Gretsch Catalina vs. USA Custom or Brooklyn

digovii

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I happened to be hanging out near somebody quasi-busking outdoors on a yellow flame Catalina Club kit over the weekend. Looked good and sounded like drums. Don't mean that to be glib - so many times, the live sound of drums is either "good" or "noticeably off" and a lot of that depends on the venue and soundperson(s), yeah?

Reminds me of seeing Vinnie at Yoshi's in Oakland a few years ago. Killer room with great sound. Have seen a number of great drummers in that room who sounded fantastic. For whatever reason, Vinnie's Gretsch kit sounded generic and awful that night. Too loud, way too much attack, no depth or musical tone to the drums. I'd shocked if they weren't pro-line Gretsch (USA custom, likely), so just remember YMMV when gigging.
That yellow satin flame cat club has been calling my name. That thing looks great!
 

nk126

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That yellow satin flame cat club has been calling my name. That thing looks great!
Yeah, I really dig that and the blue flame. The kit I saw over the weekend looked great out in the wild. No non-drum geek would have guessed it was a lower-end set.
 

GiveMeYourSmallestSticks!

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I played a Catalina Club kit for over 10 years before selling it and getting a Brooklyn kit. The Catalinas are excellent value for the money, but there are some notable differences to be aware of:

I do agree about the hardware quality being less than great, and had lugs that felt quite inconsistent from each other when tuning. The other marked difference I noticed was that the luan shells of the Catalinas are noticeably quieter than the Brooklyns, and don't produce THAT sound we associate with Gretsch. Not a problem per se, but it could be if you're going with Gretsch for their sonic qualities. The other consideration is that while the kit itself was perfectly serviceable and served me well for years, the accompanying Catalina snare was just crap. I know how to get snare drums to sound great between heads, wires and tuning, but that snare was a lost cause.

Nothing wrong with a Catalina, and I'm not writing to dissuade you, but just to present the facts and my own experience with them. I do know that they've released Catalina maples as well since I bought mine, might be a better option as an alternative to luan. As for the opinions of other drummers, I would think most would care more about your skill than your gear, but it takes all sorts. Good luck with your decision!
 

NobleCooleyNut

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I have owned Gretsch USA Custom and a Catalina Maple . The Tom mount and build quality of the Catalina kits are nowhere in the same league as the USA Customs . You really don’t expect them to be right ? I found the Catalina kit to not have the nuance snd clsrity that the USA Custom do . The Catalina rack tom sounded choked and this was mainly due to the poorly designed Tom mount ( three point mount ). The Catalina included snare was awful and I never even took it home when I bought the kit . I am not really a fan of USA Custom snares either to be honest .

The walnut glaze gloss lacquer finish on the Catalina kit I previously owned was surprisingly well done . Sure it is a polyester finish and not nitrocellulose but well done and looked attractive . The lacquer finishes on Gretsch USA Custom kits are superb , some of the best in the industry IMHO.

It all depends on the buyer as to what value the Catalina, Brooklyn it USA Custom provides for you . Can you do gigs with a Catalina Maple ? Sure of that floats your boat .
 

RogersLudwig

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My last drum teacher and friend, Donald Dean (yeah, that Double "D", from Jimmy Smith's Bluesmith album and the Les McCann Trio [the drummer on Swiss Movement]) has a set of Catalina's (18, 12, 14, plus 14" snare) and swears by 'em. FYI his son now owns the Paiste 602 20" flat ride from Swiss Movement; I've played it and I'd kill for that ride.
 

DanRH

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This is just me, my stupid 2 cents. I’ve owned and loved every model Gretsch has made throughout the years…except for Catalina’s. I didn’t care for the lack of quality. To me, they turned me off to ever considering one again. I know others love theirs…me? Not so much. Sorry. If I’m going to buy a lower level kit, it’s gonna be Yamaha Stage Customs (which I currently own).
BTW, I’d never buy a new Gretsch kit. Especially for 6k. The most I’m spending is 2.5k max for a Broadkaster (my personal favorite of all my past Gretsch kits).
 

audiochurch

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I have a mix-and-match kit for gigs the past 6 years. My 10” tom is a Catalina maple. Sounds killer. Will be using it again this weekend.
18334F12-F5E9-4B67-8BAE-735111EC2043.jpeg
 

Topsy Turvy

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I have owned both the Catalinas and the Brooklyns (and I still own the Brooklyns), so I'll throw in my $.02. I agree with what many on here have said. The Catalinas are fine, but they are not drums I would want to gig or record with. My kit was fun to play on and a perfect practice kit. As others have said, the hardware, mounting system, and snare were not up to my standards. The drums were very light, so that was a bonus if I were to gig them.

