High end / variable quality (an extension on a comment by Andy)

wombat

Senior Member
In another thread Andy (keep it simple) made a reply which included the following observations (ive edited out parts of his comment not related to this thread)

Yes, Andy here ( sentence deleted)

There really is a design lesson here, & the following observation is not aimed at any specific line of drums.

Just because the specification list looks impressive, doesn't even start to guarantee a good instrument. The very best instruments are designed without compromise, & with all elements moving towards a clear sonic character objective. Honestly, that's rare. The real stand out instruments are ones where the end result is clearly greater than the sum of it's parts. I've seen examples of such stand out instruments in the lower price tiers, & I've seen (especially recently) some terrible examples of poor performing drums in the very high price tiers.

Just because a drum has steam bent shells, or a certain wood species, or 5 plies - 3 plies - 30 degree edges, or whatever feature, in isolation, does not make, or even necessarily positively contribute towards, a great instrument. You can have the best shells in the world, but (depending on what you're trying to achieve) if you screw up the edges, or hang boat anchor hardware onto the shell, or even get the basics of thickness & depth skewed, it's all for nothing.




How true Andy, I suspect that awareness is what sets your drum making apart.

As some will know I recently bought a Brady snare and I could immediately tell the difference between that and other snares I had played up until that point.

Differences such as ease of tuning to a variety of "ranges" and in those ranges still have a synchronicity with the rest of the kits tuning, whatever that may be. indeed in many ( not all) cases its tone enhanced as well as complimented the kit sound.

The snare also had (for me as a mug punter drummer) an amazing "ease" in obtaining subtlety of tone and loudness.

There are other manufacturers using Australian Hard woods, who also hand make their drums in Australia , many with largely "unheard of names" in the wider drum community.

With that in mind I recently bought 2 other Australian hardwood snares (14 by 6 ish) expecting similar dynamic range, nuance, ease of tuning etc. ( I wont mention the manufactirers name)

With both snares I was horribly dissapointed firstly by the look. For a 6 inch depth it had that much "metalwork" in the rims that from a casual look the snares looked like a piccalo snares, and indeed it played like one sound wise.

For someone who loves drum aesthetics I was dissapointed that so much lovely timber was covered by lumps of metal.

I also found the drums very finniky to tune, had snare buzz unless you tighten the heads till they scream for Mamma, and still sound like a "rata-a-tat" marching band snare.

With Australian hardwood I was hoping to have the option of extracting a deep warm tone with a stockmans whipcrack kind of "punch" and short sustain.

I can get such a sound as mentioned on the Brady...but also on my previous go to drum...a " cheaper " 6 ply maple Tama Artwood 14 by 6.5 and also my MUCH CHEAPER original Yamaha 'GIGMAKER" snare.

I get the feeling that the drummaker is a fine woodworker and indeed I have seen some lovely bits of kit by him (looks wise) but I dont think he gets Andys point of " all elements moving towards a clear sonic character objective."

I would love to show examples but I dont want to bag a manufacturer based on my experience, rather I wanted to share my experience to back up Andys statement and in an oblique way compliment his objectives and desire to make not just pieces of art, but apparently (according to those whove been lucky enough to play them) great sonic characteristics !!

Oh in case you think I have more money than sense

A / yes thats true except I have bugger all money and even less sense in spending it !!



and B/ I intended to keep the best of the bunch and perhaps a "backup" and move on the rest...


 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I'm sticking to my originally quoted statements, but I'll add a bit more detail.

In line with this thread title, the variable quality I've seen recently in one or two high end lines hasn't just been design based, it's been manufacturing quality based. I've had drums in my hands that represent the very pinnacle of certain ranges, & a lot of marketing real estate too, yet their construction quality has been nothing short of a disgrace. Not just "cheaping out" on materials, but unbelievably poor workmanship. These examples are in the minority = thankfully.

That cleared up, because we all know things can go wrong, the more interesting aspect is that of cohesive instrument design, & how that's largely disconnected from specification (as in my quoted statements). There are many stand out drums for me, but also a huge raft of generic stuff that's good, but designed to fit into a marketing/production method/cost model rather than being a genuinely well thought through instrument.

Please don't think I'm only focussed on high end stuff. To me, the most influential line of drums over the last 35 years is the Pearl Export range. Exports really changed the drum building landscape - almost overnight. A cohesive design that placed quality where it really mattered at a budget price point. That range of drums shamed the quality of the so called premium brands (especially in terms of hardware), & blew away the competition at the same price point. Pearl export was single handedly responsible for the biggest increase in quality over the shortest period of time in drum making history. It's the model that every budget & intermediate line has followed for the last 35 years.

