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Buyers' guide: professional drum kits
When you finally get your professional kit, you should be confident that you're getting the best shells and hardware that your company of choice is able to offer.
The shells will be premium-grade timber, which allows them to be thinner for better resonance while retaining their strength and roundness. They will most often be North American or Canadian rock maple, or Scandinavian birch.
"Manufacturers usually offer standard shell packs of the most common sizes at reduced prices, but you should also be able to make up the exact kit you want, without compromise"
Edges, shells and heads
There's often the choice of straight-sided (unsupported), or supported shells with internal reinforcing rings. The bearing edges should be perfectly level and cut with extreme care. Drums will most definitely be fitted with professional standard heads.
There should be a good range of colours, finishes (lacquers, waxes, quality wraps) and shell sizes. Manufacturers usually offer standard shell packs of the most common sizes at reduced prices, but you should also be able to make up the exact kit you want, without compromise, from any shell size on offer.
The company will encourage you to buy its top range of hardware, but there's no obligation – you may prefer the pedals of a different company, want lighter stands or prefer a rack. You will also, of course, have to choose cymbals separately to accompany your kit. Here are our top five picks to get you started...
5 professional kits from £1772
5. Pearl Masters Custom MCX
Exemplifying Pearl's famed attention to detail, this kit looks terrific. Despite limited size options and the relatively thick shells, a bright sound with plenty of maple clout – you'd be pushed to find a better presented, off-the-shelf, mass-produced pro kit.
Read the full review of Pearl's Masters Custom MCK Kit
4. Pearl Masters Premium Birch
Half-a-dozen variations encompassing maple, birch and African mahogany shells. Shells are thin four-ply with reinforcement, or six-ply straight-sided. Then there's the 31-step lacquering process and the 30-odd finishes.
Premier's Series is its best kit ever. Choose Traditional (supported) or Classic (straight-sided) shells in maple or birch, or the Gen-X maplebirch sandwich. All shells are 3mm undersized for better head clearance and resonance. Beautiful finishes too.
Read the full review of Premier's Classic Kit
Next page: Yamaha Oak X Kit and our top pick
2. Yamaha Oak X Kit
Yamaha has reacted to trends and produced a bang-up-to-the-minute kit on a small and relatively low-risk scale in the shape of the Oak X. The combination of the unique shell material and radical sizing makes for a contemporary-looking, modern sounding and highly-desirable kit.
Read the full review of Yamaha's Oak X Kit
1. Tama Starclassic
Obsessively designed for maximum shell vibration, the Starclassic has wafer thin shells (just 5mm six-ply toms) and the badge is a stencil, not some heavy lump of metal. Even the air holes are maple, not metal. Then there's a stupendous range of shell options encompassing no less than five different depths. Now available in Birch/Bubinga finish.
Read the full review of Tama's Starclassic Performer kit
Liked this? Then try:
Buyers' guide: semi-pro drum kits
Cheap Trick's Bun E Carlos's dos and don'ts for drummers
17 more outrageous drum kits from the internet
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