DW Drums from a Non-DW Player's Perspective

Darth Vater

Senior Member
I think they have their place in the market. I don't think they're necessarily overpriced what with the customization options available. I DO think they could kick out some kits with better finishes than that satin or finish ply (wrap) without the buyer having to get bent over. Does everything have to be 100 year old Tasmanian Devil Yukka wood? How 'bout they sling some reasonable lacquer finishes, maybe some Alpi stuff like Sonor does. All in all they do make good drums though. I just think I can get better value elsewhere.


Well-known member
I DO think they could kick out some kits with better finishes than that satin or finish ply (wrap) without the buyer having to get bent over... How 'bout they sling some reasonable lacquer finishes...
FYI, my Performer set is cherry stain. Gorgeous! But you're right, the selection is small.


Well-known member
to my ears, ive never heard a good sounding DW without a lot of processing and EQ'ing. and the ones ive played before as backline kits always sounded a bit boxy to me (they had decent heads and tuning on them so it wasnt a case of bad heads & tuning on them either).


Gold Member
Time to bring this up to date lol. They acquired Slingerland recently. Say what you want about this company, they’re not one to rest on their laurels.
Yep, can't wait to see what they do with Slingerland.

The DW Classic Series will become Radio Kings. That's a major assumption on my part but given they based that line on Slingerland it makes complete sense.

My two cents to the original topic. I love my DW kit. Couldn't be happier with them


New member
From a 30+ year drummer and sound guy on DW Collectors 100% maple.

Very focused! You get the attack, then the note and then it's gone. None of the juicy overtones rolling around that jazz guys usually insist on. The ultra focused sound works great on kicks and snares when you want to rock (or country) but the toms are always sort of dead sounding. The toms also don't carry very well in acoustic settings but can sound pretty darn good with a mic on them. You can't really go wrong with a good 100% maple kit but hating DW is more about what they don't do than what they do. You can take a different maple kit at half the price and get it to sound like or even better than (frankly) DW's but you can't make DW's sound like anything but DW's. Once you buy it you're stuck with it. The DW kit I worked on at my last backline company always had problems getting the toms to sound cohesive. Often the 10" would sound like it was from a completely different kit than the 12".

This is where my hate for DW really sets in. The thing is I like my back much better when I don't blow it out on stupid, pointlessly heavy hardware. DW is well known for exceedingly overbuilt hardware and a pricetag to match. You get 10 options on a stand when you only need 2 and it's sold to you, including the extra weight and overall pain-in-the-a** of all that pointless stuff, as "inovation"! If you have a roadie loading it for you then who cares? Right? But if you're hauling it yourself then save your back and your bank. I also had problems with the tom mounts rubbing up against a couple tension rods making tunning more challenging than need be but maybe DW has fixed this since the production of that kit.

Particularly for the price there's a lot that DW's don't do for me.

Check out the Late Night w/David Letterman Drum solo series and compare Sheila E's flappy DW drum sound (in heels! Hell yeah!) to the well rounded sound of Gavin Harrison's Sonor's (not in heels! Sorry Gavin). World of difference between the two!

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New member
Two different headings/tunings is what I'm hearing
Yep. I hear the different heads and tunings and even the different way the sound engineer dialed in each individual kit and that may have even been completely different people on each as well. Unfortunately I can't help you differentiate those sounds from the actual overall sound of the drum itself. To me there are glaring differences in the actual base sound of the two drum sets that are very obvious even in the very "processed" mixes of these kits.


Senior Member
Two different headings/tunings is what I'm hearing
Sorry, but Gavin's Sonor kit sounds far warmer and richer than Sheila E's DW kit. It's not even close. And it's not heads/tuning/processing either. That's a fundamental difference in how these drums sound. I'm sure heads/tuning/processing contributes to the differences, but these are fundamental differences based primarily on shell construction. And this 100% corresponds to how these kits have sounded when I've played them or heard them up close.

BTW, I saw Gavin last December with The Pineapple Thief, and I thought his Sonor was the best-sounding kit I'd ever heard at a concert.


Junior Member
I am always puzzled by the amount of DW naysayers there are , especially in the United States . DW literally resurrected a sickly US Drum industry . Gretsch was almost non- existent , Slingerland and Rogers a memory and Ludwig a shadow of itself with quality issues . DW proved that an American Company could compete with the Japanese giants . You would think more Americans would be grateful for DW for this .

I have owned two DW kits , I own none now . Both the DW kits I owned were fine kits ( Collectors Maple and Jazz Series ) very well made and each had beautiful bearing edges and unique hardware features . My former DW Jazz series kit was far superior in sound and build quality to any of the 7 Gretsch kits I have owned over the years . I had a few reasons for selling my DW kits - it had nothing to do with build quality of sound .

DW deserves more respect for their efforts IMHO. They make very nice drums , especially their maple/ Mahogany and Cherry/Mahogany series .

