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  #1  
Old 01-16-2017, 08:20 PM
jabster jabster is offline
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Default What makes a drum set cheap?

Hi.

So I have a cheap drum set (Thor, bought in the last 80's) which has been in storage for about 20 years, and I am now trying to get it set up again, make it sound better, etc.

To make it sound decent, I know to buy new heads (will buy some Evans or Remo coated heads soon), tune it, put a pillow in the base drum, tape on the batter head, etc., I've done most of that.

In addition to that, I've also cut the toms shorter by 4 inches (for more flexibility in positioning), sanded the ends flat (they were quite bad), and recut the bearing edges.

But what really makes a cheap drum set so crappy sounding?

Besides crappy bearing edges, what else?

Is it the wood type? Number of plys?

I'm talking about low to mid end here. Obviously at a certain price point you get better woods, better selection of laminate sheets, etc. But in the low to mid range, since they aren't great to begin with, why not just go as cheap as possible and replace the heads, etc.

Also, I'm just asking about the drums themselves, not cymbals, hardware, etc.

I guess I'm also wondering if there is anything I can do to improve the sound beyond the standard "get better heads."

Thanks,
John
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  #2  
Old 01-16-2017, 08:36 PM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Well it depends how many tools you have access too as to what you can do, I've heard people removing plys and making the shells thinner but I'm not the person to ask. Cheap kits use poplar or basswood and beyond buying new shells there's nothing you can do about that as far as I know. New heads are a great option as you said. As is proper tuning. That's all I can think of really. Hope it helped, good luck :)
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  #3  
Old 01-16-2017, 08:39 PM
jabster jabster is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Humdrummer_ View Post
Well it depends how many tools you have access too as to what you can do, I've heard people removing plys and making the shells thinner but I'm not the person to ask. Cheap kits use poplar or basswood and beyond buying new shells there's nothing you can do about that as far as I know. New heads are a great option as you said. As is proper tuning. That's all I can think of really. Hope it helped, good luck :)
So basically, it boils down to the wood then.

I'm not going to remove plys tho. That sounds way to dangerous. And expensive after I break them.

Thanks,
John
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  #4  
Old 01-16-2017, 08:42 PM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jabster View Post
So basically, it boils down to the wood then.

I'm not going to remove plys tho. That sounds way to dangerous. And expensive after I break them.

Thanks,
John
Yeah I wouldn't go anywhere near that either, most of the sound is from the heads as I'm sure you know. So yeah basically more expensive kits use different woods (birch for example) and have more lugs, 8 or 10 rather than 6 on cheaper kits. But add new heads and it will sound much better! And it's not the about the kit is about how you play it, don't worry too much. :)
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  #5  
Old 01-16-2017, 08:43 PM
KamaK KamaK is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Is it one of these?



It will probably play/perform just like any other 9-ply poplar set. Generally,with good heads and decent bearing edges, they will sound quite usable. Nothing phenomenal, but usable.

Most of the complaints regarding kits like that tend to be about bent hoops, stripped wing nuts on the L-Bars, broken BD spurs, etc. The snares tend to be lackluster as well.
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  #6  
Old 01-16-2017, 08:50 PM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jabster View Post
Hi.

So I have a cheap drum set (Thor, bought in the last 80's) which has been in storage for about 20 years, and I am now trying to get it set up again, make it sound better, etc.

To make it sound decent, I know to buy new heads (will buy some Evans or Remo coated heads soon), tune it, put a pillow in the base drum, tape on the batter head, etc., I've done most of that.

In addition to that, I've also cut the toms shorter by 4 inches (for more flexibility in positioning), sanded the ends flat (they were quite bad), and recut the bearing edges.

But what really makes a cheap drum set so crappy sounding?

Besides crappy bearing edges, what else?

Is it the wood type? Number of plys?

I'm talking about low to mid end here. Obviously at a certain price point you get better woods, better selection of laminate sheets, etc. But in the low to mid range, since they aren't great to begin with, why not just go as cheap as possible and replace the heads, etc.

Also, I'm just asking about the drums themselves, not cymbals, hardware, etc.

