DW DWe Electronic Drum Set Review

Drumeo
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Drum Workshop recently announced and released its first entry into the electronic drum world—the DWe. The kit blurs the lines between traditional acoustic drums and electronic drums. And another thing—the electronic drum kit is wireless.

I had the chance to play the DWe at PASIC 2023 in Indianapolis, one of the largest drum and percussion events in the world. To say that I was blown away would be an understatement. The DWe electronic drum set is by far the best electronic drum set I’ve ever played on. The triggering is superb and the sound is phenomenal. Its level of realism is on another level.

DW, or Drum Workshop, is one of the most well-known drum manufacturers in the world, with 50+ years in the business. The quality of the DWe is second to none. Being the first electronic drum kit designed by DW, I’d expect a few hiccups and bugs, but so far, the drum set is impressive (I wonder if this kit has to do with Roland’s acquisition of DW). Drum Workshop first began designing new digital drums in 2019.

Overview and Specs of the DWe

DWe Electronic Drum Set
(Image credit: DW)

Included are real DW Collector Series drums, 9-play maple shells (featuring 333 VLT technology), top-quality hardware, five beautiful finishes, multiple configurations, the DWe wireless trigger system, metal electronic cymbals, and the DW Soundworks software.

Why waste money on a Collector’s series drum shells when you’re playing electronic drums? Couldn’t DW save some money here and use cheaper materials? The DWe is fully convertible from electric to acoustic, meaning you can practice at home with electronics and take it out to the stage and use it like an acoustic drum set.

The drum shells feature DW’s 333 VLT shells, which have no reinforcement rings, and the outer/inner plies run vertically—this results in less tension on the shell, and the drum projects a better tone with more sustain when set up like an acoustic kit.

DWe includes top quality hardware, as per DW’s high standards: turret lugs, True-Pitch tension rods, STM tom mounts, graduated hoops, MAG Throw Off on snare, high-end kick drum spurs, and floor tom legs. 

DWe comes in five finishes at the time of publishing—Black Galaxy FinishPly, Black Cherry Metallic, Curly Maple Burst, Midnight Blue Metallic, and White Marine FinishPly.

The drums are meticulously crafted at the DW factory in California and come pre-installed with Roland mesh batter heads and Mylar resonant heads, giving you a bit of tone while playing. Available configurations include 5-piece with hardware, 5-piece shell pack, 4-piece with hardware, and 4-piece shell pack.

The DWe wireless trigger system allows for up to 30 inputs, so kit expansion is no issue for the electronic drum set of your dreams (looking at you, Neil Peart fans). I assume additional trigger packs will become available sometime in the future.

In addition to the pre-installed mesh drum heads, the kit includes DW acoustic drum heads when you want to swap over from electric to acoustic.

The design of the cymbals looks dull to me. Still, they provide an authentic metal playing experience featuring three-zone triggering, natural edge choke, wireless connection, and an incredible 360-degree free-floating playing surface.

DWe Trigger System Inside the Drums

The triggers sit in a removable tray inside the drum—they feature a combination of FSRs (force sensing resistor) and piezo pickups on the edges, allowing a more realistic dynamic range. You can even press on the drum, applying pressure to change the pitch of each drum.

DWe Trigger System
(Image credit: DW)

Changing the batteries is an annoying process, as it requires you to take off the resonant head and unscrew a battery door on the trigger system for each drum. The real question becomes, how long do the batteries last on each drum, and will they all run out at the same time?

Changing batteries on the cymbals requires you to unscrew two Phillips screws to remove the battery cover plate. 

A slight improvement would be a rechargeable battery system with a discrete charging input somewhere on the shell—along with a visual indicator in the DWe software telling you how much battery each drum and cymbal has left.

I’m also curious about the kit’s performance when the batteries get low. Does latency increase? Are there misfires? This is all brand-new technology, so it will be interesting to see how it performs.

When converting to acoustic, you have to remove three screws connecting the trigger system, and the entire plate can be taken out. The pieces that hold the sensors do not need to be removed. It’s a little clunky, and storing the trigger systems carefully looks challenging. DW should consider selling a hard case to store the trigger system when unused.

DWe Electronic Drum Set at PASIC 2023
DWe Electronic Drum Set at PASIC 2023

Triggers and Sensors

The snare drum has five zones for the center, edge, rim shot, rim, and cross stick. The MAG throw-off works like an acoustic snare, turning off the snare wires.

The tom drums are dual-zone but have three sounds for the center, rimshot, and rim. You also can pitch bend the drum with a stick and mute the drum using your hand.

