Pearl is renowned for pushing the boundaries of drum technology with its advanced manufacturing processes, cunning designs and ingenious engineering. It is one of the world's leading drum manufacturers, utilising almost any natural or man-made material including carbon fibre and acrylic.
However, the first commercially available drums made from this clear thermo plastic material, (at the time trade-marked and marketed as Plexiglass), were during the late '60s by the 'father' of acrylic drums, Bill Zikos.
Pearl quickly followed suit with its own synthetic plastic drums, Crystal Beat, aka 'Transparent'. Pearl called its acrylic shell equivalent 'Sonaglass', and says the new acrylic material is more flexible and less brittle than Sonaglass, so it's not simply a revival of the old Crystal Beat moniker.
Up for review is a brand new four-piece Crystal Beat shell pack, in a two-up, two-down confi guration. Shells include a 20"x15" kick, 10"x7" and 12"x8" suspended toms and a rather cute 14"x13" floor tom.
"One of the most noticeable aspects is how much heavier each drum is in comparison to wood"
As the bass drum comes undrilled, the suspended toms need some form of mounting hardware (not included with the shell pack). For review purposes, Pearl has kindly included a double-braced stand, an ADP-30 stand adaptor and two of its superb Optimount tom arms.
All Crystal Beat drums come with Pearl branded heads - with dual-ply batters for the toms and single-ply resonants. The kick also features clear models, sporting a perimetertype dampening system, similar to those found on a Remo Powerstroke. As the set is pitched at the intermediate player, we believe the drums perhaps should come as standard with USA Remo or Evans heads.
Each drum is completely transparent - literally, crystal clear and, as with the '70s version, the new shells are entirely seamless. The bearing edges have a dual-cut 45° angle with a slightly rounded apex.
The effect of this (and dual-ply heads), is to provide the drums with a more mellow tone, as Pearl says, "adding control, increased articulation and punch to acrylic's lively sonic nature".
The shells are fitted with Pearl's non-bridged plane tail-style lugs, fixed in place by two Phillips-type screws each and isolated from the acrylic shell by a thin nylon gasket.
Much of the metal work (including the rims and lugs), is of a similar quality found on many Chinese-made starter kits. We feel it would have been good with at least Pearl' s Super Hoop IIs, instead what we find are 1.6mm triple-flanged hoops which suffer from some sharp edges on the top and bottom flanges, especially on the smaller of the two suspended toms.
The floor tom leg brackets are bridged to help increase resonance and have stage isolating 'Air Suspension' rubber feet on each leg. There is knurling up the upper portion of these which are fixed in position on the drum by winged bolts. The bolts butt directly against the knurling of the legs and so could be subject to wear over a period of time.
As for the mounting hardware, here the standard and overall quality is a drastic improvement. The tom shell isolating Optimounts are superbly engineered. They maintain a solid drum feel while still managing to reduce shell contact to aid resonance. Unlike natural wood shells, acrylic drums don't absorb so much of the energy transferred from the sticks.
On getting the kit unpacked we are struck by the sheer beauty of these crystal clear shells, they look absolutely gorgeous. But, after a few quick taps around the kit it seems they do not sound quite perfect straight out of the box, as to be expected when a kit has been shipped all the way from mainland Europe, so we need to indulge in a litle tuning.
Before this, the smaller of the two toms has a lug fixing screw which has come adrift - of course even before hearing it rattling around we can see this clearly through the shell!
"The slightest tap on the side of the shell can trigger a long and sustained sound from the shell alone"
Once the batter head is removed (to allow the screw to be put back in place), this provides us with the perfect opportunity to check out that 'double 45' bearing edge.
This edge is indeed rounded, only slightly though, and is precisely cut and well-finished. Once the Philips screw is tightened and other lug fixing screws checked, the head can now go back on the drum and we can tune it.
Achieving an even pitch and pitch interval is easy - these are extremely quick to tune and we would imagine the consistency of the shell material will certainly help here. As for consistency, it's highly likely that a 12" tom from another Pearl Crystal Beat will sound exactly the same as one of the review models.
Sat behind the kit for the first time is slightly unnerving - being exposed and able to see right through the drums, viewing a reversed Pearl logo and beyond, is a new experience.
Apart from the obvious see-right-through shells, one of the most noticeable aspects is how much heavier each drum is in comparison to wood. Even our old 22" maple bass drum, with its lumpy steel tom mount, can't compete with the mass of this 20" bass drum - for a 20" kick, it's heavy!
The second thing which takes us by surprise is just how loud the drums are - with just the slightest tap on the side of the shell, this can trigger a long and sustained sound from the shell alone - this is especially noticeable on the floor tom which we expected to project like crazy.
As well as an abundance of volume, this and the other toms here are surprisingly rich, warm and not at all brash as you might expect from acrylic. Just a couple of pedal strikes demonstrates the head tension is far too high on the kick - nice pedal rebound though!
After reducing the batter tension considerably, to just over the wrinkle stage and bringing down the front head a touch too, a further pedal hit triggers a strange overtone.
As we quickly discover, this is caused by a lug on the batter which we omitted to slacken off. Adjusted, this transforms the kick into a well-rounded punchy bass drum while also retaining a decent pedal rebound.
This drum packs some punch. It has litle in the way of any overtones, instead producing a clear defined wallop which is chopped off in an instant, leaving a barely audible overtone from the shell itself.
With the toms pitched high for jazz or low for rock and anywhere in between for a host of different genres, these respond well and sound impressive.