I guess I'm also wondering if there is anything I can do to improve the sound beyond the standard "get better heads."

Thanks,
John
Lot's of things ,cheap fittings (breaking ,rusting),bad glue jobs (ply and cover separation),warped hoops ,drums out of round or warping,drums not sonically matching
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  #7  
Old 01-16-2017, 08:51 PM
jabster jabster is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

KamaK, yes!

That is it exactly!

Well, "was" at this point since I cut it down and repainted it.

And the crash and hi-hat sucked, but I do rather like the Camber ride that came with it. (I bought it used.)

And at the moment I'm not playing it too well either. :-/ 20 years is a long break. I know what I want to do but my arms won't listen to me!

-john
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  #8  
Old 01-16-2017, 09:25 PM
Captain Bash Captain Bash is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

A nested set or maybe a new kit at Easter time
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  #9  
Old 01-16-2017, 10:01 PM
WallyY WallyY is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Drums need three things to sound good:

1) They need to be round.
2) They need to be solidly built without gaps, uneven wood or glue.
3) A true-cut bearing edge.

To work good, and not break often, they need quality components in addition to the above.
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  #10  
Old 01-16-2017, 10:46 PM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

First new heads to improve the sound. Then learn to tune. Tape , bass drum pillows, etc are not necessary. Check the General Info section on the first page and go to the Drum Tuning Bible section.

As for cheap, the type and quality of the lumber. The quality of the lugs, cast, forged or machined. The quality of the hoops and whether or not they are still round and not warped. The wrap on the drums. Plastic, PVC, or wood veneer. Many things.
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  #11  
Old 01-16-2017, 11:25 PM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

My first full kit were Stewart Drums, made in Japan. It was a division of Pearl and basically the forerunner of the Pearl Exports I believe. My dad bought them used for $100 back in the late 60's. Entire kit, hardware, throne, stands and cheap Stewart branded cymbals and hats.

Obviously, they sounded great to me at the time. Although even after buying my first pro kit when I was 14 or so, a Slingerland Buddy Rich setup, the Stewart's still didn't sound that bad as I had them tweaked a bit along with good heads for that period in time and had updated to Zildjian cymbals and hats.

I kept them for many years....just couldn't part with it and that's while owning a new Ludwig Octoplus kit and original Ludwig clear Vistalites as the years progressed.

Eventually gave them away although sorry I did. Therefore, cheap drums can most likely be manipulated to sound "okay". Although as I recall, the build quality of the Stewart's wasn't a complete disaster.
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  #12  
Old 01-16-2017, 11:27 PM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

My take on the "put good heads on" flies contrary to what most will tell you.

By the time you've replaced all the batter and reso heads, you're a fair portion of the way down the road to a decent used entry/mid level kit...think used Pearl Export or whichever equivalent tickles your ticklish bits.

Play the crappy kit exactly as it is until you decide it's time for an upgrade and then sell it. You won't get any more money for it because it's got decent heads, so there's another argument against the good heads approach.

Remember boys and girls: You can't polish a turd, but you can roll it around in glitter.
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  #13  
Old 01-16-2017, 11:50 PM
BruceW BruceW is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JustJames View Post
My take on the "put good heads on" flies contrary to what most will tell you.

By the time you've replaced all the batter and reso heads, you're a fair portion of the way down the road to a decent used entry/mid level kit...think used Pearl Export or whichever equivalent tickles your ticklish bits.

Play the crappy kit exactly as it is until you decide it's time for an upgrade and then sell it. You won't get any more money for it because it's got decent heads, so there's another argument against the good heads approach.

Remember boys and girls: You can't polish a turd, but you can roll it around in glitter.
There's a lot of truth in this. A decent compromise is new batter heads, at least to see if you can get somewhere with it. Prices for tom kit heads are in the $30 range, which isn't a heckuva lot and can make a big difference. Hopefully enough to see if you really want to invest more in the cheap kit or not, and you can always put the old heads back on, keeping the new ones for that next kit.
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  #14  
Old 01-16-2017, 11:52 PM
SmoothOperator SmoothOperator is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

I thought fine threads on the tuning lugs are a nice step up. It's really difficult to get a decent tuning with course threads, and they don't stay in tune as well. Depending on what your climate is like wood can make a big difference.
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  #15  
Old 01-17-2017, 12:50 AM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

" make it sound better, etc."

