Drum manufacturers typically make wood shell drums from a variety of usual suspects: maple, birch, mahogany, poplar, basswood, bubinga, oak, or combinations of those woods. In recent years, Ddrum has experimented with unconventional drum shell materials such as its ash-shell Dios kits. For the 2011 model year, Ddrum introduced something that, to my knowledge, is a first: its Reflex series made from 100 percent alder shells. Guitar manufacturers often use alder, as it is a tone wood that’s reasonably priced. Therefore, I was very curious to see how alder would adapt for drums.
I received the Player configuration of Ddrum’s Reflex series: a 5-piece shell pack consisting of a 22" x 20" bass drum, 14" x 5.5" snare drum, 10" x 7" and 12" x 8" toms, and 16" x 14" floor tom. (Ddrum also offers individual add-on Reflex drums, including 20", 22", and 24" bass drums, 8" and 13" toms, and 14" and 18" floor toms.) The bass drum comes as a virgin shell with no mounting hardware. To mount the toms, Ddrum includes two ball-style tom arms with clamps that are mountable on any cymbal stand (including, not surprisingly, those made by Ddrum), and three floor tom legs.
The Reflex series is offered in four lacquer finishes: three satin and one high-gloss with red alder outer ply, as well as nine different wrap finishes: Grey Bubble, White Bubble, Copper, Black, White, Ice Blue Brushed, Pewter Brushed, Chrome, and Ice Sparkle. I received an Ice Sparkle wrap kit. If this isn’t the best color of the bunch, then the other finishes must be incredible. Here’s why. The Ice Sparkle is consistent from top to bottom — not a fade, thank you very much. It has a blue/grayish hue with several glass (or glass-like) sparkles intermixed that make these drums twinkle in even dim lighting. This finish would be beautiful at any price.
Each of the Reflex drums receives Ddrum’s face-off lugs, a unique Ddrum design that it uses to great effect. The circular face-off lugs incorporate a threaded receptacle that allows for multiple uses. Most of the face-off lugs on the Reflex kit receive a screw-on removable cap. The face portions of those caps are covered with the same Ice Sparkle wrap as the shell. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the face-off lugs’ possibilities. For example, Ddrum offers a spiked cap for the face-off lugs if you’re a heavy metal player — or a drummer who’s afraid of being attacked while you play.
The same receptacle on the face-off lug that receives a cap cover doubles as the point of attachment for Ddrum’s new suspension mount. On each tom, the suspension mount attaches to two lugs via a drum-key-adjustable tension rod. This suspension mount has a minimalist design that uses just enough metal to hold the tom sturdily in place, but not so much that it unnecessarily covers the shell. The mount accomplishes the goal of avoiding extra holes drilled into the shell, but it has very little give when the drum is struck. I question whether this mount potentially risks stifling the vibration of the shell.
Ddrum came up with yet another clever use for the face-off lugs on the bass drum. The four floor-facing lugs on the bass drum’s bottom receive rubberized caps. This allows you to lay the bass drum on the floor during setup (before unfolding the legs) without the risk of scratching the lugs or otherwise blemishing the drum shell. Moreover, if you play your bass drum virtually flat to the floor, I imagine the rubberized caps would help hold the drum in place. Ddrum outfits the bass drum with two very sturdy adjustable-length bass drum legs. My only complaint is that these legs have no preset or line markers on their circular angle adjustment. Therefore, once you’ve folded up the legs and packed the drum away, you have to eyeball the legs again the next time you set up to get the same angle.
The Reflex series is a semi-professional kit that I believe is very affordably priced — a $972.50 list price (no doubt less at the store). Despite this pricing, the Reflex series comes with many fully professional specs. The snare and toms receive strong 2.5mm triple-flanged hoops. The bass drum receives all-wood hoops that are nicely lacquered on the inside and covered with a wrap finish on the outside. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the bedded snare comes with a Dunnet snare strainer and butt — a favorite of custom drum makers. If you’re unfamiliar with it, this nifty all-chrome strainer engages the snare with a quiet lever that swivels 180 degrees.
The Reflex series also has some semi-professional specs that are obvious concessions to cost. The most glaring example is that these drums came outfitted, top and bottom, with cheaper Taiwanese-made heads. These are decent heads, but they do not sound as good as professional heads. However, Ddrum later indicated that as of January 2012 all Reflex kits will come outfitted with Ddrum By Evans heads, which should make a big difference. Also, the Ddrum badges on each of these drums have an embossed design with black lettering that, at least to me, does not look nearly as elegant as some of the engraved badges that adorn other more expensive drums.