Electronic drum kits are slowly and steadily creeping into the lives of drummers everywhere because basically… they’re quiet. So when you need to practice without incurring the wrath of your neighbors, they’re a great option.
Also, they’re relatively inexpensive compared to full-sized, quality acoustic drum kits and all the cymbals you need. And with their ever-expanding modules, e-drums can give you access to hundreds of sounds and dozens of kits all in one piece of equipment.
So, who makes good electronic drum kits?
Simmons is one brand that you’ve probably heard of in the electronic drum world, although the history is complicated. These days, Simmons produces five different electronic kits, and the SD1200 is close to the top of their range.
In this Simmons SD1200 Expanded Kit review, I’ll take an in-depth look at this kit from every angle to help you decide if it’s the best electronic drum kit for you.
Who Is Simmons?
The brand name Simmons has been on electronic drums since its early days in the 1970s. And in the 80s, Simmons kits, like the legendary SDS-V and the revolutionary SDX, were some of the most widely used electronic drum kits heard in popular music.
However, through the 90s, drummers got tired of the limitations of electronic drums, and the company ended up closing in 1999. But, Guitar Center bought the Simmons brand name in 2005 and started to produce Chinese-made kits that were affordable with up-to-date electronics.
While these new kits used the Simmons name and SD model numbers, they’re not related to the old 80s kit. Simmons now produces electronic drum kits, amps, triggers, and other accessories related to this market.
Overview of the Simmons SD1200 Expanded Kit
According to Simmons, this is a premium electronic drum kit. The price tag is pushing $1000, which puts it into direct competition with other kits from perhaps better-known brands like Roland and Yamaha. As well as up-and-coming brand Alesis.
So what does it have to offer?
First of all, I need to explain why this is called the “Expanded” kit. The basic SD1200 is a 5-piece kit on a rack system. It comes with a 12” snare and stand, two 8” toms, and a 10” floor tom, plus a 6” kick drum pad on a vertical tower.
The kit also includes a 12” crash and a 14” ride. The hi-hat cymbal pad is 12” and comes complete with a foot pedal controller. Unfortunately, there is no kick pedal included here and no drum throne.
However, the Expanded Kit gives you two more components. You get another 10” floor tom pad and a second 12” crash. So, the Simmons SD1200 Expanded Kit is a 6-piece drum kit with four cymbal pads.
The cymbal pads are all your typical rubber-armored plastic discs. The drums, though, have tension-able double-layer mesh heads. These heads give you the right amount of bounce and feel just like acoustic drum heads.
However, the bass drum pad is constructed differently. While it’s covered in the same mesh surface for continuity, this pad is a sandwich of foam and durable plastic. You can’t adjust the tension in this pad at all.
The feel is a lot less bouncy than a typical acoustic kick drum. And this will take some getting used to for the average drummer.
Important to note…
Every snare and tom pad is dual-zone. So, when you play a head hit versus a rim, you’ll get two different sounds. This can give you either a more-realistic replica of an acoustic kit or a whole bunch more trigger zones for more sounds.
The crash cymbals are billed as dual-zone as well, although this is a bit deceiving. The cymbals only have a single zone to play on, but they do have a choke strip around the whole edge. So you can use your hand or even stick pressure to choke off the cymbals’ sustain.
Likewise, the so-called “triple-zone” ride is a dual-zone cymbal with a choke strip as well. The ride has two zones, divided between the bell and shoulder areas to let you play with a lot more texture.
Simmons still shines…
Finally, the SD1200 module used here is the real brains behind the operation. This module comes with a library of 764 sounds that include acoustic kits, percussion from around the world, and even vintage Simmons e-drum sounds.
These voices are arranged into 50 preset drum kits and another 25 programmable user kits. You can import your own samples to further expand the sound library. You can also record with this module and communicate with your DAW or other instruments through MIDI-via-USB.
Simmons SD1200 Expanded Kit Review – Top Features
It’s time to do some evaluating. I want you to see how this kit performs in detail and what it can let you do so you can compare it to other electronic kits.
Construction and Durability
Aside from the snare, which comes with a standard snare stand, and the kick drum tower, all the other components of this kit are mounted on the rack. Unlike most other brands, Simmons has chosen to tip their hat to the hex pads of the SDS-V by going with hexagonal steel tubing rather than round.
This is a smart idea because it means the chances of your clamps slipping around the tubing are reduced to zero. The clamps for the toms are solid and keep the drums in place. I just wish there was more ability to adjust the height of these pads and not just the angle of the heads.
The cymbals use rubber-armored plastic sheets. Simmons has gone through the trouble of putting artificial lathing and hammering marks on the cymbal pads to make them look the part. They’re also heavier and feel more sturdy and lifelike than many other cymbal pads I’ve tried.
All of the cymbals are on boom stands, even the hi-hats. Meaning you can get yourself the ideal position for every one of them.
The kick drum tower is solidly built and comes with rubber lining on the bottom and optional carpet spikes. This thing isn’t going anywhere. However, it’s a foam and plastic sandwich covered by mesh. This foam tends to move around and can even start to dent after you play it for a while.
