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  • Drum Center of Portsmouth NAMM 2019 Report!

    The 2019 Winter NAMM report from Drum Center of Portsmouth

    Momentum and Shift in the Drum World

    For those of you who have not attended a NAMM show, it’s really a whirlwind. The show runs from Thursday to Sunday, and the days start early and they end late, and it’s a constant attack on the senses in regards to instruments and interactions, not to mention the food and drink. There are copious amounts of awesome and it’s over in a flash. Writing this report serves many purposes: firstly, to let you know about what we saw that’s new and notable, but also, it allows me to keep track of what actually happened.

    Jeremy "T-Bone" looking uber cool, and Shane looking like Thelma from Scooby Doo

    So, what happened at the NAMM show?

    I like to summarize NAMM shows with quick terms.

    This year, it’s “Momentum”, and “Shift”. DCP completed our first complete year in what we believe is the largest drum store in the world, and as our processes have refined, our momentum has gained. It has not been easy, and it’s not about to get any easier. But we’re feeling really strong about 2019 and beyond. Allow me to thank all of our customers for allowing us to do what we do!

    The most notable thing for us is the obvious:

    Drum Center of Portsmouth is the Zildjian Dealer of the Year!


    L to R, Mike Gross, Craigie Zildjian, Shane and Lauren Kinney, Jerry Smith, Jeremy Charron

    We were presented with the award at the show and I was absolutely gobsmacked.As we age, we’re really just older versions of the little boys and girls we once were, and the little boy inside of me is always at the forefront when it comes to drums.So to have the most respected name in our industry present this award bearingone of the most identifiable logos in the world, well, let’s just say I was speechless.One of the proudest moments in my life to date, without a doubt.

    Receiving this award made me ask myself; “What brought this on? Was it a targeted effort to sell more Zildjian cymbals?”The answer is no, we didn’t.We stock their line deep, and they’ve made an incredible “shift” in their product line over the past 6-7 years that has really brought people in the door asking for it.

    This award will be proudly displayed at DCP for many years to come.Many thanks to everyone at Zildjian for making this so memorable.

    The Shift

    The other buzz word to summarize this show is “Shift.” There’s a shift occurring in our industry and the navigation of it is difficult because of how fast it’s occurring. What I’m referring to is Electronic drums. The amount of electronic drum companies representing at NAMM was impossible not to notice. Everywhere I turned, there was a new Electronic drum set. The E-drum world for many years was comprised by two titans; Roland and Yamaha. (older generation DDRUM modules get honorable mention but they’ve been out of the picture for many years)

    The majority of other electronic drum brands that you see today that are not Roland or Yamaha are made in the same factory and have a different names slapped on them.These drums all share significant weaknesses that I’ve found impossible to overlook.These weaknesses create diminished experiences all in the name of a lower price which to me is infuriating.

    Roland and Yamaha have committed to making drums that will encourage the drummer to want to play, whereas the others, in my opinion have been looking to move units to a price sensitive public. Like anything, with electronic drums, you get what you pay for. Dear Mr. Wholesaler, I appreciate the need to want to sell stuff, but if a young drummer buys an electronic drum set as their first set, and it doesn’t respond as it should, this drummer is apt to lose interest and give it up. And guess what? We just lost a drummer. So these low quality sets benefit only two: the people that make them and the people that sell them.



    But there’s a shift occurring.

    The “Not-so-good” E-drums are continuing to improve. And the high end E-drum market is not unlike Mount Rushmore; what once displayed just two icons, Roland and Yamaha, will now be joined by the newer players; ATV, Pearl, and Gewa.

    ATV aDrums

    Featured at the booth this year was an actual acoustic looking drum set employing their trigger technology with mesh heads. From 10 paces away, you would not be able to tell it was an E-drum kit. And the ATV module is stoic, simple, and perfect. Less tinkering, more playing.

    Gewa Electronic Drums

    I was invited to preview a prototype e-drum set from German mega-distributor Gewa and it was a rather scary moment; I’m rather convinced this is going to be a historic watermark moment in the electronic side of our industry. While the set is still being refined, the one I tried had many of the elements we’ve wanted in an e-drum set and many more. I’m really looking forward to this one.

