Comparing Drum Companies

taiko

Senior Member
Another thread in this forum closed today that had asked people to list the five "best" drum companies. Many people did so, while many others pointed out that this was a useless endeavor. The fact that the thread had quite a few comments suggests that drummers give this a fair amount of thought. I find myself wondering if this is really a useless exercise and, if so, why? Here are a few things that came to mind:

1. Ranking on the basis of sound seems rather useless. This is subjective and different people like different sounding instruments. That said, I do think some cheaper drums simply sound bad--and I think some expensive drums sound bad. I don't like the sound of DW Performance series (and some of their other series as well) drums at all and think they sound bad, not just different. I know, if you put the right head on it, you can make any drum sound "good." I'm not sure that's true. Can there be a bad sounding drum?

2. Ranking on the basis of quality of construction seems more productive. Is there truly a difference in quality between DW, Sonor, Yamaha, Gretsch, Ludwig, etc.? Are any of these of higher quality in terms of construction, manufacturing techniques, etc. than others? Or are they just different?

3. Drummer seem to spend a great deal of time being brand conscious. Perhaps it is because we often put the label of the company right on the front of the bass drum. Is all of the talking drummers seem to do about different brands really about quality/sound, etc. or is it about brand name and conspicuous consumption?

4. Is there any valid basis for comparing different drum companies and their products other than subjective criteria that, in the end, are nothing more than personal preference?

I'd be curious to hear any intelligent thoughts on this (as opposed to snide comments--although those can be fun, too).
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
It all reminds me of little kids comparing batman to superman to spider man to Captain Planet.

I see people slagging off pearl, dw, my mapex etc and honestly they're all good past a certain price point, it's more about taste. I see dw being sold alot in the Aus used market and I think there are more ludwig quality issues brought to light on this forum but that doesn't necessarily mean dw owners aren't impressed long term or that ludwig have bad qc.

I got my kit because it had a reputation of being pro level and good value (which it is), that was enough for me to choose finish and place an order. My drums sound great, I stop and admire them every time I walk into my drum room to practice, all that's left is for me to play them well.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
4. Is there any valid basis for comparing different drum companies and their products other than subjective criteria that, in the end, are nothing more than personal preference?
Not really. There is no best... there is only the best for me or best I've found. And that's because there are many factors that govern our perception of what's 'best'.

McDonald's comes to mind here.

Do they make the best burger? Well, they undoubtedly sell more burgers than anyone else, and there are tons of locations worldwide, so, they're the best... right? Some people would say absolutely yes, but I imagine most others would prefer burgers from somewhere else.

So, based on sales, availability, and the fact that some people swear by them, is McDonald's actually the best?

Apply that to drums or cymbals or sticks or heads. It's personal preference, period. All one learns from asking such "best" questions, is that everyone disagrees on what's "best".

Bermuda
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
I like how you're actually trying to think this through instead of immediately zombie-reviving a thread that was put down for good reason.

1. Yes, yes it is, and even the best drum companies can have a "Monday morning drum" -- and it's easier than you might think. Goof off a bit as you're cutting a bearing edge and the result is a drum that can be nigh-impossible to tune up correctly. It'll still sound like a drum, mind you, but probably not the type of drum you'd pay top dollar for. Then you can put a Hydraulic on it top and bottom if you're still not unsatisfied...

2. I don't think you can point at any of the companies you just named -- or any company out there making high-end ply drums, period -- and say that one manufacturing process is that much better than the others. In fact, many "custom" drum makers are getting their shells from Keller, anyways, negating any claims of better manufacturing. I *do*, however, think that there is a definite difference in quality of drum hardware -- which is more prone to go wrong over the life of a drumset than anything to do with the shells. Would you believe I just had a DW snare throwoff fall apart on me the other day? Would you expect that out of any snare you paid good money for?