My comments were based only on this part of the inquiry.
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  #16  
Old 01-17-2017, 03:07 AM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

My first kit in the mid nineties was a cheapie beginner setup, bought from Strings N' Things in Memphis, Tenn. It was an Xmas gift from my parents. The best thing I did was upgrade the heads and slowly learn how to tune. That made the most difference. Then the cymbals, one by one as I could afford them.

My advice would be to find a pack of all the batter heads together. Attack makes makes a great one with a coated snare head, and three clear tom heads. I used that on my Mapex kit. Then teach yourself to tune them by ear. You can get one of the Rhythm Tech Torque keys to make it easy but in the long run just learning to tune by ear will make a big difference. There are tons of Youtube videos out there. This one by Jared Faulk from Drumeo and Cobus is good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udooOap4m2c
The basic idea is to tap by each lug and hear the pitch. Then tune the others to match it. The drumhead will be in tune with itself and you can tune it up tighter (higher pitch) or loser (lower and deeper pitch) to find "your" sound from there.
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  #17  
Old 01-17-2017, 03:57 AM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

The wood used for the shells.
The craftsmanship (or lack thereof).
The location of the "build" itself
The hardware (lugs, rims, etc.)
The stock heads (these are usually pretty bad...even on some pretty good drums).
The lack of fit and finish (too much glue, gaps, bad wrap jobs, bad paint jobs, gaps, etc.).
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  #18  
Old 01-17-2017, 04:06 AM
WallyY WallyY is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Some cheap drums can be made to sound good enough for people who good enough is quite fine, but some other cheap drums won't sound okay at all.
Some are just plain terrible perpetrations on the stupid that can't be fixed in any way.
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  #19  
Old 01-17-2017, 04:39 AM
Matt Bo Eder
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jabster View Post
Hi.

So I have a cheap drum set (Thor, bought in the last 80's) which has been in storage for about 20 years, and I am now trying to get it set up again, make it sound better, etc.

To make it sound decent, I know to buy new heads (will buy some Evans or Remo coated heads soon), tune it, put a pillow in the base drum, tape on the batter head, etc., I've done most of that.

In addition to that, I've also cut the toms shorter by 4 inches (for more flexibility in positioning), sanded the ends flat (they were quite bad), and recut the bearing edges.

But what really makes a cheap drum set so crappy sounding?

Besides crappy bearing edges, what else?

Is it the wood type? Number of plys?

I'm talking about low to mid end here. Obviously at a certain price point you get better woods, better selection of laminate sheets, etc. But in the low to mid range, since they aren't great to begin with, why not just go as cheap as possible and replace the heads, etc.

Also, I'm just asking about the drums themselves, not cymbals, hardware, etc.

I guess I'm also wondering if there is anything I can do to improve the sound beyond the standard "get better heads."

Thanks,
John
In this instance, how much did you invest in these drums? If it was quite low (before buying new heads for it) then you can decide if it's even worth it to upgrade the heads when you're certainly no longer losing money on the kit. If, 20 years later, you can swing buying yourself a newer kit, you might as well treat yourself. If you feel like you won't make the commitment to playing, then definitely don't buy new drums. But there is something to be said of figuring out if you want to invest in an entirely new kit, or spend money on getting your current kit up to speed.

And actually, I don't subscribe to the "you're almost at the price of a newer kit" idea if you invest in new heads. You don't really get good heads on a kit until you're in the pro level, like $3000 and up. Up until that price point, you still see sub-standard heads being used, so even if you spent $1700 on a kit, you might get slightly better heads, but it's not like you can get what you want. So that must be considered as well.
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  #20  
Old 01-17-2017, 05:04 AM
fac fac is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

I say buy new batter heads and try to make it sound the best you can. You might spend between $50-$100, but buying a new decent kit will set you back no less than a grand, and you might still need to buy the heads.
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  #21  
Old 01-17-2017, 03:43 PM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

In addition to shell roundness (both ends) and a great bearing edge profile...with no gaps in the edge....don't over look the hoops. Test them by trying to insert a head in the hoop when the hoop is off the drum. If the head binds to the hoop....meaning that if gravity won't allow the head to fall to the floor, that means the hoop is binding the head (holding on to the head) and it will never tune right. Test every hoop on the set with a head for no binding. Heads should fall to the floor. Replace hoops that bind. Also check hoops for flatness. There should be no wobble when put on a table by themselves. Proper fitting hoops are crucial to tuning.