Having said that, they are nowhere near the Brooklyns in terms of depth or sound, warmth, fullness, tuning, etc... To be frank, it's not even close. The Brooklyns have great hardware, a depth of sound, larger tuning range, etc... You can fairly easily buy a used set of Brooklyns for not a ton of money. I personally prefer the Brooklyns to the USA Customs or the Broadkasters. They have a softer feel and warmer tone than the Customs, but more punch than the Broadkasters. By the way, I think both the USA Customs and the Broadkasters are great drums.
 

little rock

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I have a red sparkle Catalina Club bop kit that I have played many a bar gigs with. I am having some problems with a couple of broken lugs on them now, but the rest of the hardware is the same as my 120th Anniversary Gretsches and my USA Customs. The floor tom brackets and the spurs are the same as the 120ths and the mount on the rack tom RIMS type mount is the same as the floor tom leg brackets on the USA Customs. They are 13/14 years old and the first night I played them on a gig, our singer said that every time i hit the bass he felt it in his back and they weren't even miked. I love 'em.
 

AJMcHardy

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I've owned both a Gretsch Catalina & Brooklyn kit for years. There is nothing stopping you getting a quality, useable sound out of a set of Catalinas.

The big differences to me are the range of useable tones (Catalinas tend to favour a particular tuning range and head choice where they sound best- so aren't that versatile, at least in my experience) and the acoustic projection of the kits.

My Brooklyn kit fills the room without having to beat the crap out of it.

The Catalinas have always felt a little soft when competing with the rest of the band.

If your close mic'ing then its not going to matter but acoustically you'll hear and feel the difference
 

dsop

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Catalinas are not road-worthy, or studio-quality drums. They're fine for occasional gigs, practice sets, and jams, etc. I had a set for a few months and then sold them. The Yamaha Stage Customs were better quality for about the same dough at the time. Also, the Catalina snare was really, really yucky sounding.
If you want Gretsch, get their primo stuff. If you want budget, go Yamaha, Pearl or Tama.
 

telejojo

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I have a set of maple Catalina's I'm thinking about taking to our gig Friday since they are in cases and ready to go. Mt DW kit is set up and don't really want to tear it down and set it back up when I get back home.
 

Cauldronics

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Other than broken lugs (which appears to happen when putting them back on with a powered screwdriver. Don't use it, and Don't torque them down. If the screw bottoms out it will break the lug), they're fine. The biggest problem is perception and the resulting prices. But that also makes them attractive on the buyers end. It's a great kit to buy and keep.
A screwdriver built for construction work is a terrible idea for working on drums.

An electronics screwdriver is a far better choice and won’t spin down the rods into the lugs and rip them out. I’ve been using a little Hitachi electronic for years and had no issues.

In fact, it’s made changing heads a pleasure instead of a chore and I’m far more likely to experiment with different heads when it takes 1 minute to change them out vs 5-10.
 

CC Cirillo

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I used a Catalina bop kit for a few months as a studio reheasal kit. Sounded excellent, warm and comforting at medium volume. That sugar-coated soft wood.

We were writing material and I found the Cats to be a very good fit, because they were not an in-your-face sound in a small space. Worked well with a woman’s voice.

Only criticism I have was the snare—could not get it to have a tone I like—so I brought my Acro.
 

michaelg

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I wonder if anyone here has ever had their Catalinas (or any kit for that matter) bearing edges recut to original vintage round badge specs.
 
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dingaling

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Does Catalina use self tapping screws? I had someone send me a couple 80’s USA drums and they took the lugs off for shipping. When I put back on the lugs stripped and had to buy new ones. When I looked into it, it’s because the lugs were self tapping and not made to be taken off and on. Self tapping lugs are a way for the manufacturer to save $$.
 

varatrodder

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Does Catalina use self tapping screws? I had someone send me a couple 80’s USA drums and they took the lugs off for shipping. When I put back on the lugs stripped and had to buy new ones. When I looked into it, it’s because the lugs were self tapping and not made to be taken off and on. Self tapping lugs are a way for the manufacturer to save $$.
I had the same thing happen when I rewrapped a 70's Gretsch kit. Ended up having to replace a lot of the lugs, and used Loctite on the ones I could reuse.
 

853guy

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I've regularly played Catalina Maple and Catalina Club live, and owned stop-sign badge (I have no experience with Brooklyn).

However, as compared to USA Custom drums, I'd say that the Catalinas are more fussy in what heads will sound good, have a narrowed tuning range, less dynamic range, less sustain, less tonal character and frequency extension, and feel less responsive under the stick. Of course, they're also much less expensive, right?

USA Customs also have a hard-to-describe growl to their midrange, blend of fundamental to harmonics that's unique to my ear, and works for every situation I've played (acoustic, live miked, studio). They also feel "alive" in a way that makes playing them a pleasure, rather than just as a means-to-an-end. They remain my first choice after many years and dalliances with other manufacturers (Tama, Ludwig, Rogers, ADM/Shelishman, Sonor Designer).

As others in this thread have alluded to, there's really nothing "wrong" with the Catalinas. They're good drums. They can be made to sound good, but are not quite in the same league sonically (and perhaps structurally) as USA Custom. The snares are the weak point in my opinion, with a boxy, dry signature and very average sensitivity (though I find this to be true of many lesser wood snares).

That said, for those unwilling or unable to justify USA Custom pricing, in truth many kits from many manufacturers other than Gretsch could also be made to sound good for a lot less than the list price of a new USA Custom kit. Second-hand USA, SS, and RB prices remain high, but occasionally can be found to offer decent (if not spectacular) value, accepting bearing edges, shell roundness, structural integrity and cosmetics may have suffered.

Best,

853guy.
 
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