3. I think a lot of it is marketing Kool-Aid and the omnipresence of famous drummers in ads influencing people. A lot of my favorite drummers happen to play DW, but I wouldn't buy a DW kit; I dig Chad Smith and William Kennedy, but I have no intention of buying a Pearl kit. In my case, it's to do with things I don't care for about the drums and hardware, not necessarily the manufacturer. But to someone who may not be as critical of gear, the fact that (drummer X) plays (brand Y) means it's the best ever. Or if someone gets a set and really loves it, that set becomes the best set of drums money can buy.

4. If a certain company consistently makes substandard gear, they should theoretically go out of business, due to bad word-of-mouth and so forth, or at very least struggle to make ends meet. We've seen how some companies have had to deal with backlash from the departure of key endorsers (Ludwig weathered Vinnie's departure just fine, while Soultone probably wishes Jonathan Moffett had stuck with them). Few drummers at any income level or level of exposure will stick with a brand if it honestly doesn't work well, or keep buying a piece of gear that doesn't perform over the long run -- even heads and sticks. Apart from that, no, I think that ranking drum companies as the original post tried to do is like trying to rank drummers -- or drops of water in the ocean. It is nearly 100% personal preference, and individual opinions can and will vary.
 

taiko

Senior Member
Not really. There is no best... there is only the best for me or best I've found. And that's because there are many factors that govern our perception of what's 'best'.

McDonald's comes to mind here.

Do they make the best burger? Well, they undoubtedly sell more burgers than anyone else, and there are tons of locations worldwide, so, they're the best... right? Some people would say absolutely yes, but I imagine most others would prefer burgers from somewhere else.

So, based on sales, availability, and the fact that some people swear by them, is McDonald's actually the best?

Apply that to drums or cymbals or sticks or heads. It's personal preference, period. All one learns from asking such "best" questions, is that everyone disagrees on what's "best".

Bermuda
Bermuda, I agree with you that there is no best. It's a matter of personal preference. But my question was a bit different. I asked is there any valid basis for comparison other than I like this but not that? I'm not sure that I would agree that high volume of sales = best. The pink slime that they put into their burgers suggests that they are of very low quality. People buy them because they are cheap and taste ok. But compared to a grass-fed beef burger from a good restaurant, the quality isn't there. Maybe you would reply that quality is just subjective and I'm not sure I'd disagree, but I think that people buy McD's because they are cheap, not because they are high quality--and they know that when they purcahse them.

Back to drums. We can clearly compare drums on the basis of quality within the products of a company. I don't think that Gretsch Catalina Club kits are of as high quality as the USA Custom kits or the New Classic (I've owned all three). Soundwise, there are times when I've actually thought I liked the club kits better than my USA Custom, but in terms of build quality, the USA Customs are better drums. Why can't we do that across brands?
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
4. Is there any valid basis for comparing different drum companies and their products other than subjective criteria that, in the end, are nothing more than personal preference?

I'd be curious to hear any intelligent thoughts on this (as opposed to snide comments--although those can be fun, too).
The answer to question 4 is no.

Suppose we pick a drum set that everyone on this forum agrees is a bad drum set. Everyone agrees that it is pure junk.

And then we find a drummer that has had a set of these drums for many years and he/she is still happy with the set.
Or even more important we find that many great drummers first learned to play drums on this so called junk drum set.

Is the company that built this particular set of drums better or worse than any other company on the list?


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Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Despite many drummers saying to the contrary, brand is the number 1 consideration. This is no different to almost any product category out there, right down to a can of beans. I view the forum members here as being a bit more enlightened than most, so the bias is a little muted, but it's still there.

There are big differences in construction, once you get outside of the larger mass market companies. Wether a player perceives there to be a benefit in such differences is back to being both a subjective & contextual issue.
 

Arky

Platinum Member
The answer to question 4 is no.
I disagree.

There can be an objective set of parameters applied to each drum out there. Imagine categories like 'sustain' and that a certain drum has a sustain value of '7' on a scale between 1 (lowest) and 10 (highest). That would be an objective measurement. It doesn't tell you anything about whether a '7' is desirable for a specific user though - that's when it gets subjective again of course. (One person might find a '7' ideal while another one would like his/her drums to have less sustain so the drums would work better in a specific context.)

