How important are high-end/expensive shells?

rrv24

Member
This is all super helpful information, thanks everyone!!
I've come to the conclusion that since my needs aren't specific enough to warrant a custom kit, I'd rather save some money and buy a mid-range kit and really put in the work with heads and tuning to make it sound as good as I can. Haven't decided on a kit yet, but will do so soon!
If I needed to go out today and buy a solid and good sounding kit that will last me a while, and I didn't care about brand or how it looks, I would pick up a Yamaha Tour Custom in a heartbeat. Unlike the Stage Custom, it has maple shells, 2.3mm hoops, 10-lugs a side on kick, etc. It's just better all around. The downside is very basic satin finishes in limited colors... and I don't like how their tom holders look (but will never doubt their quality or range of motion).

In fact, you can watch this video that goes through all the Yamaha range so you can hear for yourself what the differences are:
You'll notice the biggest jump is from the Stage Custom to the Tour Custom, and to be fair it's probably mostly because you jump from cheap heads to proper Remo heads (the Tour Custom ships with "real heads").
I do like the added "weight" to the sound of the Live Custom (and the really cool finishes), but would never be able to justify the extra cost.

I gigged with a friend that has a brand new Recording Custom recently (3-4 times the price of a Tour Custom), it... sounded like a drum. If I'm honest though, I was impressed at how loud and powerful it sounded unmic'd even outside (many quality drums sound fairly weak outside until you mic them).

I found that the biggest difference with quality kits, soundwise, is the "envelope" of the sound. The clarity of the attack, the consistency of the decay. With a cheap drum, you need to do a bit more studio trickery (compression, transient manipulators, sample augmentation, etc) to get them to sit right in the mix. A good drum, you just put mics to it and bam you have "that" sound.
I'm somehow not surprised at all to hear this! My university bought a new drum kit to the studios last year and it was a Tour Custom that I ended up using on my final recital a few months ago - it really was a great kit, and although I wasn't aware of the price tag at that point, it really puts it in perspective now.
 

JimmyM

Platinum Member
This is all super helpful information, thanks everyone!!
I've come to the conclusion that since my needs aren't specific enough to warrant a custom kit, I'd rather save some money and buy a mid-range kit and really put in the work with heads and tuning to make it sound as good as I can. Haven't decided on a kit yet, but will do so soon!

I'm somehow not surprised at all to hear this! My university bought a new drum kit to the studios last year and it was a Tour Custom that I ended up using on my final recital a few months ago - it really was a great kit, and although I wasn't aware of the price tag at that point, it really puts it in perspective now.
Haven't played the new TC's yet but a buddy has an 80's TC bop kit that is very sweet. For a bop kit. Wish the toms were 10 and 12 instead of 8 and 10, but not like I'll be using them except to jam at his house now and then.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I know this is a slightly tricky topic to discuss without getting into specifics, but as I'm looking up recording equipment I'm wondering - how much better are "high end" shells than mid-range ones that share the same wood, and seeing it's easier to make a mid-range drum kit sound "better" with good heads and tuning, how do you find the best balance between investing in drums vs microphones?

I once owned a set of Ludwig Centennials. Maple shells (rumored to be North American Maple shells). The edges were good, and the hardware was solid. They were finnicky with heads (Pinstripes were the ONLY heads that sounded good on these, and Remo Ambassadors sounded absolutely horrid), and the tuning range was non-existent. The bass drum was simply bad (20x20). IDK if it would have made a difference to cut it down to a 14", but considering the price, I didn't want to throw money at this kit.

After owning these, I made the huge mistake of playing some Ludwig Classic Maples. Even though it's the same company and possibly the same wood, there is absolutely no comparison between the Centennials and the CM's. These are two, totally different instruments. The difference, I believe is the number of plies used, and the shells for the CM's are made in the USA. I'm pretty sure the shells made for the Cents are made elsewhere (possibly China). These are not the same drums...at all.

The Centennials are gone, and I now own two sets of Classic Maples (and a vintage 3-ply Ludwig too, but that's a different story).

I may be in the minority, but I'd rather have mid-grade mics and a great kit as opposed to great mics on mid-grade/low-end kit. A great-sounding kit makes you want to play better.
 

jda

Silver Member
shells should could match the music you aspire to or do play
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
shells should could match the music you aspire to or do play
I never heard anyone say this before. It never occurred to me to approach buying drums like that.

Respectfully, in my mind, the wood type doesn't dictate the style of music. The playing does. Meaning I could play any style on any species of wood or metal drums and it will be in the style that I am imparting to the drums. I subscribe to people dictating the music style with their playing, not the wood of the shell dictating the style of music.

I dearly love walnut, padauk, maple and don't feel limited at all as to what style I make them do. I am the limiting factor, not the drums.