    Pearl E-Merge has Emerged

    Pearl was showing their E-merge set, which is a partnership with Korg. Korg has pioneered a technology with their wavedrum, and it’s put to use on the e-merge drum set.

    I approached this set with hesitation, as I was admittedly not a fan of the E-pro drums Pearl offers. My fears were removed once I played this kit. It’s absolutely awesome. We have to wait as it’s still many months away. But wow, what a set. It feels great too.

    In summary, 2019 is going to be great for the Electronic drummer.There is now more healthy competition which will bring more value and innovation to the equation.And this is needed.

    So what else was new for drums at NAMM?

    I’ll address the elephant in the room first; Sabian.

    Sabian has done something that I’m very happy about; a new direction for AAX.Over the years, AAX has expanded several times over, each time taking the focus away.The Sabian ethos for many years has been to offer something for everyone.While this is a tremendous virtue, it also is a detriment as the paradox of choice slows down the selection process.

    This year, AAX has been trimmed down and re-worked.To me, for the everyday drummer looking for versatility, the centerpiece of Sabian should be AAX, and the centerpiece of AAX has been the AAX-plosion crashes.

    If you want a darker, lower pitched, penetrating crash cymbal with clean overtones, this is the one. It’s a great rock cymbal, and a staple at DCP. The bloated catalog of offerings created a crippling amount of choices, in which customers would inevitably ask; “What’s the difference between AAX Studio, AAX Stage, AAX Metal, AAX Dark, and AAX Omni?”

    My not so expert advice would typically be in the form of a question.

    “Do you like this AAX-plosion? You do? Ok good. You should buy that one then.”

    Sometimes, this worked. Others, well, you can’t win ‘em all.

    As drummers, we owe a HUGE debt to Sabian for bringing countless innovations, options, and top tier craftsmanship to us.

    Now, it’s going to get much easier to pick all purpose cymbals; the new AAX has been re-worked with new weights and sounds, targeted to the drummer who has been stricken with analysis paralysis. There’s not a dud in the bunch, and I truly believe these to be among the best in class for professional, all purpose cymbals.

    Is there a "But".... Coming?

    The philosophy at Drum Center of Portsmouth from day 1 has always been “Sound first.”In short, the sound and performance of the musical instrument is what matters to us.Not the price, not the popularity, not the marketing hype.

    We sell musical instruments for you to express yourself creatively on.I was disappointed that these awesome new AAX cymbals were not even mentioned in what was the most discussed topic at the show; the “re-branding” of Sabian.

    Sabian decided that they needed a new logo. Gradually, the entire line will be emblazoned with this new logo. If the target in the short term was to draw attention to the brand, then the mission was accomplished. Everyone was certainly talking about it.

    Logo-Gate, The New Coke, Slaybian, Call it what you will

    The public has spoken as well.The response I’ve received and the responses I've witnessed on this logo has been overwhelmingly negative.

    The Sound Remains The Same

    As Sabian re-brands, please remember this; they will continue to manufacture what I believe to be some of the greatest cymbals in the world. I do not want to see you NOT buy a cymbal because you don't care for the logo.

    Sabian Logo Removal Service at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    As the new logo starts to trickle in to our stock, we will offer a free Sabian logo removing service to those who want it removed.We make our suggestions based on sound, and if you don’t care for the logo, we’ll be happy to remove it for you.

    Ok, let's move on.

    While on the topic of cymbals, we’ll talk about the other brands too!


    2019 is the 30th anniversary of the most groundbreaking cymbal innovation in my opinion; the Signature series.Only Paiste can make Paiste cymbals, and what a sound they have.The Sigs were designed for recording situations.Eq’d and optimized for the unflappable scrutiny of expensive microphones, the crystalline frequencies of the fast, full, and mellow crashes found their way onto recordings of some of our favorite recorded music.The power crashes and heavy full crashes soon found their way on to the stages as well.

    As a retailer, one of the most fun things I get to continue to do is to show people Paiste Signature Series cymbals.Many drummers have not been exposed to Paiste, or they haven’t spent much time with them.I’ve had many occasions where I’d show someone one Signature series crash, and they would buy a whole set of them.

    We live in a world where quiet, low pitched cymbals are popular with drummers, but speak to any recording engineer that’s trying to mix a track with multiple guitars, bass and vocals; and they will be happy to tell you that they prefer instruments that carve out their space in limited headroom. 30 years later, the Signature Series is the cymbal for that job.