But evaluating various parameters - be it cars, drums, nutrition or whatever - can be done and will provide you with a lot of details. It's up to you to make your conclusions out of it.

4 might be somewhat related to 1. Again, a set of parameters can surely be created as a result of some measurement. It's up to the consumer to judge whether this is good or bad, or to what extent in-between.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I disagree.

There can be an objective set of parameters applied to each drum out there. Imagine categories like 'sustain' and that a certain drum has a sustain value of '7' on a scale between 1 (lowest) and 10 (highest). That would be an objective measurement. It doesn't tell you anything about whether a '7' is desirable for a specific user though - that's when it gets subjective again of course. (One person might find a '7' ideal while another one would like his/her drums to have less sustain so the drums would work better in a specific context.)

But evaluating various parameters - be it cars, drums, nutrition or whatever - can be done and will provide you with a lot of details. It's up to you to make your conclusions out of it.

4 might be somewhat related to 1. Again, a set of parameters can surely be created as a result of some measurement. It's up to the consumer to judge whether this is good or bad, or to what extent in-between.
Good point.
I suppose in the end we could agree that a particular drum company makes low level drums.
My point was that that company would still be a good company because they would be making great drums for a young drummer who is just starting to show some interest in playing drums.


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shemp

Silver Member
I disagree.

There can be an objective set of parameters applied to each drum out there. Imagine categories like 'sustain' and that a certain drum has a sustain value of '7' on a scale between 1 (lowest) and 10 (highest). That would be an objective measurement. It doesn't tell you anything about whether a '7' is desirable for a specific user though - that's when it gets subjective again of course. (One person might find a '7' ideal while another one would like his/her drums to have less sustain so the drums would work better in a specific context.)

But evaluating various parameters - be it cars, drums, nutrition or whatever - can be done and will provide you with a lot of details. It's up to you to make your conclusions out of it.

4 might be somewhat related to 1. Again, a set of parameters can surely be created as a result of some measurement. It's up to the consumer to judge whether this is good or bad, or to what extent in-between.
This could be a slippery slope....yes, you could measure a parameter like that, sure, but it could have a lot to do with wood species, number of plies, head type, hoop type...etc

What if the companies one wanted to compare each make a birch drum but one is 5 ply and the other is 7.... Sure the the sustain parameter would yield information, but it might be largely due to construction techniques....not a delta in quality...and thus you would now be comparing construction techniques and not whether brand A was better than Brand B. That might lead you to choose brand A or brand B, yes, but one is not better except to the subject that is looking for something they want. The brands are different, not better.
 

taiko

Senior Member
Good point.
I suppose in the end we could agree that a particular drum company makes low level drums.
My point was that that company would still be a good company because they would be making great drums for a young drummer who is just starting to show some interest in playing drums.


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That's a good point. You can have a great (high quality) drum set that is cheap, but intended for a beginner audience. But it would not be comparable, obviously, to a high end kit.

So let me throw out another thought. I don't like dDrum products. I've never heard one I liked, and I've read several comments on discussion boards about quality problems with their kits to the point that I wouldn't even consider buying one of their kits. Is it unreasonable for me to think that their products are subpar?

And another question: Do people buy DW drums because they are good or because DW has done a great job of marketing their products as high end? In other words, is playing a DW like driving a BMW? People do it because they want to be seen with the DW/BMW badge on the thing they own? Before you attack me--I drive a BMW so I'm probably guilty as charged. Although I do think it's a fantastic car.
 
D

drumming sort of person

Guest
When I look at buying a new set of drums, there are several factors I consider. Ideally, there would be a manufacturer that offers the sizes, finishes, and features I want, but what usually happens is I have to pick things a la carte from several companies.

First of all, I look at the quality of construction. Pretty much every company has a high end line that is of very good quality. Next, I look at sizes. Right away, this eliminates some companies, since many only offer very deep bass drums. After that, I look for die cast hoops on the toms. Again, this eliminates a few more companies. Next, I look at the aesthetics, such as lug design. I despise hook (or quick release) lugs, so this choice eliminates drums like Yamaha's Phoenix line or Ayotte.

