It would be a bit too cutesy to suggest that Canopus’ new Japanese Sword Model lugs look sharp … but they are most definitely cool. Available on all Canopus drums, these attractive lugs are die-cast emulations of two crossed swords.
The red birch spoke for itself on Craviotto’s Classic kit, fitted with Diamond tube lugs, claw hooks, and bass drum spurs
While we weren’t at all surprised to learn that the craftsmen at Craviotto had experimented with new wood species for their Classic series kits, the wind was still knocked out of us when we spotted the two kits holding court at either corner of the company’s booth. These latest editions include a red birch 5-piece with a beefy 24" bass drum, and a birdseye maple 5-piece bebop configuration with vintage-style bass drum T-rods on the petite 18" kick.
We had a heck of a time tracking down the Ddrum booth, which migrated a couple of rooms away from last year’s spot in the thick of the drum universe. For 2010 Ddrum shared space with other brands marketed by parent company Armadillo Enterprises. But this cost-cutting measure didn’t slow product launches, which included the new Reflex kit, built with alder and poplar shells with Face-Off lugs, lug-integrated suspension mounts, Dunnett snare throw-off, and a Chrome Delmar wrap. Sold as a shell pack, 5-piece Reflex kits carry a list price ranging from $899 to $1,399. The company also trotted out the intriguing Hybrid — a poplar-shell acoustic kit delivered with internally mounted triggers with shell-mounted XLR inputs. List is $1,322.99 for a 5-piece shell pack.
After formerly owning a piece of carpet in the gargantuan KMC exhibit, this year Dixon graduated to its own booth dominated by a couple of cool kits featuring the brand’s latest upgrades. The maple-shell Outlaw series now offers a 4-piece configuration available in the new Obsidian Black finish, which splits the difference between a satin and gloss lacquer look. And Dixon’s birch/mahogany-shell Demon series now comes in two striking Plasma finishes.
We found the owl in this laser-etched finished at DW
Regular NAMM goers expect to find new ideas about shell construction at the DW booth, and this year was no exception. After fully exploring the possibilities of horizontal, vertical, and cross-grain lamination, the company’s ever-inquisitive John Good landed upon a concept that can marry all these methods into one shell. The SSC (or Specialized Shell Configuration) enables you to customize the shell makeup in your kit in order to fine-tune the tonal relationships between each drum with remarkable precision. And when you introduce the sonic qualities of different wood species, well, heads spin. As long as we’re on the subject, DW also added a new selection of luscious veneers to its Exotic line, with the introduction of Quilted Redwood, Tropical Olive, Camphor Burl, and Vertical Zebra.
A wood-hoop gem christened the Gaai booth
We could have easily overlooked the new custom drum company Gaai, which shared a small booth with a soundware publisher. It would have been a shame if we had, since the few samples we saw were absolutely flawless. Drum maker Gaai Nakamura was born in Japan and began working at Pork Pie shortly after moving to the U.S. He offers two series: the traditional and classy g line and the splashier G line (yes, the company uses upper- and lower-case letters to define the two series) but it was hard to tear our eyes away from the orangey/yellow wood-hoop kit that lit up the booth.
Orange sparkles exploded at Gioco
Upon turning a corner in the thick of the drum sector, we ran across a surprisingly big booth featuring an impressive array of drums from first-time exhibitors Gioco. They may have been NAMM freshmen, but their story is familiar: After building kits for many top-tier drum brands, this Chinese company decided to venture into the U.S. market on its own. We spotted some sleek sparkle, fade, and racing-stripe painted finishes, as well as a selection of wraps. Could be a comer.
Gawkers (okay, we) ogled the gold inay on this Piano White lacquer USA Custom baby at Gretsch
The Gretsch booth buzzed with activity throughout the show. Expect to see new color options in the Catalina Ash, Catalina Club, and Catalina Maple series. We were momentarily mesmerized by the unique Mixed Sparkle lacquer now available in the Catalina Renown series, with its three sparkle flake sizes that are applied to the shells in a descending order — from large to small. For a neat little perk, Gretsch is now throwing a free 8" x 7" tom into its Catalina Ash shell pack. The company also launched the new Catalina Rock 4-piece shell pack, built around 100 percent mahogany shells with an exterior basswood ply finished in a UV gloss lacquer, which lists for $1,230. We also dug the new Catalina Birch kits, available in two 5-piece configurations and a number of wraps and lacquers, and matching bass drum hoops. But at the centerpiece of the Gretsch display were two drop-dead gorgeous USA Custom kits: a Piano White lacquer 4-piece with gold inlay and gold hardware (list price: $6,535), and a Piano Black 5-piece with silver inlay and chrome hardware ($7,865). We’re talking serious drool factor.
