Electronic drum sets use digital samples to simulate the variety of different sounds that can be produced when a drum is struck in different ways. To simulate the feel of sticks on real drums, manufacturers use either rubber or mesh pads as impact triggers. There are pros and cons to both configurations.
Rubber Pad Construction
Rubber pads are seen on a wide variety of electronic drum kits from different manufacturers. They consist of a disc-shaped impact sensor, which has been covered in a high-density, solid rubber. The rubber is a consistent thickness over the surface of the drum "skin," but it has a raised lip around the outer edge, creating a "rim" like you would see on a regular acoustic drum.
Mesh Head Construction
Mesh heads emulate the construction of acoustic drum heads. They consist of a squat cylindrical wall with a skin stretched tightly across the surface. However, instead of the Mylar or plastic found on acoustic drums, they use a stretchy, flexible mesh that provides some of the springiness and rebound found on an acoustic drum, making the playing experience as close to the real thing as possible.
Rubber Pad Strengths
Rubber pads are, as a rule, much cheaper than mesh heads, and more advanced models allow multi-sample triggering, where striking the pad in different spots produces different sounds. They're also extremely compact by comparison, as they don't require any of the external bracketing to hold the mesh in place. They're thinner, and of a smaller diameter, offering a greater range of options and more freedom when setting up. They're also very solid, having very little in the way of exposed or moving parts. Rubber pads can take a phenomenal amount of punishment and abuse without missing a beat.
Mesh Head Strengths
The playability and realism of a mesh head far surpasses rubber pads. The bounce and response from the flexible mesh surface makes rolls and paradiddles infinitely easier. Their sensitivity is also greatly improved; striking the pads in different places produces a greater variety of sounds. The skins are light enough to produce accurate responses from playing with brushes. The tension of the skin is also adjustable, allowing you to set the appropriate degree of response for your playing style.
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