Ludwig's Accent range has occupied the esteemed company's upper-budget bracket since around 1996 when it replaced the old Rocker series. Production moved from Taiwan to China in 2004/2005, which was when the CS label was added. (Just don't ask what CS stands for.) All the while Ludwig has been upping the quality and there are now several Accent levels.
Starting at the bottom, there's the Accent Combo, then the Accent CS, Accent CS Custom (with satin finish), and finally the Accent CS Custom Elite. This was in high-gloss lacquer until the latest addition, reviewed here, which has gone all glittery.
It's almost indistinguishable from a pro kit and this is in no small part due to the absolutely gorgeous finish. That's no fake wrap you're feasting your eyes on right now, that's a pucker gloss paint job infused with flecks of metal, a gloriously deep and shiny two-tone glitter known as Blue Ice.
If blue's not your colour, you can actually pick from a generous choice of finish options for this price level: Blue Ice Glitter, Cherry Burst Glitter, Silver Glitter, and Glitter Fades in Amber, Blue, Cherry, Green and Purple.
Both the Accent CS Custom and Custom Elite ranges have eight-ply, 8mm birch shells. It seems that gone are the days when upper budget shells were made from vague mixes of mediocre, semi hardwoods. Today 100 percent birch is the thing. And, in fact, a 100 percent natural maple version will soon be available at a slightly higher price.
The straight-sided shells look excellent, the natural pale insides are smooth and lightly grained, the bearing edges flat and finished with care.
Small classic birch
The next big plus for the Accent is that instead of the previous curvy lug it now has a proper Ludwig one. Known to Ludwig fans as the 'small Classic' lug, this bit of art deco history says yes, now I own a real Ludwig. Not that the previous lugs were unsightly, far from it, it's just they looked like Gretsch lugs (oh, the irony).
In fact, the double- ended lugs on the previous snare drum could easily have been Gretsch lugs.
There are four basic set ups on offer: Power (12"x10", 13"x11", 16"x16", 22"x18"), Fusion (10"x8", 12"x8", 14"x14", 22"x18"), Fusion Plus (10"x8", 12"x8", 16"x16", 22"x18") and Jazz (10"x8", 12"x8", 14"x14", 20"x16"). Each comes with a 14"x5" matching wood snare drum (or 14"x6½" with the Power set), and all kits are the same price.
If you want to go mad you can order add-ons; 8"-14" mounted toms, 14"-18" floor toms and 20"-24" bass drums are all available. Our review kit is the Fusion outfit. The two small toms are mounted via Ludwig's own isolation brackets. Made from pressed steel, they're not quite as slender as top pro mounts, but they do the job well enough.
All three toms on the review kit have six lugs. Ludwig should upgrade. But it's worth mentioning that you do get eight lugs if you opt for a 16" tom. Toms are all fitted with clear Remo heads (made under licence in China from proper Mylar film) and the difference this makes is important - that Remo sound is so recognisable and dependable.
With their shallow classic sizes, the Fusion toms pack a real punch. They tune up easily for a controlled birch attacking sound with impressive clarity, tone and penetration.
The bass drum is a 22"x 18" and has 10 lugs per head where it previously had eight. The lugs have drum key-tensioned rods and the claws are completely isolated with full rubber gaskets. The professional look extends to the hoops, which are in matching birch ply.
The insides are a natural gloss, while the outsides are a purply-black sparkle. Although this finish contrasts slightly with the rest of the kit it looks fine. The drum is fitted with a full black Remo logo head plus a transparent Remo batter, both of which have 2" damping flapsof Mylar around the inner perimeters.
Again the sound is indistinguishable from that of a pro bass drum, adding all the depth and power that you could possibly need. Turning to the snare, not only does it now have double ended Classic lugs, but there are again 10 of them rather than the previous eight.
These lugs make the drum a dead ringer for the Jazz Festival Ringo played throughout his Beatles career. It's an iconic look and, with the quality all-birch shell, this is no longer a budget offering. It's responsive, crunchy and fat, with a dark and woody crack, cutting through with the top end ping of decent lumber.
Fitted out with a solid, side-lever throw-off and Remo heads, this is a good-looking drum that performs well.
Accent CS Custom and Elite Series outfits come with Ludwig custom hardware, including straight and boom cymbal stands, hi-hat, snare stand and even a pair of sticks. All the stands are double braced and of excellent quality.
The chain-pull bass drum pedal has a beefy, split footboard and a two-way beater with rounded plastic and felt faces. The pedal is attached to the hoop with a rubberised clamp and tightened using a drum key.
Criticisms? Well, we're not keen on the oversized oval badge, although in fairness it is a proper brass plate which proudly proclaims 'Ludwig Accent, Made in China'. And whoever decided to call the RIMS style mounting brackets Vibra-Bands deserves the bullet. But these are petty quibbles - the fact is, this kit is a class act.