It wasn’t long ago that Vic Firth released the first wave of its Extreme series drum sticks. After receiving an increasing number of requests for longer versions of some of their most popular models, the venerable Boston-based builder tacked an extra 0.5" onto their American Classic 5A and 5B sticks, and unleashed them on the market as the inaugural inductees into their Extreme line.
Now, the good folks at Vic Firth are applying the X to three more members of their already expansive catalog with the introduction of the X8D, X55A, and X55B. Pretty simple, right? Let’s break it down.
Every member of the Extreme series features the same dimensions as their X-less counterparts (with one exception – we’ll get back to that), but with an additional 0.5" of length. And that’s it.
So, why does a cumulative 3" of hickory warrant an entire product spotlight in the most important print publication on shelves today (true fact)? Well, because that extra reach might have a big impact on your playing.
After reading the descriptions of each new model, I was curious about how much difference this minor extension would really make. But, as soon as I pulled the sticks out of the package, I was immediately struck by how much longer they actually felt. Even now, as I sit here writing this review with one hand and twirling an X8D with the other, the sticks still feel ultra-long despite the fact that I’ve been playing them for weeks.
Now, that might sound like a bit of a gripe, but it’s actually just my way of trying to convey how different these sticks feel after years and years of playing models that were 16" or less. We’ll get to how that translated to the drum set in just a second, but first, let’s take closer look at each model in particular.
Among the three new X series sticks are two models designed to mirror the specs of some of Vic Firth’s most popular pairs. The smallest of the bunch, the X8D, measures 16.5" x 0.54", and features the same tear drop tip and gentle taper as Vic’s Classic 7A. The stick’s even balance and slim feel in hand make it very comfortable for dynamic play that doesn’t require a ton of extra volume.
The X55A is a little larger, splitting the difference between the company’s 5A and 5B drumsticks. At 16.5" x 0.58", the stick is certainly substantial enough to pull some extra punch out of your toms, but not so big that it makes playing quietly difficult. The relatively slow taper keeps the X55A from being to front-end heavy, and allows for a very nimble feel that betrays its exaggerated mass.
Obvious statement alert: The tips on the X55A are just great. I’m assuming that’s obvious because they share the same tip as the American Classic 5A, one of the highest-selling drum stick models in the world. Truthfully, I’d never spent a lot of time with the Firth 5A, and I’m a little embarrassed about that now.
In case any of you are in the same boat, the bead on these sticks is a tight tear drop that can handle just about anything. They’re broad enough to provide plenty of dark cymbal clarity at all volumes, and long enough to makes toms and snares speak with full yet focused tones. Including all this is probably like telling Natalie Portman she’s pretty (it’s been said), but it still feels worth mentioning.
Unlike its Extreme siblings, the X55B has no un-Xed counterpart in the Vic Firth lineup. That said, it does feature the same tip, taper, and handle as Vic’s 5B – just in a (starting to feel like a broken record here) slightly larger package. This whopper of a whip comes in at 16.5" x 0.61". It’s not quite a baseball bat, but a big boy nonetheless.
Almost as large as a traditional 2B, I expected these sticks to send my cymbals screaming for the hills. To my surprise, they actually proved to be quite capable of finesse. With a long taper similar to the X55A, they felt very evenly balanced. Additionally, the only slightly bulkier bead kept my entire kit singing, but not so much so that anything sounded out of control. I’d feel just as comfortable with the X55Bs at a low-volume house gig as I would playing with a metal band.
So, now that we’ve shined the spotlight on each stick in particular, let’s look at the big picture: the impact of that extra half inch. Well, for me it was eye opening. Because I usually grip drum sticks fairly far back, the X series actually had me choking up a bit to find the fulcrum my hand was used to. It felt weird at first, but I quickly got over it.
The extra reach out front made me feel like I had to put less work into playing strokes, and the extended rear end seemed to increase the rebound after every note. Speedy figures and Moeller strokes felt more natural from day one, and my playing just seemed more fluid on the whole.
It might not seem like much of a change, but the extra 0.5" added to each of the new models in Vic Firth’s X series really made a world of difference. Before I tried these elongated alternatives, I didn’t even know that I was uncomfortable with my current stick size. Now? Call me a convert.
Features Premium hickory drum sticks pitch paired and computer matched straightness and balance. All Extreme series sticks measure 16.5" long.
Model & List Price