Am I the ONLY guy that likes the sound of poplar drums?

Niteclub64

Junior Member
Hi all, 40 year veteran pounding the drums. I gig a lot and over the years I have played so many great sounding drums. I have never been one to have a collection though because if I like the way a kit sounded, that's what I always wanted to play. Anyway like most of you old timers out there, I've noticed you can buy a lot more for your money than you could 20 or 30 years ago. I have played on maple high end kits, birch kits, and blended wood kits like maple/walnut, poplar/mahogany etc. These days I just don't have the disposable income I once did to keep buying/selling/trading drums. I took a year or so off and was going to retire but we all know how that goes! LOL. When I decided I just wasn't ready to hang up the sticks, I had to buy everything all over again and if I swapped anything, it would have to be a straight up swaps with no money involved or incur the wrath of the wife (who has been VERY supportive by the way). So in perusing the less expensive and better bang for your buck kits, I have come across two poplar sets that I really thought sounded great. One of them, my bass player bought from me and wouldn't sell back. It was an early PDP X7 in tangerine sparkle laquer. The other is the set I'm playing now. It is an almost bottom of the line Ludwig Element 5 pc 10,12, 16 and 22 (I use a Tama Metalworks 6.5X14 snare but have the stock snare 5X14 that doesn't sound half bad either!) The color is what Ludwig calls black gold (wrap) and no iso mounts on the toms. This for me would have normally been blasphemy as I have always used some kind of r.i.m.s or other iso mount systems on toms. I do mount the toms off my cymbal stands for better sustain. They are 9 ply poplar in a WRAP with no iso mounts and sound GREAT! Good sustain, awesome POP, great kick with plenty of low end and they project well. Granted I DID swap out all the batter side heads, including the kick, with Remo pinstripes. I just don't understand the maple/birch, snobs as I call them, putting down poplar! The tuning range is slightly narrower than maple/birch drums but I think they have the best sounding qualities of BOTH of those woods if you ask me. Any one else?
 

bonerpizza

Silver Member
Tuning and head choice have A LOT to do with how a drum is going to sound no matter what wood it's made out of, I've got a 100% Birch Starclassic and a Maple Artstar Custom and the only difference that I can hear between the two is that the maple SEEMS louder. I also have a Mapex Venus kit that I use as a practice kit and I'm sure it's made out of poplar or some other cheap wood and that kit actually sounds REALLY good when it's tuned up.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
I have owned several poplar kits that I liked. I have also owned, "Mystery Wood"
kits that sounded great.
 

gaz farrimond

Senior Member
A drum, is a drum, is a drum..... That great 'Gretsch Sound' was made by 'locally sourced hardwoods' and other manufacturers built their reputations on sourcing local materials.

There was a shift towards what wood you used when 'western' (Considering where I now live) manufacturers shifted construction to the Far East and had to rationalise this to the public. Some CONUS manufacturers saw an opportunity and sourced shells from a US furniture manufacturer.

Marketing is just that.

The kit I'm currently using has a mix of poplar, beech and birch drum shells; with Evans heads. So far, no complaints.

Is there a difference in woods? Yes. But to hear that difference, the last thing you want is to be rehearsing, playing live or even wearing headphones.


A friend of mine recently played a festival in Europe in front of 12,000 people using a 16 year old Pearl Export.


Believe it or not, no-one complained.



I await the 'woodists' response.
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
.... I also have a Mapex Venus kit that I use as a practice kit and I'm sure it's made out of poplar or some other cheap wood and that kit actually sounds REALLY good when it's tuned up.
I had an old, beat up crappy Venus kit that had major wrap bubbling and chrome pitting and flaking.
It sounded pretty good though.
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
Different woods do have different characteristics, including sound and difficulty or ease of working with it.
That doesn't have any bearing on the level of craftsmanship or commitment of the people doing the work though.

Although it's his first post, I don't think Niteclub64 meant to imply anything like that at all.
Welcome to the forum.
 

Niteclub64

Junior Member
Thanks for the validation guys! I thought I might be going crazy. In the past I have had Pearl kits as well. A LOT of them! I once owned a world series kit from the late 80s/early 90s. I believe it was a blended poplar/mahogony shell maybe? Any way, the set sounded so good, the drum guy at a local music store bought them for himself when I traded them in on a Yamaha Maple custom kit. I will say that the Maple Custom kit was probably my all time favorite for tone, projection & sustain. The toms would ring out for days! LOL. They would still be vibrating from the last fill and that was mounted on my kick! It also was extremely heavy to cart around. I broke the handle on my fibre kick drum case it was so heavy! Also the best all time kick sound I ever heard (unmiked) was a Yamaha Oak custom I owned. Hated the toms and snare though so that one got sold or traded as well. I just love drums and I love the various sounds they produce. I've had some winners and disappointing losers in all price ranges. I guess you can just find some gems where you wouldn't expect sometimes.
 

Frank

Gold Member
I'm currently playing one of the lower end kits on the market - a poplar based Pearl Roadshow Jazz kit. Couldn't love it any more than I already do.

There are so many variables in tuning up a kit. I think any kit with decent bearing edges can be made to sound great.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I had a PDP X7 poplar floor tom. I did not like it's timbre.... at all... and swapped it out for a PDP concept maple floor tom. The maple shell was so much better sounding. I even used the same exact hardware (and wrap) as was on the poplar drum.

Now I have a set of Sonor poplar drums, the Player's kit. Those poplar drums sound wonderful, and I love them.

