Tom Assistance - Upgrade or Work With What I've Got?

tbird8450

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First some brief background...in 2001 I bought a new entry level Pearl Forum kit. Not long after, I replaced the cymbals with Zildjian ZXTs and put Controlled Sound heads on the toms and a coated Ambassador on the snare. It all sounded pretty good and it worked well for garage band shenanigans and plenty of open-mic gigging. Then, after a couple of years, life responsibilities took precedence and I took a substantial break. I've finally been stepping back into the hobby and I'm absolutely loving it. I've replaced all of the cymbals with Paiste 2002s and the snare with a Ludwig Supra 402 (I guess I'm fond of Bonham). The new gear sounds tremendous, but now the issue is that when the toms come into play, they just sound...not up to par.

So the question becomes whether I can make my current toms work well, or if I should look into some new shells. I tend to prefer a more tight and bouncy tom sound and feel, with smooth resonance and not a lot of overtones. Right now the drums sound sort of sloppy and floppy, and if I tune that stuff out I'm at too high a pitch for my liking. I play mostly classic rock, with 90s alternative, blues, and jazz thrown in, but my preference for a tom sound probably runs more towards the jazz side of things. I really like what I've heard when listening to Yamaha PHX gear, but that's way, way beyond what I'm looking to spend right now.

In keeping on the Bonham side of things, the Ludwig Zep Classic shell kit is a tempting thought, but I'm more of a rack tom type of player and I'm not sure about that giant bass drum. The Forum kit has 12" and 14" racks and a 16" floor tom. The 22" bass drum that came with the Forum kit is actually surprisingly good. I'm happy with it and not in a rush to replace it. I'd always get compliments on how it sounded after gigs. Anyway, I'm open to any and all suggestions (within a reasonable budget - think $1400 as an absolute maximum). I never did replace the factory resonant heads on the toms - maybe that would help for a start? If I could get away with simply some new heads and new tuning strategies, my wallet (and marriage) would be extra thankful!
 

lossforgain

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Forum shells are pretty mediocre. I think you could spend 500-1000 and get a really nice shell pack of toms and bass. Seems like it is time to upgrade. We were just talking on another thread about how a lot of the older Tama Starclassic sets can be had in this price range, that might be one to look for. Or Mapex Saturn.
 

RIDDIM

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I'd look at the edges. If you can find someone who is good at truing and contouring edges, you might want to have a chat. It's a lot cheaper than a new kit and your kit will likely sound vastly better as a result.
 

tbird8450

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HA! Alright, I guess you found me out. So, given my budget and above preferences, where should I start looking? Unfortunately, the closest dedicated drum store is nearly a two hour drive, so the more I can narrow things down, the better. Again, as much as the Ludwig Zep kit is tempting and would seemingly make sense given my adoration of Bonzo, I'm just not sure if the big boomy floor toms are exactly what I'm looking for - but I'm not discounting it. For toms, I like warm, bouncy, sweet, and tight (feel free to steal that for your Tinder profile) but I'd also like to maintain those qualities even at a lower pitch. I also prefer at least a couple of rack toms. Thanks.
 
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BennyK

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Sounds to me like your mind is leaning towards early to mid 70's Gretsch . An acceptable $ alternative $ to that vibe are old Pearl Fiberglass .
 

phdamage

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i'll second older Starclassics. I've bought two sets for $600 each! Artstar IIs and Granstars are no slouch either and similar prices - often cheaper than starclassics. If you're super patient, you can find a Sonorlite kit for under $1k
 

Vistalite Black

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What's more impressive: "My hopped up 2009 Camry's top speed is 111 mph" or "I hit 123 in a Corvette"? Making inexpensive shells sound great offers the same challenges and rewards.
 

cplueard

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If you like the PHX kits i'd suggest looking at Sonor Phonics, Tama Granstars/Crestars, the old Pearl Sessions (Elite specifically, I think), Pearl DLX, or an older eams. PHX tend to be really well make thicker shells so something in the same vein would likely strike your fancy. If you hit harder I'd recommend something thick or with at least rounded outside bearing edges. Those types of kit tend to work well rounding the sound.

I would also highly suggest changing heads for resonant if not batter as well. I'd suggesting going up in thickness (Evans G12 or G14 are my preference) for your resonant head or getting something with a light amount of overtone control (Aquarian Focus-X or Attack Proflex1 w/ No Overtone ring) for it. Having good heads that's either thicker or has a bit of overtone will curb the edges of the sound and make the note rounder and shorter without hurting volume or depth of tone. Extra thickness with also make the head a bit stiffer which to be tends to feel bouncier, especially at lower tuning.
 
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drumsforme

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Mapex Saturn or Mapex Armory. Done.....They can be found used at some great prices.
 

tbird8450

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The Armory with the larger tom sizes looks like it could be a good fit and the pricing seems excellent. It does appear that all of the new shell packs come with a snare, though, which I don't need. I suppose I could just sell it off. I'll do some more listening, but so far, I'm impressed. Thanks!
 

stevil

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Strong second for the recommendation of looking at your bearing edges. If you make a lateral move from a Pearl Forum to a Ludwig Centennial then you'll end up with a brand new kit that will also need it's edges worked on to optimize. Guitarists understand that when they buy a new instrument it still needs to be fine tuned. Drummers should take the same approach, especially with non-high end kits. Manufacturers save money on production costs, which means the bearing edges don't get enough attention. This makes things hard to tune, results in dead spots, etc. A nicely edged drum has a wider tuning range and is just nicer to play.
 

lossforgain

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...a lateral move from a Pearl Forum to a Ludwig Centennial...
Say WHA??? I'm not saying a Centennial is a top end set, but it's certainly not beginner level like the Forum.

That said, there are a lot of great deals out there in the 500-1000 range that would be better sound and quality than the Centennial.
 

varatrodder

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I tend to prefer a more tight and bouncy tom sound and feel, with smooth resonance and not a lot of overtones. Right now the drums sound sort of sloppy and floppy, and if I tune that stuff out I'm at too high a pitch for my liking.
To get the sound characteristics you're looking for, you probably do need to tune the drums up higher. Sloppy and floppy comes from having the tension too low. Ignore pitch to begin with, and start by cranking up the bottom head so it's about a 3rd higher than the batter head. See if that gets you closer to the tone characteristics you want. If you're getting the characteristics you want, but the pitch is too high, then I would look into larger sizes. Keep in mind that Bonham's rack tom was a 14", but it was pitched up like a 13".

Changing the bottom factory heads will certainly help. Changing the batter heads to something like a clear Emperor or clear G2 will help as well.

You could have some work done on your Pearl Forum kit, but you'll still have a Pearl Forum kit. That's not a knock on your kit, it's just that putting work into an entry level kit won't equate to a return on investment.

It might just be time to upgrade to a mid-level kit. You can get a Gretsch Catalina club in a 13, 16, 24 configuration and it sounds really good. And of course there are a ton of good deals to be had on used gear.

 

lossforgain

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Drum Center of Portsmouth had the PDP concept maple for 700 and they gave it stellar reviews
I agree, the video review of that set sounded pretty darn good, and I do like the wood hoops. It doesn’t look like just another drum set.
 


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