What makes one shell pack vastly more expensive than another (same mfg)?

Dirk

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What makes one shell pack from a given manufacturer more expensive than their other offerings?

Take a major manufacturer’s 4k$ shell pack and their 1k$ pack with the same piece count. What are the meaningful differences relating to cost? Does it boil down to seriously expensive woods on one and far less expensive woods on the other? Is the process, shell construction or hardware so different as to cause such a price difference? Is it more expensive finishes? Seems to me that in this day and age even relatively inexpensive shells would have to be made on state of the art machinery, with high quality materials and to exacting tolerances, if only from a production quality assurance perspective; I mean, how else could a company cost efficiently produce them any other way? If the expensive stuff was “hand made” or had lots more hands on finish work then that could explain it but that's largely not what I saw on the Sonor factory visit video from Sweetwater.

I know what it is in the world of one-at-a-time hand made, hi-zoots bicycle frames, vs higher production (but still small) outfits like Davidson used to be and Toei still is; but for a factory that does drums from silly money to 1k and even less it's puzzling me.

I’m curious, and not without a fair bit of drum kit lust.

Thanks for any insights.
 

Steech

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Wood choices, shell hardware, and finishes can all make a huge difference. Yesterday I priced out a Pearl Masterworks kit in a “normal” finish and for kicks tried one of the “artisan” finishes and that took that price up by $1500. I also went for more conventional hardware options (regular silver vs black chrome) and that dropped it by a few hundred dollars. Same shells, sizes, etc.
 

Seb77

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I'd rather ask how these days it is possible to offer a whole drumkit for under say 500€, even under 1000€.
If you apply an inflation calculator on the old price lists, you will find prices were up there with today's high end drums.
 

Dirk

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Re wood, hardware & finish choices driving cost: That makes sense to me with the flip side seeming to be that even the lower priced shells are very high quality products. One thing the Sonor host noted that sounded like it might be meaningful (though not to my ears or skill level I think) was adhesive applied to 100% of the wrap and shell surface areas rather than double stick tape applied at the shell perimeter ends only, leaving a gap/disconnect 'twixt the two. The finer pitch threads that DW uses seems like a fine idea but that doesn't have to affect cost. I can see some of the isolation suspension systems being more costly to manufacture.

Re how is it possible to offer a kit for under 500 or 1000 Euros....that is a more wide ranging reality across all consumer goods that has been making my head spin for years (though largely from a transport, handling, stocking and putting on the shelf) perspective. But ignoring transport, I think the answer is largely automation; but as I looked at the machinery used at the Sonor facility I wondered how much the shell press/forming unit cost...and the NC controlled shell drilling unit.

I have a second hand Gretsch Energy kit that was about $700 new, with what appears to be pretty decent hardware and good wooden shells well manufactured. I stand back, look at that and wonder how the heck can a factory anywhere build, pack, ship, distribute, manage, sell, ship and deal with customer service issues and everything else required to run a business, and everybody along the way makes a profit! That blows my mind.
 

notINtheband

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I’ve owned 12 full kits in my lifetime. Way less than most here currently own.
Today, I own 3 kits, whittled down to the 3 I use regularly, 1 for home rehearsal, and 2 are gig ready, a full 5-piece and a tiny 3 pc club kit.
But to my point, my home rehearsal kit, purchased new in 2012, is the single best sounding drum kit I have ever heard.
That translates to an amazing potential $ saving situation.
I no longer shop for, lust after, or even consider purchasing other drums. For me, there is nowhere to go from here.
Sure our opinions and tastes are subject to change, but owning the kit you consider the best sounding, has the potential to steer your journey in a new direction, hopefully one that involves more playing and less shopping.
Admittedly it took me decades to arrive at this lesson, and I am still selling off dozens of snares that I amassed for no other reason than collecting. I’m keeping the players that are actually useful in the music I make. But the pretty shelf-riders are being sent back out into the world.
 

Sequimite

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I think your premise may be wrong as the biggest difference I see is where it is manufactured. A single brand: Ludwig, Pearl, Yamaha, DW, etc, may have drum lines manufactured in multiple countries. Quality of wood, hardware and finish also play a part.
 

ThomasL

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In many cases, the cheap kit will be made in China while the expensive one is made in USA/Japan/Germany.
 

Sequimite

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To give an example, some of us interested in Tacoma Guitars tested a Tacoma mahogany parlor guitar against their solid wood Olympia. Tacoma sent the wood to Korea for them to make an exact functional duplicate of the Tacoma. Their measurements were exactly the same, weight very close and the kicker was that in blindfold tests no one could hear any difference between the two.

The Tacoma PM20 was priced at $1200, the Olympia OP20SWM at $600 That's how much difference the cost of labor and overhead made.
 

Tama CW

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In reality there probably isn't 4X the quality or even cost between the $750 kit and the $3000 kit.
For the small amounts of wood or metal actually used in a drum, I can't say see that being a critical issue. Time and Labor, even shipping/advertising are possibly bigger factors.

I would consider the new kits in the $600-$1000 range to be potential "loss leaders." They get your foot in the door. The companies don't make all that much on them.
But they'll get you next time around when you just have to get the inkling to obtain your first high end or pro-level kit.
Fast Food burger joints do the same thing with their $1-$1.25 value menus for burgers, fries, etc. They might even lose money on those menu items.
But, they're hoping you eventually get the taste for full-sized bundled meals with fancy names, super-sized extras, etc.
 