The DW cymbals feature three zones for edge, bow, and bell and are chokable. The best feature is that these are 360-degree free-floating metal cymbals. No matter where you hit the cymbals, you will get sound, unlike most electronic cymbals.

Major Benefits of DWe

The DWe electronic drum set is set up just like an acoustic kit. There are no cables, mess, or technology (on the outside). The DW representative even took a tom drum off its stand and walked far away with it while hitting it, demonstrating the wireless capability. He went a solid 30ft or so away and it was still triggering flawlessly.

It’s a perfect solution for drummers who love acoustic and electronic drums, those who want to convert between the two, Drum Workshop enthusiasts, touring drummers who don’t wanna deal with cables, church drummers for controlled sound on stage, or anyone with a big bag of cash who loves beautiful drums. These drums are expensive.

Getting Setup and Connected

Laptop setup running the DW Soundworks App
Laptop setup running the DW Soundworks app next to the drum kit

You need to have a computer that’s fast and powerful to use the DWe system. The kit connects to a computer via the Drum Link USB hub and DWe Control app. Pairing the drums to the app is quick and easy. The calibration process is also fast and straightforward.

The Drum Link Hub can send MIDI via the 3.5mm jack, so theoretically, you could connect these drums to another module (I suppose there’s a good use-case scenario if you use a module instead of a computer on stage). The DW Soundworks app has fantastic sounds built in, and articulations are explicitly designed for the kit, so I don’t see much of a point in using that feature.

The DW Soundworks app features high-quality multi-layered sampled DW, Slingerland, Gretsch, and almost every cymbal brand. Even if you don’t own the DWe, you can purchase the standalone version of Soundworks for $199 from Roland Cloud.

Each sample has multiple articulations and layers, making DWe one of the most realistic electronic experiences. The user interface looks dated but perfectly functional. Levels, EQ, dynamics, and more are all adjusted within the DW Soundworks app on your computer.

The RTAP (Real Time Audio Processor) module is an audio interface. It’s small, portable, and low-latency. Mac computers are plug-and-play, while Windows requires a driver. 

The interface is bus-powered, meaning you won’t need a separate power cable to plug into the wall. The unit features headphone output controls, main output controls, a stereo aux input jack, two-quarter-inch outputs, and a USB-C connector. DW Soundworks will also work with all major audio interfaces available.

Sound of the DWe and DW Soundworks

So far, from the demo videos I’ve watched, the sound is impressive. You can hear the resonance of the drums in each sample. These are some of the best drum tones I’ve heard from an electronic drum set.

Some of the presets sound slightly over-compressed to my ears but can easily be tweaked in the app. The mixer allows for complete control over the sound: easily adjust the level of room sound, overheads, mic bleed, ambiance, and more.

Why Electronic Drums from DW?

Man playing DWe Electronic Drums
(Image credit: DW)

In an interview with Sweetwater, Marcus Ryle breaks down how DW got started with electronic drums and gives insight into the process behind designing DWe.

“It really started back around 1987. We started a company called Fast Forward Designs, and one of our first products was a line of digital drum sets for Dynacord,” said Marcus Ryle while talking to Nick D’Virgilio.

“After I decided to leave Line6, Chris gives me a call, Chris Lombardi, the CEO of Drum Workshop, and he says, “We’re working on something we think’s real exciting.” This was in 2019. So over four years ago, it’s some new digital drums, and he wanted me to check it out.”

“There’s a lot of challenges with wireless and, of course, people automatically imagine wireless will add latency, and then you gotta deal with power. He [Chris] says, “Come and check it out.”

The genius mind of product manager Mark Morales (originally from KAT percussion) saw the innovative but not well-known VersaTrigger system. He then worked with the company to take the design to the next level.

Overall Thoughts on the DWe

DWe at PASIC Front
Front view of the DWe at PASIC 2023

For DW, a new player in the e-kit world, the DWe is a fantastic start, one that drummers around the globe most surely will be impressed by when trying the kit out. The barrier to entry, however, is high, and most players will never have the means to afford a drum set this expensive.

The DWe is state-of-the-art, featuring wireless triggering—something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime on an electronic drum set. The beautiful finishes leave little to be desired, and the DW Soundworks app has many customization features, allowing you to create the perfect drum sound tailored to your taste.

Hopefully, DW will soon release a standalone trigger system for acoustic drum sets that will allow drummers to convert their existing drum sets without spending a fortune on DWe Collector’s Series shells. The future for electronic drums is bright—this is just the start.

Thanks for reading, let me know your thoughts on the DWe system down below in the comments.

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