Out of the Box
When I opened my shipment, I could hardly contain my excitement to play given the glowing reviews of others on this forum. I was not disappointed. The pad does feel great, though its been so long since I played a marching snare it is hard for me to compare directly. But subjectively I was pleased with the feel.
I did notice a very small hole in the Darkmatter near the rim. I was not concerned about it in terms of performance, but I did wonder if it was an expected part of the manufacturing process or a defect which might cause separation of the Darklmatter from the core over time and abuse. I contacted Dave L from OffWorld and provided him with the following picture.
Here was his reply.
As I had hoped, the hole was simply an artifact from the manufacturing process and it likely occurs on all pads. You should never see more than 2 of these small holes. Pads with 3+ are filtered out for cosmetic concerns. Additionally I found OffWorld's customer service to be of the highest quality one could expect. As most readers here know, Dave L is the inventor of the Invader and Owner of OffWorld Percussion.Dave L wrote:Derrick,
Appreciate the detailed shots here, thanks for going to that trouble. Sure.. since the playing surfaces are hand-applied to each pad, there is an area that the material must be released after the pour is complete. This typically results in a small bubble(s) formed as the molten material begins outgassing at that point where the application is complete. Nearly all the units show various degrees of this effect (even the original V3 prototype in my possession). Due to the nature of the way the material sets up and flows, this effect has been refined/controlled to the extent it does not extend throughout the device as a serious visual aberration. On the rare chance we see 3 or more of these events (typically towards the edges of rim) we do filter through multiple times and remove them from the batch as a loss, remaining faithful to the paradigm set for the device since its initial release. Obviously these kinds of units are completely viable as well, as it is not evidential of a long term issue involving the Darkmatter™, but we are dedicated to stay true to the original parameters. In this area, each of the Invaders are literally unique.
Hope this answers the question and let me know if I can be of any further assistance.
HQ ReelFeel 2-Sided Pad (circa mid 90s, no separation of layers though)
VicFirth Hardimon (2 pair, new and old)
NTi Acoustilyzer AL1 sound level meter
Yamaha metronome (used in silent mode)
As you can see in the picture on the right, the measurements were done in a bedroom. This is our guest room in the basement. The SLM was placed at ear height on a music stand (which was covered with a brown sweatshirt). The mic is about 6.5 ft away from the center of the pad. This was done to reduce the effect of changing pads. At close distances, small differences in source-to-receiver distances can be significant. At this distance, the small changes incurred by swapping pads is insignificant. A pillow was placed behind the mic to eliminate the reflection off the back wall (this probably wasn't necessary since I am really only concerned with the change in levels from each measurement). Finally, the pad was placed on top of a large pillow to achieve good playing height without introducing noises from a drum stand (I can hear my Yamaha drum stand making noises while playing). Do note however that the mounting condition of the pad does effect its sound, but keeping this constant will eliminate this variable.
Side Note: I also have 2 pairs of VF Hardimon sticks in both pics above. The older ones are on the left They were in great shape until I let me nephew play around with my v3. He loved hacking on the rim b/c it was loud enough to annoy others. They are now significantly dented and I feel as though one might have a very small crack somewhere inside the wood. So I bought a new pair yesterday and noticed a very large difference in pitch. I wanted to investigate this further since I already had things ready to go for this review. It turned out that the measurements didn't show much difference in the spectrum of sound produced by the sticks, indicating that a finer frequency resolution would be required for comparison, which is beyond the capabilities of this SLM.
Each measurement was 1 min long (timed by the SLM). The SLM was set to measure Leq in 1/3 octave bands (Time Weight: Fast). A-weighting was applied afterwords by me in Excel (the SLM could have measured A-weighting directly, but I wanted to see the unweighted values first). A-weighting reduces the levels of the lower frequencies to mimic the response of the ear (i.e. it tries to make the measurement more representative of what a human hears). All results here are A-weighted.
I had 2 variations of playing, both at 120bpm.
Tap: 16th notes played legato at about 8-9"
Accent: 8th note accent-tap exercise. Accents were nearly full height, taps were gently controlled (not squeezed)
In both cases I found comfortable playing heights relying on muscle memory to keep things consistent.
