Gretsch Catalina vs. USA Custom or Brooklyn

backtodrum

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I'm not sure this was Jasper's fault. As I understand it, they made long shell cylinders that the Gretsch factory cut to length, and, economically minded as they were, they didn't bother scrapping shells just because there was an internal horizontal seem. Wrapped shells also have horizontal seams in the outer ply.
Hence the use of Silver Sealer! I would bet there was all kinds of stuff hidden under the paint. Lol!
 

K.O.

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Hence the use of Silver Sealer! I would bet there was all kinds of stuff hidden under the paint. Lol!
Well, we're all kidding ourselves if we think any of the interior treatments applied before 1980ish were put there due to sonic considerations.

The entire drum industry prior to the mid 1980s can be pretty well summed up thusly..."We take the cheapest wood we can get away with, dress it up with a couple of more expensive plies and make it look real nice".
 

Cauldronics

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The entire drum industry prior to the mid 1980s can be pretty well summed up thusly..."We take the cheapest wood we can get away with, dress it up with a couple of more expensive plies and make it look real nice".
Even Rogers? Hmm…
 

Fibes

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If Bill Detamore was correct, then all Gretsch shells have been a mix of Jasper and Keller, prior to Jasper's demise.

From this thread from 2011:

"Actually, They would use shells from Jasper and Keller. Their main source was Jasper but they would fill in with Keller. With all of the edges I have cut over the years I have seen many Keller shells on Gretsch kits. I have also seen bass drum shells used as floor toms and floor tom shells used as bass drums.

I have seen an entire kit made out of Jasper shells and the 12" tom is a Keller. I think the quality assurance guy took many days off...

Nothing like telling a guy that just spent a grip of dough on a vintage Gretsch that his shells are not all the same. They look like their dog just died.

Some shells have the inside grain running verticle, some horizontal. The Kellers are easy, no seams on the inside at all. The grain is always horizontal. Just the verticle seam where the veneer meets. Jasper shells had multiple horizontal seams inside and sometimes outside...

The shells I am speaking are all era's. From the glory days up until the went into business with Kaman.

I have cut hundreds of Gretsch shells and it is always the same. I have to check each drum for thickness before I go to the router. Keller shells are thinner."


Fifteen years ago I purchased a vintage 26" Stop Sign kick from eBay, and found not only was the badge misaligned, the interior of the shell had numerous (and imperfect) seams, and was a pain to tune. It always sounded ok, but never sounded great. It cured me pretty quickly of the belief in "vintage Gretsch superiority" when the sheer high variability and opaqueness makes the probability of quality no better than a coin toss.

If you can't guarantee the latter, it really doesn't matter how many more thousands "the real articles" are selling for over new - you're just paying for a Platonic ideal, rather than an Aristolean reality.

Sometimes it's much easier to convince ourselves of the mythical sonic qualities of a particular era, than it is to accept that those mythical sonic qualities are attributed much more to our own preconceptions of how we think they should sound, which in reality, may in fact be completely unfounded, if not outright contradicted.

Belief in unicorns sometimes leads us to invest in donkeys with cones on their heads.

Best,

853guy

I've never made my love of Jasper shells a secret, but I've never claimed "superiority" of them either. I love their sound. And believe me please - I sold more vintage Gretsch kits for exactly the reason your post mentions - 1 or more drums are not up to the quality of the rest of the kit. In fact, I've only owned on RB set that I wish I had kept - a 20/12/14 in Gold sating flame. Every drum was perfectly in round, any head floated, they tuned perfectly and held their tuning through a gig. But I sold it to fund an album. I have since become quite the addict of Austin Fibes with Jasper shells. All the wonderful Jasper shell benefit combined with consistent boutique craftsmanship. Best of all worlds.
 

K.O.

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Out of curiosity, today I went to Sweetwater's site to check its prices for various Gretsch models. I didn't choose Sweetwater out of any bias favoring the business, only because I expected it to have a good selection at competitive prices. And yes, I know that used drum sets are cheaper than new, but the ratio of prices for used sets should be about the same as new sets, unless of course some models lose more value than others.