    Paiste re-introduced bigger Fast models, and the Mellow crashes are back too. The often requested 15” Dark Energy hats are also back, along with the 22” Full ride. The Paiste 2002 series has expanded with the extreme crashes. The goal here is to have a cymbal that is in between 2002 and Rude. And that’s EXACTLY what it is. A great crash that will take some abuse, for sure. And it’s LOUD. Something else worth mentioning is that it really sounds unlike any 2002 I’ve heard, and I like that.


    Zildjian introduced the K Sweets last year and they’ve been a smash. The line has been rounded out with the new hats, and the Cluster Crashes. The FX stacks are my favorite effect from NAMM 2019.


    For 2019, Meinl has introduced the Byzance Foundry Reserve cymbals, which is a more than welcomed addition to the line. They have dipped their toes in the cymbals geared for the jazz drummer, but these cymbals are all in.I had a chance to play them and I have to say that they sound exactly like what you’d want; a beautiful sounding jazz cymbal for the drummer looking to buy Meinl.

    Also for 2019,there are a few additions to the tk Classic Customs Dark line which has been a powerhouse to the value minded harder hitters; the new effects cymbals and 16” hats are welcome additions.


    A few additions to the Dark Matter line. I loved what I tried. More info on that later.

    Ok, how about some drum musings? Let’s go.

    Tama Drums at NAMM 2019

    Tama has discontinued the Birch/Bubinga line. This was a result of new regulations that have restricted the importing of certain hardwoods, bubinga being one of them. The Star Bubinga will remain, but Birch/Bubinga, and Starclassic Bubinga have been discontinued. Something important to note is that Tama WILL manufacture add ons for these lines for a little while. They will all be built to order with a 5 month delivery time. If you want an add on, get a hold of us, and we can get it ordered for you.

    Replacing the B/B line is the Walnut/Birch line, and they are awesome. To me, the B/B drums had a great attack but I wasn’t in love with the lack of roundness. These W/B drums provide that lower fundamental note with enhanced bottom, with the crispy attack of birch. And they are priced VERY aggressively. It’s obvious that Tama has examined the market and responded to the needs.

    The new Dyna-Sync bass drum pedal was a nice surprise, as was the Ronald Bruner, Jr snare drum. Other than the breathtaking tk pic of Star Bubinga set, my choice is the Tama Superstar Neo-Mod drum set. With compact sizes reducing the depth, and not the diameter, the drums are geared for the drummer in quieter environments, or smaller stages. And they are priced well too.

    Yamaha Drums

    Yamaha abruptly ended the Live Custom line last year, and it’s been replaced with Live Hybrid Oak. The standouts on this kit are that they have re-introduced phenolic to their offerings, something they did with the Rock Tour Customs from the 80’s and 90’s, and they’ve incorporated a weight system in the bass drum that brings out more bottom end. I for one cannot wait to try this in the DCP environment. And they look beautiful too.

    Also added is a new bass drum pedal that is bringing sexy back in a big way.Yamaha hardware has been about functionality for many years, but the FP-9 has that, AND the estethic appeal too.Wow.

    Pearl Drums

    Pearl found a winner with the “studio” recipe shell in the Masterworks line. I personally have spoken at length to Shannon Forrest and Todd Sucherman about this, both of them insist that these are the best sounding Pearl drums they’ve played. Pearl wanted to bring this to the drummer that wasn’t looking to spend Masterworks money, so the limited Masters Maple/Gum series has arrived. We’ll be doing some videos on these for sure. And there were several Masterworks snare drums on display that we bought. Watch this space for details.


    The new Jojo Perfect Balance Standard pedal was nice, and the new Prolite finishes were gorgeous.


    The Black Panther design lab drums were on display. I have to hand it to Mapex for pushing the envelope in drum design and innovation. I’m looking forward to getting these in and spending some time with them.


    Red Gumwood kit was gorgeous. We have one coming. New Catalina Birch kits sounded AWESOME and they are a great price too.


    I stopped by the DW factory just before NAMM to hear John Good talk about the new Almond drum set. I also got to play it, and I’ll tell, it’s VERY, VERY special. I’ve not heard such pronounced highs AND lows from a drum shell. It’s truly a different sound. I fear that only a few of these will be made, as it’s just too difficult to make shells from this material.


