The best drum gear of 2010
It’s been an interesting year in the world of drum gear. Marshall, a brand synonymous with guitar amplification, moved in to the percussion market. Electronic drums have become more affordable, accessible and inventive than ever. And the innovations of previous years are now common place, only to be replaced by new materials and techniques to wow us further.
So compiling the very best drum gear releases of 2010 has been a challenge, to say the least. The choice of products and brands (particularly boutique-style craftsmen popping up all over the place to challenge the big boys at their own game) has grown immeasurably… but we persevered. And with a lot of help from the experts at Rhythm magazine, these are the results.
We’ll kick things off, as usual, with the big one: best acoustic kit of 2010…
Drum kit of the year
The transferral of one of Tama’s flagship lines to China was a massive risk, and was always going to be met with a sharp intake of breath from critics. But you’d be a fool to think that a company with Tama’s reputation for excellence would rush into any decision without weighing up every pro and con. In fact, the Starclassic Bubinga looks and feels exactly like the fully-fledged Japanese-made pro kit it replaces… it just costs £500 less. Natch!
FULL REVIEW: Tama Starclassic Bubinga drum kit
Stockton-On-Tees carpenter Dean Price is also well deserved a nod in this category for his Guru Drumworks brand of boutique-style sets. Stunning craftsmanship on kits that - considering they’re one-offs - don’t cost the earth.
Budget drum kit of the year (under £1000)
Sonor is well-known for its ultra-high end SQ2 system custom drums, and its off-the-peg Delite and S-Classix kits feature in many a player's 'lottery win' list. In recent years, however, Sonor's mid-range Force offerings have demonstrated that you don't have to be a Euromillionaire to play a Sonor. In fact, with the Force 2007 Rock kit, Sonor has torn up the rule book and re-defined ‘mid-range’. Excellence for under a grand.
FULL REVIEW: Sonor Force 2007 Rock drum kit
On the subject of ‘rock’ sets, we should mention Yamaha’s latest Rock Tour kit for, if nothing else, that industrial-cool finish. Sharp looks, no-nonsense performance.
Electronic drum kit of the year
At the heart of the new this year TD-20KX is actually the old last year TD-20 module (plus the extra functions of a TDW-expansion card), it’s just that that technology still hasn’t been bettered. Mind you, it’s easy to see why: power; functionality; usability. Not to mention the sturdy rack or the feel of the pads. Yes, it’s boringly predictable, but it's another V-Drum victory. An amazing top end electronic drum kit.
FULL REVIEW: Roland TD-20KX electronic drum kit
Budget electronic drum kit of the year (under £1000)
Which brings us nicely to… what a surprise, another V-Drum. The TD-4K won it last year on account of being the world’s best entry-level electronic set. The TD-4KX, however, is even better. Oh, and you want mesh heads on a budget ekit? You got it.
FULL REVIEW: Roland TD-4KX electronic drum kit
Cymbals of the year
Istanbul Agop is a company so steeped in the history of cymbal-making that it's something of a surprise that it is only 30 years old. But three decades it is, and to commemorate the occasion it produced a set of anniversary cymbals: two incredibly deep rides and a pair of hi-hats. They’re so good, if fact, that anyone remotely jazz-inclined would be forgiven for thinking that it's their birthday too.
FULL REVIEW: Istanbul Agop 30th Anniversay Cymbals
Flying the flag for budget-conscious B20 cymbals this year was Sabian, whose updated Xs20 Brilliant Finish models are, as the name suggests, subtly brilliant. File this one under ‘most improved’.
Pedal of the year
There are just a handful of bass drum pedals that can claim to be classics. Camco, DW and Ludwig have all produced such beasts, as has Japanese drum giant Tama with its legendary Iron Cobra. But now comes a new pretender in the form of the Speed Cobra, with features borrowed from its well-regarded older sibling and a host of innovative design tweaks to boot.
If you're looking to upgrade from a mid-level unit, or for metalheads desperate for the last word in kick drum velocity, as of now your 'to check out' list isn't complete without the Speed Cobra.
FULL REVIEW: Tama Speed Cobra
Also impressing with kick pedal innovation this year was Mapex and its Falcon bass drum pedals. Plenty adjustable but still effortless and not as daunting or expensive as Pearl’s Demon Drive, we’re sure you’ll come to love them, too.
Snare drum of the year
The name Black Panther, conjuring up speed and power allied to velvety sleekness, has been a winner for Mapex over the past decade. This year, just before Winter NAMM, Mapex overhauled the entire range with 14 brand new models.
The Phantom, The Machete, The Phatbob and the rest of Mapex’s lavishly-named drums are elegantly finished, each offering a different sonic potential. The only downer is choosing which one to buy.
4 out of 5
FULL REVIEW: Mapex Black Panther snare drums
The competition for best snare was particularly stiff in 2010, so it’s only fair to big up one or two other contenders. Tama, as usual, didn’t disappoint with two new signature drums: Brian Frasier-Moore Palette Snare and a Charlie Benante model. And Gretsch’s versatile USA G4000 series are pure quality.
Electronic percussion of the year
Korg’s Wavedrum actually just snuck in to 2009’s gear of the year round-up (we called it ‘phenomenal’). But it was in 2010 that the captivating little drum pad really made its, ahem… ‘waves’ on the industry. Voted, by you, as the best percussion product at the 2010 MIA Awards. Phenomenal. Still.
FULL REVIEW: Korg Wavedrum
It’s worth pointing out here that, had it not been for the Wavedrum, Roland’s Octapad SPD-30 would have walked it. Also awarded five stars by Rhythm magazine, it combines predictably gorgeous sound with better-than-ever functionality. Well worth checking out.
Acoustic percussion of the year
Marshall Amps' aforementioned leap into the percussion market was one of the big stories from Frankfurt Musikmesse 2010. A surprise, maybe. But when you consider that Jim Marshall spent his early career flogging percussion products from a London shop, it makes perfect sense.
The first fruits of Marshall's acquisition of Natal are these superb sounding Classic Series Congas and Bongos. And if these models are anything to go by (and with Marshall's distribution muscle) we can't wait to see what the partnership comes up with next.
4 out of 5
FULL REVIEW: Natal Classic Series Congas and Bongos
LP deserve a mention here for its clever Top-Tuning Congas which could make life a hell of lot easier for percussionists. And you should check out the Garrahand Hand Drum because, if nothing else, it looks like a Bowler hat! Oh, and it’s pretty damn innovative, too.
Heads of the year
Drum accessory of the year
As if taking pride of place in MusicRadar’s gift-buying guide for drummers wasn’t enough, this ingeniously simple bass drum attachment has earned itself a badge for best accessory of the year. The Kickport enhances low frequencies in a tuneful, sympathetic way. And it only costs the same as a decent kick batter head.
FULL REVIEW: Kickport
Liked this? Now read: The best drum kits in the world today
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