Starting as a small drum-teaching studio 33 years ago, Drum Workshop is now known as one of the best drum makers in the world. Fortunately, the company has not outgrown an enthusiasm for experimenting, creating, and refining drum products. The kit I reviewed included a number of DW’s latest innovations — VLT shells, ESE edges, and Hard Satin finishes. Not familiar with the acronyms? Read on.
DW discovered that a shell formed with the grain of the outer and inner plies running vertically creates a drum that resonates at a lower pitch than other drums of its size. Shells made in this manner are called Vertical Low Timbre, or VLT.
Enhanced Sound Edge, or ESE, refers to bearing edges that have a sharper backcut, resulting in longer sustain and sharper attack. DW recommends ESE for smaller toms up to 13" in diameter. Only the 8", 10", and 12" toms on the review kit featured ESE.
Hard Satin finishes are applied using the same method as the lacquer finishes of DW’s Collector series, but instead of being buffed to a gloss, the Hard Satin finishes are dulled using a proprietary technique. The result is a subdued sheen with the durability of a glossy lacquer.
The 100-percent maple review kit included 8" x 7", 10" x 8", 12" x 9" mounted toms, 14" x 12" and 16" x 14" floor toms, a 22" x 18" bass drum, and a 14" x 5.5" snare.
I think it’s important for product reviewers to be aware of their own preferences and biases. To come completely clean, I’ll admit that I prefer glossy to satin finishes, and I’ve never seen a satin that I think looks as good as a well-done glossy. Until now. DW’s Hard Satin finish on this kit was just beautiful. When I played the drums on a couple of gigs, the look of the kit always drew very positive comments from the other musicians.
All the drums had stamped steel hoops. DW uses its own True Pitch tension rods (10/32 vs. 10/24 thread), so were you to lose one, you couldn’t substitute a generic rod without stripping your receiver. I found them to tune easily and turn very, very smoothly. Because of the finer threading, tuning changes are more gradual than on a generic tension screw.
The bass drum boasted a sliding tom mount, and I loved it. No longer do long-legged drummers or their shorter counterparts have to settle for one average tom distance. The mount allows you to slide the toms forward and backward about eight inches or so to accommodate your preferences. While some companies avoid putting tom mounts on high-end bass drums, I’m glad DW will, since it is so convenient.
I’d been curious about VLT shells ever since I played another DW kit with them that sounded deep for their sizes (a 16" bass drum and a 13" floor tom). However, the review kit didn’t sound particularly lower than other drums I’ve played. I was confused by this and decided to compare the DW toms to other toms of the same diameter and interestingly found that the VLTs didn’t sound any deeper. Just in case I’d been sent non-VLT drums, I checked the inner-ply of the toms and their grain was indeed vertically oriented. Perhaps in A/B comparisons of otherwise identical DW toms, the ESE edges add sustain and attack to the drums when viewed on an oscilloscope, but again, in my less scientific, real-world test, they didn’t differ from other drums I own. So if you’re looking for an 8" tom that sounds as deep as a 12" … keep looking. But if you want a good sounding set of toms, these will certainly fit the bill.
The snare was also very nice. It featured DW’s True-Tone Copper snare wires and stamped steel hoops. Sensitive, with crisp highs and wonderful buzz rolls even at lower volumes, the snare projected well when hit hard. It offered good, loud rim-clicks that compare pretty well to drums with die-cast hoops. The throw-off was solid, reliable, and held the wires where I set them.
The bass drum came with DW’s muffling pillow installed and a logo head with a series of holes around the perimeter to let air move. I used the kit on a couple of acoustic gigs and just loved the low-end of the drum. It still had some attack, even at quieter volumes.
Hard Satin finishes are also supposed to be more durable than other satin finishes. I unintentionally tested this hypothesis with not one but several of the review drums. The first test occurred when a cymbal boom arm fell and bounced off the bass drum shell. Ouch! Then one tom and the snare were accidentally dropped down a flight of concrete stairs. Luckily, the snare was in a hard Enduro Pro case, but the tom was only in a soft padded bag. Fortunately, neither disaster left any evidence of ever having occurred. Not a single mark anywhere. Do me a favor, don’t tell anyone, okay?
While I applaud the innovative spirit of DW, I couldn’t find any pitch difference between VLT and non-VLT shells or any evidence that the ESE edges do anything audible to the drums. But my informal tests don’t really matter, because the drums do sound good. The snare cracks, the bass drum wallops, and the toms blend smoothly with one another. The beautiful and flawless Hard Satin finish won me over, and the Exotic Olive Ash veneer was stunning and very, umm, durable. Shy of a Lotto win, though, I’ll never be able to afford the drums. So let me now sing the standard reviewer’s lament: I’ll hate to see them go!
Model DW Exotic Hard Satin
Shells 100-percent maple with VTL inner and outer plies. The 8", 10", and 12" toms featured ESE bearing edges on the bottom edges and no reinforcing rings
Sizes Review kit included 8" x 7", 10" x 8", 12" x 9" mounted toms, 14" x 12" and 16" x 14" floor toms, a 22" x 18" bass drum, and a 14" x 5.5" snare
Finish Olive Ash Hard Satin. Hardware, lugs, hoops, and spurs are available in Chrome, Satin Chrome, Black Chrome, or Gold finish
Features VTL Shells, ESE bearing edges, resonant logo head
Price $10,945.50 (with hardware), $10,339 (without hardware)
Contact Drum Workshop, 3450 Lunar Court, Oxnard, CA 93030. 805-485-6999. dwdrums.com