    Boundaries pushed. New A&F’er snare drums are absolutely awesome, and the kits too. I’m so amazed how these drums emulate older, vintage drums, but they have a new sound, that hints at an old sound. (did I just bend your brain there?)

    We have a ton of the booth coming to us, watch this space for details!

    British Drum Company

    I was lucky enough to spend the night before NAMM with my friends from the BDC. We’ve had a successful first full year with them, and during that time, I was able to visit their factory and see how they make their drum shells, (which is absolutely mind boggling btw) and during that time, they themselves have gained momentum and have worked out some cracking new snare drums to their line; the Aviator, The Archer, and The tk

    Do not just glance and quickly look away at these drums.Look closely.The attention to detail is unmatched, and they possess an elegance and charm often missed in our world.And what a passionate, focused group these guys are.I’m excited for these new drums to hit.

    Ludwig Drums 110th Anniversary

    The winner this year is Ludwig. Turning 110 this year, they’ve pulled out ALL the stops with commemorative offerings, like the Rosewood snare drum (pre-order this now, it will sell out, I promise), the Jazz Festival re-issues, and eight lug black beauty snares. (BOOYAH!)

    The legacy mahogany limited kits also were absolute head turners. Things are REALLY firing over at Ludwig.

    Dunnett/George Way

    Dunnett Classic Snare Drums are a high water mark for any drummer’s collection. The new B8 2N is something I’m ecstatic about, and there were other glorious one-off’s that we cannot wait to get our hands on. The other big surprise was the return of the original George Way turret lug. (This is the original lug that went to Camco, and has become the DW lug as we know it)

    This lug is more true to the original, and it looked incredible in person.Bravo!

    Schagerl Drums

    I brought Schagerl snare drums into DCP after Todd Sucherman told me it was the finest metal snare he’d played.That’s quite the testimonial.Upon their arrival, and subsequent departure, I have to say that these are without doubt, some of the finest snare drums I’ve experienced.There’s a price tag associated with this quality, and it’s worth it.

    We have a bunch of this NAMM booth coming in, and these will be priced with out the import tax and shipping fee from Austria, so there’s an opportunity to lower your cost here.


    A regret of mine is not being able to visit Bill Ludwig at the WFLIII drums booth. Why? He was too busy! They were boasting a full booth with good looking drums, and I’d dare say the busiest boutique booth at the show.


    Several new one of a kind snare drums were discussed, and we’ve got them coming!

    Hendrix Drums

    Hendrix Snare drums continue to be a favorite at DCP. And they are focused on improving what they are doing, and they constantly do. There’s a new stave maple snare drum that is incredibly low priced, that sounds amazing. And we have those coming in.

    RBH Drums

    We picked a couple of gorgeous pieces up that I’m eager to get my hands on.

    Trick Drums

    Trick continues to drive innovation. And they represent what a beautiful family run American small business is. Hard work, dedication, and creativity are never missing, and we just love the new pedals! The VMT kits get honorable mention with the new color options too.

    Rogers Drums USA

    Rogers is creeping back into the picture, and some gorgeous Dyna-Sonic snare drums are coming in. Some new hardware was also shown that was an obvious nod to the originals, with some modern fittings. A prototype set was also shown with some blasphemous spurs and brackets, which I'm told will thankfully not be a part of the production model, whenever that may be.

    Wrapping Up

    I could go on and on and on, and I have. I’m sure I missed something obvious here, so please accept any apologies for overlooking something.It’s not intentional.This flight is getting close to landing, and my wife and I have 2 kitties to get home to who are looking for some attention, and I have a very full year planned for us and you.

    2019 is going to be the 10th anniversary of DCP and we’ve got some things cooking that you’ve never experienced at a drum store. Trust me on this. It’s big. REALLY big. I’m so excited for this year and I think you will be blown away with what we have planned.

    I constantly am thinking about how we can bring more value to you, our extended family of customers, and in 2018, we expanded our video production department to bring you higher quality, more in depth videos, and the response has been overwhelming. We're working to make it easier (and entertaining) to select your drum gear.

    Year 10 will have even more levels of awesome, and I can’t wait to get started on it.

    Well, I suppose I already have.