That's the great thing about drums. No rules basically. Drums can be anything the drum owner wants them to be. The drum owner gets to make his own rules about what rings true to him/her. I love that part.
 

jda

Silver Member
what I'm saying is can you tell the shells used on a Bon Jovi tune? Does it matter there?
of course they were good shells because they're millionaires- but in that style- lots of loud guitars and background does the shell matter?
Now contrast that with an acoustic piano/sax/ and or guitar trio. You want pearl luan exports there or would (no pun) a nice say 60s mahogany shell slingerland suit it better
 

jda

Silver Member
the wood type doesn't dictate the style of music. The playing does
different styles of music dictate different ways of playing
you can't play an acoustic-style in an arena -style band
I mean you could but the difference is substantial

probably the quieter the music the more the shells tone matters.
If , it's going to be covered with loads of guitars keyboards and vocalists
shell could just be basic (but good) and who'd notice.
ur'e fighting an uphill battle ; ) just to be heard and don't want to be (can't be) too prominent | unless it's your band

other than that..

probably a burl sapalene exquisite edged and ringed would be lost on an arena stage; reminds me of Copeland with the Police and those dark blue off the shelf Imperialstar; they and he captured the world. He didn't need pine blended with moosewood different edge on each shell -did he?

Max Roach in 1947 or Art Blakey in 1957 with a Bud Powell trio could use all the tone they could get whether they knew it or not a tone that became a part of the song. They needed it and used it as an accompaniment in a different role
 
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classikdrummr

Active Member
I never heard anyone say this before. It never occurred to me to approach buying drums like that.

Respectfully, in my mind, the wood type doesn't dictate the style of music. The playing does. Meaning I could play any style on any species of wood or metal drums and it will be in the style that I am imparting to the drums. I subscribe to people dictating the music style with their playing, not the wood of the shell dictating the style of music.

I dearly love walnut, padauk, maple and don't feel limited at all as to what style I make them do. I am the limiting factor, not the drums.

That's the great thing about drums. No rules basically. Drums can be anything the drum owner wants them to be. The drum owner gets to make his own rules about what rings true to him/her. I love that part.
Agreed 100%. Brand or Material aren't as important as playing style. as someone said on another post, " the drum makes more noise the harder you hit it, lol"
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
A well made shell is more important than a high end or expensive shell.
Yes - it's possible to be both, but it's also possible to have a less expensive, well made shell.
I'm thinking along the lines of ply separation, pockets of missing glue resulting in air cavities,
shoddy workmanship, carelessness, or inattention during the mold process, and so on.
 
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Cmdr. Ross

Silver Member
Well, some drums use maple, others use "maple" (aka some cheaper alternative). But to be fair the bigger difference in terms of the shells will usually be in the quality of the bearing edges (which affect how the heads sit on the shell and have a big impact on how easy the drum is to tune, how wide the tuning range, as well as having an effect on how many and what kind of overtones you get). Cheap drums can have really bad edges sometimes (they just CNC them in batches and hope for the best), but on high-end kits typically they will take the time to ensure they are true and consistent.

If you get the Catalina's edges touched up by a reputable drum shop, you'll have a solid kit.
The Gretsch Catalina Club Rock that I have uses "mahogany" shells. It's the cheaper Luan type, but with some tweaking by my own hand, they're now really good.
For example: I pulled the wrap, teak oiled the insides & checked the bearing edges on a flat plate to ensure they were on the up & up (not all were, but that was fixed)
Also, better drums might have better hardware on it, which can help stay in tune better. Cheaper drums will have thinner counter hoops (1.6mm instead of 2.3mm), which they will sell as being "more open sounding" but on toms I mostly find them to subdue the attack and loosen the focus.
On the snare, I did the same oil treatment & bearing edge check (as well as add a snare bed) & replaced the flange batter with a die cast. Now the drums have a brighter sound than as well as a punch I didn't notice before.

I originally bought them because they were on sale & had the sizes I wanted. I'm a fan of mahogany, but didn't know of the Luan type before joining this forum. So all this time I thought I had something special right out of the box.
Now I do thanks to my own work. These are by far the best sounding "bar-bashers" I've ever had.
 

jaymandude

Active Member
It all depends on what you hear.

If you hear a difference between shells and you like the sound of those shells, then the expensive shell makes a difference.

If you don’t hear a difference then it doesn’t. OR, if it doesn’t matter to you that much. Which is also fine.

There’s the sound of drums. Then there’s the art of playing music. But that’s another long post
 

RobertM

Platinum Member
Agree. I have a very old Tama Superstar Birch kit and Put Evans EC2's and a Remo Black Dot head on it and Wow it sounds great! Good Heads are huge help. My New Kit is a Starclassic Walnut /birch kit and it sounds killer with Evans heads.
How does your Tama SC walnut/birch sound tuned high? I read a drum mag review that said the kit shines well tuned low and tuned high, which I found intriguing because I only hear the SC W/Bs talked about as “rock” drums (ie, mid or low tuning).
 
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