The Classic is a bargain addition to Premier's awkwardly named but universally acclaimed Series. These are drums with top features, but in order to keep the price down, options are restricted. All drums are maple, and there are five shell-pack sets available in limited colours.
Design and features
The Classic title refers to the fact this kit is, like the very first Premier Series, a six-ply, straight-sided maple shell set. That's North American maple, by the way, the real maple syrup stuff. You don't get the option of birch or Gen-X maple-birch mix, and you can't have four-ply supported shells. But that's fine – six-ply maple is standard for a pro set.
The price is also anchored by the fact the kit is shipped as a shell pack, squeezed into two cardboard boxes. You can buy an accompanying, matching wood shell snare, although it's not compulsory. Premier recognises the fact that drummers buying a quality kit may already have a favourite snare or want to buy something extra special. If you do opt for a matching snare there are two: a 14"x5½" or 14"x6½". Go for the shallower model, like the one here, and it has a new double-ended lug rather than the usual oval lugs. The ovals, being quite large, would have required offsetting, which Premier didn't want. The new design is a bit lumpy and doesn't match the elegant oval lugs on the rest of the kit quite as well as it might. Still, the snare's just an option, and all the lugs are set on some of the chunkiest rubber gaskets around.
The snare also has a new throw-off. This has a flat side lever suspiciously like Premier's classic from the '60s. It works smoothly enough and is not as cumbersome as some modern designs. Taking the drum apart, we also noticed a nice design detail on the snare butt-end: a ridged clamp that bites into the snare tape as you tighten it, so it can't slip. The 20-strand steel snares themselves have solid end plates and hug the gently dipping snare beds, smoothly and almost invisibly shaved into the sharp, decently finished bearing edges.
The five available shell packs cover most popular choices. There's one with a 20"x18" kick and four with the 22"x18". Toms are described as either 'Short' (10"x7") or 'Quick' (10"x8"). The review kit is the Modern Rock-22 with popular mainstream sizes: 10"x8", 12"x9", 16"x16" and 22"x18". You can buy add-on drums separately, so your options are in fact barely reduced in the long run.
Choice of finishes is limited to four Premium Sparkle lacquers and two Standard lacquers. We'd be more than happy with the densely glittery red sparkle of the review kit. The newly resurrected 'P' badge is quite a sophisticated job. It's embossed and stands out proudly from the drum, surrounded by a thin rubber border. At the base of the 'P' there's the script Premier logo and below you'll find the legend 'Premier Classic', which identifies the drum line. Quite a bold visual statement compared with most of today's badges. And why not?
Small toms are clamped to a bass drum mount RokLok holder with brand new flush fitting ISO mounting. Rather than the usual bulky outer steel band, this one is snuck right in under the top hoop, just fractionally clear of the shell. It's a smart, unobtrusive solution that allows significantly closer positioning of your toms. Thick, springy rubber grommet mouldings ensure the isolation mount positions easily and securely. Aside from this, the kit benefits from all the other design details that have made the Series popular with many of today's top drummers. We particularly like the integrated memory locks, which slot into the base of each mounting block – toms and floor tom legs, for instance – each completing a sensuous oval.
Soundwise, our first impression was that the toms and bass drum really kicked ass but the snare was not quite so enthralling or easy to tune. There's something about straight-sided maple-ply snares which means they often have a really honky edge ring. It's easy to subdue if you slap a half 'O' ring on the batter, which gets you a fat Ringo-ish crunch. But getting this snare to work with no damping at all was a bit of a challenge. It took a day or two of occasionally coming back, giving it a good thrash and tuning it up and down before it started to bed in and calm down a little. After that it was fine so long as we kept a small square of Moongel on it.
We should know by now, but we're still often surprised when a wood shell snare rings more than a metal one. You can take it as a good sign, meaning the drum has plenty of resonance – which, incidentally, the 2.3 mm flanged hoops have also. Tapping the top hoop, there's again a distinct ring. This all makes for extremely lively cross-sticks and rim shots.
While the snare might take some taming, we had no such problems with the toms and bass drum. Premier's shells are made 3mm undersized, which gives the heads good clearance with no chance of choking. The supplied coated Ambassadors (clear Ambassadors underneath) sounded just the job – warm, resonant and yet quite dark – needing just the slightest tweak here and there. The bass drum, straight out of the bag with clear Powerstroke-3 batter and uncut front head, was a slammer; with so much punch and tone yet barely any troublesome boom you'd think there was a hole in the front. And this with no internal damping – we never even considered it as the drum just sounded great from the off. Result.
For us, the fact the toms are mounted on the bass drum in the old-fashioned way improves the overall sound. The drums all resonate off one another for a more rounded, integrated and complex tone, like your kit is indeed one instrument.
The Classic is a smart move by Premier. A top-line Series kit in attractive size and finish options at a reduced price. Most drummers will find the set-up options are all they need, while the finishes and details such as the new unobtrusive tom mounts are top notch. Taiwanese manufacture is not really an issue – it might indeed be a plus. We'd pass on the snare, but jump at the rest of the kit.