You'd never accuse Pearl of failing to offer a wide choice, what with no less than 13 series of acoustic drums listed on its site.
The Decade Maple (DMP) sits just above the Export Lacquer, ousting the Vision series. It's the cream of the mid-range drum kits.
For review Pearl has sent its 22" Rock Fusion pack with a line-up of 10"x7", 12"x8", 16"x16", 22"x18" and matching wood 14"x5.5" snare drum. There are three alternatives, the other two being the 20" Fusion - 10"x7", 12"x8", 14"x14", 20"x16", 14"x51⁄2" - and 22" Fusion, which is the same except with a 22"x18" bass drum. They all come with 830 series hardware and all at the same price.
Drums can also be bought separately, and unusually the line includes a 20"x14" gong bass drum. It's indicative of the way Pearl sees the DMP as a step up for the aspirational drummer.
Pearl's Jeroen Breider says, "Recently gong drums are more popular and we'd like to offer them in an affordable series. As Decade drums are perfect as a primary kit for evolving players or as a secondary 'gigging' kit for seasoned pros, it is important to offer attractive playing options."
The kit is defined by its new shells and new lugs. The big selling point is the thin 100 percent maple shells, and Pearl claims this is the first all-maple lacquered drumset in this price range to carry a lifetime guarantee.
This guarantee is significant because ever since Stagg produced the first budget Chinese maple kit back in the 1990s, the assumption has been that budget maple kits must involve a rather less durable quality of maple.
Pearl's 'normal' 7.5mm Export shell combines three 1.6mm with three 0.9mm plies. The Vision did too (with even thicker bass drums and floor toms).
The thing about the new DMP is that the shells are thinner. So the DMP's maple shells are also 6-ply, but just 5.4mm thick. Each of the six plies is the same 0.9mm, making this is an even-ply shell, with the same lay-up as Pearl's Reference Pure.
The hardest rock maple from slow-growth dense inner forest trees in North America is a byword for expensive drums. You can't expect that here, but maple is maple and the timber employed here looks decent. In any case, Pearl's proprietary shell-making procedure saturates the plies with glue and then bakes them hard as iron. So whatever the wood and however thin, the shells are strong. Hence that lifetime guarantee.
Certainly, the maple takes a finish well - the outside of the review drums is smoother than George Clooney. You'd have had to buy a top of the line kit to get a finish this good just a few years ago. And the insides are also buffed smooth, running up to the 45° bearing edges which are again as true as those of drums costing much, much more.
Pearl differs from other major manufacturers in employing the traditional method of overlapping scarf joins as opposed to the more familiar butt joins. It creates a slight ridge, but the Superior Shell Technology (SST) method also produces accurately round shells and these measure up impressively. So all-in-all a big thumbs up for an exemplary job, particularly at this price.
The review kit is in Satin Black Burst, and if that doesn't do it for you then check out the four further High Gloss or Matte Lacquers in Satin Slate Black, White Satin Pearl, Satin Brown Burst and Gloss Deep Red Burst. Plus, Pearl says, "For the autumn season we have introduced three Galaxy Flake finishes in Ocean, Crimson a Slate, available in two configurations, the 2 Fusion and the 22" Rock Fusion."
The other new feature is the mini-lug, a sort of blobby square - distinctive, but less attractive to my eye than Pearl's recent curvy designs. The toms and bass drum have single-ended versions with rubber isolation gaskets.
The bass drum has 16 lugs while the toms have 12. This means the 16" floor tom has six-lug hoops (as on the Export also), which is a budget-chasing feature and looks out of place on this otherwise classy kit. The snare has eight of a double-ended version of the new lug design.
Because the Decade Maple is a step-up kit, Pearl decided to include a hardware upgrade with each shell pack. So you get a meaty 830 series set consisting of boom and straight cymbal stands, hi-hat and snare stand, and a P-930 Demonator kick pedal with trendy longboard.
Setting up is a doddle with Pearl's functional, feature-packed hardware. The big story though is those shells. The maple may not be the finest cuts of a top-money kit, but the toughened shells are 5.4mm thin - significantly thinner than those of other budget kits.
Consequently, you get a more woody, resonant, ultra-clear and pithy sound - a modern sound, bright but with the middle-frequency body that characterises maple.
The two small toms ping, even when tuned down a bit to get a slappy attack. And although the 16" floor tom only has six-lug hoops, the resulting drop in metalwork allows the drum to open up.
You have to be careful not to tune too low or else, as a result of that minimal lug count, the head can flap a bit. But a half-turn above that it starts to roar, and entering middle tuning the breadth of racket is more like an 18" tom.
Sat behind the bass drum the sound is at first hard and abrupt, pretty cracky. This is misleading though because once you go out front the perceived pitch drops considerably and the tone rounds out. You realise that this is one big fat, commanding bass drum.
Pearl has thrown in a useful twin-section (33cm x 30cm) black fabric bass drum pillow muffler. It has Velcro to keep it from moving once suitably positioned. The white-coated single-ply front head is emblazoned with Pearl's logo, and sports a 51⁄4" (13 cm) air hole at the bottom right. You can just about get your arm in there to adjust the pillow damper.
As for the snare, we were really happily surprised. If there is going to be a weak spot in a budget kit it will surely be the snare drum, but this one is crisp and sharp with a sweet tone. It responds evenly over the entire surface and, as with the other drums, benefits from the thin shell and true bearing edges to produce cracking, ringing, unhampered rim-shots.