    Again, we simply could NOT do this if you don’t buy from us. So thank you for spending your drum money with us.

    If you’re reading this, and you're not a customer, tell us what we can do to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. Your growth is our growth, and we can save you money by making professional suggestions.

    Can I say thank you again?Ok, I just did.

    Thank you.




    Enjoy our full Winter NAMM 2019 photo gallery HERE!

  • The Best Drum Set under $800 - With Video

    What’s The Best Complete Drum Set Under $800 in 2020?

    Tama Imperialstar and the Ludwig Element Evolution are compared in this informative review!

    Tama Imperialstar Drum Set with Meinl Cymbals at Drum Center of Portsmouth


    At the Drum Center of Portsmouth, we are frequently asked. “What’s the best value drum set for a beginning drummer?”  If you are in the market for that first drum set, there are many inexpensive options out there.

    When it comes to “value”, you can’t beat the complete drum set.  Complete drum sets offer everything you need to get your drumming career up and running - drums, cymbals, and hardware, all in one convenient package.  We carry several varieties of complete drum sets at Drum Center of Portsmouth, including the Yamaha Rydeen, Pearl Roadshow and PDP Mainstage.

    The two standouts in this category are The Tama Imperialstar and the Ludwig Element Evolution.  To us, you won’t find a better value in a complete drum set under $800.  So, which kit is the best? We decided to find out, as we put these two best-selling kits in a head to head comparison.


    The Criteria

    We rated these two drum sets based on the following criteria: Drum Shells, Hardware, Cymbals, Drum Heads, Options, and Sound.  We began with the Tama Imperialstar.


    Tama Imperialstar

    Tama Imperialstar has been the best-selling drum set at this price point for a long time due to its name recognition, history, and longevity.  The Imperialstar reviewed was a 5-piece kit: 10x8 and 12x9 toms, 16x14 floor tom, 22x18 bass drum and a 14x5 snare drum.  These shells are 100% Poplar, a porous wood, typically found in a lower-cost drum set. The finish of this kit is a wrap that Tama calls, “Candy Apple Mist”, and is quite eye-catching.

    Tama Imperialstar Candy Apple Mist Drum Set at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    The hardware pack included with the Tama Imperialstar includes the legendary Iron Cobra single-chain drive bass drum pedal and hi-hat stand, a snare stand, drum throne, as well as a straight cymbal stand and a hide-away boom cymbal stand.

    Tama Iron Cobra Bass Drum Pedal at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    The Imperialstar comes with the Meinl HCS cymbal pack, consisting of a  pair of 14” hi-hats, a 16” crash cymbal and a 20” ride cymbal.  These cymbals are made of brass, which is an entry-level, low cost cymbal material.  Brass is typically associated with “harsh” sound, but the Meinl HCS cymbal pack does provide some pleasant musical tones.

    Meinl HCS Cymbals at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    Tama gives you stock, single-ply drum heads on the Imperialstar kit, including a pre-muffled bass drum head, along with a coated, single ply snare drum head.  These heads deliver clear projection, but their durability leaves something to be desired.

    The Imperialstar comes in six durable wrapped finishes, and has a ton of add-on options for additional drums.  This makes the Imperialstar an excellent choice for the beginning drummer who wants to expand their setup over time.

    The sound of the Tama Imperialstar is clean, sharp and dynamic thanks to its precise bearing edges, single ply heads and quality components.  The Meinl HCS Cymbal pack fit in relatively well with the overall sound of the Imperialstar.  Watch the video and hear for yourself!


    Ludwig Element Evolution

    The Ludwig Element Evolution Drum Set is comprised of 3 of the biggest names in drums: Ludwig, Zildjian and Remo.  The configuration of the Element Evolution is only slightly different than that of the Imperialstar, sporting a slightly deeper 16x16 floor tom.  The 5-piece kit we tested was a wrapped White Sparkle finish.

    The Ludwig hardware pack is similar to the Tama Imperialstar in terms of what you get - a single chain driven pedal and hi-hat stand, single braced snare stand, throne, and bass drum mounted toms.  The Element Evolution does offer 2 hideaway boom stands, as opposed to the Imperialstar.