In some ways, Mapex's Saturn echos some of that early Export innovation. I don't find them remarkable, but they do represent a cohesive design strategy, & in terms of performance, punch well above their weight. C&C's Player Date 1 is another example of a cohesive design that really delivers. Kumu's range of birch kits is another, & perhaps even Ludwig's Signet line (although I'm yet to play one) represents a cohesive design direction with a defined goal in mind. Some of Ronn's stuff too. Some stumble across things by happy accident, some really know their drum stuff :)

The exact opposites of these examples are the generic Asian production models that currently flood the market at every price point. There's a reason they all sound similar - they are! Also in that basket are the generic "custom" jobs that use some hardware out of the Asian metalworks parts bin & slap on a funky finish. Then there's those who concentrate on specification without any real development to really dial into the instrument performance. Both small & large companies are guilty of this. Offering solid segmented or stave shells, in themselves, is almost meaningless unless the instrument is designed completely to work with those constructional strengths. Quality of timber selection becomes key too.
 

Grolubao

Senior Member
I agree that Brady make some nice drums. Myself I'm the owner of two, but I have to say I believe more in the philosophy of Guru Drums. That's because they don't do custom drums, simply because some sizes they just don't work together, whereas the other custom drum makers are just interested in sealing the deal.

Also in terms of sound referring to snare drums I think Guru sounds better than Brady. A different sound for sure, but for my ears is more versatile than Brady.
 

wombat

Senior Member
Grolubao

I agree with you regarding Andys philosophy in drummaking which is why I quoted him in my thread.

I used brady as an example as I personally have been able to compare hardwood Vs hardwood by 2 different manufacturers with 2 completely different outcomes.

I was aiming at highlighting obsevations made by Andy that "Just because the specification list looks impressive, doesn't even start to guarantee a good instrument. The very best instruments are designed without compromise"

ie I have drums with similar specifications but different outcomes, and was using that difference by way of agreeing with Andy and wanting to personally lend my own experience to his statement.

Comparing Bradys to Gurus was not my aim..... I do suspect their are artisan drum makers that are great craftspeople who produce a drum that looks fantastic, has quality gear on it, but sound dissapointing. Meaning that the parts were not put together with great sonic qualities in mind...they are just nice parts put together.

I did not name the other manufacturer as I dont think its fair to bag a product that you have a fairly limited exposure too..... however I can say the no name product was NOT a guru. To repeat myself it was an Australian manufacturer using Australian Hardwoods.


ANDY

I hope you read my comment as suppoerting your view regarding the aim of producing an entire , integrated package regardless of pricepoint. My apologies for not commenting on standards of "workmanship" as I feel unqualified to make such comments, as such I focussed on the accoustic "outcome" of 2 similar products using similar materials...but strikingly different performance.

I admire your fair mindedness regarding other drum companies and your giving credit where it is due, regardless of price point or reputation.

In a interesting but of "serendipity" I was just thinking today about the popularity of Pearl drums (every second drum for sale on "gumtree" here is a pearl ) and curious about said popularity given I rarely see them mentioned in the "what second hand drums should I buy thread" Indeed more often than not I see Pearls "bagged" as overrated in various "reviews"

Given what you have said I will pay more attention to the brand.

All the best

 
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Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I was aiming at highlighting obsevations made by Andy that "Just because the specification list looks impressive, doesn't even start to guarantee a good instrument. The very best instruments are designed without compromise"


I hope you read my comment as suppoerting your view regarding the aim of producing an entire , integrated package regardless of pricepoint. My apologies for not commenting on standards of "workmanship" as I feel unqualified to make such comments, as such I focussed on the accoustic "outcome" of 2 similar products using similar materials...but strikingly different performance.

I admire your fair mindedness regarding other drum companies and your giving credit where it is due, regardless of price point or reputation.
W, I completely get where you're coming from with this thread, & comparing brands/models is not a direction I can take, or even privately wish to. That said, I have no issue with highlighting drums that I personally believe have been designed with a defined set of sonic characteristics in mind. I've already listed some, & I would happily add some models of Brady drums to that list. Brady are a stand out builder of fine quality drums, & have "stuck to their guns" in terms of their instrument identity. That is to be applauded.

As for Pearl, they make some good stuff, but I highlighted the Export series as being a turning point in drum making history, & an example of designing with a specific aim in mind at a budget price point. Good design is good design, irrespective of price.

On another level, Gavin's/Sonor's Protean snare is another example of focussed design with a specific set of characteristics in mind.
 
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