Pacific Drums and Percussion (PDP) is the budget-conscious little brother of Drum Workshop (DW), which started out in 2000. Nine years down the line, PDP is established as a respected line in itself with its own image - and although destined always to be second to DW, the PDP range now includes drum kits, such as today's M5, which would not disgrace the loftiest of stages.
The M5 is an all-maple kit which sits in the middle of the PDP range, but with ambitions to be nearer the top.
The M5 has seven-ply shells made up of a two-ply outer and inner with a three-ply core. The maple is sourced 'overseas', i.e: it's not the American rock maple associated with PDP's Platinum series, but then you wouldn't expect it to be at this price. The grain is unspectacular, but that hardly matters as it's largely hidden by the relatively dark lacquered finish.
Inside, the shells are carefully sanded with a clean, vertical butt join. The impressively sharp and level bearing edges are 45 degrees with a single-ply 45 degree cut to the outside. Impressive quality again for the price. The smaller shells are accurately round to within just a single millimetre, the bass drum within three millimetres.
The lacquering is of a good standard, not quite so glassy as a top finish on a pro kit, but not far off either. There are just four colour choices, two bursts and two fades, applied over a solid base coat.
The M5 comes as a complete five-piece shell pack and PDP offers equally fine and attractively priced hardware packs to complete your kit. The review kit, in Tobacco Burst, is seen here with the 8.155 hardware pack (not reviewed).
There's just the one snare option - a wood shelled 14"x5" with eight double-ended oval lugs. The toms are described, rather confusingly, as 'fast' sizes, i.e: shallow rather than deep, although we'd describe 10"x8" and 12"x9" as standard depths. The bass drum is 22"x18", admittedly almost 'fast' by today's trends, but we wouldn't call this shallow either. It's more than deep enough and particularly if you're trading up from a standard 14" or 16" deep starter kick.
PDP has gone with the two-up/one-down configuration rather than the more trendy one-up/two-down. Presently there is only this single five-shell pack, which obviously keeps shipping/packing requirements simple, contributing hugely to the competitive price. You can, though, buy add-on 8"x7" or 16"x14" toms, or a second 22"x18" bass drum.
Buying any of the drums as one-offs is significantly more expensive than buying the complete, pre-configured kit.
The two small toms are mounted in the traditional manner on the bass drum. There's a sturdy central 'T' post, which penetrates the bass drum shell, and two ball-clamp 'L' arms. Each arm supports its tom via the distinctive and unobtrusive DW suspension tom mount (STM). This works by encircling and gripping four of the upper, oval lugs.
Everything is isolated by impressively thick rubber gaskets. The double tom mount also has a useful clamp at the front so you can add a cymbal arm, or conceivably even a third small tom.
The knurled tom arms have memory locks, as you'd expect, but the design is frankly puzzling. You see, most memory locks are streamlined to slot perfectly into the tom mount block, but this one doesn't. It sticks out awkwardly, only partially slotting into the recess in the block. We don't get this design, it seems wrong - unworthy of DW/PDP's sparkling reputation for hardware.
Setting up and positioning of the drums is straightforward, taking maybe 15 minutes. If you're trading up from your starter kit you'll be impressed by the fact this is a reassuringly heavy kit, altogether a more stout and professional rig.
It's shipped in two large boxes with all the heads pre-mounted and tuned except, inevitably, for the bass drum. This is fine as the front black logo head does not have a mic hole and you'll probably want to stuff some damping inside.
Now here PDP has a trump up its sleeve because a small (55cmx30cm) black pillow is thoughtfully included. It's lightweight, just right for today's more resonant bass drum sounds. The pillow has three Velcro attachments to fix it in position before attaching the front head. We positioned it lightly against the bottom of the batter head, which we tightened to just above wrinkle-free, while the front head had an extra full turn all round.
With the hard plastic side of the PD-SP450 pedal beater engaged the sound was gratifyingly huge with a rounded tone, not just a harsh slam. Better we think than a 20" deep drum which loses some focus. We reckon 18" is plenty deep enough for a bass drum. All the more since this one is most likely to grace smaller stages on semi-pro gigs.
The supplied heads are the familiar Chinese-made Remo clear UKs. The toms had a healthy bite, almost clattery, a sharp attack backed up with bright tone. We wouldn't call them 'fast' sizes, but they're still shallow enough for clear articulation without sacrificing tonal depth.
The 14" floor tom roared. Tuning range is flexible and the True-Pitch bolts turn smoothly, but hold their tuning with a firm, not stiff, feel. The fact the two mounted toms are connected to the bass drum by the old-fashioned tom mount is a plus. It gives the kit a more unified and ambient sound - it benefits the tone of both the bass drum and the toms.
You might also find this sort of kit easier to set up, rather than having small toms hanging off cymbal stands, which is frankly a pain and unstable. The 14"x5" snare is snappy and fast, with moderately bright tone and snarey-ness due to the smoothly graduated, shallow snare beds.
We had some trouble getting a decent snare response at the edges, which remained stubbornly hummy with a muted buzz. This may be an area where such a bargain kit shows a small lack of refinement.
The drum is fitted with PDP's drop style strainer, a chunky design coupled with an equally chunky butt-end plate. The pull-away bracket lever is typically quite stiff, but feels sturdy. The knurled tension knob is rather small for gripping, but can be turned using a drum key.