    Ludwig Element Evolution Drum Set

    Included with the Ludwig complete drum set is Zildjian’s ZBT Bronze cymbal set.  The sizes are the same as the HCS set included with the Tama Imperialstar - 14” hats, a 16” crash and a 20” ride cymbal.  These cymbals are definitely easier on our ears in comparison to the entry-level HCS brass cymbals.

    Zildjian ZBT Cymbals at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    Another bright spot for the Element Evolution is the 2-ply, Pinstripe tom heads by Remo.  These heads provide more durability for the beginning drummer, as well as a controlled, low-end thud that we found pleasing.  While these are not the preferred USA Remo heads we sell here at Drum Center of Portsmouth, they are a step up from the less-durable single ply Tama heads.

    Remo Pinstripe Drum Heads on the Ludwig Evolution Drum Set

    Ludwig offers slightly fewer options when it comes to finishes and add-on drums relative to Tama’s Imperialstar, but there is certainly enough to keep the beginner drummer busy for years to come.

    The overall sound of the Ludwig Element Evolution is impressive.  All the drums tuned up easily and gave us nice round tone, thanks to the 2-ply Remo heads.  The Zildjian ZBT cymbals yield relatively smooth musicality and are a tremendous value at this price point.


    The Verdict

    Both the Tama Imperialstar and Ludwig Element Evolution are simply a ridiculous value at this price point.  The fact that you can spend less than $800 and have a solidly built, great sounding kit that will last for years is a testament to both manufacturers.

    1. Drum Shells

    When it comes to the drum shells - we are giving the slight edge to Tama.  The reason we went with Tama is that they disclosed what their shells are actually made of on their website.  We weren’t able to find that info from Ludwig.

    2. Hardware

    The winner for hardware was also Tama. You can’t go wrong with Tama Iron Cobra hardware.  The quality speaks for itself.

    3. Cymbals

    When it comes to cymbal sound, the Zildjian ZBT bronze cymbals are in a class above that of the brass Meinl HCS.  Ludwig takes this category with relative ease.

    4. Heads

    Ludwig’s 2-ply Remo Pinstripe heads also out-performed the stock, single-ply heads found on the Tama Imperialstar.  While we do recommend you replace either set of heads, the Element Evolution stock heads will give you more legitimate playing time before having to do so.

    5. Sound

    Which kit has the best overall sound?  We’ll leave that up to you to decide, because after all, all ears are different. Check out our head to head comparison video and let us know what you think!  Whichever kit you choose, you can’t go wrong, because we've picked the best of the bunch. We highly recommend spending a little more on one of these kits out of the gate, rather than going with one of the less-expensive options.  By spending a little more up-front, you will get a better sounding, longer lasting kit that will provide the new drummer with more enjoyment while they learn their instrument. If they decide to bail, or trade-in their kit down the road for a new one, either one of these kits will yield a better return on investment than their cheaper competitors.

    In Closing

    Have some questions?  Give us a call at 603-319-8109, or email us.    We offer FREE SHIPPING, or if you're local, we offer free set up and tuning on sets purchased here, as well as a LIFETIME LABOR WARRANTY.  That's right, All services performed on your drums will not be charged.  At the Drum Center of Portsmouth, we are obsessed with sound, and helping you get behind the drum set that is right for your individual needs.  When you’re ready to make your first investment in a drum set, you can rely on us for honest answers to any questions you may have.

    Our Tama Imperialstar Drum Set and add on page is here.

    The Ludwig Evolution Drum Sets are here.

    Read more: The best drum kits in 2020

    Drum Center of Portsmouth
    144 Lafayette Road
    North Hampton NH, USA

  • Yamaha Drums Review: Drum Sets with Video!

    A Comprehensive Review of Yamaha Drum Sets

    Drum Center of Portsmouth is the #1 Yamaha Drums Dealer in the USA, and we carry the Stage Custom BirchTour Custom MapleLive Custom,  Recording Custom, Absolute Hybrid, and PHX Drum Sets. These are six unique drum sets that vary in shell composition, sound and price point.  Which Yamaha drum kit is right for you?  What’s the difference in sound between a Stage Custom and a Recording Custom?  We set up all six kits for a side-by-side comparison to help answer any questions you may have.

    “But what about the Rydeen Series?” you ask?  We didn’t forget about  the entry-level offering from Yamaha drums.  While Rydeen drums are a decent beginner’s kit, we decided to focus on the mid-level to professional-level Yamaha kits for the purposes of this comparison.

