Blindfolded Buying

MattA

Senior Member
There are a few threads on the forum at the moment about asking for advice in the process of buying drums and cymbals: http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=83495 and http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=83452

There's some interesting points that I've taken from these and other threads, as well as attitudes in the real world. One of these points is that there is multiple factors that influences purchases. These range from wanting to buy gear that your favourite drummers use, the look or image of a brand and last but not least advice from other drummers, such as on this forum.

All of these things may hold some validity up to a point. But what is more common within these threads the is advice to people to follow their own ears. What I'm wondering, is if there would be any merit in the idea of testing drum gear blind. I know drumming blind may not be ultimate, but something like a translucent blindfold that would let you see where the objects were but not what brand they are. I know some drummers that are very brand loyal for one reason or another. Some drummers also assume that more expensive is equal to a better choice for them. Often these drummers may be right. I'd be very curious to see if these type of drummers would always pick out 'their' brand or 'the most expensive' gear in a blind test.

I worked in hospitality for a long time and a coffee company that I used to work with did a blind taste testing with all of their reps. Alarmingly one of their cheaper blends ended up being marked the highest by the most reps. I can't help but feel this same concept could successfully be applied to drums too.

Not all people think that sound is the be all and end of all drum and cymbal buying, but I'd argue that it would be the first thing I'd test, the more even of a playing field the better. Do you think there's merit in an idea like that? Would you particiapte in a blind test next time you went to buy a new cymbal or kit?
 

Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
Interesting idea. I'd put my Bosphorus Master Vintage series to the test. I've had a Sabian Pro ride for years, and the difference of aural quality with the Bosphorus is astounding.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
An interesting concept, although probably difficult to pull off in the real world. Larry put up a blind snare test a couple of weeks ago. We had to guess which drum was which out of a selection of three. Almost everyone got it wrong (including myself). Ok, a few caveats with that test; Identifying shell materials is much more difficult on snares than it is with, say, toms. A recording, no matter how faithful, isn't the same as being in the same room as the drum. Someone else playing the drum isn't the same as you playing it. It was fun though, & certainly shot through a few preconceptions.

A real life blind trial would be a very interesting experience. The truth is though, many players buy with their eyes long before they buy with their ears, even though most would have you believe otherwise. It would be very interesting to film a selection of players going through that experience. Good call!
 
S

sticks4drums

Guest
Its a great idea. I think the one thing that Larry's snare test showed was that most people buy with their hearts. So many longing for the sound of years gone by, that was manipulated at the studio or sound board anyways. Even in a blind test many people after picking the wrong choice would still fall back on what they wish would be the right choice. IMO.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Even in a blind test many people after picking the wrong choice would still fall back on what they wish would be the right choice. IMO.
I think you have a good point there, many would. The euphoria of one stimulation is soon overtaken by a culmination of others built up over a period of time. Some of those won't be rationalised either.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Testing equipment period, let alone blind, is a great idea. The problem is, how do you accomplish this? If I'm going to really test a piece of equipment, I need to spend a lot of time with it. I need to take it out on gigs, test it with different head combos and tuning, see how it records, and in the case of cymbals, I want to hear it in context with the rest of my collection.

The thing is, we can talk all we want to about sound, but people don't just want a drum to sound good. It has to look right, too. People have a vision what kind of finish, hardware and configuration they want. And for some people, where the stuff was manufactured matters, because they care about where their money goes. All of this stuff is legitimate for a consumer to want to take into consideration. People do buy with their hearts in some cases. And they have every right to; it's their money.

All that said, I guess I am sort of an exception. I actually had the chance to try some really good equipment from different manufacturers before I bought my last set. I had no brand loyalty or pre-conceived notions going in. In fact, it had been so long since I had concerned myself with drums, I didn't even know the current reputations of the brands going in. No idea what finish I wanted or even what sizes. I worked it all out based on what I got my hands on. It wasn't blind, but I did end up buying a brand I never really liked growing up. FWIW, I am very happy still with my choice.
 

Doorman

Junior Member
It's funny, I had been researching a new set purchase for months with a open mind. Asking people on these forums and EVERY guitar center salesman (in drums) what they thought was the best, high/low price ranges. I was looking for a good ALL AROUND sounding drum set. I play (try) many different types of music and I wanted versatility. Build quality goes without saying.

The opinions I got mainly revolved around the drums features: hardware, mounts, finish, where it was made and availability. Not much emphasis on the SOUND of the drums... It can be frustrating as a consumer, I just don't see how to remedy it. Drum shops can't display everthing and you can't rent! I decided on building my own, I can only blame myself if I don't like it, oh well ;)

I did use Youtube a lot to get a rough idea on sounds from different manufactures, not a bad way for researching....
 

tard

Gold Member
When I bought my Radials in 1999, price was not a factor and I bought with my ears and although I wasnt blindfolded I have been told many times that I must have been blind..lol
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
All of these things may hold some validity up to a point. But what is more common within these threads the is advice to people to follow their own ears.
To an extent. I don't feel like I can truly know a drum until I've spent some time playing music with it in a variety of situations, so fiddling with the thing in the store doesn't help me all that much. As long as the drum has the general specs I want, and the quality and condition is acceptable, I feel OK about buying it without playing it much or at all, and have no qualms about taking appearance into consideration.

