Late 80s(?) DW kit, information please!

n2600

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Long time lurker, hello everyone!

After going down several rabbit holes trying to gather more information about this DW kit, I hope it’s ok to ping you all here to see if you might provide me with any information and insights.


What DW said:

So this can be considered a Collectors Series set. This was made in the late 1980s before Collectors Series was a line. However, it went through the same production process as our Collectors Series. This line was simply called DW Drums. The wood is North American Hard Rock Maple.

Here’s what I know: black and silver badge “A Quality Instrument”, Serials A008XX, A008XX, and A007XX.

The black wrap is very thin, in fact the shells, which appear to be 5x3 or 6x3 ply/re-ring (maybe you can tell, I can’t) are thin as well. The bass drum’s bearing edges rise to an edge, and then lower back to the final ply prior to meeting the wrap.

The shells are undersized and have hexagonal vents. (Please see pictures.). 16x20, 12x14, 10x12.

There’s no mounting hardware, so these are “virgin” shells. They came with a RIMS for the tom, and a Gauger floor tom suspension mount which, according to an email Adam Gauger wrote me, was supplied to DW in the 1980s.

I would be grateful for any information you might have about when these might have been made, how they were made, DW around that era, etc etc.

Many thanks.

IMG_7553.JPG
 

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Elvis

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Welcome to the forum n2600.
Thanks for showing us your gorgeous early DW kit.
Not really sure what specifically you want/need to know.
Sounds like DW already answered your questions.

Elvis
 

n2600

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Welcome to the forum n2600.
Thanks for showing us your gorgeous early DW kit.
Not really sure what specifically you want/need to know.
Sounds like DW already answered your questions.

Elvis
Thank you for the reply Elvis!

I'd love to nail down something more specific than "late 80s" on the manufacture date, and the name of the finish. Does everything look original? The spurs look like Gibraltars?

I'm noticing several different variations of DW "A Quality Instrument" black badges -- "100xxx" "200xxx" "300xxx," and "Axxxxx" "Bxxxxx." Has anyone ever been able to tie those serials to specific years?

My apologies for not being more specific.

Cheers,

-n
 

Elvis

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Those spurs probably did come from Gibraltar, or whatever vendor they were using back then.
In the days before the internet, the drum companies would use similar wholesalers that drum shops / music stores did, so the hardware tends to look very much the same.
These days, I think they all have deals with the actual manufacturers of those items and can order hardware to their individual specs, rather than using "off-the-shelf" parts.
I have a Ludwig Classic Maple kit I got in 1999 and compared to what Ludwig offers in that kit now, even my kit looks a bit "generic".
Different times.
Not sure the exact name of your finish, I'm not the biggest fan of DW. My impression was they always had a "vanilla" sound, but if they work for you, more power to ya. You could definitely do worse.
If you write back to DW and include the specific numbers from the badges on those drums, they can probably give you a more exact date.....or did you already try that?

Elvis
 

n2600

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[snip]
If you write back to DW and include the specific numbers from the badges on those drums, they can probably give you a more exact date.....or did you already try that?

Elvis
I did ask for clarifications, with the serials, and got somewhat of a generic response:

So this can be considered a “Pre Collectors Series” kit.
The A doesn’t really signify anything. This is just a serial number that you can use for insurance purposes if you want to insure your drums.


When searching on the internet, I hit a few posts on this forum that discuss some older DW badges, and was hoping some of the folks with knowledge might chime in.

I am mostly interested in learning more about 1980s DW history, and if this sparks a conversation that hasn't been had before (or that I've missed), wonderful. My first love are Camco drums, and I just happened upon this DW kit.

Thank you again for the reply and the intel on hardware vendors!

Cheers,

-n
 

JazzDrumGuy

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I have an 8x12/12x14 (in an FT cradle)/14x18 bass that are pre-collectors. Black/gold or black/silver badges (I forget which). Order #'s are stamped inside but no dates. Keller shells. Excellent quality build and killer drums. The bass has those Gibraltar type legs. It had a Yamaha bass mount which I removed and added the DW rail mount. I used coated ambs up and down. I actually put on die casts which give it a nice fundamental tone.
Great sleeper drums.....
 

Tarkus

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Hello 'n2600'

Are you already gone?
I bought DW drums in the 80s / early 90s, very similar to the ones shown in your deleted pictures. Still have them and would be glad to exchange information. This was actually the reason to register to this forum today.

