Drum Workshop has added the beat of a different drum – or more specifically, a different drum shell. This doesn’t seem too far-fetched coming from a company that has such an eclectic selection of wood in their Exotic Collection. But those great wood finishes are all finish-plies laminated to Drum Workshop’s mainstay: the maple shell. Now DW has introduced a 100-percent birch shell, which made us wonder if this marriage is made in heaven.
My UPS driver loves deliveries to my home. I always get little packages full of drum doodads, and he is one of those people who always wanted to be a drummer. “You must have hit the jackpot,” he said excitedly, as he raised the back door of the familiar brown truck. “Big packages today!”
I explained that it was a drum set for review, and he asked for a peek. Not wanting to deny him the thrill (and the fact that I was busting to tear into the boxes), I opened the 12" tom. “Wow,” he said, as the tom broke from the package like sun on the shore. We both stood there in awe.
As the UPS guy wiped the drool and climbed back into the truck, he shouted: “Man you got a great job!”
I had to agree.
What arrived in the massive (and well-packed) boxes was a seven-piece setup comprised of a 22" x 18" kick drum, 14" x 5" snare, 8" x 7", 10" x 8", 12" x 9", 14" x 11", and 16" x 13" toms.
All of the drums were outfitted with the classic DW lug (turret-style for you old-timers) and flanged steel hoops. The toms were equipped with DW’s STM (suspension tom mount) system. In other words, the hardware is identical in every way to DW’s Collector’s Series Maple counterparts, except that the badge notes that these are all-birch shells.
The drums came standard with DW’s Coated/Clear (manufactured for DW by Remo) heads on the batter side of the toms with a clear Ambassador as the bottom head. The bass drum had the same coated/clear head on the batter side with an Ebony front logo head that was vented with six small holes at the edge of the drumhead’s circumference. The bass drum also came with an acoustically designed and adjustable bass drum pillow pad, which is a standard feature. This device adjusts via Velcro and can be placed more towards the front-head or rear-head depending on the sound you prefer.
The snare drum came with a DW Coated Ambassador batter head that is stamped with tuning guide numbers. The bottom head is a clear snare-side Ambassador head. These heads worked for me because I typically use this combination or Remo Powerstroke 3’s. I would have also liked to hear these drums with all Coated Ambassadors on the batter side, as this is a popular choice, as well.
I expected to see the Nickel Piston throw-off on the supplied snare, but was actually glad to find the DW drop-style chrome throw-off instead. So many other manufacturers have used the Nickel at this point that it has almost become generic. (Gone are the days when you could identify a snare from a distance by the throw off!) I thought I had seen a press release claiming that most DW snares would be shipped with TrueTone snare wires by Puresound, but I could find no marks identifying these as such. On a side note, this snare drum could one day be a special sought-after collector’s item since it was produced with an air-vent plate signifying it as an all-maple drum while the logo badge reads “All Birch Shell.” Yet I digress!
Why birch? We discovered that the idea had been on DW’s drawing boards for some time. After searching for just the right tree, the company finally settled on a strain called Heart Wood birch, which comes from Wisconsin. DW chose this particular birch due to the wood’s resonant quality, density, and inconsistent grain streaks. Be forewarned – not everyone will fall in love with the wildly figured grain characteristics, but I did. It clearly makes a statement and elevates the drums into the realm of artwork (if you are into that sort of thing).
Our review kit was born on December 6, 2001, and each drum was stamped with that date on the inside of the shell. This is a great detail that I appreciate and liken to drum companies of yesteryear. It also helps with warranty issues and with the collectible value of the drums in the future.
The 100-percent birch shells are ply-configured with the 8", 10", and 12" toms being 6-ply; the 14", and 16" toms, as well as the 22" bass drum are 7-ply; and the 14" snare is 10-ply. The important thing to note with the Birch series is that there are no reinforcement hoops inside the drums. (Incidentally, DW now says any of their drums in the other lines can be special-ordered without reinforcement hoops.)
Bearing edges for these drums are just like those on their maple brothers: toms are 45°, while the bass drum and snare are 60°. All cuts are from the outer edge of the shell tapered toward the inside of the drums, although the edge on these drums was not quite as sharp as the edge on my DW Collector’s Series maples.
All of these shells underwent the infamous and trademarked DW Timbre-Matching process. Utilizing a digital tuner as part of DW’s patented “pitch identification” procedure, each of these shells is stamped on its “sweet spot” with the shell’s relative note-value. The notes on our toms were F for the 8", A for the 10", F# for the 12", C for the 14", and G# for the 16". The note on the 22" bass drum was G# and the 14" snare was assigned an F#.