Are overpriced drums worth it ? A Defence of mapex

Lamar Fandango

New member
There's a whole lot to unpack here.

In regards to Yamaha specifically: 1. Great choice - Your drumset is beautiful and I've had enough experience with all of Yamaha's kits to speak intelligently about their designs and engineering in great depth - I was a former artist for them for about a decade.

When Yamaha's cut ties with Sakae - they knew for a fact that there was likely going to be a small exodus and concern about the Japanese manufacturing and shells coming to an end. Up till 2011, all of Yamaha's high-end drums were made in Japan. And although Yamaha continues to build its flagship Phoenix PHX series in Japan, the latest professional series are now coming out of the new facility in Xiaoshan, China.

It's important to get this stigma of something being made in China as being cheaper or lower quality removed from your mind. That's likely true of some of the manufacturer's you mention - but certainly not Yamaha.

Below is from Rhythm Magazine's article about Yamaha and their Chinese facility who express their impressiveness of Yamaha's Chinese facility very well:


This extensive plant was first opened in 1997, producing Yamaha’s woodwind and brass instruments and marching percussion. Then in 2010 Yamaha achieved a long-held ambition to add a dedicated drum building, employing the latest in hi-tech, environmentally strict and rigorously quality controlled production methods. The aim as always is to stay on top, be competitive and to build the best drumsets conceivable.


Xiaoshan first delivered the Live Custom series, followed by 2014’s truly progressive Absolute Hybrid Maple. Now we have the revamped Recording Custom series, launched at Winter Namm, 2016. The
Recording Custom is Yamaha’s most acclaimed kit, quite possibly the most recorded kit ever, the kit which put Yamaha out front throughout the 1980s.

The new Recording Custom has badges which clearly state ‘Made in China’. Yamaha’s Xiaoshan facility is not some tawdry operation to make drums on the cheap using casual labour. On the contrary, Yamaha has invested an unheard-of US $10 million in the operation, with the Chinese workforce trained to the highest skill levels by the ultra-experienced Japanese craftsmen.

Visiting the factory was eye-opening, seeing up close the exacting manufacturing tolerances and testing, the unstinting quality control, the laboratory-style cleanliness of the workplace. That the factory is in China is simply a sign of the times we live in.



and I've found this to be true - not only is Yamaha still making excellent drums - I would argue that they are the only company to rival(and I would say surpass) DW in terms of R&D when it comes to shells and how they truly effect sonic performance. For instance in your kit - the hard inner ply which comes their PHX shell design - the weighted bass drum, etc. or things like the Crosstown hardware - which is something manufacturers should have done ages ago.

So specifically when it come to Yamaha - I've always found that their marketing is fairly true to production and final quality/performance.

As you state - that's not always true....there are hype machines out there and gimmicks - but your kit specifically is fantastic and I would pit it against the best of the best out there.

As for the general discussion on the price of drums equating to quality of sound - I know I always seem to be against the grain on this - but high end kits are high end for a reason. There are exceptions - like the Gretsch Renowns to me are a freak of nature - those can go head to head against kits that cost twice as much - but that's just not the case for a lot of drums. At some point you will hit a wall with budget drums - tuning consistency - tonal matching between toms - bass frequencies - the overall character of a set as an instrument and not individual pieces - versatility - being able to get one kit to handle lots of situation with integrity is a huge one where I see less expensive drums falling apart.


That's why the used market is so great like some of the above peeps have mentioned - if you can get an older high quality kit for a reasonable price - you are winning the game.


TL;DR Version:

Yamaha invested a ridiculous amount into their Chinese facility - it's beautiful - high end drums are cool, buy a used high end set and get the best of both worlds.
We all know that China has skilled craftsmen and the ability to manufacture excellent products at all price points. The reason that Chinese manufacturing is problematic is that China is allegedly a trade cheat, technogy thief, design stealer, and all-around bad actor. Whether this is true anymore or not isn't a debate for a drum forum. I don't know enough to even think about it. It's too damn political. But the perception of foul play is that matters to many of my clients. Buying expensive drums from China seems like supporting a criminal enterprise to many. Defending Chinese quality seems to miss the point.
 

Darth Vater

Senior Member
The only real problem I have with Mapex is that the quality of the cast tooling is a little sub par and there were tons of injection blemishes on my lugs and general hardware that honestly shouldn't be that apparent. They need to replace molds more often. Other companies are much better in this regard.

Shell quality is okay... bearing edges were so so on my 2017 saturn V. Soniclear marketing aside, they're not perfect, but that's likely a matter of tolerances and quality control on a kit by kit basis.

Wraps... arent applied properly and will develop lifting after a few years. Wrap seam should be under a lug, not next to the lug, but the lug design itself and how it mounts is likely 100% to blame.


