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Are High-End Drums a Giant Waste of Money?

spaeth

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I have a hard time thinking in high-end or low-end terms. I am usually chasing a sound or experience I am interested in. Fiberglass drums, carbon fiber, maple, birch etc…. Sometimes it is is just an intriguing drum that I want to build a kit around.

It is an interest in sound or experience that drives most of my purchases. I do buy used and try to get a good enough deal that there is very little monetary risk. I am also a weekend warrior hobbyist that would be houseless if trying to pay rent with my drumming.
 

Imposing Will

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I made a killing re-cutting bearing edges on Ludwig Classics and DW kits for a decade. My 2000 Ludwig Classic kit (bought new) needed a lot of work out of the box to tune up and sound good. My discontinued $499 Yamaha Rock Tour kit needed no attention out of the box, and I made a lot of money with that kit before I stopped gigging-and I liked them so much, I bought a second kit with an extra floor tom.
Spend your money however you want, that's your right. Build quality is so good on most drums now, it's hard to justify dropping $3k on a set-for me, anyway. Not knowing how to choose the right heads and tune can't be overcome by an expensive drum, plenty of examples of this theory all over the internet.
I'm with "Beatdown" on this one.
 

Whitten

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Not knowing how to choose the right heads and tune can't be overcome by an expensive drum, plenty of examples of this theory all over the internet.
People keep making this false equivalence.
Given that you understand heads and you can tune, many drummers CAN hear a difference. I haven't bought any factory line drums for decades. For me 'high end' is hand built, small maker.
 

Imposing Will

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People keep making this false equivalence.
Given that you understand heads and you can tune, many drummers CAN hear a difference. I haven't bought any factory line drums for decades. For me 'high end' is hand built, small maker.
I built drums for a decade, as well-and sold quite a few. I understand what you're saying, but at the end of the day...many can't hear the difference. Especially in a recording situation, where a lot of variables are in play. Here's an example-The Killers. Vanucci played Craviottos on a few of their records, and the recorded drum sounds don't exactly blow me away. I don't hear $7k when I listen to their records. At all.
Some drums just sound better than others, regardless of how many zeros are on the price tag. Finishes may be more exclusive or meticulous, and the drum might look more "professional"-but I've compared and played enough drums to know what I like. And the price tag rarely mattered. I'll go back to my Rock Tour kits-I've had more compliments on the sound of those drums than most of the other high-end kits I've owned/played, including sets I've personally built.
A lot of "placebo effect", IMO. Not always, but often.
 

Whitten

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I built drums for a decade, as well-and sold quite a few. I understand what you're saying, but at the end of the day...many can't hear the difference. Especially in a recording situation, where a lot of variables are in play. Here's an example-The Killers. Vanucci played Craviottos on a few of their records, and the recorded drum sounds don't exactly blow me away. I don't hear $7k when I listen to their records. At all.
This is another falsehood that is often brought up. The drum sound in the room obviously made a difference to Vanucci. That is what counts, not what someone else thinks about the finished mix on the record.
I've done so many recording sessions. When the engineer walks into the room after you've set up, they expect to hear an absolutely killer sound. It is not normal to say "here's an OK sound, but I know you'll make it better with good mics and EQ, and anyway no one will know once it's mixed". That never happens.

Some drums just sound better than others, regardless of how many zeros are on the price tag.
That IS 100% true.
Both the Supraphonic and Acrolite are studio staples, and affordable drums. A $100 Shure 57 is the most used snare mic too.
The bottom line, if you can afford high-end drums and they make you happy, enjoy playing, they are never a waste of money. If you have a $1000 budget, then yeah you can buy some great drums and still enjoy playing.
I guess my only beef with the video is this message that 'high end drums' are a 'giant waste of money'. They just aren't.
 

Whitten

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A lot of "placebo effect", IMO. Not always, but often.
I've sampled dozens of drum kits for Toontrack and Roland (drum sample libraries). We rent a lot of drums, standard mainstream and boutique high end. Some instruments in both price brackets leave me cold.
I have a harder time making a factory made Tama or Pearl sound as good as a Cooley or Craviotto, mostly the toms.
Pearl Sensitone snares sound great. A lot of signature snares (by the mainstream companies) are OK, nothing special.
After we've recorded we go home to edit, and you don't always know what the kit is when you first hear it again. Then there is no placebo effect, the kit either sounds fantastic or it sounds OK. I will pay for fantastic.
 

Imposing Will

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This is another falsehood that is often brought up. The drum sound in the room obviously made a difference to Vanucci. That is what counts, not what someone else thinks about the finished mix on the record.
I've done so many recording sessions. When the engineer walks into the room after you've set up, they expect to hear an absolutely killer sound. It is not normal to say "here's an OK sound, but I know you'll make it better with good mics and EQ, and anyway no one will know once it's mixed". That never happens.


