Bass drum differences among brands

spaeth

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I had the same experience with my 26x14 Yamaha RC bass drum. There was just no life or tone to it. The toms were amazing but that bass drum just had no real depth or soul to it. At the time I had an Ayotte 24x18 and a Ludwig Classic Maple 26x16 that were tuned pretty much the same with the same head combo and they blew away the RCs. The Ludwig was my favorite bass drum ever and it was a cheap and kind of rough orphan. My Jenkins Martin 24x15 gives that Ludwig a run for its money though.
 

Matched Gripper

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I’ve always felt the bass drum can be quite similar from brand to brand, given same size and setup. The differing factors are more about the choice of toms and snare. What are your thoughts?

So here is my thing. I could take a vintage Rogers 22, a DW maple collectors same size, and high end Pearl. Setup the same, I’m not convinced I’d notice much difference.

bottom line…when it comes to choosing a kit, it’s more about the toms and those differences. Snares I consider a separate category.
All other things being equal - shell design, finish, bearing edges, heads, etc., I think it’s very difficult to distinguish between drums of any size.
 

Whitten

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I’m still not fully convinced. It would be interesting to see a shoot out on bass drums. I’m afraid most people will say their favorite is what they own, etc. And that’s still okay. Would love to hear what Whitten says on the subject.
We've sampled dozens of bass drums for Toontrack products. There are definitely noticeable differences. Of course it can be skewed by head choice. What I look for in bass drums is fatness with a nice spread of frequencies, aka a low tone with a nice bright attack. You don't want a lot of mid range or honk.
Most vintage bass drums are quite mild sounding by modern standards. Since the 80's bass drums have become much bigger sounding on record, and drum companies have looked too achieve that sound in their designs.
Play a vintage Rogers or Slingerland next to a modern kit and the bass drum will probably sound quieter, smaller, although still nice.
Ludwig bass drums always seem to sound very big to me (vintage or modern).
Anyway, it's hard to put into words.....
Bass drums do sound different, but not so different as you could identify the brand (blind), or so you would say a certain brand made bad sounding bass drums.
When evaluating a kit the bass drum is very important to me because it's a key component of modern music. Popular music is focussed around bass drum and snare - toms are generally the cherry on top.
 

Whitten

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I suppose there’s more to it then. I see that Kenny Aronoff often uses a big old Ludwig bass drum in the studio along with the Tama toms. I think the 3 ply Ludwigs have something special going there.
Yes, that has been my experience. Vintage Ludwig bass drums are noticeably big sounding. Don't know exactly why.
 

AtlantaDrumGuy

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We've sampled dozens of bass drums for Toontrack products. There are definitely noticeable differences. Of course it can be skewed by head choice. What I look for in bass drums is fatness with a nice spread of frequencies, aka a low tone with a nice bright attack. You don't want a lot of mid range or honk.
Most vintage bass drums are quite mild sounding by modern standards. Since the 80's bass drums have become much bigger sounding on record, and drum companies have looked too achieve that sound in their designs.
Play a vintage Rogers or Slingerland next to a modern kit and the bass drum will probably sound quieter, smaller, although still nice.
Ludwig bass drums always seem to sound very big to me (vintage or modern).
Anyway, it's hard to put into words.....
Bass drums do sound different, but not so different as you could identify the brand (blind), or so you would say a certain brand made bad sounding bass drums.
When evaluating a kit the bass drum is very important to me because it's a key component of modern music. Popular music is focussed around bass drum and snare - toms are generally the cherry on top.
I appreciate the feedback. I know you have lots of recording/live playing experiences, so it’s good to hear your thoughts. I have a number of vintage drum kits, and two modern but I’ve never really A/B’d them together. I guess that does make sense as the bass drum (and obviously snare too) is certainly used much more than the toms.
 

spaeth

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I don’t claim to be able to know what brand a kit is by hearing it or what wood or the shape of the bearing edge. I do know that I have heard a handful of bass drums that I loooove. On the other hand I have sold a few kits simply because of not being able to get a bass drum sound I could connect with.
 

