Expensive vs inexpensive gear


Junior Member
Most of the equipment I have is entry level to intermediate and I hardly own any professional gear but I can get a good sound out of almost anything I use with good tuning and using good heads etc. I want a DW kit but currently I'm using a Tama Imperialstar which imo sounds pretty close to the DW. I also have Meinl HCS cymbals atm and I think they sound good, but then again I'm not a professional and I haven't had any chance to replace them with higher end cymbals like A customs or custom K's but I always hear people talking about how expensive professional gear sounds way better than their more affordable counterparts. So my main question is if I'm okay with how everything sounds now should I get some of this great gear soon or should I wait till I get a chance to really hear a difference before I decide to make a switch


Silver Member
Many of the pro drummer out there could kill on a lower-end kit. Many drummers say that it's 90% heads and tuning. I have a Tama Superstar from 2006 and it sounds good to me so I keep it. If it sounds good to you then play it like crazy and ENJOY!


Platinum Member
Your ears change over time. I mean that both in a physical sense, and in the sense that your taste for sounds will change. If what you have right now sounds good to you, and it works for your playing situation, by all means, play it and enjoy it!


I agree in a sense, A Tama Imperialstar or Pearl export can easily sound good and I would have no problem playing them out or owning one but if you sat those same drums right next to a DW collectors or yamaha RC same tuning with no mic's you would most definetly hear a difference.


Many of the pro drummer out there could kill on a lower-end kit. Many drummers say that it's 90% heads and tuning. I have a Tama Superstar from 2006 and it sounds good to me so I keep it. If it sounds good to you then play it like crazy and ENJOY!
I totally agree. Exclusive drums are fun, but Tama Imperialstar, all though not the most exclusive, are not bad drums. It doesn't hurt to go to the store and try out different kits, but the important thing is that you are content.


Gold Member
I play on a Pearl Export and it sounds great. There's that part of you that wishes you could own great stuff and you can imagine yourself tearing it up on the most expensive kit and cymbals you can find, but that part tends to lose out to the part that checks your bank account. Buy what you can while doing your best to sound good regardless of your equipment.

Then again...

If you happen to come across some cash, and you've been looking at this nice new ride, and buying it wouldn't really do anything but help, and it's the only one your shop has, etc. etc., go for it.

Protip: You can be less picky with drums because sound quality is mostly determined by heads and tuning. You only need to worry about hardware and shell construction for the most part. Cymbals, on the other hand, are something you cannot afford to be cheap with. A crummy cymbal will sound like a crummy cymbal, no amount of tuning can help you there. Scrounge eBay for nice picks and BUY USED.


Platinum Member
I agree in a sense, A Tama Imperialstar or Pearl export can easily sound good and I would have no problem playing them out or owning one but if you sat those same drums right next to a DW collectors or yamaha RC same tuning with no mic's you would most definetly hear a difference.
Agreed. Cheaper drums don't always give back what you put into them if you know what I mean. I've had better drums than I have now and although I like them, I do hear and feel a difference. But that doesn't mean they can't do the job.

Kenny Allyn

Senior Member
Many players here and everywhere are quite taken with the SONOR Safari micro kit with its "select hardwoods" ...
count me as one at 339.00 out the door it's hardly expensive!

Pearl Exports ... there are more out there than any other drum kit, I have a 2002 set that was had for 39,99 (for the 5 piece shell pack)
and it too sounds pretty darn good tuned right. I have a buddy who is a local pro player that has had the same Exports for over 20 years,
and that is all he uses.

There are so many great mid-level kits out there that would have been high end pro kits just a few years ago. In my estimation a lot of
the working pro and semi pro players I know are using kits that hover in the 1,500 to 2,000 range for the kit cymbals hardware and all.

Here is a picture of my old SONOR 3007 maples with Bill Marshall at the wheel at a recent recording session. Bill was Hank Jrs drummer
for 23 years so I think he qualifys as pro ... and he is using the 3007s for a lot of his gigs these days. It is so much heads tuning and the
player once you get down to it.


keep it simple

Platinum Member
I agree with everyone so far. If your existing stuff sounds good, then enjoy it. If you really must spend money on better gear, do so on cymbals first, then maybe a snare drum. There's no short cuts with cymbals, & nothing you can do to make them sound better, other than play them well.

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I have not bought any new drums and cymbals for the past 23 years, with the exeption of consumables such as drum heads, drumsticks, rods and, just recently, a new bass drum pedal.

I own a Tama Artstar II with maple shells which at the time of purchase was a top of the line kit.

I've never felt the need to purchase a new drumset such a great kit I feel it is.

I'm a fan of drumming and drums, so I always make it my business to stay informed on what's new in today's drum (and cymbal) market. I'm impressed with the quality and material used in intermediate drumkit nowadays, it's definitely a match if not a better standard than my old faithful Tama, and I'm sure that with the right heads combo and tasteful tuning, today's intermediate level drums will sounds as good as higher lines drumkits.

Having said that, it is the drummer which make a drums sound good or bad, I had the experience during a small music festival years ago were a pro drummer played on my drumset, he only brought his own drumsticks, and during his show with his band I couldn't believe what I was hearing, it was my drums, my tuning, my cymbals and guys I can tell you that this drummer produced amazing sounds from my kit that I never knew possible to achieve, it was such a lesson for me, it's the drummer, not the drums. And it is because of that experience, my view regarding changing gears every couple years has changed forever.
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Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Many of the pro drummer out there could kill on a lower-end kit. Many drummers say that it's 90% heads and tuning.
I pretty much agree with that. There are shell structure issues that can cause a drum to be dead, but as long as the edge is cut consistently and the heads seat flat against it, almost any drum has a shot at making a usable sound.