    The Parameters

    Yamaha drums offer a wide variety of configurations and component drums for each of the series we tested.  To keep things consistent, we opted with standard sizes of a 22x17, 10x7, 12x8, 16x15 from each kit.  Our lone constant was the snare drum, and she’s a real beauty –

    Yamaha Recording Custom Stainless-Steel Snare Drum 14x5.5

    For all the toms, we swapped out the stock heads for Remo USA Coated Ambassadors on the top, and Clear Ambassadors on the bottom.  Bass drums were equipped with Remo Clear Power Stroke 3 Batter heads and a ported Smooth Power Stroke 3 on the resonant side.

    For the video of the recording, we used the following microphone setup:

    Kick drum – Audix D6 microphone through the 4” port and a Shure KSM 32 about 6” in front of the resonant head.

    Snare drum – Earthworks SR20LS, which is a great all-around microphone.

    Toms – Earthworks DM20

    Floor Tom – Audix D4

    Overhead – Dual Earthworks SR25

    Yamaha Drums Stage Custom Birch Shell Pack

    Yamaha Drums Tour Custom Maple at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    We had considered leaving the Yamaha Stage Custom Birch series out of our comparison because of its relatively low price point.  OK…it’s a seriously low price point.  We are currently selling 5-piece configurations for under $650.  Once we got these 100% birch shells set up, we were glad we included them.

    This was the only kit that did not come stock with USA Remo heads, which is completely forgivable considering how budget friendly the Stage Customs are.  Once we swapped out the stock heads, the shells tuned up quickly and produced a surprisingly powerful and smooth punch, something we expect from Yamaha drums.  The toms cut with a focused tone, while the floor tom generated some serious boom.  The 22-inch kick drum was solid in both attack and low-end delivery.

    This kit punched way above its price-point in every possible way.  The shell, finish, hardware and edges were all flawless and exceeded our expectations.  Don’t just take our word for it, check out the video and audio for yourself from our demo.

    Yamaha Drums Tour Custom Maple Set

    Yamaha Drums Tour Custom Maple at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    The Yamaha drums Tour Custom Maple line is another value-minded offering that delivers in sound and build quality.  Like the Stage Custom, it features the Absolute lug design and YESS mounts for the toms.  Tour Custom Maples boast a North American and Asian Maple shell, and USA Remo Clear Ambassadors right out of the box.

    The sound is exactly what you want to hear from an all-maple kit, with plenty of mid-range projection and warmth.  This is the type of kit that screams versatility and will work in any situation you ask it to.  At $1299 for a 4-piece configuration, this latest addition to the Yamaha lineup is as good as many higher-priced competitor’s 100% maple shell offerings.  How do they keep the price so low?  Finish options for the Tour Custom are somewhat limited, and there aren’t a ton of component add-ons.

    Yamaha Drums Live Custom Oak Set

    Yamaha Drums Live Custom at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    The Live Customs were perhaps the most interesting drums we tested for the comparison.  These replaced Yamaha’s Oak Custom Series drums which were known for their sharp, loud projection.  Our experience with the Oak Custom line was that customers were often attracted to them for their volume, but eventually grew weary of their somewhat one-dimensional nature.  The Live Customs share the dynamic punch of their predecessors, but deliver it with a smoother, more refined tone.

    We were immediately impressed by the tom response.  These drums project highs, mids and lows in spades with a well-controlled sustain.  While they are a no-brainer for your live gigs, they also sound exceptional under the mics.  We LOVE these kits in smaller sizes.  Live Customs would absolutely kill when tuned up high for a Jazz gig.  The quality of Live Custom finishes is amazing, especially the “Emerald Shadow Sunburst” tested in our video.

    Yamaha Drums Absolute Hybrid Maple Set

    Yamaha Drums Absolute Hybrid Drum Set at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    When moving on to the Absolute Hybrid Maple model, the attention to detail gets kicked up a notch.  This series boasts higher quality everything.  Practical quick release lugs, high quality, low mass Aluminum die cast hoops, and a gorgeous hybrid shell design make the Absolute Hybrids an absolute joy to play.