If Mapex ever improves general hardware quality and fixes the little things, they would offer excellent value, but they're on my "sub par" list in reflection to price point.. mostly due to injection molds being worse than competition.
Was that a Saturn V Tour kit?
 

jasz

Junior Member
We all know that China has skilled craftsmen and the ability to manufacture excellent products at all price points. The reason that Chinese manufacturing is problematic is that China is allegedly a trade cheat, technogy thief, design stealer, and all-around bad actor. Whether this is true anymore or not isn't a debate for a drum forum. I don't know enough to even think about it. It's too damn political. But the perception of foul play is that matters to many of my clients. Buying expensive drums from China seems like supporting a criminal enterprise to many. Defending Chinese quality seems to miss the point.
In most cases, the hardware on US/Japanese/European drums (lugs, rods, spurs etc) is either outsourced from China or Taiwan. I typically tend to support Taiwanese manufacturing first, but I did end up buying a newer chinese starclassic maple because there is really nothing else that can compete at the price I paid. Rather nothing else I'm interested in.


Was that a Saturn V Tour kit?
No, it was part of the standard line up. The wrapped drums (of both series) also have thinner shells 5.1mm vs 6mm on newer lacquer.
 
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Darth Vater

Senior Member
In most cases, the hardware on US/Japanese/European drums (lugs, rods, spurs etc) is either outsourced from China or Taiwan. I typically tend to support Taiwanese manufacturing first, but I did end up buying a newer chinese starclassic maple because there is really nothing else that can compete at the price I paid. Rather nothing else I'm interested in.




No, it was part of the standard line up. The wrapped drums (of both series) also have thinner shells 5.1mm vs 6mm on newer lacquer.
Curious because I had a Tour kit I picked up online used for dirt cheap and the QC was horrendous. Conversely I bought a 5pc Saturn V Exotic a few months ago during the Covid dealer promotion and it's the polar opposite. Beautiful Cherry Mist finish, perfect edges, lugs and tension rods work perfectly, chrome is fine. Couldn't be happier with it. Got a good one I guess.

drumworld 1.jpg
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
Curious because I had a Tour kit I picked up online used for dirt cheap and the QC was horrendous. Conversely I bought a 5pc Saturn V Exotic a few months ago during the Covid dealer promotion and it's the polar opposite. Beautiful Cherry Mist finish, perfect edges, lugs and tension rods work perfectly, chrome is fine. Couldn't be happier with it. Got a good one I guess.

View attachment 95687
That makes two of us at least then. I bought a Saturn V in Hybrid Red/Blue Sparkle lacquer in May 2017, have gigged it at least twice monthly since then up until Covid and I've got nothing but good things to say about it.
 

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Cpb19

Active member
Recent issue Saturn V exotic fusion here. No hardware issues. But maybe I’ve never looked hard enough.
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
We all know that China has skilled craftsmen and the ability to manufacture excellent products at all price points. The reason that Chinese manufacturing is problematic is that China is allegedly a trade cheat, technogy thief, design stealer, and all-around bad actor. Whether this is true anymore or not isn't a debate for a drum forum. I don't know enough to even think about it. It's too damn political. But the perception of foul play is that matters to many of my clients. Buying expensive drums from China seems like supporting a criminal enterprise to many. Defending Chinese quality seems to miss the point.
I really hadn't considered it from that perspective honestly - something very astute to consider.

However - I would say that for the most part - when people think "Made in China" I would say that for the majority of people it's a quality slam rather than a world politics / economics thing.

You make an outstanding point though.
 

jasz

Junior Member
Curious because I had a Tour kit I picked up online used for dirt cheap and the QC was horrendous. Conversely I bought a 5pc Saturn V Exotic a few months ago during the Covid dealer promotion and it's the polar opposite. Beautiful Cherry Mist finish, perfect edges, lugs and tension rods work perfectly, chrome is fine. Couldn't be happier with it. Got a good one I guess.

View attachment 95687
The kit I had was pre tour series.. It wouldn't really surprise me if the wrapped finishes were built cheaper then decided to make a whole "different" line out of it with coated heads. They share the same shell thickness of 5.1mm, but with emperor clear and PS3 clear heads (and obviously different wrap choices).

I noticed you have/had black nickel hardware as well. I think the injection tooling and coating process might be a tad better considering the chrome is used in masses for lower end kits like Armory. Black nickel (at least coating layer) is probably typically reserved for Black panther and Exotix Saturns.

I'll also push the point that some people have different expectations of quality. I think I'm harder on mapex because of past experiences with other select hardware. My newer Tama SC kit has way less tooling blemishes compared to the lugs of the Saturn V.
 
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Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
We all know that China has skilled craftsmen and the ability to manufacture excellent products at all price points. The reason that Chinese manufacturing is problematic is that China is allegedly a trade cheat, technology thief, design thief, Pattern, copy write, trademark and all-around bad actor. Added a couple of things,
That is my problem with them. I don't care about how good they can build something. Since it was the US that made it possible, Covid 19 was a nice touch too, I know, no politics. LOL
 

Darth Vater

Senior Member
The kit I had was pre tour series.. It wouldn't really surprise me if the wrapped finishes were built cheaper then decided to make a whole "different" line out of it with coated heads. They share the same shell thickness of 5.1mm, but with emperor clear and PS3 clear heads (and obviously different wrap choices).

I noticed you have/had black nickel hardware as well. I think the injection tooling and coating process might be a tad better considering the chrome is used in masses for lower end kits like Armory. Black nickel (at least coating layer) is probably typically reserved for Black panther and Exotix Saturns.

