Hope you’ve been practicing your paradiddles. Synesthesia today unveiled a new digital drum pad called the Mandala. Compromising the drum trigger itself and a “brain” that handles MIDI configuration and produces sound, the Mandala lets you play either internal sound presets or external MIDI devices and soft synths on an 11″ circular playing area. Pick up some sticks, strike away, and you get 7 independent zones of MIDI data, so you can assemble a very sophisticated performance with this device alone. TOOL’s Danny Carey was involved in the instrument’s development, and the company Synesthesia has a background in building sensors for musical applications, including the D-Beam IR sensor found on many Roland products. This appears to be their first end user product.

Synesthesia’s site has some great video clips of the drum in action, plus complete specs and documentation:

Synesthesia Mandala Drum

Digital drums aren’t anything new, but this does look like it might be a top-flight instrument, particularly in terms of its performance specs (response time and sensitivity to velocity and position). The configuration options are unusually advanced. There are extensive options for people who want to use the Mandala as a standalone instrument (hence, lots of presets and even a full effects and modulation section), but there are also lots of options for creating zones and other settings for controlling other instruments via MIDI — I imagine some people will pick it up as a front end to their computer.

For an entirely different take on how to approach digital drum instruments, see the Zendrum covered here previously. (That instrument uses your hands instead of sticks. I’m sure some of you would love to have both in your studio. I hope to revisit the Zendrum soon, so stay tuned.)

The whole thing would fit easily in a bag (only a few pounds for both units). Price: US$995.