Five Complete Kits Under $1,000

The Bop drums were easy to tune, so I assume they have evenly cut bearing edges. With that said, it would be unfair to give a detailed account of these drums’ sound because the drumheads are mediocre at best. Still, the toms had a clear tone, the bass drum had a nice punch, and the snare had a crisp crack. To my ear, Sonor drums generally have an identifiable and distinct focused sound. These drums had that sound, even with these drumheads. With professional heads, I suspect this kit would really sing.

What Sets It Apart?

I love 18" bass drums for any gig that doesn’t go beyond medium volume. Most decent kits with 18" kicks are quite pricey. The ability to get a kit with bop sizes that looks anything but generic makes this kit a real gem. P.S. If these drums aren’t small enough for you, Sonor offers a Safari kit with a 16" bass drum for a very similar price.


Configuration 18" x 16" bass drum, 12" x 8" tom, 14" x 14" floor tom, and 14" x 5.5" snare.
Shells/Lugs Select poplar 9-ply 7.2mm shells with 45 degree bearing edges. Tune Safe lugs on all drums. STH 274 single tom holder kick drum mount.
Hoops 1.6mm on snare and toms. Wood hoops on bass drum.
Heads Remo UT single-ply.
Finish Silver Galaxy Sparkle wrap. Red Galaxy Sparkle wrap (available fall 2012).
Hardware Medium-weight 200 series HS 275 hardware set (double-braced stands): two MBS 273 mini boom stands; SS 277 snare stand; HH 274 hi-hat stand; and SP 473 single-chain-drive pedal with double-sided beater, support board, and adjustable toe stop. Or Heavy-weight 400 series HS 475 hardware set (double-braced stands): 2 MBS 473 mini boom stands; SS 477 snare stand; HH 474 hi-hat stand; and SP 473 single-chain-drive pedal with double sided beater, support board, and adjustable toe stop.
Price $399 (shell pack, U.S. only).
$479 (HS 275 hardware set).
$539 (HS 475 hardware set).

pearl kit

PearlVision Birch Artisan II

The Vision Birch’s pinstripes come courtesy of American Chopper artist Nub.

Pearl is one of the biggest drum companies in the world. You might assume that because of this, your under-$1,000 kit would be totally generic and soulless. Fortunately, that’s not the case at all. Because of Pearl’s size, it’s able to manufacture its own shells, hardware, etc. without outsourcing. This means that if you buy a Pearl kit, you get several features that are unique to Pearl. The Vision Birch Artisan II series incorporates many of these Pearl-only features, making it a very appealing and unique choice in the sub-$1,000 category.

Although called Vision Birch, the 6-ply shells on this kit have only one inner ply of birch. The remaining plies consist of poplar, another not-too-expensive tone wood. Pearl utilizes a proprietary SST (superior shell technology) to make these shells. They’re known to be strong and consistent. This process involves cutting shell plies with overlapping scarf-joint seams, saturating each ply with Pearl’s exclusive glue, and forming the shell in a high-temperature mold under pressure.

First impressions for me were that these birch/poplar hybrid shells are a good combo. The drums sound surprisingly good, even with non-professional heads. The 14" x 5.5" snare sits in an appropriate mid-range frequency, and it had a bounciness that made me want to dig into it — probably due to the fact that it has eight instead of ten lugs. The Remo UT Pinstripe heads on the toms are, in my opinion, much nicer than the Remo UT single-ply clear heads on other budget kits. The 10", 12", and 16" toms have plenty of sustain, nice tone, and the sort of EQ’d punch that I’d expect from birch (even if it is just the inner ply).

The two mounted toms each mount off the bass drum into Pearl’s Bridge Type bass bracket. Drummers either love or hate this mounting system. I love it because the bracket has a separate receptacle for each tom arm so that each tom can be positioned completely independently of the other. This bracket doesn’t seem to have any negative impact on the sound of the kick. This 22" bass drum sounded big and open with plenty of volume.

All the drums have Pearl’s Bridge lugs. These look similar to Gretsch or Slingerland lugs, but they have less shell contact due to a gap (or bridge) between the two screws that connect the lug to the shell. Supposedly this allows the shell to resonate more. It seems to work.

Pearl offers four lacquer finishes in the Vision Birch Artisan II series. This review kit has the one wrap finish currently available: an exclusive blackish wrap with orange and white pinstripes designed by the artist Nub. (If you watch the television show American Chopper, Nub is the guy who often paints the gas tanks for Junior.) The pinstripes make this one of the cooler wrap finishes I’ve seen on any kit at any price.

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