Another thing to make lesser drums sound better is brush lacquering the insides of the drum to make them smooth. Warning: This stinks to high heaven, for more than a day. Absolutely do it outside or in the garage.

Lug gaskets rob tone. Remove them and destroy them.

ISO mounts on the rack tom.

ISO feets for the floor toms.

New heads all around.

A great tuning.

My recipe for the best drum tone you can get from what you have.
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  #22  
Old 01-17-2017, 04:12 PM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

One of the differences I've found between junk like lets say Groove Percussion and Pearl Export is the hardware. The low end drums are not made to hold up to heavy playing or gigging and they won't. The lugs break, the mounts break, the rims warp. It goes beyond just the wood and the sound. I've bought some of those low end kits to clean and flip over the years and they are worse than I imagined. I had Pearl Exports as a first kit and I gigged with them and they held up perfectly until I sold them. I wouldn't touch the lower end stuff even if I got it for free. They just aren't worth the hassle.
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  #23  
Old 01-17-2017, 08:10 PM
jabster jabster is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RockNGrohl View Post
That's one of the videos I'd seen already. Found it quite good.

So basically, it seems to boil down to mostly the wood, and then the hardware to a lesser, tho not necessarily insignificant, extent.

Can't do much about the wood. I'm also not going to change the hardware due to cost. Except maybe the hoops. They seem pretty flat, but I'm painting all the hardware black...if the hoops chip too much I'll get new ones.

I'll also be getting some Evans (most likely) coated heads pretty soon. Then I'll go from there.

Unfortunately a new set is not in the cards. Maybe if my son takes it up, and he's serious about it, but not before then.

I think I paid $300 for the set back in the late 80s. I think it was a decent price. Certainly cheaper than anything else I'd seen. I was still in HS, so price was paramount. Came with everything, including one quite nice Zildjian cymbal. This was back in the days of drum shops and the classified section of the newspaper. No craigslist, ebay, etc. I did add a few things over the years (throne, some clamps to mount cymbals, zxt hats and a good hi hat stand). I sorely need a new base drum pedal tho.

On a side note, I'm taking the 4 inches I cut of the 12 inch tom and I'm going to make a little piccolo snare
out of it. Because I like the project side of it instead of just buying a new one. :)

Long story short tho, I've essentially done all I can to improve the sound.

Thanks for all the replies.

-john
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  #24  
Old 01-18-2017, 12:20 PM
mikel mikel is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Quality heads are the way to go, but your comment about having a pillow in the BD and tape on the batter heads, as a second move, are probably not needed, unless you like a muffled sound with not overtones.

If the shells are round and the bearing edges are ok then you should be good to go. If the shells are way out and the bearing edges are badly cut or have dips then you would be better off selling the kit on and buying a decent used instead of wasting cash on new heads.

Lack of..
Quality materials
Build control
Well paid craftsmen
Good fittings
Attention to detail, all make a cheap drum kit
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  #25  
Old 01-18-2017, 01:50 PM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JustJames View Post
My take on the "put good heads on" flies contrary to what most will tell you.

By the time you've replaced all the batter and reso heads, you're a fair portion of the way down the road to a decent used entry/mid level kit...think used Pearl Export or whichever equivalent tickles your ticklish bits.

Play the crappy kit exactly as it is until you decide it's time for an upgrade and then sell it. You won't get any more money for it because it's got decent heads, so there's another argument against the good heads approach.

Remember boys and girls: You can't polish a turd, but you can roll it around in glitter.
Yeah I like this advice too. Don't polish a turd, get something like a Yamaha stage custom.

