In 2007 Tama changed the Starclassic Performer shell composition from 100 percent birch to a warmer-sounding blend of birch and bubinga, but found its remaining drum lines lacking any 100 percent birch drum sets. Many speculated that Tama would upgrade its Superstar shells to 100 percent birch. Instead, Tama went one better by introducing a completely new line with this popular shell composition, dubbed Starworks.
Maple is considered by many to be the best shell material for drums sets, since it boasts a nice blend of warmth and sustain. But I suspect much of its reputation has a bit to do with marketing. Don’t get me wrong, maple is great. But 20 years ago, Yamaha’s Recording Custom kits, popularized by a stable of top endorsers like Steve Gadd, made 100 percent birch kits very desirable among professional drummers. Birch may not reach quite as deeply as maple, bubinga, or walnut, but it does offer great attack and controlled decay, so your sound engineer may not have to immediately reach for his noise gate, which is one reason this material has become so popular in recording studios.STARWORKS BREAKDOWN
The kits come in just two configurations: a traditional two up/one down kit with a 22" x 18" bass drum, 10" and 12" mounted toms, a 16" floor tom, and a 5.5"-deep snare. The kit I received featured a one up/two down modern rock configuration with a 12" rack tom, 14" and 16" floor toms, and a deeper kick (22" x 20") and rock snare (14" x 6.5"). They are available as a shell-pack or with all the hardware. Each configuration is priced the same and will cost a little below or above a grand, depending on whether or not you want the hardware.FINISHES
The black lugs are newly designed and have a star shape stamped into them along with other small details that make me wonder if they were created by the same designers responsible for the Warlord hardware. Both share a similar medieval metal/goth sword-carrying vibe. Both the snare and bass drum have eight lugs per head, which will make head changes go a little quicker.
The bass drum spurs fold against the shell during transport and the tips feature retractable spikes for slippery flooring. The tom mount uses Tama’s Omni-ball design for precise positioning. The hoops have a triple-flange design more like Tama Imperialstar drums than Superstar and Starclassic lines, which feature die-cast hoops. The bass drum claws have no gaskets so you might need to touch up your hoops occasionally with a black marker if you change your heads very often.THE SOUND
The toms had a bright, cutting sound that I liked. Each tom offered ample attack, clearly defined pitches, and a pure tone. There was enough sustain to suit any style of music. Frankly, I thought the toms sounded great, just like the original Starclassic Performer toms. While maple may sustain longer, sound men often have to remove excessive hang time out of your toms anyway, so anything beyond the duration these offer isn’t useful.
The slightly larger drum sizes my kit came with allowed for deep tunings, but the sound was never muddy, always producing a high-quality tone. However, since these drums are marketed toward more aggressive drummers and louder styles of music, I’d suggest that Tama consider equipping the drums with two-ply heads more suitable to the heavy hitters. The additional low-end fullness and durability two-ply heads offer would appeal to that market more. The single-ply heads supplied with the kit sounded great, but younger drummers with less tuning skills often find two-ply heads easier to tune and a bit more forgiving of uneven tensioning. They often prefer the sound, too, since they sound closer to the toms they hear on recordings.
The bass drum comes outfitted with a black logo head featuring a bold graphic of a star with the Starworks and Tama’s brand name emblazoned on it. The bass drum heads each feature an internal muffling ring around the circumference of each head. The logo head is not ported. The sound offered was a powerful and deep thud without excessive boom, just as I’d expect from a 22" x 20" drum. A drum that deep may not be compact-car or small-stage friendly, so the other configuration may work better for some.THE SNARE
I usually like the sound of birch snares since they tend to be brighter and crisper than maple drums. It seems that maple is great for old-school vintage tones but birch is closer to the sonic line that separates the tonal differences between wood and metal snares. I think birch snares are often better for aggressive styles of music as well. This drum was a good example of this. It was surprisingly crisp and sensitive considering its 6.5" depth. When I cranked the wires tightly, it could articulate something like a marching snare can, which is great for drummers who have fast hands.FINAL THOUGHT
SHELLS 100-percent premium birch drum shells with 7-ply 7mm bass drum shells and 6-ply 6mm tom and snare shells.
CONFIGURATION A. (Reviewed) 12" x 9" tom, 14" x 12" and 16" x 14" floor toms, 22" x 20" bass drum, and a 14" x 6.5" matching wood snare drum.
B. 10" x 8" and 12" x 9" toms, 16" x 14" floor tom, 22" x 18" bass drum, and a 14" x 5.5" matching wood snare drum.
FINISH Yellow Chaos (Reviewed), Silver Black Chaos, Red Chaos, and Satin Cherry Burst
FEATURES New suspended tom mount; new lug design; Omni-ball tom holder: black shell hardware and tom mounts; unique finishes; graphic bass drum head.
LIST PRICE Shell pack $1,462.99, with hardware $1,868.99.
CONTACT Tama Drums, tama.com, 800-669-4226