I'm a big believer in the Yamahas. Though I want to be clear that I'm not saying the Catalinas are bad.
The Stage Customs are great for me - I truly love the resonance of my toms and the punch of my floor tom and kick. Are they hand selected work of art shells? No. But they are so solid to me.
I'm not a pro musician, but I've played legit venues and played with folks who've done tv and movies. And the Yamahas performed beautifully.
I guess I'm not sophisticated enough to hear the thousands of dollars of difference between this level and pro level. I can of course hear and feel the difference compared to what are closer to toys than instruments. But Stage Customs and Catalinas are very much in the instrument category. I've played PHXs and very expensive DW kits and I really can't tell that there's a huge difference - except that they looked and felt beefier, like an oak table vs a pine one.
The thing is, I see people with top of the line drums and they put gels and tape and stuff on them - or they're all pure with over-ringing heads and both sound weak and uncontrolled. You get some good heads, tune them properly, and drums in this range can sound so much warmer and musical than drums that cost 5 times as much.
....I guess I'm not sophisticated enough to hear the thousands of dollars of difference between this level and pro level. I can of course hear and feel the difference compared to what are closer to toys than instruments.....
In the broadest of generalizations, birch is brighter and sharper, and maple is warmer.
The stage customs have 45 degree edges and the catalinas have 30.
The edges contribute a lot to the difference. 45's are quick responding with a lot of attack.
I had a hard time adjusting to the brightness of the stage customs, but I did get used to it after a while.
Overall I prefer maple though.
Punch would be more a product of what heads you put on the drums. Personally, I tend to gravitate to maple. It's inherently warmer .... gives off a more classic "vintage" sound. The Gretsch serves that up, not only with the maple shells, but also the 30 degree bearing edge.so if i’m looking for a sorta dry (but not dead) punchy sound..
which would you recommend ?
Regarding the birch vs maple conversation, I have to admit a lack of ability to really tell the difference, again.
I'll say this though, when I was a kid, my drum instructor had this righteous Recording Custom that I would drool over. I think it was an eight piece kit - the toms were so amazing and the bass drums were the real definition of "cannons" (everyone likes to use that word), but they had both crack and boom.
And I don't know if the claim that it's the most recorded kit in history is true or not, but let's say that a lot of the music we listened to over the past few decades were on a birch kit.
Those two things combined made me gravitate toward birch.
Disclaimer: I play maple snares. Perhaps due to the nature of the instrument, I wanted to round off some of the snap.
Disclaimer 2: I'm building out a seven piece kit and it must be from me chasing that ideal sound from my youth. Which ties into another selling point for Stage Customs - they're ridiculously inexpensive to add more drums.