The manufacturer Redison has had a virtual drum set on the market for some time, which consists of sensors for the drum sticks and the feet, as well as a suitable Senstroke app, which is available for both iOS and Android.
I had already presented Senstroke in a recent post here, but since Redison provided me with a Senstroke Ultimate Box for a test on request, I would like to talk a bit more about the practical use today.
The box was free for me, but I therefore do not write after the mouth of the manufacturer, but would like to convey my experience with the set unadorned. The manufacturer also had no influence on the article and could not see it before publication.
The Senstroke box already has a nice visual appearance, but the sensors also have a very high-quality finish (photos: Sir Apfelot).
Senstroke – bad reviews at Amazon
If you look at the 30+ reviews for the Senstroke Kit on Amazon, you’ll certainly be surprised that the product has received pretty mixed reviews. I contacted the Redison press agency and asked for these reviews.
The feedback was that the support basically takes care of the people with technical problems so that they can be fixed. As a rule, however, it is users with Android devices who call in to support, he said. Due to the different device models for Android smartphones and tablets, it is particularly difficult for developers here to assess on which hardware their app will run. Apple, on the other hand, has a manageable number of models whose hardware cornerstones are well known.
Optimizing the app is therefore probably easier on Apple devices – which is why the app runs smoothly here for most users. So if you own a current iPhone or iPad, you can sit back and relax and rejoice.
Another point is that the sensors keep getting firmware updates. Thus, the reliability and the function of the sensors is also improved more and more. It may be that the reasons for bad reviews have long been eradicated, but of course the reviews remain.
Playing drums on banana, beverage can and chip bag – Youtuber COOP3RDRUMM3R demonstrates it.
Playing drums on bananas and pillows
With the Senstroke sensors and the matching app, you can make a drum kit out of anything: bananas, chip bags, pillows, chairs, or even – appropriately gently – sleeping pets. Like this (not the one with the pets!) works, you can see on some Youtube videos of Senstroke or Youtubers. I have compiled and linked a small list of videos worth seeing and hearing here:
– from COOP3RDRUMM3R – from Senstroke – from Senstroke
- For beginners: Redison Drum Lessons #1 – by Senstroke
- For beginners: Redison Drum Lessons #2 – by Senstroke
- For beginners: Redison Drum Lessons #3 – by Senstroke – by Electronic Drum Advisor
Here you can see what all is included in the Ultimate Box package.
Which Senstroke is not..
If you get a Senstroke set because you think you can replace a drum set with it, you won’t be happy. No matter how good the sensors are and what the app comes up with: It won’t feel like a real drum pad, and it won’t sound like one either.
You can’t hit the metal edge of the snare to make a different sound, and you can’t feel the sticks bouncing off the drum kit when you’re drumming on a cushion. And of course it doesn’t sound 100% like a real drum kit either. But it’s as close as sensors and an app can get, I guess.
Founded in 2017, French startup Redison describes its motivation for developing Senstroke like this:
When we created Senstroke, our goal was to make a complex and impractical instrument accessible to everyone. What guides us today is extending this idea to other areas. The drums and music are the first steps that anticipate many future innovations.
The Senstroke sensors are designed to allow you to play on the go (or at home) with a drum set – without having one. All you need are the sticks, the sensors and a smartphone with the Senstroke app, Logic Pro, Garageband or any other digital audio workstation. Ok, headphones or speakers would still be good, as the sound on the smartphone is rarely convincing.
By the way, how to use Senstroke with Garageband is explained in this tutorial by Senstroke.
With the Ultimate Box you have everything you need to play drums with hands and feet.
What is included in the Senstroke Ultimate Set?
- 2 drumsticks with 2 sensors
- 2 sensors with velcro for the feet
- 1 flexible drum pad
- 1 dual USB cable to charge two sensors at a time
- 1 adapter for a bass drum pedal
- 1 carrying bag
In the home office, you strap the sensors to your slippers and use them to trigger the bass drum or any other part of the drum set – after all, you have two sensors for your feet and two for your sticks.
How the Senstroke sensors work
The Senstroke system works via Bluetooth, with the iOS app doing the pairing itself. You don’t have to go into the Bluetooth menu like you do with Bluetooth headphones. To pair, you start the Senstroke app on iPhone or iPad and then turn on the individual sensors.
The sensors appear in the app and if you tap on the icons of the sensors in the app, they are paired. In my case, all the sensors wanted to do a firmware update first, which took a few minutes and was also installed via the app. The whole process is relatively self-explanatory and works reliably.
The sensors can be connected via the app with a tap. The battery indicator is also visible there.
Calibration of the Senstroke sensors
Without calibration, the accuracy of the sensors is not given. Inaccuracies show up by playing wrong notes because Senstroke "thinks" you played on a different drum part. This can even go as far as not detecting strokes and leaving them completely unresponsive to the app.
So calibration is important so you can enjoy your Senstroke set and not throw it in the corner in frustration because it doesn’t do what you want it to do.
Before each session, calibrate the sensors on the sticks and the feet.
How does the calibration work?