I primarily used 4 pad variations, though there is a 5th condition used at the end.
v3 - Invader v3
Skinz - Invader v3 with Skinz
HQ(h) - HQ ReelFeel hard side (black)
HQ(s) - HQ ReelFeel soft side (yellow)
v3+HQ - Invader v3 placed on top of HQ ReelFeel
To understand the graphs, please see bolded blue text above.
The graph is roughly arranged to put the quietest things up front. You can see the Skinz is quieter than the HQ(soft) across the entire frequency spectrum. When you take the Skinz off the v3 and flip to HQ(hard) the overall levels are close, but the spectrums are quite different. The v3 is marketed as having a stronger fundamental tone, which can be seen in the 500 Hz 1/3 octave-band. The HQ(hard) has substantially more sound at high and very high frequencies giving it more "slappy" sound. (note, this slappy sound also gives the HQ(hard) more definition, so it is not necessarily a bad thing, it just depends on what you want to hear).
At louder levels the Skinz slightly overtakes the HQ(soft) though their levels and spectrums are very close. The v3 is still slightly louder than the HQ(hard). Also, some of the higher frequencies in the v3 are nearly as strong as the fundamental so it is losing its "pitch" quality, but the very high frequencies are still under the HQ(hard) so it is not quite as sharp in sound.
Now we'll focus on how much sound the Skinz (mute) is actually cutting and compare that to the HQ soft/hard approach. But first you have to know some basics about decibels. 3 dB is just hardly noticeable, 6 dB is very noticeable. A change of 10 dB is doubling the subjective sound level or loudness. 20 dB is a quadrupling of loudness.
In the graph above you can see that the Skinz provides 17 dB of attenuation at lower tap heights, but this attenuation reduces to 8 dB when using higher accents. This agrees with my subjective impressions of the pad. The harder you play it, the more you can feel the Darkmatter underneath. This layered approach gives a very uneven response. The real challenge here is that in order to get good diddles out of the Skinz, you really have to push through the Skinz to get good rebound from the Darkmatter (or rely entirely on your fingers). This makes the Skinz a good way to build your doubles and triples chops, but it can also limit what exercises you can play at fast tempos on the Skinz given the significant reduction in rebound.
Now let's look at HQ. The soft side reduces the level by 10 dB at tap heights and only reduces to 9 dB at accent heights. So at tap heights, the soft side is doing far less than the Skinz, but it does not drop off significantly when playing accents. So the attenuation is more consistent with the HQ(soft) as is the feel of playing on the pad. Since the soft side is one homogeneous layer of gum-rubber, it will respond more linearly than the multi-layer Skinz+v3.
It should be noted that Dave L has gone out of his way to point out that the mute was NOT intended to simulate gum-rubber. I remind readers that this review is primarily comparing their sound levels. I provide my subjective feedback regarding their feel in order to help you understand the differences between the mute and soft gum-rubber. They each have their advantages as evidenced by OffWorlds upcoming gum-rubber pads.
Here I placed the v3 (no Skinz) on top of the HQ. I did this because this is how I prefer to play when mounting in my snare stand. You can see that this reduces the fundamental quite significantly (500 Hz) and several other bands as well. But I don't stack the pads for sound quality reasons, I do it because I get better rebound which is not measurable with a SLM. Still, I was curious to see the spectrum comparison and thought I'd share it since I assume lots of other people stack their pads too.
Finally, the Skinz is also marketed as a mouse pad. In this respect, it performs every function that a mouse pad must perform. It sits securely on a smooth desk. The bottom provides a sufficiently high coefficient of friction to prevent unwanted slipping. The top of the pad is smooth enough to not impede mouse movement, but has enough grip to keep the mouse from moving too fast across the surface.
The Skinz mute by OffWorld Percussion does everything they say it will. As with any product, there are some trade-offs.
Huge reduction in noise at moderate to quiet playing levels.
Helpful reduction in noise at louder playing levels.
Can be used to build diddle chops without pulling out the pillow.
Useful as a mouse pad (the alien will be reminding you to stop messing around on the internet and go practice).
The layering approach used by mutes gives an uneven response across playing heights. This can limit your tempos or dynamics in certain exercises.
The level reduction will not be consistent for varying dynamics.