After that, it's a matter of comparing tom mounting systems. I had narrowed it down to two brands: Tama and Gretsch. I had a lot of experience with Gretsch and I knew I would love them, but the Tama Bubinga line (this was four years ago) intrigued me. In the end, I decided I didn't like Tama's mounting system. I didn't like Gretsch's system either, but since I decided to use Yamaha's YESS mounting system, it was much easier to modify the Gretsch.

The other reason I went with the Gretsch is the selection of finishes. They've offered the same finishes for as long as I can remember (and offer some new ones from time to time) whereas Tama (and most other companies) tend to discontinue lines and finishes after a few years. Gretsch has used the same lug since their inception, and if I need to add another drum in the future (which I did), they can make me an identically finished drum that will match my existing set.

The fact that I went with a different company's mount is no big deal either. Back in the late 70s I ordered a big Slingerland set and used Premier's mounting hardware. Before that, I installed a Ludwig mount on a Pearl set. You should never be afraid to put together the kit you really want.

I like the way Gretsch's new Renown drum mount looks/works. I may have to look into that sometime soon. I would also consider Sonor's drums, but I'm not crazy about their mounting system, they don't offer a shallow bass drum in their ProLite line, and their SQ2 line is too pricey for me.
 

taiko

Senior Member
When I look at buying a new set of drums, there are several factors I consider. Ideally, there would be a manufacturer that offers the sizes, finishes, and features I want, but what usually happens is I have to pick things a la carte from several companies.

First of all, I look at the quality of construction. Pretty much every company has a high end line that is of very good quality. Next, I look at sizes. Right away, this eliminates some companies, since many only offer very deep bass drums. After that, I look for die cast hoops on the toms. Again, this eliminates a few more companies. Next, I look at the aesthetics, such as lug design. I despise hook (or quick release) lugs, so this choice eliminates drums like Yamaha's Phoenix line or Ayotte.

After that, it's a matter of comparing tom mounting systems. I had narrowed it down to two brands: Tama and Gretsch. I had a lot of experience with Gretsch and I knew I would love them, but the Tama Bubinga line (this was four years ago) intrigued me. In the end, I decided I didn't like Tama's mounting system. I didn't like Gretsch's system either, but since I decided to use Yamaha's YESS mounting system, it was much easier to modify the Gretsch.

The other reason I went with the Gretsch is the selection of finishes. They've offered the same finishes for as long as I can remember (and offer some new ones from time to time) whereas Tama (and most other companies) tend to discontinue lines and finishes after a few years. Gretsch has used the same lug since their inception, and if I need to add another drum in the future (which I did), they can make me an identically finished drum that will match my existing set.

The fact that I went with a different company's mount is no big deal either. Back in the late 70s I ordered a big Slingerland set and used Premier's mounting hardware. Before that, I installed a Ludwig mount on a Pearl set. You should never be afraid to put together the kit you really want.

I like the way Gretsch's new Renown drum mount looks/works. I may have to look into that sometime soon. I would also consider Sonor's drums, but I'm not crazy about their mounting system, they don't offer a shallow bass drum in their ProLite line, and their SQ2 line is too pricey for me.
I'm just curious: You talk alot about finish, mounting, etc. What about sound?
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
And another question: Do people buy DW drums because they are good or because DW has done a great job of marketing their products as high end? In other words, is playing a DW like driving a BMW? People do it because they want to be seen with the DW/BMW badge on the thing they own? Before you attack me--I drive a BMW so I'm probably guilty as charged. Although I do think it's a fantastic car.
A bit of both. DW make very good quality drums, & their marketing is both well conceived & financed. People like to be associated with success, it's a well established driver, & the drum manufacturers know this well.

As simple proof of brand power, imagine an unknown manufacture introducing a like for like product. They're able to demonstrate identical quality, sound, long term security/availability, warranty, etc. Would that product sell in anywhere near the same volumes? No, of course not. Brand equity is huge. It's the biggest investment made by any company. Often hard won over time, & very very expensive. Supporting that brand presence often represents a bigger portion of the price you pay than any other element.
 