I'll also push the point that some people have different expectations of quality. I think I'm harder on mapex because of past experiences with other select hardware. My newer Tama SC kit has way less tooling blemishes compared to the lugs of the Saturn V.
Well, you just found out that Tama, and every other company, puts out some crap on occasion too.

That is my problem with them. I don't care about how good they can build something. Since it was the US that made it possible, Covid 19 was a nice touch too, I know, no politics. LOL
Show me some other drum company that makes hybrid walnut/maple shells and I'll consider their products too. Let's see, Yamaha is using chinese labor to copy Sakae drums. Tama is using chinese labor to copy japanese Tama. At least Mapex is just a chinese outfit building their own stuff in an ISO 9001 factory. No pretense. I respect that.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I'm surprised we have such a love affair with their food.
In 1986 I toured Hong Kong, Guangzhou, China (up the river from Hong Kong), and Taiwan over a three week period. This was when most people in China had never seen a ballpoint pen (I brought a few dozen as gifts and I was like Santa sprinkling fairy dust in the air).

The food in Hong Kong was identical to the slop one finds here in the states. The food in the countryside of Guangzhou was the freshest, best tasting Chinese food I’ve ever had. It was surreal. The food in Taiwan was 98% seafood, with squid being the premiere dish (I ate rice).
 

dale w miller

Silver Member
In 1986 I toured Hong Kong, Guangzhou, China (up the river from Hong Kong), and Taiwan over a three week period. This was when most people in China had never seen a ballpoint pen (I brought a few dozen as gifts and I was like Santa sprinkling fairy dust in the air).

The food in Hong Kong was identical to the slop one finds here in the states. The food in the countryside of Guangzhou was the freshest, best tasting Chinese food I’ve ever had. It was surreal. The food in Taiwan was 98% seafood, with squid being the premiere dish (I ate rice).
Squid rules! I love fresh raw squid sushi.
 

MusiQmaN

Platinum Member
Yamaha is using chinese labor to copy Sakae drums.
You do know Yamaha and Sakae worked together in the duration in their partnership (not Sakae for Yamaha or the other way around) and both Yamaha and Sakae made drums before that partnership.

The last thing they do is copy from that partnership.
 

Scottie15

Senior Member
I own a Mapex Black Panther Velvetone kit which, at the time, was the most expensive kit I had. Just got a Star Walnut kit, and aside from some very minor nuances, there really isn't much from a quality control aspect that sets these kits apart, frankly. Both kits had perfect construction, seamless bearing edges, perfect hardware, etc. The Mapex does have some filled in between some of the plies that had very slight gaps, and the Tama had higher quality when it came to how the plies were glued, etc. There are also slight finish blemishes on the Mapex kit that couldn't be found on the Tama kit. But other than that, I was surprised how similar they were in terms of build quality.
 

Darth Vater

Senior Member
You do know Yamaha and Sakae worked together in the duration in their partnership (not Sakae for Yamaha or the other way around) and both Yamaha and Sakae made drums before that partnership.

The last thing they do is copy from that partnership.
Sakae was the OEM for the high end Yamaha drums. Yamaha is a multi national conglomerate. I don't really consider them a drum company.
 

jasz

Junior Member
Well, you just found out that Tama, and every other company, puts out some crap on occasion too.
The main problem with the first Starclassic kit was mostly the exotic finish being significantly mismatched after drying (on the top of a bass drum of all things..) which should NOT have left factory out of principle. The Japanese branch likely would have recycled and started over so It did kinda irk me, I won't lie.

The fact that it was considered acceptable by US management baffled me a bit since its not a low end mass produced drum like a superstar. This is essentially the highest end drum out of that specific factory. So yeah, I was triggered. Hardware and general quality was fine though.. aside from the floor tom being internally damaged from shipping.. TAMA should not ship the drum with heavy zinc hoops attached, simple.

As for Mapex hardware.. At least on my kit, the tooling should have been replaced well before it was. There were way too many blemishes on the chrome HW compared to normal kit in the same price bracket.

Maybe the kit I had was on the last end of the tooling before it needed to be replaced, but I would argue that Mapex has been hit or miss for decades and I have bias because of those experiences. The Janus double pedal I bought in the mid 2000s was the worse built pedal in terms of design and coating out of all the major competitors and I guess I generally regret not buying a Cobra or DW5000 for the same price. ($300-350 at the time).

I don't exactly regret buying the Mapex drums (they mic extremely well), but I think their hardware, at least for mass produced kits is hit or miss and subpar to other brands, but I'm honestly more picky in that regard. Shells were built fine. Better than most sub $1200 kits. Only my 10" had an inconsistent edge.

But youre right, it may come down to general tolerances per kit in some cases.


Overpriced implies not worth it.

Is it worth it?

That's subjective.
Agree with this.

I just bought a SC maple in exotic finish. Is it worth 2020 Street price? ($3000) IMO, no, but I'm happy with the price I paid for it even if I had to replace the first kit for floor tom damage and I guess poor finish.

I was willing to pay more for a specific finish and hardware because its something I really wanted.
 
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