Drum Vibe


Matt Bo Eder

I've been spouting the coolness of Pearl's Reference Pure drums for some time now (at least the last two years). But I've always had some kind of vintage drum around the house too. I'm not going to say I've had an epiphany, but I'm wondering if anyone else has noticed this as well.

I took my Pearl's to a gig and while good, the sound was just very controlled and focused - exactly why I have them. But the gig itself was a bar gig, and although I was plenty loud, it wasn't scary, out-of-control loud. As good as the drums sounded on the gig, it felt like driving a car with a governor on the engine.

Next gig, I take the 1980s Ludwig kit with the 6-ply straight maple shell, and with the same heads (albeit a bigger bass drum), BOOM. There's that out-of-control vibe I wanted on the last gig. I think Neil Peart talked about this when he decided to go with Ludwig back in the 80s. He said he felt the drums were just enough out-of-control, and had to be carefully tuned, to make the drums just come alive.

I also remembering reading an old interview with Loverboy's Matt Frenette who said he had a new kit on a tour, and they ended up sending that kit home in favor of his old Ludwig maple kit too.

Now I'm not sure if I'm being influenced by what I've read, but I feel like I'm coming to the same conclusion. I don't need pinpoint focused tone. I want it to be a little scary, and I want the drums to just explode. I know these are all subjective terms, but the Pearl kit is not scary. It refuses to sound bad regardless of how I tune it, or whatever heads I use. The old Ludwigs, with the same heads, will sound bad if I don't tune them just right (but they hold it where you tune it).

What's even stranger is I had this same vibe when I had those newer Ludwigs I bought new in 2012 - those were not tame and sounded bad when tweaked wrong, but the explosion and the vibe was there.

Is this marketing talking? Or has anyone else noticed this? Perhaps those of you with both a new kit and an old vintage kit can pipe in on this one? I've played vintage Ludwigs now for most of my life and I keep leaning back on that sound regardless of where I go new. So I can't be crazy, right?


Platinum Member
I don't think you're crazy!

The nature of drums and they way they're made give them a unique balancing act between sound qualities that are not as agreed upon as other instruments.

When drums sound wild, we perceive them as needing to be more tame to be able to fit into our notion of what a good drum sounds like, and those notions do change, but when drums acquire a more sophisticated sound, they might lose a little bit of their "soul", or special "sound" to accommodate a modern usage like near-field recording that can now capture a lot more headroom.
Maybe those old drums had more "explosiveness" because it worked well with the analog gear at the time and gave good saturation when the transients were high.

I'm thinking of the Scott Fish article with Jim Gordon playing 'You're so Vain' by Carly Simon and really bashing the toms to get that explosive "room" sound.
There's a bit of drum distortion on those loud parts that recorded really well.

Maybe it's the thinner shells on modern drums that keep them from from getting too loud, but maybe also it's the combination of the modern build that keeps them clean and focused, sacrificing the offensive nature of the older drums.

Maybe that offensive nature was not really a bad thing in retrospect.

Oh, and maybe it's also just because Ludwig shells are boomy and explosive!
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Silver Member
I don't know nothin' 'bout nuthin' but....

When I pull my '67-'69 Rogers out they definately have a different "vibe" than my '99 Tamas... Lots of difference in the kits for sure but this goes beyond those physical differences and i to the realm of "character" or even, dare I say "spirit"?

The Rogers just seem to command attention; they just "boom" when I lay into them.

The first time I really realized this was in a HS gym for a battle of the bands 100 years ago, in 1979. We were warming up and I was just banging away on the toms and hammering the bass drum listening to the room reverb. Bunch of older guys came up and were like-"what the heck kit is THAT?!" (They all had Ludwigs and Slingerlands, maybe even a Sonor...most, if any, had not ever heard a Rogers before).

Nothing feels better than gettng that kind of attention. Lol

Who knows...maybe it is all in my head?


Platinum Member
I think there has to be something to it. I'm repeating myself, but I was never a gear-head when I was younger and the nostalgia of playing vintage drums or brands meant nothing to me. I preferred new stuff with sturdy hardware and more modern design.

Then I started shopping for new drums seven or eight years ago. I tried almost everything available. And I was shocked to find I liked Ludwig the best. I liked the new ones as much as the vintage, so I bought them. I can't really explain it, but there was something about the sound. Again, I don't think there was any susceptibility to brand preference with me, because I never cared what brand Ringo or Bonham played.

I believe the sound of those classic drums has come to define what drums are supposed to sound like to many of us, if for no other reason than that's what all that classic music was made with. It's hard to escape that history.

So the mojo is real, in my opinion.


Platinum Member
I'm going to make a general statement that I believe to be 100% true:

Ludwig just makes freakin' loud drums. Period.

They are always louder than anything else. Always.

I have a set of Centennials that I had to put pinstripes on to tone them down. But, I love them.



Silver Member
I can't speak really to the vintage aspect except for the Ludwig Walnut Thermogloss kit I had in the early 70's when I was gigging heavy. They were new but became vintage pretty quickly because of the all work I was doing. Ludwig has always had a reputation for volume and projection. Mine sounded great. I have to say though I don't miss those buggers. The hardware was the worst. Love - Hate with the Speed King pedals too. 30 years of Ludwig was enough for me.

I personally don't get all hot and sweaty over vintage kit vibe. You can get raucous sounding modern drums as well as laser focused kits. The choices today are nothing short of unbelievable. If one finds shell compositions they like, proper heads and know how to tune, anything's possible.


Platinum Member
I totally agree with this.

There something nice about an old Ludwig, the bearing edges are non-existent but with a bit of TLC they sing. Kind of makes it boring when you have that kit that tunes itself :)


Platinum Member
Love Ludwigs. They have that particular sound. Brash and bold when tuned up, or beefy when tuned down. And you can find a vintage 60s kit for a not-crazy amount.

The biggest difference between Ludwigs, new or old, and other high-end kits, is:

The hoops.

Ludwigs have triple flanged, lightweight hoops, which allow for a more open, lively sound. By contrast, heavier hoops found on high end new kits (i.e. Pearl Reference, Gretsch Reknown/USA/NewClassic, Yamaha MCA, Sonor SQ2, and so on) lend a more focused, controlled sound. The drum heads are less free to vibrate.

So, Bo, your analysis makes perfect sense. If you want loud and brash, Ludwig is a good choice.

Gretsch has struck a very, very nice dynamic with the 302 hoops, which have a sort of a double flanged design, on its Brooklyn series. They're a bit more controlled than Ludwigs, but they really open up nicely when you lay into them. They sound more like Ludwigs than USA Customs or Broadkasters, and that is a good thing.


Platinum Member
Perfect example is the Brown Album by Primus.

They got hold of a Jellybean Vistalite and recorded the album with that.

Unfortunately they didn't really know how to control it and all the drum tracks are clippy and distorted as hell but it works.