My Journey with FreeDrum

A few weeks ago, I received a package from Sweden.
When opening this package, I got a free drum kit?
Can't remember ordering one of those, and my tight finances can't really afford the thing.
It was clearly intended for me, as my name and address and everything were on the label.
Odd, but hey, free stuff is always nice :)
So I decided it might be a review unit, and thus, will review it as described in my Review Gamerules .
A small disclaimer: I'm not a great drummer.
I play the drums occasional with a few songs, but I don't know how to properly play them.
Therefore, I might not be able to give a 100% accurate depiction of how it would be for real drummers.with that out of the way, let's dive straight into it!

Unboxing Experience

The unboxing experience was a no-bullshit experience.
The unit came packed in a simple cardboard box with a nice drawing on it.
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Opening up the box, there wasn't a whole lot either.
Which in my opinion, definitely is a plus point as it keeps waste material down.
All I found was a little piece of cardboard with all the stuff underneath it.
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Lifting up the cardboard and removing the drumsticks as well (which had the sensors already slapped onto them) reveals a compartment with my two feet sensors and two charging cables.
This was most likely the Complete kit .
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Taking everything out our set contains the following:

  • 2x Stick sensor

  • 2x Foot sensor

  • 2 Drumsticks

  • 2 Charging cables

Again, fact that the packaging was kept to a bare minimum was a definite plus-point.

Setting up the sensors

Setting up the sensors was easy.
I just downloaded the sensorware app turned on Bluetooth and see the devices pop up.
One little tap would have them connect, after which I was able to hear the sounds when playing.But when looking at their instructional video, I noticed that the iOS version is different than the Android version.
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Android GUI

The iOS looks more like a fully fledged app, while the Android version looks more like a debug tool.
In the comments, however, they said that the actual app is coming for Android later this year
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Guess we'll have to make due for now.

Playing the drums

Playing the drums was quite odd at first.
Normally, I am able to choose the angles my self on how I want my drumkit, but with Freedrum, this, unfortunately, isn't the case.
It works with pre-defined angles:

  • -50°

  • 50°

This means that Freedrum dictates how you play, and you better get used to it.
While playing the hi-hat, I am used to angling my stick upwards a little bit, however, when playing faster (which is kinda normal when you play Metal) Freedrum registers this as a crash cymbal, not the hi-hats.
Which is quite (read: really) annoying.
And yes, I do see that the software and hardware are still quite new, so give them some time to fix it, they are already working on it.
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The snare also had some kind of issue where one time it would register as a regular snare and another time as a rimshot?
Don't know what causes this except I might be hitting the snare too hard?The drumsticks have a special trick, and that is when you twist the stick for the hi-hat, it will open it.
However, due to the weight of the unit, and my loose grip when playing, the stick would twist very often.
Causing wrong sounds to play, or not to play at all.The latency was quite fine, when I was playing, it was barely noticeable to me.
However, I did not like the sounds that were produced by the app.
As somebody who plays metal, the bass drums, snares and crashes kinda felt foreign.
I wish I could change the sounds in the App.
This is possible if you hook it up to a PC or Mac and start your favourite DAW.
The sticks do use the MIDI protocol, and I have been tinkering with this on my Laptop using Ardour, but no success so far (some setup issues)

Charging and Battery life

The charging is rather funky, as there are two devices on 1 USB port (sounds like some vague geek porn) and you need 2 USB ports to charge all 4 devices.
The battery life is quite good, as I only have to charge them once per week under light-mild use.
I mean, I would not expect anything else from something that only reads angles and sends MIDI signals over Bluetooth LE.


So, should you buy a Freedrum kit?
The answer is: it depends.
If you like niche products, then feel free to go ahead, but do keep the hefty price tag in mind.
Else, you should just wait for the future, when more competitors start showing up.Freedrum definitely is a fun thing, but if you want to learn to drum, then go look for an actual drumkit (maybe electronic?).
If you are a real drummer already, you might not like the way Freedrum works, but again, it can be fun to poke around with, and if you're into programming, you might even be able to create an app that works better.For now, these are my ratings:

  • Quality:
    The quality of the sticks and the units feel quite solid.

    Only time will tell how durable they are, but since I hit them quite a bit already without any damage, I think the quality is quite nice

  • Retard proofing:
    There is barely anything you can do wrong with Freedrum in terms of software issues and hardware issues.

    The only downside is that you can put the device into update mode if you press the wrong buttons (I still have no clue how it happened).

    The app picks up a device in update mode nicely and tells you to update it.

    Could be done smarter, but it works.

  • Packaging:
    Minimalistic, simple and effective.

  • Pricing:
    The set is really expensive as for the same price, you could get an actual drumkit.

  • Usability:
    Freedrum still has some major kinks to work out, making the unit quite useless right now.

  • Customizability:
    In Freedrum, drumkit decides how you play.

    I do hope they will add more customizability soon.

  • Worth-it factor:
    To me, it is fun to play with, however, the high price tag and the issues make it that Freedrum gets a 2-cogs on my worth-it factor.

    When we get further into the development of Freedrum, I might create a new review and compare it against this review.

I hope you guys enjoyed this review :)
Again, I'll make another one later down the road to see if it has made any progress, but only time will tell.
If you want to send your own product in for review, then read the Review Gamerules and if you agree with them, feel free to send me a mail :)[g33kout]


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