Mahogany - quality question

ingvald

Member
I just wonder... i have just gotten into like... wood types, shell thickness and so on! :) Really interesting... but i just wonder..

How can for example a Pearl Soundcheck ( 9 ply. mahogany shells ) be like a low priced, budget kit , while many great jazz players use Gretsch Catalina club jazz ( wich is also mahogany), be so much higher priced or.. at least... like a "qualiity" kit :)?

Thanks! :)
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
The Cat Club Jazz is an intermediate kit at best. Certainly not top of the line and certainly don't have the reputation of "many great jazz players" using them. I'm sure there may be an exception or two, but generally speaking it's not as sought after a kit as perhaps you're thinking it is.

Both will be made from Philippine mahogany....also called luan, which is worlds apart from higher end African mahogany. The price difference probably comes down to a few manufacturing factors such as man hours per kit, choice of hardware and the detail of the finish etc, as well as any number of economic factors like units sold etc (I dare say the Cat jazz outsells the Soundcheck).
 
Last edited:

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Completely concur with my gilted trouser accoutrement friend. Mahogany is touted as a broad church to say the least. Almost the only true mahogany worth building with these days is reclaimed. If you're after the mahogany sound, but with a nice subtle sweet/bright twist, I love sepele :)
 

Attachments

uniongoon

Gold Member
North Anerican mahogany basically no longer exists. I bought a bed built in 1910-20 made from genuine mahogany. From what I understand, this species is gone. Phillipine iwood grows fast like a weed and is not the same.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I think Phillipine mahogany shouldn't be allowed to be called mahogany. They use Falkata and call it mahogany. It is red like mahogany but that's where the similarities end.

Real mahogany is expensive.
 

AndyMC

Senior Member
There are many north american Mahoganys, the term is kind of a catch all for a certain type of dense tropical hardwood. There are like 50 species that can be called mahogany, but true mahogany is Honduran mahogany. This is getting rare and the only ones allowed to be cut down are Gibson's private stock they grow on their own island. African Mahogany shares a lot of characteristics with Honduran, Philippine mahogany isn't comparable in any way, much lighter, different tonal character, different grain.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
The wood name Philippine Mahogany is a loose term that applies to a number of wood species coming from southeast Asia. Another common name for this wood is Meranti: while yet another name that is commonly used when referring to plywood made of this type of wood is Lauan. (And even though it’s called Philippine Mahogany, it bears no relation to what is considered to be “true” mahogany in the Swietenia and Khaya genera.)
Scientifically, the name Philippine Mahogany has been used to encompass most commercial lumber found in the Shorea genus, where it is very commonly used in it’s native southeast Asia. There is an abundance of variety between the difference species: each with different working properties, appearances, and mechanical strength values.
The five main groupings for Philippine Mahogany (Meranti/Lauan) are: Light Red Meranti, Dark Red Meranti, White Meranti, Yellow Meranti, and Balau.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
I've built a number of speaker cabinets over the years and the Philippine mahogany (Luan or whatever you want to call it) does have a musical sound. It's fairly warm and round sounding. Birch is much drier and flatter sounding. Maple is harsh and ringy and can make for nasally sounding cabs. Pine is softer and resonates with more color and overtones.

I think the use of Luan Mahogany in drum shells tends to soften and round the sound out. I don't think the older Ludwig and others used anything fancier. Philippine mahogany was popular for boat building and furniture at the time. Honduran mahogany seemed to be reserved for guitar necks and other things that consumed less wood from what I can remember.
 

az drum pro

Member
The wood used in any drum is far less important to it's sound than how precise the machining of the shells are and the head combination plus the degree of the bearing edge. I have a Gretsch Catalina Elite made with Philippine Mahogany (Lauan, Meranti) and it sounds just as good or better than anything I've ever heard including any Maple or Birch set......ANY!

I might add here that I've been a professional drum tuner for some 20 years and have tuned everything from no name cheapo kids sets like "Grove Percussion" to major drum makers top dollar sets like "DW Collector Series" or "Pearl Masterworks" etc. each with all kinds of head combinations. Since none of the high end sets were mine that I threw out a lot of money on I did not have the "placebo" effect of imagining these high dollar sets sounded better because I paid my life savings for them so I'm looking at it from a totally impartial viewpoint and still none to this day have ever sounded as good as my Elite's sound (I might add here that I had a Ludwig Vista lite set "$3000 new" and a Birch set "$1800 new" I sold in favor of keeping my Elite's simply because they sounded better).

Bottom line is this; Don't get caught up in specific woods or price tags. Any drum set if made well regardless of type of wood used will sound good with the right head combination and good tuning and it's all a matter of what sounds good to you, not what "sounds good" to those brainwashed "experts" who are simply victims in a very long line of those who let slick marketing B/S make their decisions for them ;)
 
Last edited:

iwearnohats

Silver Member
I used to have a Gretsch Catalina Elite, and it was a fantastic-sounding kit! I ended up replacing it with a USA Maple, and it was only then that I was able to notice the shortcomings of the Elite. But with that said, I don't think the difference in sound is worth the difference in price. I remember just before I sold the Elite, I tuned it up and played it and was on the cusp of saying "Forget it, I want to keep it!"
 