That IS 100% true.
Both the Supraphonic and Acrolite are studio staples, and affordable drums. A $100 Shure 57 is the most used snare mic too.
The bottom line, if you can afford high-end drums and they make you happy, enjoy playing, they are never a waste of money. If you have a $1000 budget, then yeah you can buy some great drums and still enjoy playing.
I guess my only beef with the video is this message that 'high end drums' are a 'giant waste of money'. They just aren't.
In my experience, the drum sound I like "in the room" hasn't translated well to recording-especially when close micing. Lower tunings than I like to use live are what I usually end up with when recording, so I'm usually less than blown away with the sounds while tracking. I have mostly been happy with the end result, though.
Again, I understand what you're saying. We definitely play better when we're inspired. Having owned dozens of kits over the years, though...I can honestly say I've only owned a few kits that sounded bad, or less than good. One of those was the previously mentioned Ludwig Classic kit, until I recut and trued the edges. They sounded pretty bad, and were very hard to tune. Second-most expensive kit I've ever bought.
Back to Vanucci's sound, though-if the drum sound in the room inspired him, then that's great. But again, I don't hear $7k on the recordings-for whatever reason. I would think the end result would be the priority, preferable not at the expense of ruining "the muse". I don't know that anything is a waste of money, though. You and I both are free to do as we wish with our money, but my "frugal side" will always look for the best for the least. My days of dropping large money on ANYTHING that won't bring me some kind of tangible gratification are over, though I'm ironically in a financial position (finally!) to buy nearly anything I want within reason. I work for a Toyota dealership, and drive brand new Toyota and Lexus vehicles every day. I'd love to buy a new 4Runner-but it would be purely a vanity move. My 2003 4Runner runs and drives as well as a new one, and it was paid for the day I bought it. ;)
 

Imposing Will

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I've sampled dozens of drum kits for Toontrack and Roland (drum sample libraries). We rent a lot of drums, standard mainstream and boutique high end. Some instruments in both price brackets leave me cold.
I have a harder time making a factory made Tama or Pearl sound as good as a Cooley or Craviotto, mostly the toms.
Pearl Sensitone snares sound great. A lot of signature snares (by the mainstream companies) are OK, nothing special.
After we've recorded we go home to edit, and you don't always know what the kit is when you first hear it again. Then there is no placebo effect, the kit either sounds fantastic or it sounds OK. I will pay for fantastic.
Right. But it has to be tangibly, verifiably fantastic. it's the "Black Beauty VS Pork Pie BOB" argument. A friend and I A/B'ed them once-same heads, tuning, etc. Neither of us could hear or feel a $400 price difference, though the Black Beauty was slightly prettier. But in the same room, under the same mic, both of us taking turns and recording them...couldn't hear it. Maybe you can, props if that's the case.
 

Rich K.

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This is another falsehood that is often brought up. The drum sound in the room obviously made a difference to Vanucci. That is what counts, not what someone else thinks about the finished mix on the record.
I've done so many recording sessions. When the engineer walks into the room after you've set up, they expect to hear an absolutely killer sound. It is not normal to say "here's an OK sound, but I know you'll make it better with good mics and EQ, and anyway no one will know once it's mixed". That never happens.


That IS 100% true.
Both the Supraphonic and Acrolite are studio staples, and affordable drums. A $100 Shure 57 is the most used snare mic too.
The bottom line, if you can afford high-end drums and they make you happy, enjoy playing, they are never a waste of money. If you have a $1000 budget, then yeah you can buy some great drums and still enjoy playing.
I guess my only beef with the video is this message that 'high end drums' are a 'giant waste of money'. They just aren't.
The title of Rob's video asks the question, and does not make that statement.
 

Bri6366

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Aways an interesting conversation. Years back a guy who used to roadie for Skynyrd would frequently post on the Pearl Drummer's Forum. At that level, being a drum tech is like being in the pit crew of a to NASCAR racing team. It's as much a sport as it is music. The drummer can blow through a snare head or three on a given night. He would change tom heads very frequently as well. Doing that many head changes, he could easily tell the difference of the stanless steel tension rods on a Pearl Masters or Reference kit from other kits. They need top end gear at that level to make it through a show and Michael Cartellone is the highest level of endorsing artist.

Cartellone gets a Masterworks kit for a tour. It is marketing psychology and Joe drummer in the basement has to get the top of the top of the line kit. All the sudden the Starclassic Maple or Reference kit isn't good enough anymore, he has to get the PHX or Masterworks. They keep raising the bar. No doubt, the drums are amazing, but unless you're on the highest level, like Cartellone, it's really more about your personal values. Some people will not spend money on an expensive car and others have to have it.

I was in Guitar Cente and a dude was playing a Pearl Export kit. It sounded very good....really good. He commented that's what good heads can do to a kit. He didn't want to give the drums any credit. The reality is most of us would do just fine with a set of Exports and put our money in a decent snare and cymbals. No one will know the difference, especially if you're through a PA with a good sound guy.

There is a lot of middle ground here. I don't need a Masterworks kit. Just ordering one seems like too much work...the top bearing edge is this and the bottom is that...it's ridiculous. How do you even know how it will turn out? I have a Sessions Studio Select and it's just fine. I'm sure a Tama Starclassic Walnut/Birch will scream through the PA. Give me a Ludwig CM with standard .45 edges. That's top of the line enough for me.
 

Steech

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Now that we’ve gotten to 152 posts, we can look back and appreciate the fact no one defended high-end drums on the basis of re-sale value.
Reading is fundamental
 

Whitten

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Right. But it has to be tangibly, verifiably fantastic. it's the "Black Beauty VS Pork Pie BOB" argument. A friend and I A/B'ed them once-same heads, tuning, etc. Neither of us could hear or feel a $400 price difference
A 10% benefit is worth the extra cost to a working professional.
I have posted that several times in the thread already.
No one chooses gear on the basis that it satisfies the public. It is a personal choice made by the person using the gear.
 

Imposing Will

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In the grand scheme of things people buy that they truly do not need, like boats, motorcycles, ATVs, RV's, vacation homes, big vacations, etc., discussing the price of even the most expensive drum kits almost seems kind of sill

A 10% benefit is worth the extra cost to a working professional.
I have posted that several times in the thread already.
No one chooses gear on the basis that it satisfies the public. It is a personal choice made by the person using the gear.
Agreed. Tool for the job.
 


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