I started with a Maxwin (Budget dept of Pearl I think) and the heads were dead, pitted and awful. Thing is though, I only changed the kick head as I broke it, the rest I left alone.

I learned to play on the maxwin, but I didn't bother too much until I got a much better Mapex Mars for dirt cheap from Denmark Street in London, all with fresh pinstripes.

I then started to really enjoy the drums. The Maxwin was terrible, but it was a first kit that cost about 60 including cymbals (or dustbin lids)

I got the Mapex before I played my first gig
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  #26  
Old 01-18-2017, 09:10 PM
jabster jabster is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Unfortunately the turd is with me for a while.

I've done all the polishing that I can for now tho.

I might decide to replace it piece meal tho. I can never think of anything when ever my family asks me what I want for Christmas and birthdays...maybe I'll just start asking for new toms. :-) Spreads the cost over time and people that way.

Might even just ask for new shells and mount all the hardware myself...

And how much can I really get for a crappy drum set without cymbals? $50? $100 if I'm lucky? You can get all the Gammon Turd you want, complete, for $260 from Amazon. Better off turning the old shells into clocks or something.

-john
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  #27  
Old 01-21-2017, 06:54 PM
jabster jabster is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

FWIW.... Here's the turd now. Cut 4 inches off each hanging tom. Still need to take the 13 inch apart (again) to paint the hardware. And then do something with the base drum. Doesn't sound all that bad. Coated heads are on my birthday list. 😐



Can't figure out how to link directly to an image in the forum, so here's a link:
https://goo.gl/photos/WPxabsuwfCJz2T2HA
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  #28  
Old 01-21-2017, 06:56 PM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jabster View Post
FWIW.... Here's the turd now. Cut 4 inches off each hanging tom. Still need to take the 13 inch apart (again) to paint the hardware. And then do something with the base drum. Doesn't sound all that bad. Coated heads are on my birthday list. 😐



Can't figure out how to link directly to an image in the forum, so here's a link:
https://goo.gl/photos/WPxabsuwfCJz2T2HA
Nice! Enjoy the drums!
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  #29  
Old 01-22-2017, 01:12 PM
BranoFabry BranoFabry is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Soundwise from an engineer's point of view:

1.) how much upper harmonics (brillance) there is in the sound. The more usually the better. But the is a line after which sweet harmonics become ugly distortion.

2.) how loud the second harmonic+neighbourhood is there (boxy sound). For a typical snare drum it is a band around 400Hz, for a kick drums it's around 180Hz
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  #30  
Old 01-22-2017, 06:09 PM
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Superman View Post
One of the differences I've found between junk like lets say Groove Percussion and Pearl Export is the hardware. The low end drums are not made to hold up to heavy playing or gigging and they won't. The lugs break, the mounts break, the rims warp. It goes beyond just the wood and the sound. I've bought some of those low end kits to clean and flip over the years and they are worse than I imagined. I had Pearl Exports as a first kit and I gigged with them and they held up perfectly until I sold them. I wouldn't touch the lower end stuff even if I got it for free. They just aren't worth the hassle.
I play a Groove percussion as my gigging kit. 20 12 14. The shells and edges are fantastic (kms factory seconds the sizes and wood type correspond with the gretsch Catalina club) the hardware is terrible but sturdy enough for what I do. They sound great mainly because I replaced the heads and the shells are good. I know that eventually I'll have to replace the lugs etc but it's held up for the last 6 years of daily use and being transported in cars without cases etc. I initially bought it to save my 1970 Slingerland kit from constant wear and tear. Best $219 I ever spent. Snare was useless as well as the cymbals but that's to be expected. Honestly I may have just gotten lucky but I feel like most groove percussion kits sound like crap mainly because the people most likely to own them are the ones who are beginners and don't know what they are doing. If a DW or Slingerland or even Guru was treated the way most GP kits I've encountered were they too would sound excrable.
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  #31  
Old 04-02-2017, 06:50 AM
TIP64 TIP64 is offline
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Default Re: What makes a drum set cheap?

http://www.drumarchive.com/Stewart/Stewart.pdf

Love my Stewart Kit with Evans it has a great tone and deep sound. The Snare isn't the sound I like but with tuning even it can do a show.
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