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Looking to move up from my beginner level kit. Gretsch Renown (maple) vs Tama Starclassic Performer (birch)?

aarono2690

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Hello everyone,

I've been playing drums for a bit and I think I'm at the point where I want to invest more money into it and buy a better kit and sell my Gretsch Energy off to a friend. I believe I've narrowed my search down to either the Grestch Renown (new) or Tama Starclassic Performer (used - Made in Japan from mid-2000s).

I have found two kits within a couple hours drive of me and it would be a huge pain in the butt to drive and test each one before making a purchase so I was curious if you more knowledgeable folk could give me some insight into which kit suits my needs better.

I love rock, funk, soul, jazz, and metal. In terms of what music I want to play I'd say more rock, funk and soul, but I don't see myself being a metal drummer. Listening to a few audio demos of each kit I think I liked the Renown a bit more, but of course not all variables (heads, tuning, room, etc.) were the same so it's still hard to compare the sound of each kit. The Renown felt a bit warmer and subdued which I appreciated.

Details of the Drums and Price

Gretsch Renown $1,400 + tax
:

Kick: 22" x 18"
Small Rack Tom: 10" x 7"
Medium Rack Tom: 12" x 8"
Floor Tom: 16" x 14"

The drum shop also has a Gretsch Renown that was used as a backup drum set for a local music festival for the same price, but it also includes the 5.5″x14″ Snare Drum.

Tama Starclassic Performer (used, but great condition - all birch, made in Japan) $850:

Kick: 22x16
Small Rack Tom: 10”
Medium rack tom 12"
Floor tom 14"

Ultimately I think I'm leaning the Tama Starclassic Performer due to the price (could use the savings to buy cymbal stands, etc.), the Made in Japan all birch drums are highly regarded, and Tama is notorious for making solid indestructible hardware. My concerns are the kit is 15+ years old (it is in amazing shape though, but age is age), I slightly like the audio samples of the Renown more, and I like the look of the Renown shells a bit more (blue satin).

Either is quite an upgrade from my Gretsch Energy, but I've never played on a Tama kit and I get super indecisive when it comes to spending this much money.

Thank you,
 
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lossforgain

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You are leaning the same way I would. In my opinion, the Tama set is the better built set between the two. I had a set of those birch Performers and they were wonderful. While the 16” floor tom in the Gretsch set is possibly more helpful than the 14” floor, it probably won’t matter to you unless you decide you need that sound and are playing in a setting where you need it. Even then, there were a lot of those Tama drums made and you may be able to find one to add.
 

Ryukyu

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Personally of the two, I would opt for the Tama. I don't like 18" or deeper bass drums.
I wouldn't worry about the age of the kit as long as it's in good shape. There are plenty of guys on this board that are playing kits that are 50+ years old, including me.
Good luck with your choice.
 

mtarrani

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I cannot definitively answer your question, but will say that when I was shopping for a micro kit the choices I was considering were the Tama Starclassic walnut/birch and the Gretsch Brooklyn (the latter is a step up from the Renown.) I finally opted for the Gretsch, but the decision was based on availability and finish. The Tama finishes looked like something from the 1960s psychedelic era. I listed to a lot of videos of each and based on those it was a draw. I think I would have liked the sound of the Tama more because it came across as slightly subdued. Price-wise, the Tama would have been in the same range as the Gretsch after I added a snare drum for the Tama. The Gretsch came with a snare drum. All other things being equal I thought both provided good value.
 
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Polska

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I've had my Starclassic Performers (birch) since the mid 90's and love them. I gigged them a ton and they have held up without any issue. They sound great with clear or coated heads and are easy to tune. That would be my preference.
 

mtarrani

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I saw one thing. 22x18 kick. I don't like anything deeper than 16.
And I don't like 22" at any depth, but especially deeper than 14". However, that is probably something the OP can live with. I think his question is really, which would be the better choice sound-wise (assuming he likes deep bass drums) and value wise.
 

Rivot

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Sorry to spoil the fun I would not get either of those 2 have a look at the Sonor Aq2s much better built and sounding drum and the maple that's just my opinion others will totally disagree. Cheers good luck on ya find.
 

digovii

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It really all depends on what your style is but neither of those would work for me personally. Mainly bc of the sizes.

22x18 is just really unnecessary IMO and the resale value on that size is terrible nowadays.

and not having a 16 floor with a standard size kit would drive me bananas. Might work for some people but the ergonomics of it would really throw me off. Also, this would be another really tough sale down the line.

In that price range, I would recommed checking out the Tama Starclassic Walnut/Birch or an INde kit on the "new" side of things. Great hardware and a lot better size options.

For used vintage - You could find yourself a bitchin Rogers kit around that price that would do wonders. Tons of Ludwigs out there around that price.

Hope this helps.
 

SpinaDude

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Going on build quality alone, I'd go for the Tama kit. I've had issues with Gretsch quality control and find their hardware wanting...to say the least.

On a more personal note, I'm on the downswing from maple and would jump towards birch. That's more my sound preference.

If you like the birch, have you considered the Yamaha stage kits? A lot of guys here on the forum swear by them. All birch ad priced to move at Sweetwater. Plus that gives you more size, finish and configuration options. It leaves you money to focus on cymbal upgrades too.

If you prefer maple, they have the Tour Customs in your price range too. Check the link below.

Sweetwater -- Yamaha Stage and Tour Custom kits

There's also Mapex Armory kits. A birch and maple shell combo. Lots of finishes (which I'm personally not huge on) and configuration options too. Plus it comes with a good quality steel snare which will fit nicely with rock. Just chuck a zero-ring or an HD-Dry head on there if it's too ringy for you. Either way, it's another good savings over the Gretsch to spread your drum dollar further.