I bought one of their Low Pro kits to use for rehearsals and jam sessions and I am very pleased with it . The design is great and the drums are very portable and lightweight and sound far better than I expected .
I'm an older guy, 61, and have been a gigging drummer since I was 16. My first good kit was a set of super clean 1965 Slingerlands that I bought when I was 18 years old and out on my own. I sold them in the early eighties when I was a struggling newlywed, and went through a few lesser kits in that decade.

In early 1991 I was run over by a truck on my motorcycle. It was questionable whether I would walk, much less drum again. After thirteen surgeries on my left leg, a couple of surgeries on my left arm, and eighteen months of physical therapy, I was able to walk and think about drumming again. The bills for my hospital stay, surgeries, and physical therapy cost $643,000. I joke that I am the .6 million dollar man. Insurance covered most of this, but I ended up selling everything that I owned to live.

This is all background, I'll get to where DW plays into this...

In 1992 I walked into a drum shop (on a cane) for the first time in what seemed like forever. They had plenty of kits from Pearl, Tama, and Yamaha, the three companies that were dominant at the time. They had one American Ludwig kit in an odd finish, every other new kit in the store was imported... Except for a set of DWs. I was familiar with DW pedals, I owned a 5000 pedal before my accident. Their pedals were well respected, but they were an underdog when it came to drums. I know that younger guys will find this hard to imagine, but at that time few people had actually seen an actual DW kit, much less gotten to play one. They were stunning to look at, better finished than anything else in the shop. It wasn't even close. As for the sound, they sounded great. I loved what heard, I loved what I saw, but I wondered out loud whether they would be able to compete with the dominant imported brands. I don't remember what they cost, but they were outside of my price range. I ended up buying a used set of Slingerlands that day, but that set of DWs left an impression.

I got back into playing and gigged the hell out of those Slingerlands through the 1990s and 2000s. I was saving up to finally buy a new kit, and a set of DWs or Slingerlands were on my short list. Gibson owned Slingerland by this time, the kits made in Nashville impressed me, they moved their drum manufacturing operation to Conway, Arkansas and seemed to loose a step. Ludwig and Gretsch were both players in the market again, but I was drawn to DW.

I had a major stroke in January of 2008. Now I would get to learn to play the drums for the third time in my life. First I needed to get walking and talking back up to speed. I used drumming as part of my rehab. I decided that I would finally buy my dream set. In July of 2008 I purchased a six piece DW Collector's Series kit in the broken glass finish. It was everything that I had hoped for. I loved the sound, they looked amazing under the lights, I could not be happier with them. I played a lot of gigs with them between 2008 and 2019. I carried them in Humes and Berg Enduro cases, they still look brand new.

In January of 2019 I decided to buy another new kit. I love my DWs, but I wanted to try something else. Over the years I've also owned a bunch of vintage kits, particularly Slingerland and Gretsch. I ordered a six piece Gretsch USA Custom kit in silver glass finish. (Very similar to the broken glass finish on my DWs.) I packed up my DWs in their H & B cases and I'd been playing the Gretsch kit until Covid-19 closed all of the bars. In the meantime I've expanded my Gretsch kit into a shell bank. I still love my DWs, my Gretsch kit is just a different flavor that I'm enjoying for now.

In the 80's we almost got to the point of losing all of our American drum manufacturers, as RickP pointed out. DW made a good product, made many innovations over the years, and has become the big, bad, manufacturing giant that people like to hate. Myself, I admire what they have accomplished. This past January my wife and visited the Gretsch factory in South Carolina which is under the DW umbrella, it was operating at capacity with a waiting list for their products. It was great to see. Now Slingerland is owned by DW. I'm very excited to see what they do with this brand. And yes, there is a very good chance that I will order a set.

DW? I'm a fan, and proud to say so.
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Gold Member
I just purchased my first DW set and I'm really enjoying them. It's a performance series w 10", 12" toms and 14" and 16" floor toms in Black Mirra lacquer finish. As expected, the fit and finish are great. They're very flexible in terms of sound...warm and resonant with a fairly wide tuning range. I have them tuned closer to medium-high and they sing without the growly/tubby sound I've read others associate with DW. Out of the box, they were tuned low and sounded tubby with the stock heads, but I was able to resolve that by changing the heads and tuning to my liking. I've only had them for a few days, but I'm confident I can make them do anything I need them to.

I also have an 70's Gretsch USA set and, by comparison, the DWs sound, softer and with a less defined note. The Gretsch have more bite , that characteristic Gretsch twang and a more defined note. There's a wildness in the sound that I love about the old Gretsch drums, but I also love the sound of the DWs.

I bought the DWs because I plan to play out again and wanted a workhorse set that sounds great and doesn't pose the problems of moving around a 45 year old set. (loose screws, vintage floor tom brackets...etc)


Senior Member
I like DW drums for many reasons, but one thing I dislike about them are those
cheap zinc plated screws which fix the lugs on the shell. Not okay on a drum set that costs several thousand $s.
You wanna see some cheap fasteners? Check out Gretsch.


Platinum Member
I bet if you were a DW player then you'd have a different perspective and likely like them. Now if you were a long time DW players and had some grievances then that would seem more credible. So what drum brand does the OP like and lets get some equal time critiques LOL.