D

drumming sort of person

Guest
I'm just curious: You talk alot about finish, mounting, etc. What about sound?
That's an obvious feature isn't it? Of course I consider how the drum will sound, but most high end drums sound just fine, with subtle variations. I don't particularly care for Ludwig's "thonk", and DW drums have always sounded terrible to me, but aside from that, I knew that I would be happy with Gretsch, having played them for a dozen years in the past. As for the Tama, I had a cheap set of Tama drums a few years ago that sounded amazing. The hardware was sub par, but this was a VERY cheap set of drums. Even the wood looked to be very soft, cheap wood, but man, their sound belied their cost.

I've also found some high end Pearl, Sonor, Brady, and some Yamaha drums to sound quite nice.
 

taiko

Senior Member
That's an obvious feature isn't it? Of course I consider how the drum will sound, but most high end drums sound just fine, with subtle variations. I don't particularly care for Ludwig's "thonk", and DW drums have always sounded terrible to me, but aside from that, I knew that I would be happy with Gretsch, having played them for a dozen years in the past. As for the Tama, I had a cheap set of Tama drums a few years ago that sounded amazing. The hardware was sub par, but this was a VERY cheap set of drums. Even the wood looked to be very soft, cheap wood, but man, their sound belied their cost.

I've also found some high end Pearl, Sonor, Brady, and some Yamaha drums to sound quite nice.
Well, yes, I think it's obvious. But I'm not sure everyone does. I tend not to care much about look. If it sparkles, I'm basically happy. And if it doesn't sparkle but sounds good, that's fine. I prefer a more round, warm sound and, thus, have drums that reflect that. I have a Yamaha Club Custom kit in the brown wood finish. It doesn't look all that great, but it sounds amazing. I couldn't part with it.
 
D

drumming sort of person

Guest
I have a Yamaha Club Custom kit in the brown wood finish. It doesn't look all that great, but it sounds amazing. I couldn't part with it.
You're crazy. I LOVE that finish! I almost picked up a set of those drums too.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
IDK to me it's like comparing girlfriends. Not very fair as everyone is different. Pick what works for you and leave the rest alone. Be glad there's choice.

Knowing, in excruciating detail, what YOU want is the key to selecting drums. Unless you get lucky, this is an exercise in trial and error. Just some factors to consider when selecting drums are:

Tone...which has everything to do with

Construction
Wood type
Ply or solid
Bearing edges
Grain orientation
Hoops
Sizes


Then you have the look of the drum which is really important to many.

Then there's price.

Forget better or best, they are non issues. Understand what you want first, then seek it out. This is easier said than done. Many times, I *thought* I wanted something, only to find out that my expectation/logic didn't match the reality. (Canopus Zelkova for example) So you adjust your brain with the new information gleaned and eventually narrow down what you are looking for in a drum to the point where your expectations match reality.

The Zelkova....carved from a tree, vertical grain orientation, zero glue, unmolested grain structure....On paper it sounds like the ultimate snare drum. Little did I know that a vertical non-tensioned grain makes for less overtones. Plus the bearing edge was really sharp. So that was a learning curve I hadn't planned on. So now I know to stay away from vertical grained drums. Some people would love the control and focus these drums have, nothing wrong there. It's just not the sound I hear in my head.
 
D

drumming sort of person

Guest
Knowing, in excruciating detail, what YOU want is the key to selecting drums. Unless you get lucky, this is an exercise in trial and error.
It's almost impossible to know what you want, unless you know what your options are, and what they sound like. In a perfect world (or perfect drum shop), you would be able to compare identically sized drums, one by one, with the drum heads of your choice mounted on them. Only then would you be able to clearly hear the difference (if indeed any differences were audible) between different wood, edge, number of plies, construction, etc.

Instead, what most drummers do is go by what their favorite drummers play, or by personal experience (playing their teacher's or friends' drums).

Personally, I ended up getting drums similar to what my teacher had setup because I liked them so much (I'm talking many, many years ago).
 
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