Greetings from Germany
Markus
 

Elvis

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Welcome to the forum, Tarkus.....I used to have that album, btw. Very good. =)

Elvis
 

Tarkus

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Great sleeper drums ... well said.

Now the story behind my DW:

End of 80s / early 90s, I was playing a lot of rock and rhythm'n'blues in local bands. I was not particular great but had a lot of fun. And having good sounding drum gear was part of the fun. A drummer from another band happend to have the first 'drum workshop' kit in the area, a manufacturer name I have never heard before. At one occasion, both of our bands played and I was allowed to use his black DW. It just made 'klick'. Exactly the drum sound I always wanted and dreamed of. I had to get them. Immediately. But: the price. These were the most expensive drums you could buy in Germany these days. The 10" tom tom alone was nearly 1000 Deutschmarks, translated into 500 Euros (roughly). Regular 22" bass drum costed around 2500 DM (or 1250 € or 1200 $ if you like). The shell kit I got offered by my local dealer, 10/12/13/16/22, would be officially 7-8.000 DM - without snare or hardware. Really al lot of money...

I had to sell my beloved Sonor, a white Phonic Plus Prototype (the first and only drum kit I ever sold), to buy my first and only 'brand new' drum kit. It was 'slightly used' in a studio, therefore I got it for a very good price. I remember well that I had the choice between a lacquered one and one wrapped with foil. I think, the foil on DW was just introduced these days. After lots of testing: the foil had an effect on sound, the lacquered one sounded even more open and crisp.

The Sound
To my ears and for the era, it was unbelievable good. Very warm, excellent dynamics. I mean, the sound is voluminous, even played quietly, but the louder you play, the more volume and also more tone. Let's be honest, most drums gain in volume as you play them harder, but their tone flattens out.
The rim systems have just been introduced to the drummers world (of Europe, in US a bit earlier), and these DW drums were the first to implement RIMS without any compromises, no holes in the bass drum nor in the toms. The 'pure shell' swinging freely, that sounded convincingly to me (and many others). And, it's a thin shell with reinforcement rings, contrary to everything (especially Sonor Phonic and Signature series) who preached the thicker the louder. This was just wrong. Another point was the quality of the edge. The DWs were advertised using the 'candle trick': put the bare drum shell on a clean and plane table, place a candle inside, and no light should get outside on the table. Take another drum shell or even a DW (which is in fact a Keller) shell that is slightly damaged on the edge, and you'll immediately see 'the problem'.
The hardware of the drums was not very good. One of the down-points of 80s DW drums. And also the snare did not compare to the toms/bass drum quality and tone. At first instance, I bought the shell kit with the cheapest rack (Gibraltar) and without snare, as I had others anyway. Years later, I got the snare offered that belonged originally to my drums. I just bought it to have the matching snare. The sound range where it really kicks is too narrow for me (as 5 x 14, it is a great funk snare, but I don't play funk).

Another aspect was: this DW was the most expensive thing I ever owned. Even my car was about half the price. This changed my behavior. I would not let another drummer play on it on occasions like festivals, where different bands had to share one drum kit. Usually no problem for me. The singer/bandmates were not be allowed to place a towel on the rack. Never. Already at the very first gig, something happened: I talked for a while with the guitar player during sound check. But this guy had constantly his finger on my bass drum - all the time. When I asked about the reason, he started to explain his 'celebration of the new drum kit'. He hit (for what ever over-motivated reason) my splash cymbal. This hard-hitted tiny cymbal flew up into the lights, came down in a bow and left a deep dent in the wooden bass drum hoop. Shock. Even before the gig. This part of owning such a great kit really reduced the fun. The whole story escalated at an open-air gig with a lot of rain. The plastic roof above the stage catched water in a big bubble. I saw it, warned everyone (danger of electric shock), we left the stage, turned electrics down. And then it happened: The bubble cracked and all the water came down, and splashed exactly on my drum kit. I sweared to big heaven that I will never carry this DW to a live gig again. With a few exceptions, this came true. I couldn't sell it, it just sounded too good, and it was my first 'real good' drum kit. Since then, it was stapeled somewhere, or I used it as drum kit for rehearsal rooms. This is the current situation.

Next time, I see it again, I could picture all the serial numbers. But actually, our rehearsal room is far away, and COVID rules say: no meeting, no gig. Some older pictures are still on my computer. A few years ago, I found some DW brochures that I collected the time I bought it. If I find them again, I could upload here.

