gear

GMS Special Edition Drums Tested!

Since its introduction three years ago, the GMS Special Edition drum line has offered drummers a more affordable alternative to GMS’s flagship Grand Master Series line without compromising drum sound or workmanship or sacrificing exquisite drum finishes. Featuring a revolutionary small lug design, the Special Edition kit might best be thought of as a second top-quality professional drum line from one of America’s finest custom drum manufacturers.

The Small But Mighty Lug

When most drummers look at drums they don’t think of how the lug’s design affects the sound of the drum. GMS’s Rob Mazzella and Tony Gallino have given this plenty of thought. The problem with other small lug designs is that they feature center mounted screws that pull and tilt the lug towards the head when tensioned, which creates stress points in the shell. While not visible to the eye these stress points dampen the vibration of the shell and rob the drum of some of its potential resonance and sustain. Some manufacturers use two or more screws to secure the lug to the shell, further dampening its vibration.

GMS Grand Master Series drums come with hi-tension lugs. When tension is applied to the head, the resulting stress on the lug is absorbed by the rod between the lugs and isn’t transferred to the shell. This works quite well. Almost all marching and pipe band snares feature this design. Interestingly, Kevlar heads were introduced before many marching and pipe band snare drums featured true hi-tension lug designs. The strength of the Kevlar combined with the stress of cranking the heads to astronomical pitch actually cracked and imploded many snare drum shells. The downside of these hi-tension designs is that the stress-reducing rod between the lugs adds a significant amount of weight to the drum and obscures some of the beauty of its finish.

The Special Edition lug was designed to emulate the stress-reducing characteristics of a hi-tension lug while being lighter in weight and smaller in size. It accomplishes this remarkable feat by using a single screw towards the bottom of the lug and a swiveling receiver for the tension screw. The die-cast SE lug spreads stress across its surface and vibrates with the drum rather than pulling the lug at an angle into the shell. This minimizes stress, enhances resonance, and reduces weight while the lug’s small footprint reveals the exquisite finish of the shell.

Aesthetically, I think the Special Edition lug is a great example of form following function. It has an elegant yet very simple look that is certain to please the Amish drummers amongst us.

Orange Crush

We were sent a six-piece drum set in an optional high-gloss Tangerine sparkle finish with gold SE lugs for review. The kit came with a 22” x 18” bass drum, 14” x 5 1/2” ten-lug snare with optional die-cast hoops, 8” x 7”, 10” x 8”, and 12” x 9” mounted toms, and a 14” x 12” suspended tom. The kit was fully outfitted with Evans heads. The toms were fitted with coated single-ply G1 heads for the top and Resonant heads for the bottom. The snare had a coated single-ply G1 batter head and a snare side 300 Hazy underneath. The bass drum had an EQ 1 frosted batter head and a black Resonant for the logo head. The bass drum hoops featured a matching Tangerine sparkle inlay. The Special Edition drums feature the exact same 8-ply maple shells as their top-of-the-line Grand Master Series drum sets. The only differences between the lines are the lug design and available finishes.

Cosmetically, the drums are flawless inside and out and the Tangerine sparkle lacquer makes quite a bold statement. GMS has done a great job here. The gold lugs, tom mounts, and GMS badges complement the Tangerine sparkle and add a touch of class and elegance to a finish that a lesser manufacturer simply couldn’t pull off.

The SE line includes oil satin and wrap finishes in the base price, but any high-gloss Grand Master Series finish or any custom finish you desire is available as an upgrade. The gold lugs on this kit were included at no additional cost. If you want something truly unique but are afraid of your drum maker going out of business in a couple of years, GMS has been in business for 15 years and has earned their reputation as being one of the best American drum manufacturers. They make drums from 6” to 36” in diameter and you can further customize your kit with GMS’s WoodCast hoops or black powder-coated hoops.

Please log in to comment.

Commenting is currently only available to the DRUM! community. Sign up today!.

  • It only mattered to me because a friend of mine bought a used GMS kit in 1996 or 97 which was the first time I had ever heard of them but I noticed your article says the company has been in business for 15 years. That would mean his kit was brand new when he bought it used off of a tour. Add another 10 years and you will then agree with GMS’s website. BTW they make a very nice sounding kit. We toured with them for quite some time. (I was FOH)

  • Sorry if the chronology seems confusing. This product test was reprinted from the February/March 2002 issue of DRUM! Magazine. We always include the issue date at the top of the page next to the byline on the website.

  • They show a picture of the bar that holds the tomtoms (black) but do not sell them ? I want that rack.