulation of the real experience, but they can, in fact, be used as a stand-alone instrument and be used for recording. The sound is as realistic as it possibly gets with MIDI, especially if you correctly set everything up in a DAW.
Obviously, the lack of a “bounce” is the biggest problem when trying to use drums without a real kit. On the other hand, it does give you a little bit more control of what you are doing once you get used to the kit. The learning curve is a little bit steep and you get very little feedback on what you are doing wrong, but once you get used to it, the virtual kit performs just as good as a physical kit.
Depending on your technique and the light in the environment, the kit might perform weirdly from time to time and it is slightly unpredictable. But then again, this is true for a physical kit. Proper technique is important to get the correct sound out of any instrument.
With that being said, we think that Aerodrums is a real instrument that requires real effort and needs to be mastered for perfect results. It is definitely a big step away from a physical kit, but everything feels familiar, which makes the learning easier.
The newer updates fix some of the previous issues. The software learns of your light sources and eliminates the known problems after some time. And the new 3D VR experience, really makes the kit even more immersive than it was before.
We hope that you have learned something new about Aerodrums and that you will consider buying them. The experience with Aerodrums is certainly something different – in the best waypossible!
Aerodrums will allow you to expand your musical vocabulary and to test out kits that you might not be able to afford otherwise. They also allow you to take your instrument with you to a party or a holiday, which is in the case of drummers a big challenge.
Aerodrums can be tested and returned within about a 30 days period, so you have nothing to lose. So why not go for it? Take your playing to the next step and test out Aerodrums!