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Steech

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I agree with the point about the cheaper overseas labor costs. I also read somewhere that the more exotic woods aren’t really that much more expensive than the conventional ones. So yeah…marketing is likely the single biggest cost driver
 

lossforgain

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I reality there probably isn't 4X the quality or even cost between the $750 kit and the $3000 kit.
This is the conclusion I came to a long time ago regarding snare drums in particular. These days I get most excited about things that cost less but sound comparatively as good as more expensive instruments. It’s true for me with guitars and drums alike.
 

JimmyM

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This is the conclusion I came to a long time ago regarding snare drums in particular. These days I get most excited about things that cost less but sound comparatively as good as more expensive instruments. It’s true for me with guitars and drums alike.
Same here...it's amazing what a couple hundy can get you for a guitar or bass these days.

My only set right now has late 70's CB700 bass drum and toms that were given to me, and they aren't the most well made drums I've ever seen in my life but they hold tune and sound like quality drums to me. I'll use them. The kids dig them these days, too. Even Taylor Hawkins was spotted with a vintage CB700 drum head recently :D

If I can find a Black Beauty for a good price, I'll likely be all over it. That's the one high end snare that gives me GAS. Nothing quite like them that I've ever heard. But while I'd love a nice Yamaha RC or DW Collector's shell pack, I can't find a compelling reason to spend that kind of money as a working musician. Can't even find a compelling reason to get a BB, but I do want one. And the only reason I'm even thinking about getting more drums is the need for smaller drums than 13/16/22.
 

VinSparkle

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I’ve owned 12 full kits in my lifetime. Way less than most here currently own.
Today, I own 3 kits, whittled down to the 3 I use regularly, 1 for home rehearsal, and 2 are gig ready, a full 5-piece and a tiny 3 pc club kit.
But to my point, my home rehearsal kit, purchased new in 2012, is the single best sounding drum kit I have ever heard.
That translates to an amazing potential $ saving situation.
I no longer shop for, lust after, or even consider purchasing other drums. For me, there is nowhere to go from here.
Sure our opinions and tastes are subject to change, but owning the kit you consider the best sounding, has the potential to steer your journey in a new direction, hopefully one that involves more playing and less shopping.
Admittedly it took me decades to arrive at this lesson, and I am still selling off dozens of snares that I amassed for no other reason than collecting. I’m keeping the players that are actually useful in the music I make. But the pretty shelf-riders are being sent back out into the world.

so what’s this secret 2012 kit? :)
 

JazzDrumGuy

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Wood type, wood source, where made (USA or import), finish/color, hardware, hardware source (USA or import) are just a few factors.

EG: Gretsch Catalinas are nice. They look like vintage, but are imports. For 8X the price, you can buy USA or Broadkasters, which are "nicer", have
"better" hardware, and more selection of finishes........

FWIW, I prefer vintage - they are more likely to be USA made, more durable/heavier hardware (eg: modern Rogers lugs look right but are thin import metal), and have mojo, but that's just me. Oh, and heck of a lot cheaper than new!
 

notINtheband

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so what’s this secret 2012 kit? :)
6CBE6BDF-FC17-4352-8C4B-D5E6A0818464.jpeg

Saturn III. Maple/Walnut.
But my point isn’t ‘buy what I play’, it’s find the sound that speaks to you above all others, spend what it takes to obtain it, and you likely won’t have to spend money on another kit again. The fact that my personal #1 came in the form of a $1600 shell pack (at the time), was just a bonus.
 
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VinSparkle

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View attachment 531661
Saturn III. Maple/Walnut.
But my point isn’t ‘buy what I play’, it’s find the sound that speaks to you above all others, spend what it takes to obtain it, and you likely won’t have to spend money on another kit again. The fact that my personal #1 came in the form of a $1600 shell pack (at the time), was just a bonus.

what speaks to you may speak to me, so thanks for the info. I like the Saturn kits too. You can sometimes find nice Orions for a good price as well. Mapex is a totally underloved brand.

I’ve found similar value in Spaun kits.
 

VinSparkle

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View attachment 531661
Saturn III. Maple/Walnut.
But my point isn’t ‘buy what I play’, it’s find the sound that speaks to you above all others, spend what it takes to obtain it, and you likely won’t have to spend money on another kit again. The fact that my personal #1 came in the form of a $1600 shell pack (at the time), was just a bonus.

how deep is that snare?
 

notINtheband

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how deep is that snare?
That one is 8”. But I have a dozen I swap in and out. I have the same snare in 5” and 6.5” as well as Ludwig Supras, acros and my new black beauty. They all compliment the kit in different ways.
 

Redbeard77

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The difference in cost to the manufacturer may not be directly reflected in the retail price, but from a manufacturing standpoint, options do cost more. Some companies actually offer the same shells on different lines with the lower lines having limited sizes and colors, which makes it easier to mass produce them, thus lowering costs. As you step up to the flagship lines, most drums are made to order with a broad array of sizes and finishes (and options for hardware finishes), which is more labor intensive and more expensive because you don't have that economy of scale the lower lines enjoy.
So while a lot of entry/intermediate level kits today may beat some of yesteryear's pro level gear in build quality, there's still a market for getting exactly what you want, even if the sound difference is negligible (which is in the eyes/ears of the beholder).
 


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