Buyers' guide: semi-pro drum kits

5 kits from £601, 4 essential buying tips

Yamaha Tour Custom
Tour Custom: rounded bearing edges add a warmer dimension to the bright maple sound

For some, buying new music making gear is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. For the inexperienced, though, it can be a stressful experience. There's so much choice, and, depending on your skill level, buying the wrong gear could seriously stunt your progression.

To make it easier, we've put together a buyers' guide, which includes our top product picks and essential buying tips. Here's how to buy bass semi-pro drum kits…

4 buying tips

1. This is the biggest sector, with the greatest number of kits vying for your dollar. For 20 years it's been dominated by the Pearl Export, although as we compiled this guide the Export appears to have been superseded by the Vision. While too early to properly assess that at the moment, the Vision seems a worthy successor. Semi-pro kits are again most often made in China, sometimes Taiwan or Mexico (Pacific), but the quality today is amazing for the price. You should get a hard gigging, reliable and good sounding kit.

"This is the biggest sector, with the greatest number of kits vying for your dollar"

2. Look for a choice of shell packs with or without hardware such as stands and pedals. Don't expect budget cymbals – you will need to choose those separately. Extra toms are also often available for extending your kit at a later date, although choices will be quite limited.

3. Shells are often maple or birch, although unlike pro kits the timber may well come from China, with the implication that quality is less reliable. The lacquered finishes coming out of China now, though, are amazing for the price.

4. Bass and snare drums should have eight or 10 lugs per head, commensurate with professional kits. There will often still only be 12 lugs on floor toms, though. Stands and pedals are better designed, sturdier and usually double-braced. All hardware and shell fittings will reflect the styles and idiosyncrasies of each company, whether Sonor, Pacific or whomever.

5 semi-pro kits from £601

1. Pearl Vision VSX/VMX

Hailed as the successor to the sector-dominating Export Series, Pearl's Vision series announces its arrival with the excellent VSX/VMX. Both of these kits from the Japanese company give impressive performances and, despite being more expensive than the Export series that they replace, their superiority makes them worth both the wait and the extra dosh.

2. Yamaha Tour Custom

The recently resurrected Tour Custom series now has all-maple shells, including the 14"x6" snare. Unusual 60 degree, rounded bearing edges add a warmer dimension to the bright maple sound. Legendary Yamaha build quality, 'universal'-sized toms and 17" deep bass drums add to the versatility. Just four lacquer finishes, though.
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3. Ludwig Accent CS Custom Elite

Top of the four-tier Accent range, the Elite has a choice of seven superb high gloss lacquer/glitter fi nishes. Both Accent CS Custom and Custom Elite have eight-ply, 8mm birch shells for a clear, focused sound. Remo heads, 20 lug bass drum, tom suspension mounts, Ringo-like fat and responsive snare – it's all good.
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4. Premier Cabria XPK

The all-maple XPK boasts six lacquered finishes and expensive-looking die-cast hoops. The latter focus the maple a fraction and add clout to rim shots. There's only one (14"x5") snare size though. The redesigned hardware package is clever and generous, and includes two boom stands and sturdy kick pedal.
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5. Sonor Force 3007

Sonor has upped the 3000 series quality by sandwiching top quality Canadian maple with Chinese maple. The 3007 has richlylacquered glitter fi nishes and typically robust Sonor-designed hardware. Distinctive Sonor features include the grip-friendly half-moon wing nuts, the curvy, swing-out spurs and uniquely stable TARS tom mounting system
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