There are three types of calibration in the app. The first one, which is asked more often, is to point with both sticks parallel to the middle drum while pressing the buttons of the sensors. This calibration shows the sticks their current position again.
For the second calibration (for the gyroscope), you place the sticks on a flat surface (without vibrations) and trigger the calibration in the app.
The third calibration adjusts the magnetometer and is done by rotating the sticks (one at a time) around themselves in all possible directions.
The calibration of the magnetometer is more complex, but you don’t have to do it so expertly as it is shown here. I just spin the sticks funny in my hands and that’s how it works…
While the first two calibrations are actually relatively quick, the calibration of the magnetometer requires a bit more time. I need per sensor ca. 30 seconds for it and have thought several times that the app has crashed, or I’m doing something wrong. A progress bar would be great here, so you can see that something is happening.
Latency? Not to feel!
The point with which a virtual drum pad stands or falls is the latency that passes between the beat and the playback of the sound. If this is too high, the whole game is no fun.
On Senstroke, although I was seriously worried about the connection via Bluetooth, it is surprisingly low. I couldn’t feel any latency when trying it out with the Senstroke app, but it will probably be measurable. However, I have read that Apple’s devices are better here. Among users who use Senstroke with Android devices, a small part probably struggles with noticeable latency and connection problems.
On my iPhone 12 Pro Max, this all ran without any delays. If you play with a DAW, you should choose GarageBand, according to Senstroke, because it has the lowest latency. I assume Logic Pro – which is also from the house of Apple – should perform similarly well.
The Senstroke sensors are not permanently mounted on the drumsticks, but can be plugged onto other sticks as well.
The "Learning" section in the app
Especially for beginners or advanced users is the "Learn" section good. Here is a kind of game, as you know it from Guitar Hero. On a bar come the corresponding "Notes" flies at you and you have to play it at the right time. There are simple and also quite complex rhythms for the exercises, and in addition you can set the speed freely. Here’s how to approach heavy exercise slowly.
With the "learning-mode, you can improve your drumming, and by clicking on the "Exam" button, you can play your drums even pass a small test.
Suggestions for improving the Senstroke app
Technical changes do not have to be made to the sensors from my point of view. Both feet and drumsticks work reliably and pass the signal to the app incredibly quickly.
With the app itself, on the other hand, I would have a few ideas about what could be improved. I list them briefly here and maybe someone from Redison will read about it and pass on my ideas to the app developers.
- Magnetmeter calibration takes much longer than gyroscope calibration. A progress bar would help here, that one knows as a user, it still happens something.
- In the "Learning" section, it would be great if you could listen to the exercises played out properly. As a user, I would be interested in what it would have to sound like. I have to correct myself: Next to each exercise there is a small play button. With it you can listen to the exercises.
- Again in the "Learning" section: The BPM value has to be adjusted again and again. It would make things a lot easier if you could set the "global" value lower or if the app would remember what you had set for each exercise.
- Again, "learning": with complex exercises, you might want to practice only certain parts of the drum set individually. This could be realized by hiding single tracks, which then don’t appear in the exercise.
- Again "learning": It would be helpful for the overview, if you could save exercises as a favorite or if the last exercises were available in a list. Currently, you always have to click through the categories to get to the appropriate exercise.
- In the "Play" section: Changing existing drumset configurations is not possible – or I didn’t understand how to do it. Instead you always have to create a new configuration. All in all the process seems to me not very intuitive.
The app for Senstroke is already quite polished, but a few small things could be improved – I’m sure the team will keep at it.
My conclusion to the Senstroke sensors
I’m not a drummer – although I always wanted to learn to be one. This is why I was so fascinated by the original report on Senstroke. In the end, the size of the drum set and the associated noise pollution of the surroundings made me rather flirt with keyboard or ukulele. Why I mention this? Because I surely can’t deliver such a well-founded test report as a "real" one could Drummer can.
I can give an opinion about the latency and the setup of the sensors or even an opinion about the app, but if you can really work with Senstroke as a professional, that is beyond my estimation.
Therefore, it is good that there are already some opinions in YouTube from such "professionals" and they turn out very good for Senstroke. Only the Android app is criticized again and again.
All you need to play drums is your iPhone, your Senstroke set and things to bang on.
There is little to complain about with the iOS app, because it works very well and is also quite intuitive. The "Learn" section offers exercises from simple to complex and ensures that even beginners – like me – can use it to get a taste of the instrument "drums".
The bottom line is that the Senstroke sensors with the kit are a well-rounded package. On various Youtube films you can see the set in the hands of drummers and here I was impressed by the simple operation and the good sound that the set already delivers with its own app. If you then use Logic Pro or similar programs, there are no limits to the sound, because then you can also select other drums or completely different instruments.
If you don’t have room for a drum set but would like to try out drumming, Senstroke is just as good for you as a professional player who would like to practice again in the hotel room in the evening. I find this flexibility and the fact that you are even independent of an electrical outlet particularly remarkable.
If you are interested in Senstroke, I would recommend the Ultimate Box, which contains a total of four sensors and thus also includes two for the feet. A drum pad and two sticks are included, as well as a small carrying case, an adapter for a bass pedal and a matching charging cable.