I have a vintage 77 Tama superstar kit.It's the 9600 series which are the thinner 4 ply 6mm shells with rerings.It's finished in what Tama called natural walnut,which is a satin finish as oppose to the later gloss finishes.I also have Titan hardware with it,which after all these years is still bulletproof as are the spurs and tom mountung hardware and brackets.I also have a 6.5x14 kingbeat snare and a superstar 8x14 in birch in mahogany gloss(the price was right,and talk about a ballad snare)
They still sound great .Plenty of nice round tone,and punch,and the bass drum is just phenominal.I also have a few extra toms in 8,10,12, and 13,as well as an Imperialstar 16x18 floor tom,which rattles your chest when played.
Some Tama pedals like the first production Iron cobras,modern iron cobra double,and a Tama/Camco,which is deserving of it's rep as fast ,light and durable.Had to sell a few orphan drums,and my starclassics,when I moved to a smaller house a few years ago.....bad move.
Tama really does know how to build great drums,and was one of the big 3 Japanese companies, to raise the bar in the late 70's,early 80's in the world of drum building,and hardware.
Many years ago, I thought I'd never like Tama, but I was inexperienced and based my view on the Tama kit (not mine) in a shared practice room. By all standards, today I would think that kit was among the better, high quality options. It was a 90's Tama Starclassic Maple. So what was the problem? Poor head choice and tuning. Bad enough to skew my perception of Tama drums, in general. It didn't help that the other Tama kits I heard at gigs were almost always, badly tuned, beaten up Rockstars. If a drummer was playing an older, flying T badge kit, I wouldn't have known enough to notice, or listen for the difference at the time. I've since heard all 3 variations of the kits well tuned, played and well kept, and all of them sounded good to great, given the drummer knew how to execute each of these characteristics.
Today?! Well today, I have 3 Tama kits and the script has been flipped. It started with an '83 Superstar in Cherry Wine finish. After I liked those enough to try other, older Tama, I went out and found 2 Tama Imperialstar kits, each from the '70's, with re-rings. There's no real need for me to describe them tonally other than the Supes are another take on Recording Custom, and the Imps are the way a luan shelled kit should be done, if you're going to use luan. Both sound great.
Total investment in 3 Tama kits: $950. They taught me that buying new is only good for the 'new kit' smell, so to speak.
My 1986 Tama Crestars. Had them since new. This is 12/13/14/16/22, but I also own a 10" tom.
Here they are in 1988 at one of my first "real" gigs at CBGB's in NYC.
2011 Tama Superstars that I already sold to buy my Mapex Meridian Maples. Wanted a mid-range maple kit.
My son's birch/basswood 2009 Superstar Hyperdrives
I also owned a Swingstar kit in the 90's that I left setup for practice when I was gigging all the time with the Crestars. And of course the whole Tama thing started with my brother's Cherry Wine Superstar set in 1983 (no pics as far as I know).
Interesting that most of the Tama lovers appear to be rockers. Tama has always advertised mostly to that market.
But Elvin Jones played them for many years. As jazz player, I can get the sound I want from them.
I have a friend who was a Hoshino sales rep for many years--Tama drums, Ibanez gutars, Yanagisawa horns. He always talked about the "integrity" of the instruments.
I'm an old school jazz drummer, and I had a prejudice against Asian instruments during my three decades of playing western drums. But Tama drums have served me well as regular gigging drums. WTF, I sold off all of my vintage kits, and I can't afford Gretsch!
Yeah, rock is what I associated with Tama for many years. Metal and rock guys were playing them all through the 80's, among other brands, but Tama seemed like one of the mainstays. Ulrich and Lombardo went a long way in establishing them for metal.
Later in life, I was happy to learn that Copeland, Devitto, and Peart all played them, as well. I sort of grew out of metal, at least the way it was traditionally played. When I play it, I do my own take on it although there are so many cliches in the music, I find often it boring.
I have long felt the Starclassic line easily stands among the greatest pro-level drumsets from Gretsch, Rogers, Sonor & Ludwig -including the great Japanese offerings from Pearl & Yamaha.
The overall tonal spectrum and build quality of all the Starclassics (Birch, Maple, Birch/bubinga) is simply magnificent in every detail.
There's really nothing mediocre about the Starclassic line, these drums are among the finest production kits ever made, iMO.
I went over every detail of the shells & componentry of my Starclassic drums when they arrived, and was astounded by the superb quality given to this line.....and they sound every bit as good as they look.
I'm a big Tama-fan, one of my drum heroes, Christoph Schneider from Rammstein used to play Tama. He was the one who sparked my interest in Tama. Only reason i don't own a Tama kit is because i can't afford one LOL...