This can affect triggering. And, it means you’ll probably want to stick on a protective pad over this area to improve its durability.
You can also just fit a 2-beater double-bass pedal onto the 6” kick pad. Space is tight because you also need the two beaters as perfectly centered as possible to properly trigger the pad. But it can be done. The whole kit seems like it will stand up to a serious beating, stay in place, and in good shape without any major concerns.
The mesh heads here feel very natural. They respond like regular acoustic heads. And, because you can adjust their tension, you can get them feeling exactly how you want them.
The sounds are triggered accurately here. Where other mesh head kits can be overly bouncy and swing back to create muddled triggering, I don’t see that issue on this kit.
Likewise, the cymbals trigger well and feel pretty realistic compared to actual acoustic cymbals. In other words, this is one of the most accurate feeling electronic drum kits you can buy.
A few areas of concern…
There does seem to be a triggering issue on the ride cymbal. Playing just down from the bell, you’re going to find that there is a loud spot for some reason. In this zone, the ride suddenly leaps out in volume, which is not the way a real ride behaves. You could use tape to flag this zone and avoid it, but that is a hassle.
Choking is also a bit of an issue. The choke strip is very sensitive, and that can be both good and bad. Sometimes you don’t get your stick out of the way fast enough, and it can end up choking the cymbal when you don’t want it to.
The hi-hat pedal…
Always an area on almost every electronic drum kit that takes some getting used to. Some kits use a real hi-hat stand. But, most use an outboard pedal as the SD1200 does.
While this controls the hi-hats perfectly, giving you open, closed, semi-closed, and stomp sounds, it just doesn’t feel like a real stand. In this $1000 or so price range, though, this is a feature you’re going to find on pretty much all kits.
Module and Programmability
The module is pre-programmed with 764 sounds that come from the Simmons Signature Sound Library. Some are weird electronic sounds from vintage kits and other synth sources. However, many of these sounds were professionally recorded by Simmons.
They’re somewhat accurate, but I feel like a lot of the power has been taken out of the sounds through processing. Most of them sound good, but just not big.
Luckily, you can manipulate the pitch shift and shape parameters of these sounds on the fly. Sliders on the console help with this and are pretty unique on an under-$1000 module. You’re also able to import your own sounds.
All you have to do is load up a USB stick with .wav files and assign them to the components you want in your user kits. Or you can simply use Bluetooth for convenience.
Yep, this module has MIDI-via-Bluetooth to help you communicate with your Digital Audio Workstation. You can also record, sequence, and even build your own loops right on the module. Although, with Bluetooth or cable connections, it’s probably easier to just record into your DAW.
And, as usual, there is a click-track metronome built in here to help you stay in time while you practice or record. All told, it’s one of the most versatile electronic drum kits you can buy.
The best part?
Probably the large, full-color LCD screen. It’s very easy to read and navigate through menus when you can see them. You also get nice pictures of the drums represented by the sounds as you load and edit kits.
Finally, Simmons offers you the Simmons Advanced App to further expand your experience with this kit. It lets you edit and manipulate sounds, save your presets, and record directly on your phone or tablet. But you have to use Apple products because the app is currently only available for iOS.
Simmons SD1200 Expanded Kit Review – Pros and Cons
- Wide range of realistic drum sounds and 75 total kits to use.
- Realistic feel on the drum and cymbal pads.
- Big 6-piece, four cymbal kit for a good price.
- Bluetooth connection and an app (only for Apple) for better control of the module.
- Ability to constantly import .wav samples to expand the kit.
- Sliders on the console for making adjustments on the fly.
- The kick pad doesn’t feel much like a real kick.
- No kick pedal or throne included.
- Cymbals can be choked accidentally.
- Ride cymbal has a strange extra-loud zone.
- Sounds in the library seem muted and low-power.
Going to Do Some Drumming?
Well, we can help with that. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Electronic Drum Sets, the Best Beginner Drum Set, the Best Jazz Drum Sets, the Best Drum Practice Pads, the Best Portable Drum Kits, and the Best Snare Drums you can buy in 2022.
If you are searching for a great electronic drum set, don’t miss our detailed Yamaha DTX562K Electronic Drum Set Review, our Alesis Surge Mesh Kit Review, our Roland TD-25KV Electronic Drum Set Review, our Alesis DM10 MKII Review, and our Alesis Drums Nitro Mesh Kit Review.
Simmons SD1200 Expanded Kit Review – Summary
All told, this is a big kit that plays pretty well for the price. There are some playability issues with the cymbal and kick pads, but in general, it works well and has tons of sounds to work with. You can also add your own sounds and communicate with the module via Bluetooth because who needs one more cable.
I’d recommend this as one of the best electronic drum practice kits for any drummer. As a performance or recording kit, it can be a lot of fun but may not be the most reliable professional kit out there. But for the price, you’re going to look hard for a better deal.
Until next time, let the electronic beat go on.