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KickPort - Drum Insert

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KickPort Drum Insert

For years drummers have been stuffing pillows, blankets, foam and other materials to provide dampening with the objective of achieving better definition and punch. In doing so, the natural resonance of the drum is sacrificed in two ways: One, anything coming in contact with the shell chokes the tone, and two, the internal dampening materials reduce the resonant space.

The KickPort Drum Insert is designed to enhance the sound of your drum by doing three things simultaneously:

  • Ports the kick drum in the same manner of a bass reflex speaker cabinet which boosts low frequencies.
  • Adds ideal dampening directly to the resonant head which allows you to remove most if not all of the internal materials thus reclaiming all of the natural resonance and tone of your drum.
  • Focuses the air as it exits the kick drum and this compression increases punch.


    The overall result is more lows, more tone, better definition and more punch in varying acoustical environments. Additionally these are benefits the drummer can feel behind the kit.

    Tips & Suggestions

    Future Percussion Concepts, the makers of the KickPort, recommends that dampening materials only touch the batter head, not the resonant head. They also recommend that you use a reinforcement ring around port hole. See Installation Instruction Sheet. The port hole size should be 5" to 5.5" inches and should NOT affect the sound. Moving the KickPort around in the hole will vary the tone slightly depending on the position, so find the sweet spot.

    The KickPort has been used with great results by drummers utilizing many different drum and head combinations. The preferred drumheads are those with more density, especially for the resonant head. Personal favorites are the Remo Powerstroke series on batter and the Remo Emperor (2 ply - 7 mil each ply) on resonant. We also really like the Remo Powerstroke 3 (single ply - 10 mil) on resonant. Sometimes several small pieces of tape may need to be added to the inside edge of the Mylar underlay on Powerstroke 3 to eliminate noise that may occur. This trick is also successful with the Evans Eq3 and similar resonant heads with the internal Mylar underlay.

    PLEASE NOTE THAT DRUM HEADS WITH FELT OR FOAM MUFFLING RINGS ON THE RESONANT HEAD WILL TAKE AWAY MOST OR ALL OF THE GREAT QUALITIIES OF THE KICKPORT - YOU ARE ADVISED TO REMOVE THE FELT/FOAM OR USING ANOTHER HEAD.

    The KickPort is an innovative tool designed to increase the possibilities and take your bass drum several steps further. There are many great pro and non pro drummers experiencing the same incredible results demonstrated at the 2009 NAMM show.


    REVIEW

     

    To fully appreciate and hear the results in the above video,
    connect your computer to high quality audio system,
    preferably one that incorporates a sub cabinet.


    In my video review (above) you can see and hear what the KickPort does and doesn't do with my Kick drums. I used a 18x22 and 16x16 in my testing. I also used AKG 414 mics; one close to the port, the other futher away at ear level. I didn't use a Kick mic because every Kick mic is designed to color the sound. In fact, in the areas where the KickPort is supposed to excel, any of the popular Kick mics would remove it. Don't believe? Have a look at the spec sheets, more specifically the frequency curve for a Beta 52 or AKG D-112; those are just two examples. Notice the drop from 50Hz and below?

    For those who have seen/heard the KickPort in action at a trade show (eg. NAMM Show), you would definitely hear a difference when the KickPort was added to the drum. A huge difference? That's subjective and will vary from individual to individual. Still, the KickPort does make a difference. However ... what you are hearing at the trade show is Future Percussion Concepts drum, which they have had ample time to work with and adjust to get the results the wanted. How does it work on other drums? How will it work on your drum? The only way to tell is for you to try it out for yourself and see ... but that means you have to purchase the KickPort in order to get your answer. Personally, I don't like that.

    What a lot of people also fail to realize, which the manufacturer does try to make known, is that they have to use SPECIFIC drumheads in order to make the KickPort work. Not only are they using a specific brand of drumheads, but they also are using specific models. One big turn off for me is that in order for the KickPort to work, you have to use a two-ply drumhead on the resonant side of the Kick drum! Who in the world does that?! There may be a few people out there, but most drumhead manufacturers recommend and package their Kick drumhead packs with a SINGLE PLY resonant head. So now, not only do you need to get the KickPort, you now have to spend money on a new two-ply drumhead for the resonant side of your Kick drum. Suddenly the expense of test driving the KickPort is looking less and less favorable ... especially since you don't really know if the device will work for you they way you think.

    Myself and others who have taken a scientific approach to our reviews have also noticed that the slight acoustic frequency gain that you get with the KickPort is completely lost once you start playing the full kit. Slap a Kick mic on the Kick drum with the KickPort inserted and watch that mic remove what little you gained acoustically. Doesn't make sense to me.

