Tama Imperialstar New vs. Old?

Discussion in 'General' started by Iristone, Aug 11, 2018.

  1. Iristone

    Iristone Well-Known Member

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    Been looking for a bigger drum set for some stage (~500 people miked) and future studio work. I'm intrigued by the Tama Imperialstars for their warm, potentially studio friendly poplar tone, wide range of size selection, and low price tag.
    Just wondering if anyone has compared the new Imperialstars to the vintage, luan-shell ones? Such as how articulate they are (I'm looking for a clear yet warm, unobtrusive sound). I can't seem to find any info on the comparison. They say that the poplar shell is an upgrade to the old luan shell (on the Swingstar line etc.), but I can't find any consensus on them other than as a beginner/practice kit. FWIW I like the new Pearl Export line better than the vintage one, but more interested in Tamas for now.
    Any information?
    Iristone
     
  2. Cauldronics

    Cauldronics Well-Known Member

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    I have a gi-normous set of the original, 70s Imperialstars: a pair of 24s and toms in 18,13,15. For awhile I had the 16, 12 and 10 but sold them to a forum member.

    They have a distinct sound compared to common maple and birch kits. Id describe it as more focused on the low end frequencies, and a little fuzzier overall. The 13 tom in particular is the richest in low end warmth and punch of all 13s Ive had.

    If you want an idea of how they sound on studio recordings, the three, often cited, prime examples would be early Police records (I think the first one or two albums), early Billy Joel and early Judas Priest records. The drummers would include Stewart Copeland and Liberty DeVitto.

    I havent spent any real time on the modern, poplar version so cant comment, but the above should give you an idea of what the original sounded like.
     
  3. rondrums51

    rondrums51 rondrums51

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    Luan is very cheap Asian poplar. The 80's Imperialstars were luan with a heavy speckled Zola Coat on the interiors. I think that sealed the pores in the wood and made for a harder, more reflective surface.

    The newer Imperialstars have a natural finish on the inside. But I think the poplar is better quality.

    Luan, poplar, or whatever has a pretty sound but it doesn't have the volume, attack, or projection of hard wood.

    I copped a Stagestar set years ago for an outdoor steady gig where I didn't wan't to abuse my "good" drums. Same cheap wood as Imperialstars. They actually performed well, but the attack was kind of "soft." A drum with great clarity and projection has to be made from hard wood.
     
  4. Iristone

    Iristone Well-Known Member

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    rondrums51,
    Thank you for your input!

    That's consistent with my experience on some Gretsch Energy house kits.
    Maybe I could finish the interior of the drums with some wood sealer?
    Iristone
     
  5. Tama CW

    Tama CW Well-Known Member

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    Regardless of how they might sound, I'm not a fan of current Imperialstars with respect to overall ruggedness of build quality. The old Imperialstars used the same hoops, lugs, mounts as the higher end Superstars. Whatever they use in today's Imperialstars is not close to higher end. With the right heads, the old Imps can sound warm. They are typically seen with CS black dots and pinstripes...not the warmest of heads.

    Just got a "big" set of 1980's Yamaha 5000's (mahogany 7 ply - 13,14,18, 24) which are probably similar to Tama's Imp/Royal/Swing stars of the 80's...and am curious to how they'll sound once I get them all cleaned and tuned up with decent heads. I think the 1980's Yamaha's in the 7000/8000 series can offer good sound in larger drums....even the more recent stage customs....and unlike Tama, Pearl, and Ludwig never used the Zola-type coatings on their 1980's inner shells.
     
  6. supershifter2

    supershifter2 Well-Known Member

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    I had a set of 80's imps for about a year. Good sound but I like the sound of 80's sups better and thats what I play. Dave Holland of Judas Priest played 80's Imp CT's.












     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 12, 2018
  7. ThomFloor

    ThomFloor Well-Known Member

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    Poplar and luan are two totally different woods, two different genus.
    Luan is at times called meranti and has a Janka hardness that ranges a bit, to a little less than birch or maple. It is in the hardwood range. 'Meranti' is on some pretty decent older kits (some Yammie SC's and Premier, XPK, APK). Poplar is way lower on the hardness scale.
    Lower overall hardness in luan gives for not quite the attack and volume, as described above. Of course bearing edge and thickness , heads etc all come into play. All this means comparing new and old Impstars will depend on many variables.
     
  8. rondrums51

    rondrums51 rondrums51

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    Tommy Wells used to treat the interiors of his Gretach Catalinas with several coats of urethane. Great idea, improves attack and projection.
     