The ever-clever designers at Ludwig unveiled a trio of new kits in January, and each addresses a unique price point and player profile. The most wallet-friendly, the Element SE cherry/gum outfit, fuses these two woods into a dense shell to replicate a vintage dryness. The kit comes in three retro wraps that take you back to groovier times, with shell packs starting at $1,200. The all-new Keystone series sandwiches three maple plies between two 0.0625" outer plies of American red oak cut with a 45 degree edge that is cut further from the hoop and closer to the center of the head (sort of like a timpani) to enhance resonance. Naturally, the drums feature Ludwig’s classic Keystone lug and mounting bracket. Prices for a 4-piece kit range from $2,399–$2,769. Finally, Ludwig presented its latest additions to the Legacy Exotic line: vertical grain African black limba, Australian lacewood, and Amazonian sumauma. Each veneer wraps around a 3-ply combo — inner and outer plies of North American maple and an inner ply of poplar — held true by a solid maple reinforcement ring. Custom shell packs start at $4,999.
Mapex’s mighty Horizon kit
While many companies played it safe this year, Mapex wasn’t the least bit timid. The company’s 2010 showpiece was the limited edition Orion Mapa Burl outfit — a 6-piece shell pack made of seven thin plies of North American maple with an outer veneer of gorgeous mapa burl finished in a clear gloss. If you find its $5,349 list price a bit too dear, you might want to inquire into the company’s all-new Horizon series, which features basswood shells, newly designed lugs, mounts, badges, and bass drum claws, a full set of 500 series hardware, including a padded throne, and a setup video. A 5-piece Horizon set can be had for a list price of $929. But if you still want to shave off a couple hundred bucks, look into the new Voyager line, which comes with basswood shells, a full set of 330 hardware, a padded throne, and some cool features like low-mass lugs and Multi-Sustain cymbal felts that allow you to fine-tune the sustain of your favorite pies.
Reacting to last year’s economic trends, PDP lowered the price of its Platinum series by 16 percent, even while upgrading the finishes on its maple shells to include new bursts and fades. And to make it even easier for beginners to get into their first kit, PDP introduced the Mainstage, a 5-piece setup that comes with a full hardware and cymbal package — all for a rocking list price of $1,166.99. Look for Mainstage kits in Black Metallic and Bronze Metallic finishes with sexy black hardware.
Considering the hubbub about the new E-Pro electronic/acoustic kit dominating the Pearl booth (see page 70 for more info), it was easy to overlook the two new acoustic numbers tucked into a corner of the display. The Special Edition Vision VSX kit features birch shells with 6-ply mounted toms and 8-ply floor toms and bass drums wrapped in the deceptively realistic-looking Artisan II veneer, which employs Pearl’s exclusive Digital Grain Transfer technology (essentially a high-resolution photo of real wood grain). We also spotted Pearl’s Masters MCX drum set, the most affordable Masters ever, featuring a lush exotic Mapa Burl veneer over a 100 percent maple shell. Only 50 of these will be available in the U.S., so you’d better get ’em while the gettin’s good.
Quick tune-up at Rotek
In addition to earning the distinction of being one of the few booths temporarily shut down by the convention’s noise police, this year was also the first NAMM appearance for upstart drum maker Rotek, whose unique one-touch tuning system stopped quite a few NAMM attendees in their tracks. The concept couldn’t be simpler: Rotating the activator ring clockwise or counterclockwise tightens or loosens the head (kind of like a Roto Tom). And get this — the darned thing actually works.
Sonor tinkered around the edges on a couple of different drum set lines this year. Jazz drummers will want to check out the new 18" x 14" bass drum introduced into the Delite line, which is available with or without a tom mount. You can now order the same diminutive bass drum size in the S Classix line, as well as a new 12" x 8" tom, and a brand new Delmar wrap option: Black Glitter Glass.
Stagg caught everybody’s attention a few years back with its line of budget-priced, Western-style cymbals made in China. And last year the company stuck its toe into the water with a few new drum kit offerings. This year Stagg returns with six cute little Junior series student model kits, sized perfectly for kids. Available in 3- and 5-piece configurations, the Junior kits feature lindenwood shells, and are supplied with appropriate hardware and even miniscule cymbals.
Even though they said it couldn’t be done, Tama lowered the price of its Superstar line while upgrading its shells to 100 percent birch
No other drum company lowered prices on popular drum kit models as radically as Tama did at this year’s NAMM show. Look for dramatic reductions for Starclassic Bubinga, Starclassic Maple, Imperialstar, and B/B setups, which are now all being made at the company’s factory in China. The company not only lowered the price on the Superstar line, but also upgraded the shells with 100 percent birch (they were previously a birch/basswood mix). We call that a win-win.
A rainbow of new colors greeted us at this year’s Taye booth, starting with the sassy checkerboard Black And White finish now available in the RockPro line. While the new Turquoise Sparkle wrap on StudioBirch drums suggests soothing, rippling waves breaking on the beach, the new Orange Sparkle finish wrapping the ProX line’s birch/basswood shells can blind audiences at 40 paces. In addition, look for a new 14" x 7" tom option for the compact and infinitely portable GoKit.
Yamaha knows you want to rock, so the company introduced the Rock Tour series at this year’s show. Designed from the ground up, this new range is built around two shell types: A Matte finish model with a 9-ply big leaf mahogany shell and a Textured Ash finish that includes six plies of big leaf mahogany and two outer plies of ash. Rock Tour kits are available only as shell packs, with or without an optional matching snare drum.