In the 1970s a company called Milestone Drums appeared on the scene with a mission to make a better-sounding fiberglass drum than any currently on the market. A decade later, a man named Paul Mason, having apparently decided Milestone had succeeded in its quest, purchased the company and renamed it Tempus Drums. Mason set about improving the quality of the hardware, though he wisely opted to leave the shell design alone.
While Tempus has fought an uphill battle at times trying to convince drummers to choose a non-wood drum set, the company has established a comfy niche and a rather devoted fan base sold on the sound, look, consistency, and virtually indestructible nature of its drums. One stat many other drum makers are sure to envy is that Tempus saw a 15-percent rise in sales last year, proving that more drummers are beginning to come around to fiberglass.
Fiberglass is not to be confused, however, with another manmade drum shell material: clear acrylic. Fiberglass is not transparent and has a woven texture that can be seen on the inside of the shell. Like acrylic, their finish is part of the shell itself, not simply applied to its outer surface. But one big advantage fiberglass shells have over most acrylics is that they are very thin, making them noticeably lightweight and easy to carry. They also seem to have the capacity to get a smidge louder than comparably sized wood drums. However, for those who like what Tempus is doing but just can’t get down with fiberglass, the company also offers carbon fiber kits.
Due to a shipping problem, the snare for the kit didn’t arrive in time, so a carbon/Kevlar came in its place right at the end of the review period. What I did receive right off the bat was a kit comprised of 10" x 7", 12" x 8", and 14" x 14" toms, and a 20" x 16" bass drum. Tempus also offers a variety of in-between sizes that are different than those shown on the web site, like the 7"-deep small tom on this review kit. The shells of the fiberglass drums are very thin, about 3/16" thick, and have rounded, double 45-degree bearing edges. I tend to favor thin shells since they enhance a drum’s low end. Plus, lightweight drums are a blessing on a difficult load-in, a point these drums proved yet again.
The mounted toms employ Gary Gauger’s superb aluminum RIMS mounts suspension system. Yamaha’s classic TH-945 tom mount was also supplied with the kit, which, as you might know, conveniently features an extra hole that can be used to attach a cymbal arm, thus saving floor space and eliminating the weight of another full stand. The floor tom legs have air pocket feet, which are designed to enhance the drum’s sustain. The drums all feature triple-flanged hoops and Tempus’ elongated hexagonal lug casings. The bass drum spurs worked great, and feature retractable spikes for carpeted surfaces.
There’s a definite seam where the shells were joined, but it’s hidden beneath two lugs so it’s not very noticeable. The drums have Tempus’ tasteful badge and nice die-cast grommets for the air-vent holes. One small negative is that the textured inside of the bass drum hoop seems to act as a bit of a dust magnet. I’d be tempted to spray paint the interior of the bass drum hoops a glossy black since the dust that had accumulated on the flat black finish made the hoops look charcoal gray.
The drums I received had a Copper Sparkle finish that really popped under stage lighting. It had a nice depth to it, and gave the outer surface of the shells a nicely smooth, glossy appearance. If I didn’t know better, I’d have assumed it was a nice lacquer finish on a wood shell. At points the finish had the visual impact of a glass glitter finish. I prefer the sparkle finishes since the solid color choices on a fiberglass shell don’t have quite the depth of a lacquer-on-wood finish. However, there’s no noticeable difference with Tempus’ sparkle finishes. The Copper Sparkle had a slightly chameleon-like quality under stage lighting. My girlfriend teased me a little because they appeared pink with one combination of par cans shining on them. Unlike any other kit I’ve ever reviewed, these drums weren’t new. They’d been used on tour and so they arrived with a few minor blemishes. But the vibrant sparkle finish helped make the road wear hard to spot.