[Review] Ludwig Speed King Reissue

flamateurhour

Active Member
Like many who grew up idolizing Bonham, I have a romanticized notion of the Speed King. That was further compounded by many personal endorsements from various users across the drum forum(s). "Great Pedal, but squeaky as all hell" seemed to be the general consensus. Was never sold on it until I heard they'd addressed the infamous squeak.

I decided that I wanted a new pedal going into the tour that I'm currently on. My 1st Gen Perfect Balance has a habit of closing over my foot at inopportune times in the set, doesn't do well on uneven stages, and overall feels janky as all getout. I have a DW 5000 but I did some damage to it while prototyping a heel plate lift design and am making that a task for future me. I was limited to what my local GC had because I wanted that sweet sweet 30 Day return policy since I have product trust issues lol. Saw the Speed King and went for it.

I just had a break after 9 days in a row, so I've gotten a lot of playing in. Here are some thoughts:

  • (+) It looks gorgeous and has a certain lightweight/high quality feel to it the second you get it into your hands.
  • (+) The assembly/disassembly is a cool design. There really is a practicality to the engineering that seemed to be prominent in a lot of quality vintage products.
  • (+) The hoop clamp assembly feels great - it seems to really hug the bass drum hoop and snugs up to it. There are little rubber spacers provided that help prevent sharp metal on wood contact. I also appreciate that when you tighten the clamp it angles the pedal downwards into the ground rather than lifting the heel up. I noticed that regardless of my bass drum spur length I was able to have a really grounded feeling with the pedal without any lifting or bouncing (an issue I had with my 5000 and PB on thicker carpet)
  • (-) This is not new information, but the spring adjustments are accessed from underneath the pedal, so there is no mid-gig adjusting.
  • (-) The spring adjustments require a flathead screwdriver. My personal preference would be either having it be adjustable by a drum key (perhaps with a slot for a screw driver if you're really trying to get in there) providing a small screwdriver/drum-key multitool and a fitting on the pedal for it. At the very least, just a crappy flathead in the bag. It's pretty standard for pedals to come with a drum key and Allen Wrenches needed for adjustments, and it seems silly to not provide the items necessary for such a common adjustment. Hell, they could make the adjustment tubing a tiny bit bigger to even allow for a penny at the very least lol.
  • (+) The pedal performed well on multiple surfaces. I've played on a myriad of stages from uneven overlayed carpets, uneven paneled drum risers, carpet on top of grass, and at no point did the pedal feel wobbly.
  • (-) The set screw for the beater is placed in a way that you can't really get much height. I run a 20" kick and I could barely get the beater to the middle of the drum. This is silly. I'm going to track down my old DW beater weight so that i can get a bit more heft that I usually associated with longer beaters.
  • (+) As far as beater heads go, the provided one is really rad. I love the sound of it.
  • (+) I thought the provided canvas bag was a really nice touch.
  • (+) Overall the pedal feels awesome. The group I play with is extremely dynamic, ranging from very light brushwork to high volume Fender Hotrod Deville sourced exuberant Shreddy Broosevelt electric guitar nonsense. I found that it mostly kept up, although I craved the power at the high volumes. I think the limitations from this could be solved with a wooden beater, a design that allows for more beater height, and a beater weight.
  • (-) The dealbreaker for me: It still squeaks!! It worked great for the first two days, but on day three (the first electric guitar date of the tour) it started singing the song of its people, loud enough that my bass player looked back at me with an "is that you?" expression. Finished the gig and fiddled with it. I disassembled the footboard from the direct drive assembly and traced the squeak to somewhere within the main direct drive piece.
Overall, I dig the pedal. It feels good despite it's small issues. However, the squeak is a dealbreaker for me. Yes, I could probably address this with some investigation and lube/adjustment but I have trust issues with new products, and frankly, with the love that users/reviewers have shown their go-to pedals, I'm not really willing to invest long term in a pedal that is showing issues on day 3, regardless of how easy the solution may be. Maybe if I try and am dissatisfied with the other pedals on my list I'll circle back, but as of now, I will be utilizing that return policy.
 
Nice comprehensive review. I used to love Speed Kings and primarily played a refurbished and modified one by Vitalizer Drums for a while. However, it just got to be such a pain keeping it lubricated--that's the only time it played well. I've since moved on to a single chain DW 5000.

I imagine the new one is somewhat smoother with the added bearings but I think the design itself has its inherent weaknesses. Though I have to say I've never had that beater issue you're describing. It can get just as high as the beater on my DW 5000--maybe the modern design changed that.
 
I still prefer the Speed King felt beater, regardless of the pedal. I currently have it on my Tama Dynasync direct drive.
 
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