This is what I'm taking about:
IMG_2847.jpg


Old pictures. Close up pf serial number:

IMG_2842.jpg


It's an 'A' series.

The story is already too long, but I have to add this:
The owner of the local drum store had a nearly identical drum kit to mine, which was 'his own'. It was always assembled in his store as a 'reference kit'. And we compared a lot of 'new and must-have' kits over the years. Is it Pearl or Tama, Sonor or Slingerland, all failed to have these great dynamics of the 80s DWs. I remember a Brady and a Noble & Cooley which were really close. They had their own tone, different but not 'better'. Even 'newer DWs' had no chance (although their hardware was much better then). I mean, same player, same room, same sticks, all kits well-tuned, playing soflty, playing loud, sound at the kit and sound in front of (like the audience). This was kind of fair comparison, far beyond what you get nowadays at youtube.

I would be glad to compare it to a really good Camco.

Greetings
Markus
 
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musiqman

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Also DW used Tama hardware in the 70’s and in the 80’s utill they worked with/bought out Collarlock.

This was my 90’s kit:
1614280797263.jpeg


And matching Brass snare:
1614280830531.jpeg


I loved the sound of the kit. Very big.

But I do prefer the Maple Mahogany DW I have now over it.
 
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n2600

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That is a beautiful kit Markus, love that blue lacquer with the grain showing!

Thank you so much for sharing the story, the discovery, the sound, and the ups and downs. (The canopy bursting water over your new kit is the stuff of nightmares!). Sorry about your guitar player!

You and I have something in common — we fell in love with the sound!

When I bought the kit, it was dusty, the floor tom suspension system was missing an adjustment screw and was held by duct tape, one of the spurs was a bit loose, etc. I bought correct replacement parts, and it cleaned up real nice. I figured I would put some new heads on it and either keep it in the studio or maybe sell it.

Once the heads had been tuned and settled in, and I started playing it, I had a similar reaction as you.

As you mention, these shells react to soft playing, and don’t “flatten out” when hit hard. They are bright, loud, and full-bodied. With no muffling, the closest thing I could say is they have a timpani-like sound, which is crazy for a tiny 12x14!

I don’t have a lot of experience with DW drums, and all the ones I have played have all sounded very good, with my main criticism being that they sound a bit “polite” when pushed, not so here. Maybe the suspension systems on the floor and rack toms play a part in it?

Speaking of suspension, I will note one A/B comparison I have done: When I purchased my Oaklawn Camco set, it came with various extra parts, including two rack tom suspension systems: one was a RIMS like the one you have with attaches to tension rods, and the other was the more modern DW STM mount that attaches to the lugs.

So, same tom, different suspension systems.

With the RIMS system, the same tom had a noticeably more open sound, and I sold the STM mount shortly thereafter. Now it’s possible the STM was maybe not in round, or didn’t mate well with the Oaklawn tom, that’s just my experience.

I do prefer the “basket” suspension system that attaches to the bottom tension rods on a floor tom, plus it’s one less tripod to have to worry about!

Did you by any chance stay in touch with the store you bought it from or kept the receipts? It appears from your picture the serial number is A 076XX. I'd love to try and zero in on the manufacture dates.

Here is a catalog I found which I think is from the same era as our drums, but there are no dates on it, as well as an article that discusses a bit of DW's history.

Cheers,

-nico
 

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Tarkus

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Thanks for sharing the old catalog. I remember the crazy set ups of these kits, nobody would ever play like that. What I had back in the days were mainly price lists (probably in German). All promotional material looked kind of improvised and 'cheap' compared to glossy catalogs of other companies - except the prices.

By coincidence, I found these pictures of a very early DW at German ebay:
https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de/s...agzeug-pre-collectors-rar-/1337589963-74-7551

$_57.JPG


This must be one of the earliest appearing in Europe, 1981.

Serials without letters, just numbers starting with '100...'.


$_57-1.JPG


Shell

$_57-2.JPG


Bass drum stands seem original Camco. probably all metal parts on that bass drum.

$_57-3.JPG



But I don't know the whole story behind that kit. All pictures from the advertisement. Have not seen or heard the instrument, unfortunately.
 
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musiqman

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Thanks for sharing the old catalog. I remember the crazy set ups of these kits, nobody would ever play like that. What I had back in the days were mainly price lists (probably in German). All promotional material looked kind of improvised and 'cheap' compared to glossy catalogs of other companies - except the prices.

