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Tama Star Drum Sets - Head to Head Review

Tama Star Drum Sets - Bubinga, Maple, Walnut Compared at Drum Center of Portsmouth!

Tama Star drums have generated a lot of buzz since their launch in 2013.  The Star line is handcrafted by a small group of artisans in Japan to incredible tolerances.  Their uncompromising attention to detail makes Tama Star Drums a shop favorite at Drum Center of Portsmouth.  We’ve put together an epic head-to-head comparison video of Tama’s big three - Star Bubinga, Star Maple and Star Walnut.

The Idea

Working at a drum store has its perks.  One day during a meeting, someone had the idea to order a bunch of the world’s finest drums for a comparison video.  After a few long months our shipment arrived, and we were rewarded with three jaw-dropping kits. The Star Maple and Star Bubinga kits share the same configuration.  10x7, 12x8 rack toms, 14x14, 16x16 floor toms and a 22x18 bass drum. The Star Walnut kit sports slightly different sizes: 10x8, 12x9, 14x12, 16x14, 18x22.

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat.  Tama Star drums are among the most beautiful instruments on this planet.  When these kits were unboxed, everyone at the shop stopped what they were doing.  You can’t take your eyes off of them. The exotic grain, the flawless finish, the stunning hardware, those INLAYS!  

Once we got over the initial shock of pure aesthetic perfection, we got to spend some quality time playing Tama’s flagship line.  And, oh...what a joy it was.

Tama Star Bubinga

At the front line of Tama Star drums is the Tama Star Bubinga.  The kit we test drove was finished in immaculate Dark Red Cordia.  The shell construction of the Star Bubingas is a super-thin 4.5mm with thick 9mm reinforcement rings.  The interiors are equally as gorgeous with an inner ply of oiled Cordia.

Right away you can spot something unusual about these drums.  Tama ships them with Remo Ambassadors, as opposed to Evans heads.  This is just one of the details that help you realize that Tama spared no expense regarding the sound of these drums.  The kick drums come equipped with PS3 batters and Fiberskyn resonant heads.

The sound of Star Bubingas can be summed up in a word - aggressive.  Their dark tone is immediate, sharp and punchy. Their note is clear and beautiful, and they tune up with ease.  Tama’s Zinc diecast hoops keep the sustain focused and the drum in tune for days. The kick drum was our favorite part of this kit, providing ridiculous thump and cut.

Tama Star Maple

As we switched over from Star Bubinga to Star Maple the benefits of Tama’s Star Hardware became apparent.  Tama’s Super Resonant Mounting system works with a nifty quick-lock tom bracket that makes setup a breeze. Simply flip a switch on the tom stand arm to release your tom while leaving the memory lock in place.  Slide the tom back on and, boom. Ready for the next gig. The floor toms also employ these quick locks, making them ultimately gig-friendly.

Our Star Maple kit was also drool-worthy in appearance.  The finish is called, “Gloss Sycamore” and resembles the most heavily figured Flamed Maple you could imagine.  The gloss is flawless, and has a genuine 3D appearance.

Star Maple shell construction is completely different from the Bubingas.  At the center of the shell is a “solid-core” ply of 2mm maple, sandwiched between 1.5mm thick cross-laminated plies on both sides.  This thin, 5mm base is supported by 5mm Sound Focus Rings. The reasoning behind this recipe is to simulate the sound of a solid-ply shell without the solid-ply drawbacks.

This kit delivers maple tone on huge doses of steroids.  The midrange frequencies BOOM with an unusual blend of modern/vintage sound.  Sticking is clean and articulate and sustain goes on and on. If you crave maple tone, Tama Star Maple delivers in spades.

Tama Star Walnut

Rounding out the Tama Star Drums lineup is Star Walnut.  As mentioned before, our Star Walnut had slightly different sizes than the other kits.  Toms were slightly deeper, and the floor toms were slightly shallower. The finish is a more understated Dark Mocha Gloss, sans inlays.

Along with the sizes and finish being different, shell construction is also unique to the Star Walnut line.  Toms are 5mm and the bass is 6mm without reinforcement rings.

These thin walnut shells produced rich, dark tone as one would expect from Walnut.  What surprised us was an element of bright attack. The shallower floor toms kept right up with its earlier competitors, and the kick delivered the most low end.  The sound of this kit was not unlike birch with some enhanced low-end. This kit would make an excellent rock kit with plenty of aggressive thump to keep up with the mix.

The Verdict

Tama Star Drums are uncompromising.  They use the finest materials that are crafted by the world’s finest drum makers.  The hardware is strong, beautiful and practical. They are simply among the finest instruments money can buy, and their price tag reflects this.  We appreciate that these kits are for a handful of fortunate people, but we are grateful that Tama continues to push the limits of what a drum set can be.

The Tama Star Drum line covers every base between its Maple, Bubinga and Walnut kits.  Each voice is uniquely magnificent. We carry a huge selection of Tama Star Drums at Drum Center of Portsmouth.  We will gladly talk shop about Tama or any other brand you are interested in!