  9. Tmcfour

    Tmcfour Well-Known Member

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    My '83s are great drums. Rugged as hell too. I gigged and toured on them for years. The new ones don't have the same umph in my opinion. Best sounding bass drums I've ever played or heard.
     
  10. funkypoodle

    funkypoodle Well-Known Member

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    I would honestly prefer a set of early 80's Swingstars to today's Imperialstars, so yeah, old Imperialstars any day of the week.
     
  11. rondrums51

    rondrums51 rondrums51

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    I always heard that luan was the stuff they made hollow interior doors out of, like the cheapest possible wood, not a hard wood. Was I misinformed?

    Weren't the old crappy 60's MIJ drum made from luan? I examined the shells on a lot of those, and the wood was really inferior looking. Like the lowest grade plywood you could get a a lumber store.
     
  12. ThomFloor

    ThomFloor Well-Known Member

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    rondrums, indeed a ply of luan looks like any other ply of cheap polar too.

    My point was that its not in the poplar family/genus at all. Google various sources and you get words like:

    "The term luan comes from the lauan tree, native to the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. It is also sometimes called Philippine mahogany or meranti. Manufacturers create veneer from either white lauan (Shorea almon) or red lauan (S. negrosensis)"

    some luans get into the hard part of the hardness scale, near birch or maple., which is why i guess it was being used in MIJ - cheap, localy available, and semi-hard enough to use.
    I agree it is not the best wood, and certainly doesn't project, but some of those old crappy old MIJ have a wonderful mellow tone. I had a really nice set of Coronets once. Hardware awful, looked awful, but it sounded really quiet nice. I've also had some 80's Yamaha's (Power V specials) that were luan but very nice sounding drums. The 'meranti' in Premier dreams is also nice sounding.

    But yes I'd pick maple or birch over it any day.
     
  13. drumtimejohn

    drumtimejohn Well-Known Member

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    If you like the sound of Copeland with the Police than the vintage Imperialstars (with re-ring shells) might be the set for you. They are built quite well and very affordable.
     
  14. Tmcfour

    Tmcfour Well-Known Member

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    To my knowledge, yes 80s imps are luan. Also to my knowledge, they sound great and are loud as hell. Find someone with an old 80s imperial star and give a listen. You might be surprised!
     
  15. Iristone

    Iristone Well-Known Member

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    I think the hardwood-softwood dichotomy (at least from what Wikipedia says) is based on biological, rather than mechanical, differences. Maple, birch, poplar, luan, and any other flowering trees are hardwoods by this definition.
    I'm aware though that luan and poplar are softer and generally worse sounding than maple and birch, etc. However, it could be a valid guess that they also come in grades of quality, so a Ludwig or Gretsch 3-ply drum has better poplar than a new Imp, while an old Imp or Yamaha 5000 comes with better luan than a cheap stencil kit.
    Anyway, I've decided not to waste my time and money on the new Imps. I've found that Ludwig and Yamaha drums suit me better.
    Thank you for all your input!
    Iristone
     
  16. Tmcfour

    Tmcfour Well-Known Member

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    Good call!
     
  17. royalearl

    royalearl Well-Known Member

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    I have a random 14x14 Rockstar floor tom that I bought on Ebay. I swear it is one of the best drums I have ever heard. You can really feel it in your gut when you hit that tom
     
  18. JDA

    JDA Well-Known Member

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    may have trouble finding old Tamas that aren't beat to **** and all road-dogged- out. Maybe not...but that's 35 +years ago. Good luck and you may have to do some restoration if you find some old ones/ maybe/
    I'd look harder at new sets and not just new Imperialstars; look at all in the price ranges you are looking at. Pearl..who knows/ what you find/ look at them in person /no online/ if you can.
     
  19. Cauldronics

    Cauldronics Well-Known Member

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    If anyone is interested, I have a set of 70's Imps (re-ring version ala Stewart Copeland) that I'm selling. Before I get into the details, I will only ship them if the buyer pays shipping by UPS (meaning they pack it too). 2x24, 13, 15 ,18 Midnight Blue

    They are in very good shape for the age. PM if interested.
     
  20. barryabko

    barryabko Well-Known Member

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    I've not played the modern version but have owned both 22" and 24" vintage Imperialstar kicks. I bought the 22" first and liked it very much. It sounded and felt very good. I was never very happy with the 24" and didn't use it very much. I eventually sold both.
     

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