    In a word, the sound of these drums is “aggressive.”  We refer to them as “Angry Yamahas” around the shop.  The Absolute Hybrid series features a slightly thicker maple shell with an inner core of ultra-dense Wenge that produces a sharply resonant tone.  These drums are incredibly dynamic and open up immediately from the lightest touch.  The toms sing, and the floor tom and kick drums produce a guttural, low end thump.

    Yamaha Drums Recording Custom Set

    Yamaha Drums Recording Custom Drum Set at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    Yamaha claims their Recording Custom Series Drums are the most recorded drums in history.  While we haven’t seen any empirical data to support this claim, we are inclined to believe them.  Recording Custom drums are the industry standard for studio drummers because of their clean, crisp tone.

    There have been a few iterations of the RC series over the years.  A common gripe we’ve heard about the previous iterations was that they tended to be a little thinner sounding, especially with the bass drum.  Where this was ideal in a mic’d setup, some would say they were slightly lacking in a live acoustic environment.  These latest RCs we tested seem to address those complaints with stellar tone in all frequencies, and a massive sounding kick drum.  Yes, they are now made in China, but these Recording Customs are the best sounding to our ears and the QC is as good as it’s ever been.  We think you’ll agree when you hear the audio!

    Yamaha Drums PHX Set

    Yamaha Drums PHX Drum Set at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    The PHX series has been surrounded by hype since Yamaha drums released the flagship line of ultra-high-end drums in 2009.  Yamaha decided to take the “Ferrari” approach when developing these drums - where cost was no issue.  Their only concern was to create the ultimate high-end professional drum set.

    At the heart of the PHX is its luxuriously thick 11-ply Kapur-Maple-Jatoba hybrid shell.  These exotic woods are progressively harder from the center ply to the outer plies.  We were taken aback upon inspection of the interiors of these drums.  The craftsmanship and attention to detail is of the finest quality.  Put simply – more thought has gone into the R&D of the PHX than any other, and it shows.

    But how do they sound?  To get these magnificent looking toms to where they wanted to be, we definitely had to spend more time with the tuning than the other kits tested.  This is due to the unique approach Yamaha drums took with the PHX bearing edges.  All drums have a 30° bearing edge, but each "family" of drums uses a different profile. Bass drums have a sharper edge cut toward the outer plies. This gives the bass drums attack and shortens the decay. Floor toms have a slightly rounded edge to give them a balance of attack and sustain. Toms have an even more rounded profile for warmth and sustain.  These rounded edges required a different relationship between the top and bottom heads, in that they preferred to be tuned closer together.  Once we figured that out, the results were pure bliss.  Check out the tone for yourself in the video!

    Closing Thoughts

    If you’re shopping for your particular sound, Yamaha drums is going to have you covered at whatever price you can afford.  Whether you want to spend $700 or $7,000 on your next kit, we can say with confidence that Yamaha will provide a quality-made instrument.  Every kit that we tested was flawless in finish and construction.  Shells were round, bearing edges were perfect, and hardware was rock solid.  The tone we got out of the $650 Stage Custom was comparable (or exceeded) that of many more expensive kits we’ve tested in the past.  We highly recommend giving Yamaha a shot.

    At Drum Center of Portsmouth, we specialize in helping you achieve YOUR perfect drum sound, whether it's Yamaha Drums or others. Give us a call at (603) 319-8109 to speak with a professional about that sound you hear in your head.  We are legit sound freaks and look forward to helping you navigate your way to the drums of your dreams.  We carry a huge selection of Yamaha Drum Sets and Yamaha Snare Drums in stock.  If Yamaha isn’t your thing, we can help with many other fine manufacturers as well.

    Keep your eyes peeled to our YouTube Page for more exciting and slightly eccentric drum-related content!






  • Tricky 2002s // Walkthrough Wednesday

    This week on Walkthrough Wednesday:

    Tom is checking out the new VMT1 series from Trick Drums​. The kit sizes are 22x14/13x9/16x16 and the matching snare is 14x6.5. To Tom's left is a candy red 3mm custom aluminum, which is to DIE for!

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    22" ride, 18" Medium and 15" Sound Edge Hats!

  • Walkthrough Wednesday // New From British and A&F!

    This week on Walkthrough Wednesday... Chuckie shows off some amazing snares and kits from our new friends, British Drum Co​. We also take a look at some beautiful snare drums from A&F Drum Co.​ fresh from the NAMM show, ENJOY!


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