Maple vs. Birch advice

Filthy

Member
Hi everyone.

I am getting back into playing after a hiatus of a few years and I am not sure what would make for a good investment for a new kit. I am looking for something mid-range; not necessarily recording quality but something respectable for gigs/mic'd in a bar.

The last time I bought a kit (1997ish) the options seemed more cut and dry: crappy or good. There seems to be more in between kits out there now and overall the quality is better than what I remember.

I am not particularly loyal to any company; I am looking more at shell quality and hardware.

What is the general opinion: Maple or nothing or is a Birch kit worth it? What about the Pearl ELX series: there's a nice kit at a store in my town but is a poplar (or whatever they use) kit worth it in the long run? With the Pearl's, would an extra few hundred bucks be worth it to move up from the Export series?

Your 2 cents is appreciated.

Filthy
 

wybasher

Senior Member
What is the general opinion: Maple or nothing or is a Birch kit worth it?

In the big picture, maple vs birch is not going very noticeable compared to which heads you use (1-ply vs 2-ply) or whether you use nylon tip sticks vs nude ones. Of course tuning will affect the sound tremendously.

So in your situation, I'm not sure that wood shell material should be defining factor.
 
F

fusssion

Guest
First,....if you're in the states.....take advantage of a Guitar Center! They usually have kits set up in all shapes, sizes and materials.

Play each....befriend the drum manager or worker and that can go a long way...they can set up a kit next to each other, or some toms of maple, birch etc so you can play them side by side.

I like both woods, but they give you a different sound, do a SEARCH on the site and you'll find TONS of info! Maple is warmer, Birch while warm is more focused and brighter than maple. But YOU HAVE to decide what sound sounds best in YOUR ears.

There are a ton of middle of the road kits,.....you're right!!

Ones I'd consider:
Pacific Drums and Percussion (PDP) Birch or Maple
Gretsch Catalina series, maple, birch
Mapex Birch or maple (M Birch ,...Pro M (maple))

All of these are very nice middle of the road kits...I'm sure there are more too!
 

druid

Silver Member
Generally speaking Maple will tend to have a warmer tone bringing out the Mids and lows whereas Birch will tend to be a little sharper, maybe more focussed tone bringing out a little more high end. I happen to like the Maple shells myself but think both are worth looking into DW makes shells in both. I have a Pork Pie Maple snare w/o reinforcement rings that is quite nice also. Good Luck!
 

ermghoti

Silver Member
Among the asian manufacturers, birch is much cheaper. They have good domestic birch, but must import maple, usually from the US, or use a less well-regarded Asian species. US and European manufacturers usually charge more for maple, because their competitors are forced to, and the appearance of exclusivity causes the marketplace to go along for the ride.

What I'm saying is, birch is a better value.

Specifically, an equivalent birch kit would be between one half and two-thirds the cost of a maple kit.
 

cnw60

Senior Member
also be aware that not all maple is created equal. I have heard recently that there are varieties of asian maple that don't have the same physical properties (and is cheaper) as the hard maple used my Keller and other high quality shell makers.

I agree with wybasher that other variables like head and stick selection, tuning options, style of playing, etc have more effect on tone than the difference between birch and maple - as compared to say the difference between those two woods and poplar or luaun...
 

Sirwill

Silver Member
I have owned a pearl Export series. I did not like it at all! The sound was flat with no life. Maple "was" the overall winner. Lately Ludwig is coming back in a big way. PLEASE give a look at there NEW Accent Custom series. They come in MAPLE & also MAHOGANY. For the first time in my life I have a new wood of choice. The Mahogany has a fat low end with a louder rise in sonic presence and decibels.
 

Maytridy

Senior Member
Birch is a great value. Unless you're a very experienced drummer, you're really not going to be able to tell the difference. Save your money, go with birch and spend time tuning your kit correctly. That will make a much better sound than an expensive and poorly tuned maple kit.
 

Fat Elvis

Pioneer Member
i have both and love both. I think it matters less what wood you get and matters more of what quality of wood (and thus drums) you get. My maple is a DW (@ $3000 kit) -- a $1100 all maple Sonor Force 3005 wont sound anywhere near as good. My birch is a Starclassic (@ $1500) an all birch Gretsch Catalina Birch (@ $650) wont sound anywhere near as good. With drums, quality of the wood, hardware, bearing edges, etc are what matters most. You wont ever notice the differences between the woods until you become an experienced drummer and start to run into the differences (i.e. birch projects better than maple on small-room, unmiked shows -- or issues you may have during a recording session).

So my advise to you is to research the specific group of drums (by price) and find out where the wood comes from, what hardware advantages one has over another, reputation, etc.

I would stay far away from the cheaper Pearl kits (export, etc). The wood is crap and no amount of tuning or head selection will ever change that.
 

Ozzy Biz

Platinum Member
i have both and love both. I think it matters less what wood you get and matters more of what quality of wood (and thus drums) you get. My maple is a DW (@ $3000 kit) -- a $1100 all maple Sonor Force 3005 wont sound anywhere near as good. My birch is a Starclassic (@ $1500) an all birch Gretsch Catalina Birch (@ $650) wont sound anywhere near as good. With drums, quality of the wood, hardware, bearing edges, etc are what matters most. You wont ever notice the differences between the woods until you become an experienced drummer and start to run into the differences (i.e. birch projects better than maple on small-room, unmiked shows -- or issues you may have during a recording session).

So my advise to you is to research the specific group of drums (by price) and find out where the wood comes from, what hardware advantages one has over another, reputation, etc.

I would stay far away from the cheaper Pearl kits (export, etc). The wood is crap and no amount of tuning or head selection will ever change that.