T

The SunDog

Guest
I think Phillipine mahogany shouldn't be allowed to be called mahogany. They use Falkata and call it mahogany. It is red like mahogany but that's where the similarities end.

Real mahogany is expensive.
Yup. Philippine "mahogany" is four or five different species that includes luan and meranti, none of which are related to actual mahogany. There are three true mahogany species and they are being used less and less and becoming quite pricey.
 

az drum pro

Member
I used to have a Gretsch Catalina Elite, and it was a fantastic-sounding kit! I ended up replacing it with a USA Maple, and it was only then that I was able to notice the shortcomings of the Elite. But with that said, I don't think the difference in sound is worth the difference in price. I remember just before I sold the Elite, I tuned it up and played it and was on the cusp of saying "Forget it, I want to keep it!"
I have never tuned a Gretsch USA set so I can't compare that to my Elites but my Elites sound as good as any DW Collectors Series, Pearl Masterworks, Tama Starclassic, Ludwig Legacy, etc. I have ever tuned. As I said in my first post I gave up a Ludwig Vistalite and another time a Tama Silverstar Birch set in favor of keeping my Elites because with the same head combination they simply sounded better.

Those Elites may not be anywhere near the most expensive drums I've ever owned but they are the best sounding drums I've ever owned bar none!

By the way, the Lauan/Philippine Mahogany which is actually called "Meranti" used in the Elites is not the same as the Meranti used in entry level sets. The "Light Red Meranti" used in entry level sets has a Janka hardness scale rating of around 450, hardly higher than Pine, while the "White Meranti" used in the Elites comes in at 1050. By contrast Yellow Birch comes in at 1160 and the maple used in most drum sets, even very expensive ones, is even lower than White Meranti. This is why the Elites sound so good. They have a sound somewhere right in between Birch and Maple drums.

If anyone really thinks more expensive drums made with Maple or Birch sound better well, it their money to waste. I however know better ;)
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
Within the last couple of months I've bought a Gretsch Catalina Club after literally about a year of sweating over the fact that it's made from "cheap" wood. I've gigged it a handful of times now and I've got absolutely no qualms about selling my Premier Projector to make space for the Gretsch. The Premier is a 25 year old kit made in England, 3 ply Finnish Birch, German Beech reinforcing rings, hand rubbed lacquer finish, my first kit was a Premier, I collected Premier brochures as a kid, I have an emotional attachment to Premier especially a to a professional standard kit like this one made at one of their high points. And yet thinking with my head as opposed to my heart it's going In preference to the Phillipine Mahogany/Luan Catalina Club that sounds just as good.
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
The word Elite is slick marketing bullshit if you ask me, and i'm going to sell my USA's and Legacy maple on your recommendation, not. Any one know what "(Mahogany)" is used in the Legacy Mahoganies ?
 

az drum pro

Member
The word Elite is slick marketing bullshit if you ask me, and i'm going to sell my USA's and Legacy maple on your recommendation, not. Any one know what "(Mahogany)" is used in the Legacy Mahoganies ?
PT Barnum said it best Pete. And the Legacy Mahoganies are made with African Mahogany which is not true Mahogany either and are softer than the White Meranti my Elites are made of. Plus they are 3 ply shells with 2 "mahogany" plies and a Poplar ply sandwiched between them. Talk about "slick marketing bullshit" huh Pete? ;)
 
Last edited:

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
Well why don't you pull off the "Elite badges" and replace them with really cool "White Meranti" ones, then we'll all be enlightened. I'll just play my rebadged "Bullshit" Specials. p.s. There is no proof PT Barnum uttered " There is a Sucker Born Every Minute " it probably was announced by one of his jealous rivals. Meranti makes good door jambs though.
 
Last edited:

az drum pro

Member
To each their own Pete but I would not be happy paying $3000 for a shell pack that has 3 plies with 1 of those plies being Poplar that is used in a lot of entry level sets and the 2 so called "Mahogany" plies not being actual Mahogany either.

This is the power of marketing bud. They put it in people's heads that it is worth spending $3000 on a shell pack because it's going to sound so much better than an $800 one. It doesn't really sound better but once they get the thought in someone's head it stays there until they actually believe it. Then they will dish out a lot of their hard earned money on an over-priced set and imagine it sounds so much better because they just parted with a lot of money. It's called the placebo effect and it works.

It's your money, you can throw it away however you like but I am still waiting to hear a set of any price range that sounds any better than my White Meranti set with an $800 price tag ;)
 

calan

Silver Member
That's super cool that you really like your Catalina elites, but what sounds the best ever to your ears might not be to the taste of everybody else, even assuming another player would make them sound the same. Functional, dimensional, and aesthetic factors are also a consideration, not just sound.
 

az drum pro

Member
calan, I agree 100% with everything you said. My whole point was too many people put way too much value on what wood the drums are made of or how much they cost being automatic markers that those drums will sound better.

Maybe there's something about those Elites that just sound that good to my ear and I have gotten many complements from people including many musicians I've played with about how good they sound. But anyway that was the point I was making, that the wood or cost doesn't always translate to better sound or lack of better sound. It all depends on who's listening as to which sounds better.
 
Top