I worked in hospitality for a long time and a coffee company that I used to work with did a blind taste testing with all of their reps. Alarmingly one of their cheaper blends ended up being marked the highest by the most reps. I can't help but feel this same concept could successfully be applied to drums too.
I think only with new vs. used gear, or sanely-priced pro drums vs. insanely expensive pro drums. Semi-pro drums might fare OK in a blindfold test, but with cymbals it would be a bloodbath- it would be impossible to confuse a "student" cymbal with a good one or an excellent one.

Not all people think that sound is the be all and end of all drum and cymbal buying, but I'd argue that it would be the first thing I'd test, the more even of a playing field the better. Do you think there's merit in an idea like that? Would you particiapte in a blind test next time you went to buy a new cymbal or kit?
With a cymbal, absolutely, not with drums.

I think where people get into the most trouble is with needing things to be new- to me those people are colossal money-wasters. Presentation is a legitimate concern for performers, so it's OK to be aware of cosmetics, but that's a different issue than this shopaholic/consumerist fixation on pristine surfaces, and taking things out of boxes.
 
A

audiotech

Guest
I really wouldn't buy anything blindfolded, it's almost synonymous with finding a girlfriend or a wife blindfolded, only going from well she kisses or how good she is in bed. When the blindfold comes off, you're probably in for a real shocker. That's what I never got intoxicated before a blind date, lol. I believe you should initiate any purchase with all your senses engaged. I know exactly what the OP is trying to get across, but in my mind the only way this scenario could be played out is if the buyer already had his choices thinned down to a few kits that he already deemed to fit his sound, style, tastes and looks. From here making a blindfold test would make some sense to me and this is what I do a majority of the time, but without the blindfold. In my travels, I'm at a drum store or two every week and get to try different kits briefly to get a feel for their sound and quality. After a few months I gain enough knowledge to be able to accurately judge what kits sound and look better than others. When I get it down to two or three, I'll take a friend with me along with my girlfriend who knows my styles and have them play the kits back to back so that I can better judge the drums sound from several yards away. Now I know exactly how they sound from behind the kit and now in front of it. To me this is the best way to be able to judge what your going to fork you money out for. This is exactly why I won't buy a custom set of drums, unless they're sitting right in front of me to be able to play, look, touch and even smell, lol. If I were buying a more modest set of drums, Maybe I wouldn't be as particular, but I doubt it.

In a nut shell, I already have the sound and looks of the kits basically picked out before I make my final purchase. Going blindly into buying drums is kind of ridiculous to me.

Dennis
 

KarlCrafton

Platinum Member
Its a great idea. I think the one thing that Larry's snare test showed was that most people buy with their hearts. So many longing for the sound of years gone by, that was manipulated at the studio or sound board anyways. Even in a blind test many people after picking the wrong choice would still fall back on what they wish would be the right choice. IMO.
I think you're right on with this.

I didn't take a guess on the 3 types...I listened a few times each, and chose the one I liked the sound of best.
The crazy thing is, the one I picked from the sound files was the one I have. I was kind of surprised.
Larry's drum is tuned and hit quite a bit differently than mine is, but the character of the tone of the drum was the most appealing to me of the 3.

The one I liked (a pretty close) second best was actually the one I didn't think I'd like when I looked at the choices.
You can't go by brand, or looks alone.

As long as the hardware functions easily, and puts things where you want, that's kind of the only consideration to me.
If a kit looks great, but the edges blow, then forget it. It'll NEVER sound good unless the edges are re-cut, which then adds to the end cost.

Unless a brand/kit has a real bad rep from a wide variety of people, any kit with the type of wood you lean toward is probably going to make a sound the buyer would be happy with owning.
After a certain price point, any brand is going to be nice quality. Then it's in the hands of the drummer to make it sound good or not IMO.

I really haven't watched any "here's my kit" video's by people on YouTube.
Unless it's a specific thing (drum/cymbal) I'm looking for, I'm just not real interested in some "strangers" kit.
Someone from the forum I've communicated with is a different story though (link a video Sticks :) ).
 
S

sticks4drums

Guest
I think you're right on with this.

I didn't take a guess on the 3 types...I listened a few times each, and chose the one I liked the sound of best.
The crazy thing is, the one I picked from the sound files was the one I have. I was kind of surprised.
Larry's drum is tuned and hit quite a bit differently than mine is, but the character of the tone of the drum was the most appealing to me of the 3.

The one I liked (a pretty close) second best was actually the one I didn't think I'd like when I looked at the choices.
You can't go by brand, or looks alone.

As long as the hardware functions easily, and puts things where you want, that's kind of the only consideration to me.
If a kit looks great, but the edges blow, then forget it. It'll NEVER sound good unless the edges are re-cut, which then adds to the end cost.