    So all of this to say ... and I mean this in the kindness way ... don't be naive and assume that what you hear on one particular drum AUTOMATICALLY means the device is so fantastic and will work for everyone.

    I wanted the KickPort to work; I really did. I like the idea and concept, but I think they need to do more testing. They need to come out with a product and statements that clearly define what that product is and isn't. If the KickPort only works with a select combination of drumheads, then in my opinion they should sell the KickPort with those drumheads. To me, to do anything but that is very misleading.


    FACT #1

    I know this will sound awfully scientific, but if you do the math, which doesn't lie, you can see how the KickPort really isn't going to help you in the studio or running it through the sound system.

    We can find the wavelength of any frequency using the following formula:

    Wavelength = Speed of Sound divided by Frequency

    The speed of sound, traveling through air, varies depending on air temperature and moisture. Dry air at 68 °F (20 °C) travels 1,125 feet per second (343 meters per second).

    Doing the math, using US measurements you get the following:

    • 60Hz has a wavelength of 18.75 f/s
    • 50Hz has a wavelength of 22.5 f/s
    • 30Hz has a wavelength of 37.5 f/s

    CONCLUSION

    How can these low frequencies be picked up by a mic that is inside the drum or just outside the drum, directly in front of the KickPort? That's just it, it can't.

    Any, and I do mean any, low-end improvement that you hear by using the KickPort, is perceived because of how far away you are from the drum. The only way you can hear the low-end, because of the wavelength measurements, is to be a distance equal from the sound source. If you want to hear that 60Hz, you have to be 18 feet away! Now, you can hear some benefit when positioning yourself at half the wavelength, so at 9 feet you would hear some improvement.

    The more low-end you want to hear, the further away you're going to have to be.

    So what does this mean? It means what I've been saying all along ... any benefits you get from the KickPort are going to be through an acoustic situation where you are not micking the drums, and the audience is far enough away to perceive (hear or feel) the low-end. The frequency bouncing around the room is also going to allow people to hear that low-end, but that's reflected sound.

    But what about microphone choice? The Shure Beta 52 already naturally boosts this low-end 50Hz range, and the AKG D-112 actually cuts that frequency range.




    FACT #2

    A Bass Reflex System (ie. port) on a speaker cabinet is used to increase bass response with the expense of losing air loading of the speaker cabinet. The port is cut from a solid part of the cabinet, NOT part of the resonating medium (ie. speaker diaphram). Speaker ports vary in both area and length; they are directly dependent on the speaker cabinent size. Proper adjustment of the speaker cabinet and port size, as well as making sure the cabinet and port match the driver characteristics, are manditory in order to have positive results. Failing to do so will result in poor (ie. bad) transient response (compared to sealed cabinet enclosures) at frequencies near the lower limit of performance.

    CONCLUSION

    To liken the KickPort to a bass reflex, where the port is attached to the speaker cabinet which the driver is housed in, is erroneous. The KickPort may look like a bass reflex, but it is actually a passive radiator since it is mounted to the resonant drumhead. If order for the KickPort to be a bass reflex it would actually need to be mounted into the shell of the drum. On a kick drum, the batter head is the driver and the resonant head acts as a passive radiator. Ports are a little more scientific than just cutting a hole in the cabinet. A port's tuning frequency is dependent on the volume of the cabinet; in this case the size of the drum shell. The depth of the port on a speaker cabinet is also relative to various parameters of the driver (eg. the type of kick drumhead we are using).

    Having the wrong size port on a speaker cabinet will give you bad results, sounding worse than if you kept the cabinet sealed with no port. To have a 'one size fits all' approach with the KickPort, with complete disregard for the size of the bass/kick drum and type of drumhead, even if it was a true bass reflex system, is flawed.

    The KickPort, with its overall weight and large rubber ring that sandwiches the KickPort to the resonant drumhead, does have a dampening affect — it could take the place of other dampening materials in the drum or on the drumhead. The KickPort's cone, which movies in and out with the resonant drumhead, severely affects the airflow and sound in a negative way.


    UPDATE #1

    KickPort International, LLC president, Jesse Bradman, had a lot to say in his blog about my review back in 2009.


    UPDATE #2

    My video response to the complaint from Jesse Bradman — that my review was too scientific as well as not scientific enough?


    UPDATE #3

    The blog post by Jesse Bradman, himself a keyboardist ... not a drummer, has been removed from the KickPort website.

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