High on Stress

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What’s the problem with the old RC bass drum?
Honestly? I think it’s the stock logo front head that Yamaha provides. It’s more port hole than head and seems to be set up for a pillow and mic. Without a mic, it doesn’t sound like much behind the kit and definitely is out of balance with the volume and resonance of the toms, even with the stock Pinstripe tom heads. I think the RC bass drums used to come with a Pinstripe batter head too. Pinstripe batter plus giant ported front head is not a good combo for a bass drum, in my opinion.
 

gbow

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I also think there is a big difference in bass drums. My N&C Horizon 22" is the best sounding one I've played. I also like my vintage 24" ludwig, although it can be a bit finicky to get tuned and dampened just right.

Another thing that gets overlooked is the "beater!"

There are so many types and styles, everything from round hard wood to flat square felt and everything in between, as well as different weights. Those things make a huge difference in the sound!

I have recently switched to the DW Control XL and I use the square felt (it also ships with a square wood) end and two weights installed (of the 4).

That combination makes my kick sound much bigger, at least with the brand/head/tuning combination I use.

gabo
 

spaeth

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I had the same Sk1/Regulator combo of heads on the RC, Ludwig and Ayotte. Was not the heads. Tried many different heads on the RC because of all the hype I felt I should like it. Finally gave up and sold the kit. I also completely get that we all have “that sound” that lives in our head. That sound can be very personal.
 

DanRH

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Bass drums do sound different, but not so different as you could identify the brand (blind), or so you would say a certain brand made bad sounding bass drums.
Interesting you say this Chris as I've always said, blind fold a drummer and they will not know the difference 99% of the time, regardless of any drum.
 

CaptainCrunch

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I generally think that a PS3 and Ambassador-weight front is the ticket, no port, no laundry. I think we *feel* the bass drum more than the snare or toms by a large margin simply because we're more directly connected, and how we strike it and how it responds and bounces back is very interactive.

I know my preferred heads are a bit generic, but with a band over it I do bet most basses of similar construction would be extremely hard to differentiate by ear. Honestly, in a loud full band situation it probably wouldn't matter that much if you were playing a Gretsch 18" or a RK 26", because you're either *thumping* or *not-thumping* in terms of sound.

But behind the kit, even with the same head combo, your tactile experience will be radically different as well as how big your sound is.

And it can also be a certain drum just has "it". I have an early 70's Gretsch 20" that always sounds huge, I have a 24" Ludwig that fights me.

All that being said (which really wasn't saying much?), there probably isn't a better way to make every bass drum sound and feel the same than a big port and a pillow - which isn't a slight! It's a preference. But it does take away the bounce and resonance that differentiates this kick from that.
 
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dsop

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I’m still not fully convinced.
I owned four sets which had two bass drums of the same size.
Pearl, Slingerland, Gretsch, and Yamaha. The Pearl set was a mix of fiberglass and phenolic toms. The bass drums were both phenolic (I think) sized 22 x 14. Slingerland set was chrome wrap over maple, 24 x 14. Gretsch were USA Custom (Baldwin era I think) 22 x 16, and the Yamahas were the original Recording Custom (notorious for crappy bass drums) 22 x16.

In every single case, the two bass drums sounded different, and one of them sounded way better (especially the Gretsch - one of them was incredible, and the other was pretty bland). Wood is a strange animal, although one of those sets was made of Phenolic, and even those two bass drums sounded a bit different.
 

Rhyma Hop

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What’s the problem with the old RC bass drum?
Nothing...... for me at least.. I had 3 of the older versions including the first split lug "Real Wood" classic models.. I always read this stuff about the older RC kicks.. and I am always wondering how they had it set up. .. All of the kits I bought used and all of them had a pretty big hole on the reso... they did NOT sound good at all this way ..

