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Direct Drive Bass Drum Pedals | Ultimate guide (2021)

direct drive bass drum pedals

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Direct drive bass drum pedals have become increasingly more popular amongst drummers in the past 10 years. Originally adopted by metal drummers they are now becoming mainstream across drummers of all genres.

In this post, you will find everything you need to know about direct drive bass drum pedals. 

What are direct drive bass drum pedals?

When the term direct drive bass drum pedal is used it is referring to the part of the pedal that connects the footboard and the cam. 

direct drive bass drum pedal explained

Traditionally kick drum pedals use a chain or sometimes a belt to connect the two parts of the pedal whereas a direct drive pedal uses a metal connector and bearings instead. 

The construction of the drive will vary by brand but that is the concept of the pedal.

Why choose a direct drive pedals

There are many different reasons you may want to consider a direct drive pedal vs a chain drive or belt drive. Let’s have a look at the differences below.

How they respond

The main advantage of a direct drive pedal is that they are fast to respond. This makes them ideal for fast playing. Hence why they initially became popular among metal drums who often play at higher tempos.

The main thing to consider is that you will have less power when compared to a chain drive pedal. Chain pedals don’t react as fast but the chain accelerates the beater towards the head with more power. 

direct pedal vs chain drive pedal response

How the beaters return to the starting position

The second thing to consider is that on a direct drive pedal there is no delay between the footboard and pedal returning to their original position. As the connection between them is fixed when the footboard has returned the pedal is ready to go. A chain or strap pedal may have some lag between the board and the beater. 

How much you can customise the feel

In most cases, direct-drive pedals are highly customisable. This means you can tweak the settings in intricate ways you may not get with a chain pedal.

This all depends on the pedal of course but in general, a chain drive pedal has more options to tweak the feel to your liking.

The history of direct drive pedals

Although direct drive kick drum pedals are popular today, they have been around a long time. The first popular direct drive pedal was the Ludwig Speed King. This was released in the 1950s and was a very popular pedal. Many people today still swear by those old pedals. They were manufacturer well and designed to last. 

The next wave of innovation and the increase in popularity amongst metal drummers was lead by Axis pedals. In the 1990s they launched their direct drive pedal. The pedal became very popular due to its speed and how much the pedal could be customised. 

Since the first Axis pedal, more pedals have entered the market. Many of these were smaller companies focusing on pedals but now the larger manufacturers such as Tama and Pearl have their versions of direct drive kick pedals. 

What direct drive bass drum pedals are available today?

There is now a good selection of direct drive bass drum pedals available on the market. Here is a rundown of our top picks and what we think of them.

Ludwig L203 Speed King

This is an updated version of the classic Speed King pedal newly released for 2020. Almost identical to the original, the new version has had a few tweaks to improve performance.

The good

  • A sturdy pedal that has stood the test of time
  • Reasonable price

The bad

  • Only available as a single pedal
  • Limited customisation

Axis Longboards

Axis offer a variety of different pedal to meet each drummer’s requirements. For simplicity, we are going to look at the most popular Axis Pedal, the A Longboards.

These are great pedals that can be tweaked and tailored for your perfect feel. They are also available in multiple finishes and configurations.

The good

  • Highly customisable

The bad

  • Expensive

ACD Unlimited Darwin FTW

ACD Unlimited prides themselves on their extreme attention to detail and quality. They only offer a limited selection of products with the Darwin FTW pedal being one of their main products. It is a great pedal and almost every aspect can be customised to your playing style.

These pedals are also growing fast in popularity and have already been picked up by drummers such as Alex Rudinger and Siros Vaziri.

The good

  • Extremely customisable

The bad

  • Expensive
  • Wait time on products
ACD Unlimited Darwin FTW double bass drum pedal

Trick Pro1-V 

These are possibly the nicest looking bass drum pedals on the market. They are available in many configurations to meet your specific needs and can be customised to meet your playing style.

The good

  • Customisable

The bad

  • Expensive

Pearl Demon Drive Direct Drive

The Pearl Direct Demon Drive pedals are a great option for someone looking for their first direct-drive pedal. They aren’t as customisable as most of the pedals on this list but they come in at a better price point. This makes it a good option to test if you like the feel of direct drive vs a chain.

The good

  • Reasonable price

The bad 

  • No longboard option
  • Not as customisable

Tama Dyna-Sync Series

Overall the Tama pedal is very similar to that of the Pearl Demon Drive. It is a similar price point with similar amounts of customisation. This is another great option for players wanting to try a direct drive pedal.

The good

  • Reasonable price

The bad

  • No longboard option

Our thoughts

I am a huge fan of direct drive bass drum pedals. After switching to them around 10 years ago I can’t see myself ever going back to a chain-drive pedal.

This is of course my opinion though. Each player has their style and aim they want a pedal to achieve. It is extremely hard to explain the feel difference. It is one of those situations where you need to give one a go in person. 

I would recommend visiting a local drum shop to try one out or see if a friend has one you can try. If those aren’t an option consider investing in one of the cheaper pedals, such as the Pearl or the Tama before making the larger investment into a more customisable pedal. 

The author

I’ve been playing the drums for over 15 years and I still love them! I am mostly a metal drummer but I am currently working on groove and applying rudiments to the kit!

4 Comments

  1. I’m with you. I played strap and chain drive pedals for over 50 yrs. and when I tried a direct drive pedal the difference was wonderful.
    The main thing is, there is no latency. You push down, the pedal moves immediately, you release and the pedal comes back instantly. It’s a very positive feeling.
    I bought the least expensive Mapex pedal and used it for years. No problems.

    • That is what I love! Instant response.

  2. Pearl Demon Drives are convertable from short board to long board, and vice versa, without having to buy any other accessories. It’s a trademark feature of there’s. You can also convert them from chain drive to direct drive, or vice versa, by purchasing the direct drive link. (or chain drive link) You can also adjust the beater angle independent from the footboard height, and adjust the footboard height independent of the beater angle. Making them the most configurable pedal out there.

    • Thanks for the comment William! I have only had limited time with the Demon Drives and was unaware of how customisable they were. I’ll make sure to update this post. Do you find yourself switching the boards over a lot?


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