So it depends on how it's manufactured I believe.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
So it depends on how it's manufactured I believe.
I think that plays a big part in it. It's not just the edges and the thickness but also what may be going on inside that shell between the inner and outer plies we can't see.

I feel like well made trumps what it's made out of in almost every case. Factor in head choice, tuning skill, and playing the thing and it's easy to see why the actual wood is just one small element in a much larger and more complicated picture.

Which is why I think it's a great time to be a drummer. As assembly line techniques have improved it's getting harder to find truly poorly-made drums. Then even those made of poplar or mystery wood have enough build quality to make good heads and tuning produce a good sound. But as the technology improves and the understanding increases that creates a lot of room for those that really want to optimize the individual characteristics of a particular element, be it thickness or edges or wood, and create something truly special.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I always thought that if a drum were round and true, I could get a good sound out of it. This (brand new) 16" poplar floor tom kind of exploded that notion. On the poplar floor tom, I removed all gaskets, brush lacquered the insides (OMG did THAT stink!) and put Pearl ISO feets on it. It improved the tone a lot, but it never really satisfied me.

The poplar shell I thought was rather high pitched for a 16. It never really yielded that wet low sound that a 16 is known for. Very strange. When I saw a 16" PDP concept maple bare floor tom shell only for $15, I figured why not? So I got it and transferred all the hardware and wrap from the poplar drum to the maple drum.

VERY satisfying sound now. It made a big difference in the tone, and my satisfaction factor is where it should be, I lack for nothing now. I didn't have to lacquer the insides of the maple drum.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I have a Ludwig Accent poplar kit. What I find is that the BD is fully capable of generating an acceptable tone. The toms are also capable, but their tuning range is much more narrow than that of my Gretsch Renown.

The other down side of many poplar kits is the low quality mounting and hardware. While not directly correlated to the wood, 1.6mm hoops, L-Bars, and rickety BD spurs are a total buzzkill. Same goes for the finish.

@OP. Do you have kids? Do they play? One of the reasons for owning a fine instrument is that they tend to become heirlooms.
 

GeoB

Gold Member
I love the sound of my Birch floor tom.

The rest of the kit is maple & a steel snare and it all sounds good too.

I picked up a Forum poplar floor tom a while ago to use with a poplar kit I kept out at frequent jam man cave hangout a good friend has set up. I tested it at home against my birch... not even close. Good drum, well made etc... but the tone just wasn't up to the birch.
 
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CompactDrums

Silver Member
It's just common sense.... A really nice sound from a drum kit is produced by the following factors, roughly in the order they affect the sound:

1 The drummer
2 The tuning
3 The heads
4 The bearing edges
5 the workmanship of the shell (How well the plys are assembled)
6 How "Round" and "square" the shell is
7 The wood species
8 The shell proportions (Diameter X Depth)

It's amazing how many drummers will blow $1000s on the drum kit and then spend 10 minutes on a sloppy tuning job

Of course, more often than not The $2000 maple or birch kit will have perfect bearing edges and be round, square and have well made shells. The resulting great sound automatically gets attributed to the maple, not to the workmanship involved in making the shells, the couple of hours spent on tuning and the additional few hundred spent on heads.

I have too heard fantastic sounding poplar, lauan, and other "select hardwood" drums, especially after cutting my own bearing edges, sealing the shell interiors, installing decent heads and taking my time tuning them.
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
With all the love and praise for the golden era ROGERS kits, Im wondering why co's aren't making maple/birch shells, or is somebody?
 

eamesuser

Silver Member
I used to rehearse on,and gigged a couple of times,a 2nd gen Tama Imperialstar,poplar shells.

kit,It was a little rolled of on the low end,but had nice tone,was lively and responsive and played really nice.I think the edges were great and the shells in round because it was easy to tune. All this with the stock heads,I wonder what it would have sounded like with top of the line pro heads.
 
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lefty2

Platinum Member
In the 80's I bought a Ludwig SL series kit. 4 thick plies of poplar, with rounded bearing edges. They were really good sounding drums. The only reason I traded up was so I could get power sizes (deeper shells). Now the shallower ones are back.
 

rogue_drummer

Gold Member
King of the inexpensive kits here.

Lucky for me, my parents were born during the depression and were young adults in WWII, so were taught to be frugal and not get rid of anything. So when I graduated from college and moved out on my own, my parents stored the drum kit they gave me when I was 11 years old and a newbie drummer. It was an early knock-off kit made by the Japanese company that became Pearl.

Simple 4 piece jazz kit 20x14, 12x8, 14x14, with a 14x51/2 metal snare. Blue sparkle finish. All poplar or lauan shells.

When I started drumming again in 2007 I got my kit out of storeage and cleaned it up. Put on new heads, got all new pedals and stands, got some good cymbals and...and...WOW! The kit sounded great!

Since that was the only kit I had at the time, I used it to gig, practice, etc. I got plenty of complements because people thought it was a new "retro" kit.

To my surprise, the band I was in at the time shared the stage with a well-known blues band in the area and it was agreed I would supply the kit. The blues band played 1st for an hour and I stood at the back of the room and drooled. The inexpensive early 70's kit with the "japanese firewood" shells sounded fantastic!

I agree, with the right heads and proper tuning just about any kit can sound good.
 

STXBob

Gold Member
I love poplar "entry-level" kits. I just got a very nice maple kit a month ago (and I'm very much in love with it), but I'm trolling Craigslist for a cheap, poplar entry-level kit. It beggars belief, the feeling I get when I take something that's beat to piss, is supposed to sound like crap even when new, and make it sound awesome.
 
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