That said, there are obviously different levels of quality and care taken while crafting drums, and some drums do sound better more often than others. But I'd say most drums can make at least a good sound. If the Imperialstars sound good, keep 'em!



Platinum Member
Expensive drums can be tuned badly and sound like crap. Conversely, cheap drums can be tuned well, and sound amazing.

Cymbals, not so much. You're much more likely to "get what you pay for" in that department. I've gotten lucky on some cheap cymbals before, as each one is a bit unique, but quality and good sound is somewhat more consistent with more expensive cymbals.

One other thought is that you may be after a certain sound you like, and perhaps the wood in your shells is geared towards another sound category. I suppose that might be one thing to move me towards more expensive shells, if I was after the sound produced by say, bubinga, I might end up paying for a more expensive kit.

As well, on the bottom end of the cheapo kit spectrum, you might find shoddy workmanship that ruins any chance of a drum sounding good. Split plies or questionable bearing edges are probably not going to sound "good" regardless the tuning.


Junior Member
Well my kit does sound great even if it isn't the most expensive. It's just so tempting to want to have a great custom kit with professional cymbals. Thanks for the advice.


Platinum Member
Good sound is good sound and thats all that really matters.
Expensive drums do sound great but they only sound a slight bit better than a well made and tuned inexpensive drum.
The difference is marginal and almost undetectable from a few feet away.

Cymbals are a different animal than drums.
I can tune an inexpensive drum until it sounds good but it is painful for me to hit a crap cymbal. Usually it is price that matters when it comes to cymbals. There are however a few exceptions. Some chinas and splashes can be had for cheap and still sound real good.

Snare drums also require a certain level of quality before they sound good.
It isn't necessarily price that dictates snare sound quality either.
There are many great sounding snare drums that don't require a mortgage to own.

There is also inexpensive hardware that performs real well. I have many inexpensive stands that are lightweight and durable.

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
The reason professional gear is so expensive isn't always because it sounds better, either. You have to look at what those drums and cymbals will have to live through too. When we do a show at Disneyland where we're building a stage outside for a show, the drums will show up the day before and if the show is during the day, they're being set up the night before in the cold and condensation. As the night wears on, we install all the lighting and literally, when the lights come on, the stage can become a 80+ degree area in seconds. So the gear has to stand up to these environmental conditions too. Multiply this by how many shows like this you do, and you can see why buying a heavily used pro kit might not be such a great idea - they're pretty thrashed by the time the tour is over! The kit I use for my Disney gig is actually bolted to a moving float and lives there in a cold warehouse at night, and then is exposed to the sun for an entire day sometimes.

It's easy to think in terms of what you expose a kit to and wonder why you'd need pro-level stuff - I used to make that mistake too. But you start doing high-powered shows and tours, you might be better off with letting management provide the drums for you and you play those - leaving your nice stuff at home. I have both a Tama Starclassic Bubinga Elite kit (top of the line) and a Pearl EXR Export, and both sound great. I doubt the Pearl's could handle too many extreme temperature changes before the shells just start to distort.


Platinum Member
Bo brings up the point of how much drums can take in the way of environmental circumstance.
I live in New England and I frequently leave my inexpensive kits in my car in bags for several days and nights during the week.
My drums can go from temps that are in the range of 0 degrees F to 140 degrees F.
None of my kits seem to suffer from this constant abuse that I put them through.
Drums are tough!

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
My Imperialstar set from the 70's sounded better than my Rockstar set from the 90's. I've always put my drums through hell and never had any problems. With inexpensive drums you don't have to worry about things like bags and cases. Just shove them here and there, kick them, throw them around, leave them in the car for a few days, it don't matter. I do take care of my cymbals though and only buy really good ones now.

Kenny Allyn

Senior Member
I dunno some of those old Pearl Exports are pretty tuff ...

This picture is from my famous (or infamous as the case may be) $39.99 Pearl Export kit. It shows the water damage in the floor tom, when I bought it
why the kit was only thirty nine bucks. it's a wrapped kit made of poplar wood and even with the water damage never went out of round, kept its bearing edges and wrap ...

It took about three weeks of restoration but no permanent damage it is now used weekly as the community kit at our weekly blues jam.
When we play out on the patio it is used full size, and then converted to a micro kit when we move inside for the winter months.
Might not be Disney tough but it stays in my unheated garage and truck all of the time in only non padded Beato bags. It has proven tuff and durable,
sounds good and keeps its tune well.

This how it looks now in both configurations ... the free floater snare did not come with the kit BTW



Senior Member
This is a great topic.You love the sound you have BUT feel you are supposed to be moving forward to higher end gear.
We live in a world where we buy a new toy before the previous one was even broke in yet.There was nothing wrong with the older one,we were simply well informed about another make or model that is a must have.So we become obsessed with the idea of getting one,even if it doesnt sound the same to you.You know what I mean?Kind of like,"I love the sound of what I have,but apparently I need to be seen with these to be taken seriously"

Dont do that.

If you love your sound,then youve arrived.Nobody else has your taste.Top of the line gear seems to automatically be marketed as if its the flavor everyone should enjoy,but thats not even remotely true either.I have played 20,000 dollar guitars,that do nothing more than a souped up 400 dollar guitar,aside from looking pretty.

I see alot of it on here..."oh you have been playing long enough that you should be using these cymbals,and this Roland for your bedroom...any thing less than a black beauty is a waste of money"
That is nothing more than specific people arriving at their sound.All it does is confuse the kid who is totally happy with his sound,yet doesnt own any of that list.Its no different than saying "You want to be driving this model of BMW,and living in this House"
Sure that car may be fantastic,and the house a landmark,but its still just someone elses preferences.If youre completely comfortable in a Cadillac,and your cozy two bedroom country home,then by all means leave it at that.