By coincidence, I found these pictures of a very early DW at German ebay:
https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de/s...agzeug-pre-collectors-rar-/1337589963-74-7551

View attachment 487042

This must be one of the earliest appearing in Europe, 1981.

Serials without letters, just numbers starting with '100...'.


View attachment 487043

Shell

View attachment 487044

Bass drum stands seem original Camco. probably all metal parts on that bass drum.

View attachment 487045


But I don't know the whole story behind that kit. All pictures from the advertisement. Have not seen or heard the instrument, unfortunately.
That kit is one of the first kits DW made late 70’s. It has actually Camco LA shells and hardware left over after the purchase.

If it didn’t had the holes I had bought it years ago (he has selling it for over 3 years now)
 

John DeChristopher

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Hello @n2600 !

I was working for DW in the late 80s, from 1986-1989 (I was there for the official launch in Jan '87) and might be able to shed a little light, although DW and others here @Tarkus and @musiqman have given you some great information.

The catalog looks vaguely familiar, but I think it predates when I started working there in 1986. By the time I started, we were using all Reliance made hardware for catalogs and advertising. And to outfit drum kits. For those who don't know, Reliance is the Taiwanese OEM company that make everyone's hardware, which is why the spurs on the DW bass drum look like Gibraltar. You see them on DW, Gretsch, Ludwig, etc. Same with cymbal stands, hi hats stands, tom holders, etc. Reliance is the parent company of Dixon and now, Rogers.

At the time, (late 80s) DW did not have a tom mount system so all the bass drums were virgin coming out of the DW factory. All the kits used floor stands to mount the toms, so they were positioned off to the side of the bass drum. People dealt with it, but eventually DW developed their bass drum "sliding track" tom mount system. We initially distributed Collarlock, a Canadian rack system and as @musiqman mentioned, DW eventually bought the company. But early on, we made Collarlock rack systems available to artists and dealers. It was the 80s and drum racks were all the rage! lol

RIMS were standard on all the toms and I believe the earliest kits didn't have standard floor toms (with legs) - they were all suspended. But remember, that was a thing back then too. Also, in the early days, DW didn't include a 13" tom as part of a standard five piece kit. I see the 11x13 is listed in the old catalog, but when we launched in 1987 the toms were typically 10x12 and 12x14. My good friend John Good had very strong opinions about 13" toms so you won't find many old DW kits with a 13" tom.

That's about all my fuzzy brain can come up with, but it's been fun to stroll down memory lane. It's amazing to see what DW has become, compared to those early days. Don Lombardi likes to remind me the company really took off after I left! lol But all kidding aside, I'm so happy for their success. Some incredibly great people and friends there.
 
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Tarkus

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Wow, that's some useful information. Thank you, John

In late 80s, there were no 'stand toms', right. Everything hanging on RIMS, and mostly 10/12/14/16, sometimes 8, bu rarely 13.

This 13 inch issue is a very interesting point. What was the 'real' problem there? Maybe you could remember more.

Thinking back, it is true that I haven't seen or heard about any DW drum kit with an 13 inch drum then, except mine. And dw drummers immediately approached each other, when they saw somebody playing. I also would have liked an 14 inch instead, they just sounded better. But - as I mentioned, I got mine cheaper (much cheaper) as 'showcase kit' in the fixed configuration. Couldn't afford to order a 'kit of choice'. Now that seems to be the 'rare bird'. Strange.
Further, at my kit, the 13 inch is also the most difficult one to get in tune. The others are easy going. So, I start tuning the 13 first, and when OK, then I tune the others around it. With every other kit, I do the regular way and start tuning the 16 (or whatever is the largest tom), and then go up. Never thought it might be a problem of the kit. Always thought, it's me.
And another thing comes to my mind. A friend of mine got a used DW some years ago, also one of the earlier series with Keller shells. At one point he approached me to tune his 13 inch tom as he never got a reasonable tone out of it (the other drums sound fantastic). I tried for about half an hour, which is long for a 'simple tom tom with new heads, and finally gave up. Optically, the shell seemed OK (round, sharp edges, nice 'knock on the wood'). It just didn't want to sound like the others. It's really far off. Since then, this tom sits on his shelf, although this DW is his main kit. I have to ask him, but am quite sure, it was a 13.

Really good information, great community here, I like it.
 