Anyway, Sweetwater is listing the exact set of Catalinas I own for $850 (although strangely it lists another seemingly identical set for $1000). It lists a Renown in the same configuration at $1600, almost double the price. Next up is a Brooklyn in the same configuration, albeit without a snare, for $2590. I don't know how much a buyer should budget for a snare at that level, but I'd guess that the apples-to-apples cost of the Brooklyn would be close to double the price of the Renowns and almost four times the price of the Catalinas. Next up the price line was a USA Custom set in the same configuration, although also without a snare, for $3840. Again, apples-to-apples probably makes the USA Customs around five times more expensive than the Catalinas. Last was a Broadkaster for $3769, but it lacked both one of the toms and a snare. For the same configuration, the Broadkaster seems to cost even more than the USA Customs.

I find this price range surprisingly large. It's even larger once we remember that the Catalinas aren't Gretsch's beginner set. There's also Gretsch's Energy drums for the beginners at a slightly lower price point.

What explains the large price range of Gretsch drum sets? Yes, the three most expensive sets are said to be made in the US, where we're led to believe that labor costs are high, but Taiwan (where Renowns are made) isn't a low-wage country anymore and South Carolina (where Gretsch's US plant is located) isn't a high-wage state. Also, I don't understand why there is more than a 50% price difference between two sets both made in the US. Does the wood used for one cost $1000 more than the wood used for another? By the same token, does the wood used in the most expensive sets cost $3000 more than the wood used for the Catalinas?

I would guess that sales volume explains some of the price differences. The Catalinas are probably as close to a mass market drum set as can be, so profit margins can be lower than for the high end sets that don't sell in large quantities.

The consensus has long been that Catalinas are good drums for the money, and I suspect that this consensus is correct. It appears that the prices of more expensive Gretsch drum sets increase faster than the quality of the drums increase. If so, paying more seems to be a matter of diminishing returns.

Personally, I'd like to try some higher end Gretsch drums, but I'm not eager to spend money that I fear will be largely wasted. I'll keep my eyes peeled for a used set, though. I'm genuinely curious to know what more you get with more expensive drums, and the only way to know this is to own some. Just hearing them or playing them in a shop isn't enough. You have to try different heads and tune differently and so on. I might buy a set if I run across a good deal on a used one.
One factor why they charge so much more for the USA made drums is simply: because they can.

Even at the high prices they pretty well sell them as fast as they can churn them out (faster actually since there can be a long wait time when you order a set). Supply and demand.

Surely almost all aspects of production cost more in this country but some of it is just what the market will bear. That's the American way.

If guys stopped buying them at those prices then either Gretsch/DW would have to cut their profit margins or go out of business. But so far that doesn't seem to be an issue.
 

backtodrum

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Well, we're all kidding ourselves if we think any of the interior treatments applied before 1980ish were put there due to sonic considerations.

The entire drum industry prior to the mid 1980s can be pretty well summed up thusly..."We take the cheapest wood we can get away with, dress it up with a couple of more expensive plies and make it look real nice".
The thought just occurred to me that we as drummers on this forum and other forums who sit around discussing the nuances of shell design and ply makeup and what makes vintage so desirable and silver sealer contributing to the "Great Gretsch Sound" etc. etc. as if there is some deep science involved. or some secret formula that is proprietary to one manufacture or another. I think the various manufacturers must get a huge kick out of all this, if and when they read these forums. They are thinking to themselves, we are just trying to manage costs and put out a decent product as cheaply as possible that sounds good and that the public will buy. Where as we as consumers are discussing the perceived science behind it, when in reality its quite possible acoustic science was not even part of the equation from a manufacturing stand point. We drummers have created their marketing hype for them.

I was thinking when I bought my first Ludwig kit back in 1979 as a 17 year old teenager. Shell make up and thoughts such as ply direction, shell resonance and 45 degree verses 30 degree round over bearing edges never entered my mind to even question. I new about Ludwig drums, that they were quality pro level kits and that I saw some of my drum heroes were playing them and that was all the information I needed. I picked a color I liked and never gave it anymore thought than that. I just played the heck out of them and replaced cheep pot metal hardware failures as needed. Hardware issuers where often handled buy my machinist father who would fabricate pieces I needed out of stainless steel or billet aluminum and polished to shine like chrome. These pieces were far superior to what the manufactures were offering in the day. I just wanted my drums to hold up to 5 night a week gigs as was common back in the day and do their job. I never discussed with my other drummer friends even a fraction of what we discuss here on the forum. I'm not being critical at all about any of this. I just find it kind of fascinating from a human study stand point is all. We as drummers are so passionate about our instruments we have created and entire culture that questions every nuance of their instruments down to the metallurgy of fasteners used to attach the lugs and if it in anyway inhibits resonance. Lol!
 


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