T. Robinson / M. Carter
"Deeper, Fatter, Warmer…The revolutionary KickPort instantly improves the sound of any bass drum.“ That’s what it says on the front page of the Kickport website. There is endless debate on the internet as to whether the device lives up to its own hype, the merits of using or not using a Kickport, and whether or not it’s all just a gimmick. With that in mind, what we’re out to do here is see if it can live up to that claim on either of the two kits I have on hand and whether there’s any value in this simple addition to your kit.
The Kickport itself is fairly basic, easy to install, and if nothing else, cool looking on the front of the kit.
The package includes the Kickport itself, a reinforcement ring/template, a Kickport decal, and instructions (which can be downloaded from the Kickport website as well along with a PDF for getting the most out of your Kickport).
I installed the Kickport on my Pearl Session kick (22x18, all maple shell) using the existing port hole. I removed the existing port ring and installed the reinforcement ring. My existing port hole was too small so I used an x-acto knife to trim it out. After that I simply followed the rest of the instructions and installation was a pure breeze. Installing on my Mapex Saturn kick (22x20, 2ply walnut, 4ply maple shell) was even easier as the reinforcement ring/guide for porting the head on the Saturn kick was identical in size to the Kickport ring. So it was just a matter of removing the Kickport from my Session kick and inserting it into the existing port hole on the Saturn.
At that point all that I had left to do was take sound samples in order for Mike to do a before and after frequency analysis. I took 8 samples of each configuration (Session kit with and without the Kickport, Saturn kick with and without the Kickport). I made every attempt to make each stroke as identical as possible.
The first thing we needed to do was get a reference sample. This was accomplished using the venerable AKG D112 kick drum mic through a digital console into Reaper.
Results are shown here for the Pearl:
And the Mapex:
Obviously, there’s going to be some tonal variations between the two drums, but we weren’t trying to compare the two, rather just the effect of the KickPort. As you can see, in both drums there are transient spikes around 7k, with the Mapex going further into the higher frequencies. This spike just happens to be in one of the more prevalent frequencies of the bass guitar, rather a nuisance for us sound engineers.
Installing the KickPort, as described above, gives the results for the Pearl:
And the Mapex:
What you will notice immediately, both on the images above, and in listening, is that the transient spikes are smoothed out, and to an extent, upper frequencies (particularly on the Mapex) reduced slightly. What this will accomplish is “getting the kick out of the way”, in effect, lessening the chance of frequency phasing between the kick, bass, and detuned guitars at their lower ranges. It alsolends a much smoother feel to the sound.
Ports like this have been used for years in speaker cabinets (in fact, the KickPort looks very similar in shape to the port on my studio sub) for just that reason: Eliminate higher frequency harshness and “whistle”, while providing a smoother overall experience. I can see this being a very useful tool in both the studio and on the road, where the kick absolutely must punch you in the chest.
To be honest, I was rather surprised at the difference the KickPort made, given that a drum is not a rigid structure like a speaker cab. It moves. That being said, don’t expect miracles, this will not turn your smaller maple kick into a larger mahogany drum.
There’s no magic going on here, it’s simple airflow directing. That said, I would gladly put one of these in any of the session kits I use. It’s all about the control, and this gives you that.
As you can tell by Mikes analysis above the KP does have an affect on the tone coming out of your kick, whether its audible to your ears or not. I've talked with several people that use Kickports and they swear by them. I have used the review sample purchased since I recieved it. At the two shows that the coverband has played where we had an audio engineer running sound he was thrilled that I had one. I've also heard people with the opposite view of the Kickport that say it doesn't really do anything. With all that said, the question becomes: Is it worth it?
There are two ways to answer that.
My personal answer is absolutely. As you can tell by Mike's analysis above he would use one as well. I can say that I will definatley be putting one of these back on my Session kit so no matter what kit I grab, I'll have the Kickport ready to go.
The more subjective answer to this is the Kickport is something that you'll really have to try for yourself in order to determine if it's right for you. If you think it can be of use to you spend the monty and get one. The Kickport retails for $39.95 at most sites I scoured online.
Thanks to the guys at Kickport, most notably Jesse Bradman, for giving us the chance to review the Kickport and their patience as I delt with personal issues keeping me from getting this out in a more timely fashion!