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Elvis

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I hear a lot of people having trouble tuning a 13" tom.
The problem is, its like a black key on the piano, but they're not seeing it that way.
They want all their toms to speak like the white piano keys.
Tune the drum to itself and when you get a good sound out of it, leave it be.
When your tom setup is 12/13/16, why would you expect an even drop in pitches as you go from high to low?
Same with a 1 up, 2 down setup.
Just tension the drum until you get a good sound out of it and realize that its a half step and not a full.

Elvis
 

n2600

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Thank you all for the replies and information.

I agree that the hardware on that 100xx black badge DW looks to be Camco, including spurs, floor tom legs and mounts, and Trods and claws.

It’s hard to tell from the pictures if the bearing edges were redone (by DW or someone else) or not, but the finish looks like Stradivarius or possibly Walnut, both LA Camco finishes. (Pictures, tom is Strad, Bass drum is Walnut.)

DW must have ended up with quite a stash of claws, because the ones on my kit are Camco as well.

Real pity about the extra holes on those nice shells.

Thank you John for all that incredible info! Do you remember, anecdotally even, what the production environment was like in 86-89 for DW drum kits? Were they mostly custom orders, or were there sets being shipped out to pre-existing dealers, etc?

Very interesting bit about the 13 rarity. I wonder why the dislike?

And speaking of 13s, I just got my first one this morning in the mail, it will be part of a 13/16/22 LA Camco kit (dream!), and I’ll thus be regretfully selling the DW!

My experience is unfortunately based in tuning 12/14/16 so I’m not much help, but I have read people online saying it is difficult to tune a 13.

I love your piano analogy Elvis. I’ve always been a one up and one or two down drummer, and have generally kept to pretty standard tuning practices (reso half a step down from target note, batter a minor third down from reso), with target notes being in fourths or fifths relative to one another across the drums. I wonder what folks tuned the drums back when they were 12/12 or 13/13 configurations!

Circling back to badges, if I may, and the mystery of relating early ("A QUALITY INSTRUMENT") black badge numbers to years of production, it seems the consensus is that the switch to "HANDCRAFTED SINCE 1972" occurs around '92. This leaves the following for ("A QUALITY INSTRUMENT") badges:

1xxxxx ('81? Prior to '81?)
2xxxxx ('82? '82 to ??)
3xxxxx (??)
Axxxxx (??)
Bxxxxx (??)

One theory is that the A and B were going to be a nomenclature that was later abandoned. It has been suggested that B stood for "birch," but those badges appear on maple shells... the mystery continues.

Screen Shot 2021-02-26 at 12.01.21 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-02-09 at 7.28.16 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-02-09 at 7.28.16 PM.png
 
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Elvis

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I love your piano analogy Elvis. I’ve always been a one up and one or two down drummer, and have generally kept to pretty standard tuning practices (reso half a step down from target note, batter a minor third down from reso), with target notes being in fourths or fifths relative to one another across the drums. I wonder what folks tuned the drums back when they were 12/12 or 13/13 configurations!
Your problem is that you're too hung up on tuning to notes and chords.
Don't worry about specific pitches. Just get a nice round sound of the drum, regardless of what note its singing at. And don't worry so much about how the setup sounds as a whole unit, either.
Each drum will speak in a certain pitch due to their physical dimension and makeup.
When you get it all together, its going to work. It has to. Its a drum set. It has no choice but to work.
Not saying tuning to notes is bad....its all good....its just, it can throw a monkey wrench into the whole works, if you don't realize that not every drum is going to be a full step away from the next larger/smaller size.
That's why we, as a whole nation of drummers, tend to tune to a "nice sound" and feel, rather than mess with tuning to a note.
It eliminates trying to figure out why things don't work like you think they should.
As for similar sized drums, I once had a 20/12/14 kit that I added a 10/12 concert tom setup and another 14" floor tom (guy convinced me it was a 16 :angry5: ), thus that kit became 20/10/12/12/14/14/14x5.
It was hell.
I've heard people say they can get pretty good separation with some judicious tuning, but I never heard much of a change...in my defense, I had only been playing drums for like a year and a half, so I didn't know as much about tuning as I do now.

Elvis
 

n2600

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Your problem is that you're too hung up on tuning to notes and chords. [snip]
We can agree to disagree on that point, and I'm confused why you're now saying this after your piano analogy which I think is great. A piano, you'll agree I hope, is pretty much all notes and chords.

Tuning drums is a subjective thing, "what's best for the drum" and "what's best for the song."
 
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