Good advice. You should aim for build and material quality before you start choosing timber types.
 

drums137

Member
i personally like birth since i like to play rock and birth gives me that focused punchy sound but still dark depending of course the heads u have, i have a tama superstar efx hyper-drive, which is a great birch kit i don't think its much more expensive than a pearl, but if u like maple there are the yamies tour custom or sonor force 3007 i think or something like that, do some research, test, if u go with the tama there great, i don't think u should go with poplar or mahogany, birch and maple are a lot better and u can hear the difference, also maple is used a lot for recording, but for gigs birch especially the tama are pretty loud and mic'd up wow! amazing
 

Mikey Dangerous

Senior Member
Definitely some stuff I agree with here, but some of it I question.

When it comes to comparing maple and birch, neither are a "better" wood. It's a matter of which you prefer more. Head selection and tuning along with bearing edges will make a more noticeable impact on the sound heard by most ears. Keeping those and other factors the same, maple is a touch warmer and sustains longer, while birch is a touch brighter and has more attack. Only well-trained ears can truly notice a difference in pitch and tone, while most ears would notice a small difference with respect to the sustain/attack, but only slightly.

In terms of which wood is better for recording, the quality of today's drums in combination with advancements in recording technology means that both maple and birch drums will record well. In a good room with good equipment, a good engineer, good tuning, and of course, a good drummer, both will sound amazing and you can't really say that one is better than the other. Traditionally speaking though, it was birch that was the preferred drum wood for recording, not maple. This is because birch is considered to be the "naturally EQ'd" drum, going back to the sustain/attack thing mentioned above. Yamaha has a line of drums, made of 100% birch, that's been in production for over 30 years now - it's called the Recording Custom.

The maple and birch woods used in pro kits is certainly of higher grade and better quality than the maple and birch woods used in mid-level kits, and that difference is definitely discernable in the sound they produce. That being said however, mid-level kits nowadays really are excellent and offer tremendous value because they are priced low and sound great. There has been a huge upgrade in the quality of mid-level kits, especially in recent years. Yamaha, Sonor, Mapex, Gretsch, etc. all offer mid-range kits in both 100% maple and 100% birch and are worth checking out. Some of them even come with hardware packages included. Try before you buy is the best advice you can get. I also recommend buying used because you can save a lot of money, and might even be able to get a pro used kit for about the same as a new mid-level kit.

Among the asian manufacturers, birch is much cheaper. They have good domestic birch, but must import maple, usually from the US, or use a less well-regarded Asian species. US and European manufacturers usually charge more for maple, because their competitors are forced to, and the appearance of exclusivity causes the marketplace to go along for the ride.

What I'm saying is, birch is a better value.

Specifically, an equivalent birch kit would be between one half and two-thirds the cost of a maple kit.

Really? I'm not sure about this. Yamaha is Japanese and I'm almost 100% sure that their Maple Custom Absolute drums have the exact same prices as their Birch Custom Absolute drums (which I own), if you keep the sizes equal across both lines to compare apples to apples. I've never officially priced out an MCA, but I recall being told by two different drummers (who also work at drums shops that are authorized Yamaha dealers) that this is the case. There's a lot of asian manufacturers though so I can't say this applies across the board, and I'm not as familiar with other asian brands.
 

konaboy

Pioneer Member
I would stay away from the Export and ELX series. Like was mentioned earlier you can get into a nice mid level kit like the Gretsch Catalina, Yamaha Stage Custom, Mapex that will sound much better and the price may be just slightly more than the pearls. My personal kit is an early 80's yamaha kit that I love , our church has a poplar export kit and I can't stand it, it doesn't tune well and doesn't sound good. I want to buy a stage custom or catalina kit to replace it for them but with my job right now there are no extra funds to do so.
 

Mathew 7:21

Senior Member
I just traded my starclassics (100%birch) for my second dw kit(maple) and to tell you the truth I kinda like my starclassics better. Birch just has a wet fat sound that you cant get with maple.
 

livelovedrum1

Junior Member
its all about who's listening, to the drummer who has copious experience, and knows his stuff about drum tuning and how they're made and sound, birch is gonna give a sharper and more "punchy" attack, itll bring out the highs, maple drums will have warmth, and more sustain, and will also bring out the lows of your drums, again, to the seasoned pro...
however, to the vast vast vast majority of people hearing you play (especially if live and not in the studio), the differences will be completely null and void
this is in terms of sound, in terms of feel, thats a personal thing
You want to alter your sound? Check the tuning and the head thickness, as the bearing edge type, on a side note: a factor I dont see considered very much is the surroundings of the individual drum, for example, I own a yamaha rydeen set (maple, and no longer in production unfortunately) and recently took out the original two high toms and right now the only thing attached to my bass drum is a mini cymbal arm for my splash cymbal (I stuck in one of the tom holes), and the difference of how my toms and bass sound is huge, my bass and toms now sound open and alive, warmer and of higher quality
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
Birch or maple....that's like asking which do you like Prime Rib or Ribeye....I think everyone should own a good maple kit first, but it really is a tough choice. Birch does sound great. It is the better value too.
 

volvoguy

Senior Member
You're absolutely correct in that "mid-range" drums have gotten a heck of a lot better in the last decade.

Aside for the maple *or* birch question, you can mix 'em up, too. Ludwig has birch-maple-birch shells in the Epic line. Nice mid-price range kits. Mahogany is popping up in a lot of import kits as well. Not the scary Asian drums they used to be. Gretsch is mopping up with the Catalina line's mahogany drums. Another, "groovy" option is Ludwig's Retro Element SE series. Funky finishes from the late 60's and early 70's over shells made from cherry/gumwood. I'm loving my new Element SE kit.

-Ryan
 
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