My two favorite drummers are Neil Peart and Brian “Brain” Mantia. What do those drummers have in common? Absolutely nothing. Their playing styles and philosophies regarding drumming are polar opposites. Well… I say they have nothing in common – there is one thing: They play DW drums. Ever since the days when I was a huge Primus fan, and Brain was my favorite drummer, I have wanted a set of DW drums. I have always heard very good things about them. I’ve read about their attention to detail. I’ve heard the robust tones they create in the music of my drum heroes. Yet, one trip to Musicians Friend to check the prices on a set of DWs has, in the past, put them far out of reach.
Back then, I would never buy anything used, but now buying used things is a way of life for me. I can have the quality items I want without spending a fortune. So, this time, when the “I want new drums” bug bit, it wasn’t Musician’s Friend or Sweetwater I turned to, but rather eBay and Craig’s List. I’ve been playing for close to 27 years. It’s time for me to have a grown-up drum kit. I would settle for nothing less than the DW collector’s series, and if I was going to get one, it would have to be used. To my dismay, DW Collector’s Series drums, even used ones, are outrageously expensive. Before the venom of the “I want new drums” bug left my system, I finally happened upon it – a DW kit of the right size, a color and finish I could live with (my only requirement was that it had to be sparkly), a very reasonable price, and local pickup within driving distance to me.
After ruminating on it for a day, I finally pulled the trigger, and bought the finest set of drums I have ever played – A 2008-2009 5 Piece DW Collector’s Series shell kit in super tangerine glass. After purchasing it, I noticed the seller had a nice snare drum listed. I went ahead and purchased that too since I would likely be selling my old snare. So, along with my sparkly orange bass and toms, I got a DW Collector’s Series solid wood, steam bent, single ply snare drum. Here’s a picture. I had to doctor up the picture because the lighting in my bedroom where the drums are set up is terrible. This picture doesn’t do it justice.
Initial Impressions – Build Quality
When I met up with the seller (who was driving the exact same make/model/color vehicle as me) and began loading the drums into my vehicle, upon picking up the first drum, I was immediately struck by the quality of these drums. Though shorter than my old drums, these are noticeably heavier. Nowhere on the shells was the wrap separating or bubbling up – it is almost like the wrap is another ply of wood. The mounts are attached to free -floating brackets in which the lugs sit, unlike many other drums on which the mounts are screwed to the shells directly. The hardware is all sturdy and well made. The clamps on the mounts are spring loaded so when I unscrew them, they open up to accept the tom arm. I don’t have to man-up on any of the tension rods or wing nuts to loosen or tighten them. Everything about these drums just feels solid.
Inside of each drum is printed a musical note that shows what DW calls the “shell note”. This is the note the shell produces if you tap on it. In their instructional video on how to tune their drums, DW says it’s best to try to tune the heads to this shell note.
When handing me the snare drum, the seller asked, “have you ever held a singly-ply snare?”. I told him I hadn’t. When he handed it to me, I could tell this was a quality instrument. Again, like the other drums, it was heavy. Actually, it was very heavy. Usually drums are made out of thin layers of wood that are glued together. This drum is made from a single, thick piece of wood that is bent into the shape of a drum using steam. The only thing I could say was, “That is beautiful…”
For the past 20 years, I’ve played the same kit, a mid-90s Tama Rockstar. It has these old-school, very tall toms. I’ve always found them very difficult to position in a way that perfectly suits me. The toms could never go over the bass drum in a good position that was comfortable to me – I like the drums to have less of an angle to them, but the height of the toms necessitated turning them at weird angles to be playable. In recent years, I’ve noticed that toms have shrunk, or players have begun to favor shorter toms. Well, the toms on my new DWs are really, really short. I can now position my drums at the perfect angle, in exactly the right spot. My only concern when I saw them on eBay was that perhaps the drums were too short. I was worried that they wouldn’t sound fat and resonant like I wanted. As it turns out, my worries were unwarranted.
Despite being on the short side physically, these drums sound massive. The higher toms sing, with an almost bell-like tone. The two floor toms are not just heard, but felt. The kick, despite being only 20 inches, is chest-thumping deep. As the drummer behind the kit, I feel almost like an audience member listening to a set of drums through a big sound system with sub-woofers. To me, drums usually sound harsh in person. These drums sound almost like a good recording. DW drums are known for their long sustains and deep resonance. I can tell you, that reputation is firmly based in reality. Even with used two-ply heads, the toms continue to sing long after being struck. I can’t wait to get some coated ambassadors on them! I only wish I had some really nice cymbals to complement the jaw-dropping sound that these drums make.
As I sat behind my drums, talking to my wife who sat across the room, she said something to the effect of, “so I guess you’re just going to sit there all day?..” Or maybe it was something about not paying attention (I wouldn’t know, I was not paying attention). I told her, “I’m kinda awe-struck right now… This is the nicest, best sounding musical instrument I’ve ever played, much less owned…” I can’t believe I finally have my own set of DWs. I know other manufacturers make high quality drums, but I can’t imagine they come close to DW. Color me super impressed!