Yamaha Absolute Birch Custom Nouveau Reviewed!

Yamaha Absolute Birch Custom Drums

What’s Nouveau?

Yamaha’s Absolute Custom Series drums are made from maple, birch, or beech and have been designed to allow drummers to mix and match shells to create drum sets featuring the sound characteristics they desire in a matching finish. This is a great idea. Maple is known for its even frequency distribution and long sustain, while birch is known for a good attack with an enhanced low end with shorter sustain and was preferred by recording drummers for years. Beech is sonically in the middle of these two woods. By simply choosing the shell material you want for each drum you can create a unique, customized kit without the delivery time more commonly associated with large mammal gestation.

While these drums have been available for a few years Yamaha has just upgraded the Absolute Custom line offering a plethora of new finishes and has created an entirely new version of the line named the Absolute Nouveau (that’s French for “new”). It’s named after the Nouveau Lug featured on these drums. You may be thinking, “New lug? Ho hum.” Wrong! This is a unique and completely revolutionary lug. The idea for this lug came about when Yamaha tried to design a lug that made minimal contact with the shell while also making head changes easier. How’d they do this? Nouveau lugs attach at the shell’s nodal point, which is its point of least vibration. This minimizes the resonance dampening effect of hardware attached to the shell. To make head replacements easier, Yamaha has done something very innovative. Loosening the Nouveau lugs’ tension rods just halfway allows the entire lug to pop off the shell, speeding head changes while minimizing the chances of losing a tuning screw or a washer. This means the rim and lug, screws and washer all remain attached to each other when they’re removed.

Because it’s removable, this reminded me slightly of the lug found on Ayotte drums. However, the Yamaha Nouveau lug makes no direct contact with the drum shell and floats, hanging off its mounting bolt without impeding the shell’s resonance. Brilliant! It’s also much more attractive than the rather pedestrian Ayotte design.

How useful is a removable lug? The new lug design proved its value before I even got the kit home. Yamaha sent a 24" x 18" bass drum in a case, which wouldn’t fit in the back seat of my car. I took the drum out of the case and still no luck. I put the passenger seat all the way back and the drum almost fit through the passenger door. By turning the bass drum tuning bolts three or four times I was able to slip a couple of lugs and claws off the posts that held them and was finally able to squeeze the drum into my car. Once in the car, replacing the lugs to the posts was accomplished just as easily. These drums are also available with the Absolute lugs featured on earlier models of these drums, but thank Zeus this drum didn’t have them.

Up Close

I received a six-piece Birch Absolute Custom kit in a spectacular Blue Sparkle for review. This kit came with suspended Tom Toms in what Yamaha calls “universal sizes” of 10" x 8", 12" x 9", 15" x 14", and 18" x 16", and a 14" x 7" matching wood snare drum with a 24" x 18" bass drum. The bass drum features a 7-ply 7mm thick all-birch shell with no reinforcing rings and matching Blue Sparkle wood bass drum hoops. The snare and toms have 6-ply 6mm thick shells also without reinforcing rings. The Absolute Custom kits have always featured thinner shells than their other drum lines, sacrificing a touch of projection for increased tone and warmth. All of the toms feature Yamaha YESS mounts to increase sustain.

The first thing I noticed was that the finish of the drums was perfectly done and really caught my eye. Yamaha has never been known for an extensive selection of finish choices but I’m glad to report they’ve recently taken great strides to change that reputation. The finishes available include a selection of 33 custom colors and 12 “core” colors. The core colors include Cherry Wood, Sea Blue, Solid Black, Silver Sparkle, Black Sparkle, White Marine Pearl, Vintage Natural, Honey Yellow, White Mica, Red Pearl Natural, and Vintage Black.

The drums now also feature aluminum die-cast hoops on the snare and toms, which are designed to increase sustain while giving more reliable tuning. There are new die-cast claw hooks on the bass drum with protective rubber gaskets to prevent marring the hoops. The bearing edges were smooth and appeared to be cut to a standard 45-degree angle. I like the look of these new removable lugs too. They are very stylish and, as previously mentioned, extremely functional. All vent holes are drilled at the nodal points of the shells as well.

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