After I put any ONE ply head with a ring on the batter.. and the same on the reso.. with NO HOLE.. and either NO muffling or just a small evans or other pad touching ONE of the heads on the inside.. those things were some of the best kicks I have ever owned. All of them.. same exact situation.
 

bassanddrum84

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I’m still not fully convinced. It would be interesting to see a shoot out on bass drums. I’m afraid most people will say their favorite is what they own, etc. And that’s still okay. Would love to hear what Whitten says on the subject.
Ok here’s the thing tho. You would have to take let’s say. A maple tama a maple Yamaha a maple Ludwig and a cheap sound percussion. Put all the same heads on front and back. Then are we talking talking mics no mics. If you run mics you have to run a flat eq on all them. Mic placement and everything goes into factor if you’re gonna do a bass drum shoot out or any drum for that matter. But think about it no matter what there’s gonna be differences. Tamas maple isn’t gonna be the same as Ludwig or anyone else’s. Can’t use dw they do all that weird grain pattern stuff.

Brass snare drums to me are hard to tell. Worldmax, pork pie, pdp, blindfolded I would never be able to tell. But kick drums to me there is differences and they’re def obvious. I couldn’t do a blindfold test but there’s a difference you can hear.
 

bassanddrum84

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There’s just to many factors to really do a true shoot out. A wrapped drum is gonna sound different the a lacquered drum.
 

Treviso1

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In my world, the bass drum makes the kit. I have found that on a good quality drumset, I can get the toms to pretty much always sound great...but...bass drums are another story. I have had many kits that were high end and had crappy sounding bass drums. Those kits always got sold.
Some of the most epic sounding bass drums I have owned or played have been the following:
Dunnett Titanium 24"...other worldly
Sonorlite Scandinavian Birch 17x22s and 17x24s...those bass drums just thump. GREAT right out of the box.
Ludwig 24" on several exotic Classic Maple kits I currently own with the 10 ply shells: Birdseye Maple, Curly Maple, Australian Lacewood...all of these 10Ply CM bass drums sound amazing.
A buddy's 1990 Pearl Birdseye Maple Custom Z (CZX)...it was a 22" and it just stomped like a Mutha!
Any Canopus bass drums that I have owned...all either 24" or 26"...GREAT!
My Ayotte Woodhoop kit...16x22" bass drum...killer.
My Pearl Bubinga Masterworks Heavy Shell (10 or 12 Ply...I can't remember) 18x22...That bass drum is a legend in the making. Hard to beat this one.
My Roto Tom kit has two 22" Pearl Masters Maple bass drums are just killer...just monster huge. You can really dig into these bass drums.
Finally, my Yamaha PHX 16x22's are killer, huge, and the amazing thing is that the toms all have that same quality. That whole kit just sings together nicely. The toms are like little bass drums...so much clear low end comes off that kit.
 

hsosdrum

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I owned four sets which had two bass drums of the same size.
Pearl, Slingerland, Gretsch, and Yamaha. The Pearl set was a mix of fiberglass and phenolic toms. The bass drums were both phenolic (I think) sized 22 x 14. Slingerland set was chrome wrap over maple, 24 x 14. Gretsch were USA Custom (Baldwin era I think) 22 x 16, and the Yamahas were the original Recording Custom (notorious for crappy bass drums) 22 x16.

In every single case, the two bass drums sounded different, and one of them sounded way better (especially the Gretsch - one of them was incredible, and the other was pretty bland). Wood is a strange animal, although one of those sets was made of Phenolic, and even those two bass drums sounded a bit different.
Interesting. I've owned four 2-bass-drum kits in the last 50 years:

• 1973 Ludwig Vistalite (14x24)
• 1984 Gretsch (14x22)
• 1990 Ludwig Classic (16x26)
• 2013 Ludwig Legacy Maple (14x22)

With brand-new heads fitted, both bass drums matched virtually 100% on each kit except for the Gretsch (a small, but noticeable difference, with one drum sounding a little 'bigger'; that drum went on my right foot).

With my Legacy Maples I even switched the bass drums back and forth between left foot and right foot to eliminate the position of the drum in the room as a factor, and they sounded exactly the same as long as the heads were new. Being right-footed, my right BD batter head naturally wears much more quickly than my left BD head. After a while this does create a difference in the sound of the two drums. When this difference gets to the point where it can no longer be minimized by tuning it's time for new batter heads.
 


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