Yamaha's DTXtreme III is a milestone in electronic kit making, DW's X Shell technology is a giant leap for drumming kind and Tama's new small, shallow-tom Superstar configuration will, almost certainly, be copied by every other manufacturer in 2009.
After hours of scratching, clawing and biting, MusicRadar and the experts at Rhythm magazine have whittled down the filler to bring you the finest drumming gear of 2008. So here we go, 'head' first…
Evans G-Plus coated drumheads
G-Plus are a clear cut above most heads on the market, let alone 2008's offerings. Warm, rich and durable, these skins cut through live situations like a knife while providing an almost pre-EQ'd quality for the studio. They're a revelation, seriously…
Tama Superstar Custom Hyperdrive Kit
Small, shallow toms are nothing new, but ditching the wide boys in a 'bigger-is-better market' is a brave move from Tama. It's also one which pays off – sound wise - immeasurably. They're another example of how Chinese manufacturing has progressed: the finishing (of the bearing edges in particular) is excellent. Pearl's overhauled Vision line deserves a mention here, too. We caught a glimpse at NAMM but the next issue of Rhythm magazine (on sale 22 December) has the full glowing review.
DW Collector's Series X Shell kit
So what the hell is X Shell technology? That's a good question, and one answered exceedingly well in this review. Essentially, though, it revolves around the cross-laminating of the drum's ply. DW has found a way to lay them vertically instead of diagonally for a lower tone or, distinctly Bonhamesque-sounding drum. Does it justify the hype? More than so, hence the inclusion here. It's an inspired idea.
Roland's TD-9K looked a strong contender for this year's top electronic set-up but it was pipped to the post by Yamaha's DTXtreme III on almost every level. Its brain is bigger (and cleverer), its pads and cymbals feel fantastic and the rack system is easy to use and ready for the bumpiest of roads. A well-deserved ekit of the year award for Yamaha…
Sabian APX Cymbals
The first of our double-whammy of top cymbal picks is Sabian's APX Series. And "wham" is an appropriate word to use here. These are the loudest cymbals we've heard in a long time. Seriously, they break sound barriers. But that's not enough to garner a 'best of' award: they offer a mix of assertiveness, trashiness and speed while complimenting most rock set-ups with ease.Just remember the ear protection…
Dream Bliss Cymbals
It's been a bumper year for Dream with its Contact range and – our favourites – the Bliss collection making a lasting impression on the cymbal market. Manufactured in China but not mass produced, these versatile discs are full of character and can proudly stand up against any other brand. Judge with your ears and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Worldmax Snare Drums
Ok, so this year's cream of the metal snare crop was actually Craviotto's Diamond Series. Gorgeous drums which blew us away in every department. Unfortunately, they cost £1800 a pop so, unless you're Chad Smith (who funnily enough owns the first Craviotto Diamond ever made) they're unobtainable. Instead, try Worldmax's latest and massively-improved collection of snares: responsive, powerful and - above all - affordable. Highwood's Hammer models are a worthy runner-up, too.
Yamaha Wooden Snares
The only real problem we have with Yamaha's latest collection of oak and maple units is the amount of choice. There's too much! Into metal? Check out the Loud Series. Jazz? Try the Vintage – if you know what you want, there's something here for you. Reasonably priced, flawlessly constructed and impeccably stylish…
Remo key-tuned djembe
As far as percussion gear goes (or more specifically djembes) Remo's key-tuned models slay their competition with gusto. Second to none playability, an array of beautiful sounds and a price tag you'll be hard-pushed to beat. Meinl also scored highly this year for its innovative new range of hand percussion. The exceedingly nice UFO shakers of which are pictured right…
Hilarious 'dumb drummer' jokes aside, drum software has come a long way in recent years and Toontrack's Superior 2.0 is a shining example of a powerful yet easy to use package. The fact that - for the price of a low-end snare drum - you can enjoy the sound of a high-end, expertly tuned kit recorded in a great room using expensive studio equipment, almost makes us wonder why we bother with the real thing. Almost.