Tama Warlord Exotix Kit

The Lord Of The Rings vibe of the Warlord Exotix kit divides opinion but sounds magnificent all the same

Tama tried something different in 2006 with its Warlord collection snares, obviously appealing to the goth/ Warhammer fantasists out there. So the shock of seeing this complete Warlord bubinga shell kit is somewhat diluted. It’s still a fearsomely majestic sight, though.

Tama was one of the earliest companies to use bubinga, otherwise known as African rosewood, back in 2003. It’s still an exotic timber, but has caught on with several companies including Peace, Dixon and ddrum. Tama has a tradition of releasing a limited edition Exotix kit each year, and 2007’s was this Warlord kit, inspired by the 2006 Masai Warlord snare.

Build

The kit is essentially a Starclassic Bubinga which has been armed with Warlord lugs, Swarovski crystals and Exotix finish. As with previous Exotix special editions, it is only available as a fixed seven-piece kit.

Four Warlord snares were premiered in 2006 – two in wood (bubinga and maple) and two in metal. Our Warlord kit is based on the bubinga Masai Warlord snare, which is included in the package. Each shell is 100 percent bubinga ply with an outer veneer of quilted bubinga.

The finish is called African Twilight, a high-gloss lacquer which has a dark chocolate middle fading to light brown with the swirling grain of the quilted bubinga top and bottom of each shell. The character of the rosewood leaves a slightly rougher nap on the inside of the shells than, say, maple. Examining each shell for neat, angled joins and perfect roundness is a pleasure, since everything looks spot on.

There are three mounted toms (8"x7", 10"x8" and 12"x9") plus two floor toms (14"x12", 16"x14"), all with 7mm/nine-ply shells. The 22"x18" bass drum is a little thicker, with an 8mm/nine-ply shell. And the Masai snare is 14"x6" with an even thicker 10mm/12-ply shell. Each drum has a paper plate inside, bearing a serial number and signed by the individual handicraftsman.

On the edge

Bearing edges are nice and sharp, cut at 45 degrees inside and out and landing on the second or third ply, about one quarter of the way into the shell. The edge finish is silky – not quite as amazingly shiny as the Pearl Masters MCX, but just as functional. The show-stopping Warlord lugs are thick tubes ornamented at both ends with gothicstyle squared fixing posts. Each drum also has a large star-shape badge in similar style. Both lugs and badges have small, jet black Swarovski crystals inserted centrally.

Together with the denser than average shells, this makes for a seriously heavy kit overall. Toms are mounted via Tama’s Star-Cast brackets which, thankfully, are aluminium, so you save a bit of weight there. Each mount is contoured so that it snuggles right in under the die-cast rim of the drum. This makes it easier to position your toms closer together – handy when you have three of them.

The hoops are Star-Cast die-moulded zinc, and the rods have Hold-Tight washers of stainless steel, which are cup-shaped and have rubber insert rings to prevent loss of tension under heavy playing. The metalwork is finished in brushed black nickel, contrasting handsomely with the brown shells. The bass drum claw hooks have rubber spacers that help protect the wooden hoops. Hooks and hoops are integrated so that they can’t separate or rattle, even on loose tunings.

Each bass drum spur has 10 calibrations so you can get the exact length of spur extension to level up your bass drum precisely.

The Masai snare has a short-throw, radial action lever strainer, which is as smooth as they come. The 20-strand hi-carbon steel snares have brass end plates and can be tensioned from both strainer and butt ends. And the butt plate is cleverly designed so that, using a drum key, you can remove it while the snares are still attached. This allows you to change the bottom head (or alter its tuning) while keeping the snare attached and at the tension you’ve set.

Hands On

Bubinga is said to be around 50 percent denser than either maple or birch, and when you come to pick up the drums you’ll certainly believe it. Whereas maple is warm and bright, birch darker and more focused, bubinga seems to accentuate the extremes. It certainly has depth, but it also cuts through.

If it misses out anywhere it’s in the middle frequencies, and the advantage of this is it cuts out any muddiness. The thicker shell of the snare drum accentuates the higher overtones so that it really does have an impressive edge. The bass drum comes fitted with a single-ply, 10 mil Evans EQ4, a warm head that brings out the depth. Changing it for a Remo Powerstroke-3 confirmed it had a solid bottom end with impressive power.

Again, the bubinga character of extra top and bottom with less middle is attractive, as it stops the bass drum from booming quite so much as, say, a maple drum. It combined a hard edge with deep tone.

The toms, particularly the smaller ones, have a startling attack, a real blast followed by good sustain. And that’s with the supplied twin-ply Evans G2 batters. With a single-ply G1 there was even more of a blast. We assume Tama fits double-ply batters because the kit is aimed at heavy hitters. We had no problem getting distinct interval jumps between each drum in the set.

With the wide range of five toms you can have great fun thundering round doing your best Adrian Erlandsson impression. In fact, tuning is made easy by the die-cast rims. The smallest tom has just four lugs, but the Star-Cast hoop is plenty strong enough to hold the tension true. The smaller toms all tune in just a few micro-turns of the key. The difference between a piercing ping and a deep thwack is less than one full turn of the key.

Despite the Star-Cast bracket, changing batters on the small toms is easy since when you undo the tension bolts the whole mounting assembly comes off with the hoop. A small moan, though: there is very little clearance between lugs and hoops so, unless you have dainty fingers, it’s almost impossible to do the bolts up to finger tight – you need a key all the way. This slows down the operation. Changing the bass drum head, for example, takes ages.

MusicRadar Rating

4 / 5 stars
Pros

Powerful and cutting sounding but with a great deal of depth. Lovingly constructed and finished.

Cons

It's a seriously heavy kit overall. The gothic look might not appeal to everyone.

Verdict

It's a love or hate thing. Either the whole Lord Of The Rings vibe will get you excited, or you'll find it embarrassingly naff. It's a strange juxtaposition actually: the combination of gothic hardware with glossy, high-end furniture veneer. It is, though, lovingly constructed and finished, and it sounds magnificent too. If bubinga appeals, you can of course buy a Tama Starclassic Bubinga set without the Warlord trappings, with many more finish options... and for less money.

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