Originally founded as a drum school by Don Lombardi in 1972, the Drum Workshop brand has grown to become one of the best recognised in the drumming world today.
Now playing host to a plethora of product ranges including the Performance Series, Design Series, Classics Series and Jazz series, it's the fabled Collector's Series that still holds the title as DW's flagship line.
The Collector's kits are made only to order in the USA workshop in Oxnard, California. Starting out with all-maple shells, the line has expanded over the years to include all-birch, all-cherry and maple/mahogany shells.
With the exception of the limited edition Romanian Oak (part of the Timeless Timber range), the Pure Oak will be the first all-oak shells that DW has produced. We're eager to take a closer look...
As with all Collector's Series drums, kits can be customised right the way from shell configurations through to finishes and hardware. It is even possible to choose the specific grain orientation of every veneer within each drum.
This Specialised Shell Configuration (SSC) can be chosen from DW's VLT, HVLT, X-Shell and VLX technologies. As standard, each Pure Oak shell is configured using HVLT (Horizontal/ Vertical Low Timbre).
This method uses a mixture of horizontal and vertical woodgrain to create a unique tonality in the shell. Specifically, HVLT employs a horizontal grain on the outer shell while the majority of plies (including the inner layer) are of a vertical orientation.
This is designed to "offer slightly more low to mid-range frequencies". HVLT can also be found as standard on Collector's Series Cherry and Design Series drums. The Pure Oak toms (8"-13") use seven plies while floor toms (14"-18") and all bass drums are eight-ply. Snare drums though are a monster 11-ply.
No reinforcement hoops are used on any of the shells due to their thickness and density. The veneers used in the HVLT oak shells are a slightly thicker 1/32" as opposed to 1/36", which is DW standard.
The kit we have received for review comprises 10"x8" and 12"x9" rack toms, 14"x12" and 16"x14" floor toms, 22"x18" kick and 14"x61⁄2" snare drum.
To further explore the theme of DW's custom options, it is worth mentioning at this point that all Collector's Series kits are available in five different hardware options: chrome, nickel, gold, satin chrome and black nickel.
This applies to hoops, lugs, bass drum spurs, tom mounts, floor tom legs and snare throw-off/butt-plate. The shell finish is of course optional also, although our review kit has come in the rather special 'Hard Satin' which shows off the stunning natural oak woodgrain admirably.
The kit also features a wealth of standard DW features including Suspension Tom Mounts (STM), True-Pitch 50 tension rods, True Hoops, DW signature Turret Lugs, Remo USA heads and resonant floor tom legs.
"The kit arrived remarkably well-tuned considering its voyage across the pond. With the six-piece kit set up in the studio, barely a tweak is needed to get the shells singing in perfect harmony."
The snare is also supplied with 20-strand TrueTone snare wires along with the new Mag Throw-off and 3P butt-plate. The bass drum is completed with natural oak hoops to match the finish of the kit seamlessly.
New and noteworthy for this review kit are the AA smooth white heads. Developed by John Good and Scott Donnell, these are the first double-ply stock heads to be offered by DW. Designed to complement its drums whilst being "almost indestructible", they are intended also to increase low-end response.
Also worth a mention in the head department is the vented resonant head on the bass drum. The gloss-black branded head features six half-inch holes around the edge to allow it to breathe.
John Good claims that these Micro-vents can replace the need for a sound port and will give the drum more low-end resonance. This makes sense, although in our experience, heads of this nature do tend to dry the sound slightly.
The striking natural oak woodgrain of the kit exhibits a lighter, more pale colour than one may expect from oak – the horizontal outer-grain swirls endlessly and erratically around the shell of each drum, protected by its Hard Satin finish. This is complemented excellently by the nickel hardware.
Be aware though, any hardware choice except for the standard chrome will come with an extra 10 percent on the asking price of each drum.
Each Pure Oak shell, decorated with the typically chunky DW lugs and counter hoops, is noticeably weighty, particularly the snare. For some, this will give assurance that the drums are well made and sturdy; others will already be dreading the thought of lugging them up and down flights of stairs night after night. Either way, it is safe to expect thick oak shells to be on the heavy side.
The kit arrived remarkably well-tuned considering its voyage across the pond. With the six-piece kit set up in the studio, barely a tweak is needed to get the shells singing in perfect harmony.
"The kit has an explosive attack and a generous low-end."
DW's Timbre Matching process has ensured that a natural descent in pitch occurs from the highly-tuned snare, down evenly through the toms, finishing with a fierce punch from the bass drum.
The hefty snare is balanced and musical yet has the ability to create an almighty roar when coaxed. Rim-shots are a force to be reckoned with thanks to the beefy True Hoops and dense 11-ply shell.
The 3P butt-plate allows extremely quick and pronounced tonal changes, which can come in handy mid-tune or set. Super-tight funk tones are instantly interchangeable for loose New-Orleans style notes at the flick of a switch.
Despite being initially dubious of the new AA Smooth white heads (which look
like the cheap plastic heads you might find on a beginner's kit), after some adjustmentwe manage to shake our pre-conceptions and eventually warm to them.
There is no disputing that these heads work wonders for the Pure Oak, especially when considering the two thunderous floor toms. The heads are also extremely rugged in practice and show little sign of wear after enduring an afternoon's shedding.
Dynamically, they are surprisingly sensitive and help to provide an explosive attack to the oak shells, including the 22" bass drum. Still, it would be interesting to hear the kit with some regular clear or coated double-ply heads for reference.
As a whole, the kit has an explosive attack and a generous low-end. The dynamic range is excellent and the tuning range is reasonable. As a result, the Pure Oak promises to be a reasonably versatile set of drums but would definitely be right at home in a rock setting.