Sweetwater -- Mapex Armory kits

Keep in mind with the Yamaha Stage and the Mapex Armory, you'll want to re-head them soon. They come with UT heads which do not sound as good as US quality heads. Considering the other kits are used. I'm assuming you'll want to re-head them anyway, so this shouldn't be much of an issue.

I don't mean to be "that guy" and push you in directions you may have already explored, so please ignore these suggestions if they're not for you. Keep in mind, the more you save now the more you can invest in a high quality snare, a good pedal (which is essential in my book) and quality cymbals. That's really one of the keys here. Cheaper cymbals almost always sound like dissonant, clangy pieces of junk metal. With drums, there's plenty of tuning tricks, different heads, and muffling techniques you can try to inch it towards the sound you want. With a cymbal, generally what you get is what you get. And these days getting something worthwhile is a n investment.
 

RoyKiyo

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Might just be me, but I’ve absolutely had issues with the Gretsch lugs on my Catalina (same lugs they use in the Renown). They’re poorly made and I’ve had to replace at least five of them. Two on the kick, three on the rack tom - I stopped using the tom arm since I thought it was the culprit, but still had a lug pop even with it in a snare stand.

The material they use to house the screws that hold the lug in the shell grows brittle and will crack off over the years. It’s around $5-6 a lug, which isn’t the worst, but I can’t trust this kit for gigs cause I can’t risk having to change out popped lugs whenever I go to tune the kit.

Disappointing to say the least. +1 on the AQ2 kit, or you can try the Tama out. Seems like a more normal sized kick too. An 18” deep kick always feels disembodied to me.
 
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bassanddrum84

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Where are ya located. I’d check out a local music go round might score a nice kit used and cheap
 

aarono2690

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Where are ya located. I’d check out a local music go round might score a nice kit used and cheap
Twin Cities MN.

Used market is kind of limited in what I’m seeing lately in the area.

——

Sounds like some users have concern with the drum sizes. Would I be better off buying new and getting exactly what sizes I would want or am I splitting hairs here? I just want a good kit that I can use to play live when I get to that stage of my ability.
 

mtarrani

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Twin Cities MN.

Used market is kind of limited in what I’m seeing lately in the area.

——

Sounds like some users have concern with the drum sizes. Would I be better off buying new and getting exactly what sizes I would want or am I splitting hairs here? I just want a good kit that I can use to play live when I get to that stage of my ability.
If you don't care about sizes, don't let others talk you into suddenly caring about them. Just play the drums if you are otherwise comfortable and happy with them. And, yes, price and availability are legitimate factors.
 

Tornado

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Twin Cities MN.

Used market is kind of limited in what I’m seeing lately in the area.

——

Sounds like some users have concern with the drum sizes. Would I be better off buying new and getting exactly what sizes I would want or am I splitting hairs here? I just want a good kit that I can use to play live when I get to that stage of my ability.

Buying new is a luxury I wouldn't try to talk you out of, but I think that's something you do when you REALLY know what you want. There's just way too many used kits out there that have exactly what you're looking for that at least financially you're better off buying used. There is only one rule for buying the perfect used kit: Have patience. It sounds like you don't quite know what you want yet though. If not, what do your heroes play? That's where most of us start.
 

aarono2690

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Buying new is a luxury I wouldn't try to talk you out of, but I think that's something you do when you REALLY know what you want. There's just way too many used kits out there that have exactly what you're looking for that at least financially you're better off buying used. There is only one rule for buying the perfect used kit: Have patience. It sounds like you don't quite know what you want yet though. If not, what do your heroes play? That's where most of us start.
Not sure I have a hero per se. I was always a big GnR fan and liked Steven’s drums on Appetite for Destruction. I also like drum work I hear on a lot of Motown records. I also love Steely Dan and the work they did with Bernard Perdie.

Not sure if I can point to an artist or album and say, “give me that sound”.
 

aarono2690

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If you don't care about sizes, don't let others talk you into suddenly caring about them. Just play the drums if you are otherwise comfortable and happy with them. And, yes, price and availability are legitimate factors.
Yeah not sure I have any red lines for sizes I want or want to avoid. I just want to get away from this Energy kit and move up in quality. I bought the Energy used to see if I like drums enough to stick with it. I think I’m ready to make a bigger investment.
 

bpaluzzi

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Might just be me, but I’ve absolutely had issues with the Gretsch lugs on my Catalina (same lugs they use in the Renown). They’re poorly made and I’ve had to replace at least five of them. Two on the kick, three on the rack tom - I stopped using the tom arm since I thought it was the culprit, but still had a lug pop even with it in a snare stand.

The material they use to house the screws that hold the lug in the shell grows brittle and will crack off over the years. It’s around $5-6 a lug, which isn’t the worst, but I can’t trust this kit for gigs cause I can’t risk having to change out popped lugs whenever I go to tune the kit.

Disappointing to say the least. +1 on the AQ2 kit, or you can try the Tama out. Seems like a more normal sized kick too. An 18” deep kick always feels disembodied to me.
I've never heard of other people having issues with the Gretsch lugs. I've played Catalina and Renown for almost 20 years (everything from bars/clubs to arenas/festivals) and never had an issue.

You might have got a bum set.
 

RoyKiyo

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I've never heard of other people having issues with the Gretsch lugs. I've played Catalina and Renown for almost 20 years (everything from bars/clubs to arenas/festivals) and never had an issue.

You might have got a bum set.
Could be, for sure! Either way, I can’t in good conscience recommend it to anyone else.

But yes, just one data point here.
 


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