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Buyers' guide: custom designer drum kits

5 best bespoke sets over £2500

Where to go when you're bored with your production line pro kit? Previously you had to find a small, bespoke company who crafted by hand. Now the big manufacturers have steamed in with on-line configurators and a million options.

While the woods used for pro kits are limited to a handful, now you can pick from a dozen exotic species to personalise the finish. The temptation is to show off the exquisitely figured grain like antique furniture, but you could alternatively opt for a startlingly tasteless, personalised, elaborate hotrod/surfing-style graphic - or anything else you can think of.

"Whatever odd sizes you've always craved, however mad the finish on shells or hardware, it's all possible"

Your options are unlimited. Whatever odd sizes you've always craved, however mad the finish on shells or hardware, it's all possible.

Money to burn

By the time you have this sort of money you should have an accurate idea of the sound you're looking for. But the manufacturer should also be able to guide you in choosing the right shell materials, composition and construction to get the particular nuances of timbre you've hitherto been denied.

Too much choice can be confusing. The only downside is that you're venturing into the unknown and you could spend a fortune designing a dud. Still, it's your dud, and it's unique.

5 custom designer kits over £2500

5. Spaun Custom Series

StarsSpaun custom

Pimp my drums! One of several rising American custom workshops, Spaun's drums - in anything from patterned Acrylics to custom graphics – are always eye-catchers, a touch of bling after so many kits reminiscent of antique furniture. Spaun drums look fantastic and, more importantly, they sound fantastic.
Read the full review of Spaun's Edgevent Kit

4. Ayotte Custom/Pro

StarsAyotte custom

Canadian Ray Ayotte has made beautiful drums since 1982. The emphasis is on the vintage look, with nine categories of wooden hoops alone and distinctive tune-lock lugs. With up to 160 man-hours spent finishing a single kit, they're tasteful and individual. But you need a drum key for everything.
Read the full review of Ayotte's Custom kit

Next page: Sonor SQ2, Pearl Masterworks and our top pick

3. Sonor SQ2

StarsSonor sq2

Sonor really kicked the whole modern designer trend off back in the 1980s. The SQ2 is the culmination, with the online configurator encouraging you to spend hours designing your dream kit. This is the stereotype of German design and engineering brilliance incarnate. The excessive hardware might give you a hernia, but it always looks fab.
Read the full review of Sonor's SQ2 kit

2. Pearl Masterworks

StarsPearl masterworks

Pearl's everyman image takes a bashing! Exclusive Masterworks lets you completely customise your kit with a different blend of maple, birch and African mahogany and four thickness options for each shell. Alternatively there's a maple carbon fibre mix, then you get the option of black chrome or gold plate, and so on...
Read the full review of Pearl's Masters Custom MCX kit

1. DW Collector's Series

StarsDW collector's series

DW was the big success story of the American drum industry after the huge downturn of the '70/'80s. The company boasted timbre-matched shells with sumptuous finishes, supreme attention to detail and total awareness of what drummers need: that easy-to-tune, rich maple sound. All these elements combined to see DW's deserved reputation rocket.
Read the full review of DW's Collector's Series X Shell kit

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