From jazz greats through to rock heroes, there is something about a single-rack tom kit that looks right. Forget the symmetry of two racks above the kick - one tom exudes more attitude. This would certainly seem to be the view held over at PDP, from where comes a range that celebrates this layout with gusto.
The PDP 805 series consists of two shell pack options, each of them no-nonsense one-up, two-down kits that are available in a selection of eye-popping finishes that range from the confident to the loud, stopping just short of garish. This is a kit that sorts the men from the boys.
The 805 kit on review is the smaller-sized choice of shell packs and consists of a 20"x18" kick drum, 13"x7" snare, 12"x8" rack tom and 14"x12" and 16"x12" floor toms. The alternative shell pack is a beast that comprises a 24" kick, 14" snare, 13" rack and 16" and 18" floor toms. As always, ear protection is a must!
Interestingly there is no 22" kick drum option, which we like as it provides a clear distinction between the two kits. Both configurations are also available with an optional hardware pack.
All 805 kits are products of PDP's Chinese operation, along with the acclaimed X7 kit. PDP, lest we forget, is an offshoot of the ubiquitous high-end DW brand and has factories in both Mexico and China. Production is split accordingly and the competitive price of the 805 kits would suggest that Chinese manufacture was chosen to keep costs down.
The shells are 100 percent birch and are six plies thick. PDP was undoubtedly keen to offer the implicit added quality of a single-wood shell, and birch is more likely to produce an aggressive performance to match the kit's looks. While the kick drum is almost as long as it is wide, the tom and floor toms are, in keeping with current trends, refreshingly stubby. The dimensions of the snare are up-to-the-minute as well, with deep, smaller-diameter snares enjoying great popularity.
These sizing decisions are plainly evident to the naked eye and they add great visual store to the kit.
What really sets it apart, though, is the finish. The black and white diamond pattern wrap (Black Checkers according to the PDP catalogue) that the kit sports is as subtle as Travis Barker's body art - and as impressive. The wrap is matched by black shell hardware, creating an unmistakable, powerful appearance.
Look a little closer, though, and not every piece of metal on the kit is black-coated. The tension rods, for a start, glimmer away between black lugs and black rims. The telescopic inner legs of the kick drum spurs are similarly shiny, as is the arm of the supplied tom clamp (the rest of which is black, including the resin ball that the arm is attached to).
It would seem churlish to criticise the kit for such apparent shortcomings, and they aren't instantly obvious. PDP's stated aim was to create a custom-looking kit, and it has largely succeeded. The alternative wrap options are equally striking, with the Red Checkers with red hardware being particularly hard to miss. The lacquer finishes - for which there is no extra charge - are even more intense, with the choice of red, green or orange hardware adding neon-like luminosity.
The only aspect that caused us concern was the lug allocation on the snare drum. While the tom, floor toms and kick drum are all equipped with sufficient numbers of lugs, the snare drum gets by with a mere six. Added to that, it isn't six at the top and six at the bottom, it is six double-ended lugs in the centre of the shell. For a drum seven inches deep this seems inadequate, and the extra-long tension rods that link the lugs to the rims tell their own story.
On cheaper kits it's not unusual to find that the weakest element is the snare, but this seems like an avoidable oversight.
With reservations about the snare foremost in our minds, we thought it wise to begin with the kick drum and toms. The kick bore all the hallmarks of birch, being punchy and deep, yet tight. Its relatively small diameter ensured a clean, quick decay, while its length provided maximum projection. Tuned up, a certain amount of dryness entered its note, while slackening it off brought about a considerably fatter and juicer response.
The custom pillow that PDP supply as standard was another thoughtful inclusion. Why manufacturers producing kits in excess of the 805 don't do the same is a mystery.
The toms almost matched the bass drum in volume and aggression. There was so much attack to them that it was difficult to discern any note beneath. Each touch brought an instant, ferocious response. Swapping the supplied Remo UK clear heads for coated Ambassadors calmed things down a little and added some depth, but it seemed a little futile, in the way that asking a racing driver to slow down would be.
These drums are loud and brash for a reason - if you're after a kit with which to play cocktail jazz then this ain't it.
The snare, perhaps unsurprisingly, was a mixed bag. Cranking the tuning up to the higher reaches it turned in a respectable performance, delivering a penetrating crack. In the centre of the head was a dead spot where the sound was controlled and crisp. Venturing outside of the zone brought on ringing that was too prominent to ignore and - the scourge of cheap snares - rattling wires. Tightening the wires and damping the head only made the drum sound choked and stifled.
It was easier just to hit it dead centre and live with it. In reality, it's unlikely that anyone investing in an 805 kit will ever be playing it in anything other than loud scenarios (that is, the snare will spend its days being whacked with all the drummer's might) but it's the one element of the kit which could have had more attention paid to it.