You are so right about their strong brand name and them just running it into the ground. Ludwig is synonymous with drums and they had and have a great sound. They were THE rock drums for years. They lost favor for sure when Yamaha and other companies were producing flawless great sounding drums. The craftsmanship on Ludwig kits didn't hold a candle to their overseas competitors. They started to make a comeback in recent years, but I still have to scratch my head over some things. Poor customer service is bad enough, but take their legendary snare offerings, the 402 and the Black Beauty. If I had created somewhat of a masterpiece with an instrument, I would make darn sure that the original formula and specs were never altered. From what I understand, the newer 402's and Black Beauties are different than their 60's and 70's counterparts in key areas that have altered their sound. With the addition of the sound sucking rubber gaskets to cheaper parts and possibly thinner shells, they are trying hard to screw up what made them so successful in the first place. I don't get it, and I probably won't ever buy them again. I have a vintage early 70's Bonham kit that I love, but as far as newer gear, I'll look elsewhere....sorry Ludwig.