Unless a brand/kit has a real bad rep from a wide variety of people, any kit with the type of wood you lean toward is probably going to make a sound the buyer would be happy with owning.
After a certain price point, any brand is going to be nice quality. Then it's in the hands of the drummer to make it sound good or not IMO.

I really haven't watched any "here's my kit" video's by people on YouTube.
Unless it's a specific thing (drum/cymbal) I'm looking for, I'm just not real interested in some "strangers" kit.
Someone from the forum I've communicated with is a different story though (link a video Sticks :) ).
Well said there Karl. You mean you didn't see my drum kit walk around video. Buddy, Gruntersdad nominated me for a dummy, I mean Drummie. :) Well here is the link.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nHHfV-7hHs
 

MattA

Senior Member
I certainly don't mean that you're going to purchase an item with your blindfold still on. I just think that sometimes us as drum consumers should lead with our ears a bit more. When you think about it, it is really the last thing we do. We walk into the shop with pre-conceived ideas of one sort or another. We then search with our eyes and examine the kit or cymbal. We may then speak to the assistant and ask them about features and price. We then at the end ask if we can hear it.

Different drummers will always place varying levels of signifigance on factors when buying. From a lot of practices I see going on, I think that you lay the best foundation for your purchase by deciding aurally first. Then move on to things such as appearance, features, brand and price. I will speculate that, for example, sometimes the one you like best by ear may not be in price range and you simply can't afford it. But at least you haven't, even at a sub-conscious level, swayed your own opinion before even hearing a beat.

As for ..."I really wouldn't buy anything blindfolded, it's almost synonymous with finding a girlfriend or a wife blindfolded"

I can't say I would compare my wife with my drums ... although I'm sure some may have some cheeky comparisons that could be made ;P
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
There was a time when I bought what I bought, because it was all I could afford, and so if I needed a 16" crash cymbal, and all I has was $60 ... I bought a POS crash cymbal. If I needed to expand my kit, and a CB700 concert tom set was all I could afford, well, that's what I took home. There was no "this sounds better than that" to the senario. My wallet (thin) simplified my purchasing.​
Once I got a "real" job, that all changed. My first pro level kit was based upon Ludwig clear vistalite drums. That was over 30 years ago. Since then, every drum, every cymbal I've bought, every piece of hardware, I "know what I'm getting into". Stuff that's "given" to me ... different story.​
In the case of my Ludwig kit, I actually had two sets of floor toms ... 3 ply and 6 ply, and I A/B'd those drums for about two weeks, before I decided my "Bonham" project was gonna be built with 6 ply shells.​
The Yamaha Recording Customs ... a basic no brainer. Gee, the longest produced drum series ever. I didn't need to "hear" the kit to "know" what I was getting. I had a set ... I had to sell that set ... no big deal. Thousands exist. I bought "another" set. It's my "basher" drum kit.​
My RMV drums (still missing a matching kick - to complete the set), I first heard them, easily 10+ years ago, at a NAMM show. Nice looking drums. Nice sounding drums. When the 8, 10, 12, 14 floor crossed my sights, I pulled the trigger. Kick hasn't shown it's head yet ... but one will. Size, don't matter. A 20, or a 22 ... whatever, it'll work.​
Then there's the Gretsch round badge. The kings. In my book, the top of the mountain. If I had to "thin the herd", those would be the "last drums standing".​
 

Fishbones

Silver Member
I think the one thing that Larry's snare test showed was that most people buy with their hearts. .
I agree - most of my buying and that of guitarist/bassist/horn player friends has all been intuitive. If I love a cymbal, I generally know after hitting it a couple times. This is even more so with guitarists/bassists - the bassist in one of my bands, a great player and a dear friend of mine, picked up an N.O.S. 1964 Fender Jazz Bass and knew that it was "the one" before he played more than a few notes.
 

Davo-London

Gold Member
Maybe another factor here is experience. After all a newbie with some good cash may well make a bad choice and as you get more drum-wise you are less likely to make bad choices. After all it's not just drum manufacturer but it's size and wood type etc etc.

I've never understood brand loyalty but I am brand-loyal. For example I'm a Fender-guy when it comes to bass. Even though my own experiences tell me that between 1969 and about 1992 Fender made crap basses. My 76 P-bass bought from new is a complete dog. Maybe brand loyalty comes from a teenage desire thing and never goes away. As a guy in his 40's I own Tama, Roland and Paiste but it could just as well be Mapex, Yamaha and Sabian. I don't have the same magnetic pull to the brands.

Having said all that, IMHO for a lot of applications too much is made of the drum sound as frankly I can't hear diddly-squat when two guitarists are playing live. If I'm lucky I hear some snare and a bit of cymbal. So whether it's a $1000 or a $5000 kit I'm not sure the audience are really going to be able to tell.

I'm also pretty sure that Gadd would make a $1000 kit sound awsome.

So, you'll have to forgive me as I know this is heresy but as long as the drums are well tuned will anyone (other than hard-core drummers) notice any difference between the kits?

I'm bracing myself ... ; )

Davo
 
Top