Varying Qualities of Maple and Birch

jeffc

Junior Member
Hi Everyone,

I've searched various posts and read that there are different qualities of birch and maple depending on price. Pro kits will have top quality shells made of North American maple or Hokkaido birch while cheaper lines have lower quality Asian maple or Indonesian birch.

Do these varying wood qualities make much of a difference in sound? I did hear that the higher quality woods are more durable physically at least. My yamaha stage custom birch drums sound fantastic but sounds no where near as nice as the Birch Custom Absolutes I heard/saw on youtube (was probably in a much nicer sounding room though w/ different heads, tuning).

Does anyone know which semi-pro kits are made of the cheaper quality woods vs the top quality? Lines like: Pearl VMV/VBX, Gretsch Catalina/Renowns, Tama Silverstars, yamaha stage custom/tour custom, etc?

I'm sorry if this post is redundant but I was not able to search out these specifics on any threads.
 

Davo-London

Gold Member
Tricky question. Whilst there will be a difference in quality of woods and this means: density, closeness of grain, consistency, the maturity of the tree etc it will only matter to you if a) you can tell the difference sonically or b) the drum lasts longer ie better made.

The drums you mention are affordable intermediate drums. They will all be made with price in mind. Thus, the woods will be sourced for their required quality at the lowest price. Modern manufacturing methods now produce very consistent well-made drums and we benefit from this. A good proportion of the forum members have these drums and are very happy with them, me included.

As for maple versus birch there are a lot of posts on this one but a drummer magazine (UK) review of the maple and birch Genistas stated that they could not tell the difference. It is likely that head choice and tuning will have as much impact as the selected ply wood.

Most will advise you to try the drums out and go with the drum you like the sound of. Try to ignore brand loyalty. Hard to do, as we all do it. Also look at the quality of the fittings - this is a good indication of overall quality and attention to detail.

Finally, your own taste may change. I know mine has.

Peace
Davo
 

Artstar

Platinum Member
The Asian Maple thing.. I do not agree with being "inferior". The better made shells I have heard sound like any great N.A. maple drum.. IMO.

Another example : Why do the VERY OLD , original Yamaha Tour Customs with a 50/50 Luan Mahogany / Birch shell sound as good as most upper end modern drums ?? At least this is my take after MANY times playing these.

Note.. these are examples of the BETTER , more solid made shells. Not the super low end any drum made of whatever wood...
 
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dmacc_2

Well-known member
I think quality in sound goes beyond just quality grades in wood. But yes, I think quality in wood does matter some what - not sure if it is isolated to just Maple & Birch (both of which sound and feel different).

I currently have three sets - 2 are pro line one is middle of the road:

- Yamaha Recording Custom set (Pro-line Birch) that has both aged wonderfully but yet sounded fantastic from the day I unboxed them 25 years ago.

- Gretsch New Classics (Pro-line Maple with something else - perhaps poplar or gumwood) - sounds fabulous from the start. Tune, sound and feel incredible.

- Sonor Select Force Series (middle of the road Canadian Maple). In my opinion, these took more effort to sound good than the other two. Even sounding good - they are no where near the caliber of the other two sets I own in terms of quality of sound and the way they feel.

I do think it has something to do with quality of wood - but I think there are other variables as well that end up impacting the end result.

If I was looking to unload one set - the Sonor would be the one out the door - no contest.
 

Artstar

Platinum Member
- Gretsch New Classics (Pro-line Maple with something else - perhaps poplar or gumwood) - sounds fabulous from the start. Tune, sound and feel incredible.
Those shells on those New Classics are some of the best I have EVER heard, and they seem to go almost unnoticed. Whoever is making those does a fantastic job.
 

Smatch

Senior Member
Those shells on those New Classics are some of the best I have EVER heard, and they seem to go almost unnoticed. Whoever is making those does a fantastic job.
I know how much you like to get to the bottom of things. Ever look into the new classic "Gretsch formula shell" debate? Pretty interesting. Some argue its the same shell as the usa custom but with varying thicknesses. Seems right up your alley.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
While quality of wood is a factor, I think quality of workmanship when converting the raw wood into shells is where most of the variance between "high end" and "middle" comes from.
 

Artstar

Platinum Member
I know how much you like to get to the bottom of things. Ever look into the new classic "Gretsch formula shell" debate? Pretty interesting. Some argue its the same shell as the usa custom but with varying thicknesses. Seems right up your alley.
haha. yeah.. That is fairly evident because the initial info Gretsch gave to dealers actually listed the gum/maple shell. Also Mark Schulman was promoting them and gave an interview talking about the gum.
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
Those shells on those New Classics are some of the best I have EVER heard, and they seem to go almost unnoticed. Whoever is making those does a fantastic job.
I totally agree. They are absolutely incredible drums in my opinion.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
While quality of wood is a factor, I think quality of workmanship when converting the raw wood into shells is where most of the variance between "high end" and "middle" comes from.
This is very true. The truth is, every aspect of a drum's construction contributes to the end result, & quality of wood is a part of that. Wood species and quality make a bigger difference when every aspect of the construction is centred around the wood species choice. In purely shell tone terms, the more you process the wood, the less it contributes to the voice of the instrument, & in shell design terms, the thinner the shell, the greater the tone of the shell is heard in the resultant sound. Of course, all the usual variables apply.
 

scorch whammin

Gold Member
Another example : Why do the VERY OLD, original Yamaha Tour Customs with a 50/50 Luan Mahogany / Birch shell sound as good as most upper end modern drums ?? At least this is my take after MANY times playing these.
Probably has something to do with manufacturing techniques (i.e., Air Seal system - heat & pressure forming/autoclave use)...
 

jeffc

Junior Member
Thanks for all the input guys. Very helpful. I happened to play on set of recording customs today and they were incredible. Wow those New Classic look real nice. I've always loved catalina maples. Don't know how I missed out on knowing about those.

So I guess build quality matters a lot too? I guess that's difference between "made in a factory" vs "handcrafted by 60 craftsmen" like in Yamaha's case. I remember reading a post a while back where someone mentioned that many kits under $1000 price will have a couple shells that are slightly out of round. Does this bear any truth? When change heads on my Stage Customs, there always seems to be a pair of lugs/rods that don't want to be in pitch with the rest and "takes more effort" like dmacc mentioned about his Sonors
 
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