Thinking of replacing my sonor signatures


Junior Member
A couple of years ago, I finally picked up my dream set, an 80s vintage sonor signature in african bubinga. I guess after playing it for a couple of years, my enthusiasm has waned. I love the bass drum sound, but everything else has very little in the way of dynamics and the bass and toms are so large/deep I can't set the things up the way I'd like (ie I'd like the toms much lower than they are). (I also share the kit with my 10yo).

I play mostly prog metal/rock (dream theater, rush, yes, elp, etc) and want something with more dynamics, with toms that aren't nearly so deep. I play out very little, so would be mostly for home use. What's top of the line in that dept these days? Not looking to go custom built. I intend to shop ebay/craigslist.

Thanks for any recommendations.

Matt Bo Eder

Why don't you just have your toms cut down?

It's hard to recommend anything other than shopping around on your own because there's so many nice kits out there now. And if you want a big set, any manufacturer will love you. I like Ludwig and Pearl stuff, some will like Yamaha and Gretsch, and so on. Every company will make what you already have, but not in super power toms. Tama makes a nice birch/bubinga shell, and even solid bubinga if you want to keep with that. Some companies are only into maple, or birch. Yamaha used to make oak drums. And of course there's acrylics. It's all out there.

Peruse Modern Drummer magazine, or just check out offerings from what your favorite players are using.


Junior Member
What kind of drum sound do you normally enjoy/try to go for? Also, what is your budget? I'll try provide some options that may suit you.

Last edited:


Platinum Member
For some reason, my mind is going towards Yamaha on this one. I don't know why. I just immediately thought of Maple Customs or Absolute Hybrids. Anyway, most any brands top end kits will get you what you are looking for. The big problem with those older Designers are the crazy sizes. I think back in the 80's Sonor was building toms that were deeper than they were in diameter. Some crazy 10x8's and 11x10's. Strange stuff. Not to compare my crappy Tama Rockstars from the early 90's to your Sonor's, but power tom sizes don't work well for a nice clean and true higher pitch, which is what a lot of Progressive music has. They tend to choke out and sound like timbales. That may be fine for some of the early 80's Rush stuff, but you are a bit limited everywhere else.

I definitely see your dilemma, and have been there. If you can sell the Designers for a good price, you will have a lot of money to spend, so the sky's the limit.


Platinum Member
If you cut them down you will get a similar sound to the Newport or heavy beech set.
You would also still have seamless hoops, old style triple chromed hardware and lugs and an interior bubinga veneer. Even with SQ2 Sonor doesn't use real bubinga any more.
If you did cut them down, Precision Drum re-cut the edges on my scandi lites exactly perfectly and I would recommend them.

It's possible that the resale price might drop, but since those square sizes are harder to play, it might not change the value. People still want those sets.

Sigs still sound amazing.


Sonor signatures should have no problems with dynamics at all!

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
If you can afford it + have space you could buy a different kit and see if you still want to keep the sonors.


I wouldn't cut them down. There's a lot of people who would buy a vintage Sig set, and there's so many other options out there to fit any musical taste you have. No need to hack a perfectly good set someone else could use.

As for what to get, the easiest way imho is look at the drummers you like. See what they play, watch videos on them playing and determine what sounds really stand out to you that you like. Pick the kit that best matches those sounds.

You'll probably never play like those people but you'll at least be able to get closer to the sound you're after.


Junior Member
I wouldn't cut down these drums for all the tea in China. They are works of art, even if they ultimately weren't to my taste, they will be to someone else's. I have the original purchase receipt, they were bought in person directly from the factory in Germany for just under $8000 (including pedals and stands and I have those as well). The original owner is a friend that defected from communist czechoslovakia and he smuggled these out of the country. I tried to talk him out of selling these things, but he'd made up his mind. Based on eBay prices for successful sales, I think my budget is probably $3000. I guess I'll shop around and see what Mangini, Portnoy and Peart are using these days and see if I can find a Boston shop that might have some of that gear in stock.

Apologies for the stuffed animals and stickers my son stuck on the drum heads (with my permission :))

Last edited:


Platinum Member
Mangini plays Pearl Masterworks, Portnoy is Tama Starclassic (all different woods, even acrylic), and Peart is DW Collectors.

If the budget is $3K you wont get much with either of those kits. The Starclassic (used) is probably your best bet with that budget. Up your budget to $5-6K and you should be able to get a pretty good sized kit (8 pieces minimum) to play what these guys play.


Platinum Member
As mentioned, there are a LOT of good kits out there, so it's hard to go wrong as long as you end up with the sizes you like.

But two things come to mind:

Tama bubinga Star classic, just because it's bubinga, and might give you some some of the same essence.

The other is the Yamaha Live Custom (oak). It's a thicker shell, so sonically it's in the ball park as the Signatures. But it comes in shallow depths so it can give you everything else you are wanting. And unlike the Tama, the Yamaha Live Custom isn't an arm and leg to buy.


Junior Member
Thanks for the pointers guys, going through the basement tonight and seeing what else I can throw up on eBay to supplement.

singing drums

Senior Member
...perhaps another possibility would be merely to add some standard length racks toms (and perhaps a smaller bass drum) and use your existing floor would of course need to sonically match the sound of your bubinga inner ply-lined shells...