Review: Senstroke – play drums on any surface, anywhere, anytime
Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me.
When I was originally pitched Senstroke, I was pretty stoked to try it out. For those who don’t know me outside of KnowTechie, I’m a drummer with over 20+ years of experience. When I’m not playing on a real acoustic kit, I can usually be found in the garage playing my electronic drumset. It’s a whole lot quieter than the real thing and it allows me to practice at all hours of the night.
And that’s the same promise Senstroke brings to the table. It allows anyone to practice drums anywhere, anytime. With the use of Bluetooth technology, Senstroke sensors are attached to your drumsticks and feet. Any time the sensor senses vibration or impact, a sound is triggered.
On paper this all makes sense, but the application is a whole different story. But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s talk about the setup process.
I have plenty of experience with electronic drums and fine-tuning things to get them to sound like I want. So I figured Senstoke’s setup would be a breeze. And for the most part, it was, but there were times I found myself getting frustrated to the point that I just wanted to give up on the whole process and jump on some real drums.
Regardless of how much experience you have drums with or not, setting everything up from hardware to the app is probably going to take you some time. It did for me, at least.
Mounting the sensors to the sticks is pretty much self-explanatory, as well as the foot sensors. The app essentially walks you through this part. And thankfully, pairing all the sensors with the app is quite effortless. Just tap the button on the sensor and the app instantly recognizes them. From here, you can assign what each sensor does. It could be a right-hand stick, left-hand stick, bass drum pedal, or a high-hat pedal. That’s the easy part.
The part I had some trouble with was when it came to calibrating the actual sensors.
Calibration involves two steps. The first one is laying the sensor directly on a flat surface. That’s the easy one. The last and final calibration process is the one that had me confused. After countless tries, I never got it. I had to visit the Senstroke’s website and watch a video in their help section to figure it out. I imagine most people won’t make the effort to look that up. Thankfully, none of these calibration steps are required, but it’s most certainly suggested.
It’s safe to say, for a guy who runs a tech blog and reviews countless gadgets, I had some difficulty setting this all up. It actually took me some time to get it all ironed out. So my one suggestion here is to fully use the company’s website for any troubleshooting or setup questions. It will save you a lot of time.
So, how does it actually perform? Personally, it’s not for me. Latency is a huge issue when it comes to Senstroke’s performance. For those of you that don’t know, latency, in this case, is the time delay between the moment a drum pad is hit and when a sound is produced by the system. Typically, latency is measured in milliseconds. I can’t give you an exact number when it comes to Senstroke’s latency, but the number is high. There’s a considerable delay.
Now, what I didn’t know before trying and setting this all up is that the company suggests using connected headphones or a physically connected speaker to your smartphone or tablet. For the first couple of tries, I was using my AirPods so the latency was really really high. The sensors themselves are connected via Bluetooth and when you double that up with headphones, it causes increased latency.
When I plugged headphones into my phone, the latency was cut down significantly, but it was painfully obvious that it was still present. I even tried to adjust the sensitivity of the sensor, but that just caused more problems. Personally, for me, I knew I had enough and there was nothing to keep me going forward with it.
See, being a drummer, timing is everything. I couldn’t even keep a simple beat going with Senstroke. It was so frustrating. And after watching some demo videos of the device, I found that every video I watched, none of the drummers could keep a beat to time either. The only way someone could prove me wrong is if they could use this device and play to a metronome at the same time. I couldn’t do it. The latency was too painful.
Would I recommend it?
Probably not. Senstoke can be a lot of fun, sure, but it’s not for a musician who’s trying to craft their drumming skills. This is great for people who just want to make noise or great for a kid who’s just getting into music. For a seasoned drummer, your best bet is getting some basic practice pads or a dedicated electronic drumset. They’ll do you better. Heck, even something simple as a pair of sticks would probably be better.
For the beginners out there, these might be worth it, but eventually, you’ll want to graduate to something better like a real drumset. Remember, timing is everything, and when your strokes are delayed by latency, you’re not learning anything but bad habits, and when you’re learning to play drums – bad habits are a killer. You want to learn the right way and I’m afraid you won’t get that experience with Senstroke.
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Just a heads up, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale. Click here for more. A sample unit was provided to KnowTechie for the purpose of this review.