Since its launch more than two decades ago, Pearl's Export kit has been the one kit even non-drummers have heard of. The words 'Pearl Export' have entered the modern lexicon for good reason - year in, year out, the Export outsells every other kit on the planet.
The Export range is split into three distinct tiers - the plain wrapped EX, the range-topping lacquered Select ELX and the boldly retro wrapped Radical EXR, which is reviewed here.
The EXR is available in three shellpacks: the familiar 22 Fusion (22"x18" kick drum, 14"x5" snare, 10"x8", 12"x9" and 14"x11" toms) and the equally common 22 Rock (the same bass and snare drum with 12" and 13" toms and a 16" ﬂoor tom.
The third option, a funky sounding combination known intriguingly as 20 Rock, is comprised of a 20"x16" bass drum with the 14"x5" snare, plus the 10" and 12" toms and a 14" floor tom.
Across the entire Export range, a fundamental change in manufacturing has occurred. The shells, long made from mahogany, are now formed entirely from poplar. A combination of factors rather than a single reason inﬂuenced this material change, but supply was almost certainly one of the issues.
Pearl is making more and more Export kits every year and while poplar is sustainable indefinitely, mahogany isn't. The shell construction remains the same as before though - a 7.5mm deep, six-ply sandwich that is bonded with Pearl's signature scarf joints.
The wood is notably light in colour and the insides of the shells display the sort of brightness normally attributable to a coating of white stain. As it is, they have simply been sanded to a tidy finish. The bearing edges are suitably shipshape.
Outside, the vintage-style wrap of marble/onyx design is pretty spectacular. The chosen shade of blue really works for this type of finish and under lights, the kit looks stunning. The wrap goes under the name Blue Strata and is available in three other colours - black, white and red. An alternative to the Strata finishes (but very much in the same vein) is the Prism wrap which resembles a swirl. The choice of colours for the Prism finish is limited to blue and purple only.
Bridging the gap
Bridge-style ventilated lugs, imported from higher Pearl ranges, are in evidence on all of the drums and even the snare's double-ended lugs are bridged. The idea behind bridge lugs is to minimise contact with the shell by hollowing out the part of the lug that usually lies ﬂat against the shell between the two fixing bolts. The resulting gap bears a marked similarity to the span of a bridge.
The distinct profile of the lugs shows off Pearl's fabulous chroming with great effect. A good deal of thought has obviously gone into the brushed metal badge worn by each of the drums as well. Though only a badge, it is perfectly in tune with the overall look of the kit and its subtlety allows the wrap and contrasting chrome lugs to shine.
The claws on the bass drum are another strong detail worth drawing attention to. They are reassuringly chunky and include a recess which the tuning rods locate neatly into. A rubber lining prevents them from chomping into the matching wooden hoops.
The rest of the drums are fitted with standard pressed hoops that are very much par for the course.
Pearl's own single-ply ProTone heads are found across the kit. While the ProTone heads are more than adequate, it is increasingly common for kits, even in this price band, to come fitted with branded heads from a major manufacturer. Most of Pearl's ranges further up from these drums are supplied with Remo heads, so we wonder if it's only a matter of time before Pearl includes them on the Export range too.
The toms are all hung by Pearl's ISS mounts which simply clamp to the top hoop of each tom and then slide onto a regular Pearl tom arm. Where some non-penetrating mounts hold the toms loosely to allow movement when struck, the ISS mounts lock rigidly onto the hoops. Any concerns we might of had about them loosening off were unfounded though, as they held firm despite our best efforts to persuade them to do otherwise.
All of the tuning rods functioned smoothly and without complaint. The two hour, straight-through gig that we subjected it to was a stern test but the kit fared well.
The hardness of poplar gives it distinctive characteristics that it bestows on the drums. Principally, it possesses an ability to cut through without sounding overly toppy that is not dissimilar to that of birch. There is plenty going in the way of mid to lower frequencies, but what grabs your attention is the initial attack.
The bass drum gives a lovely tight 'blat' that is balanced by a round, deep note beneath. We found that it had a real presence in the mix. The snare is equally convincing, delivering just the right combination of crispness and crunch to infuse figures with authority. The toms' dimensions ensure that they are closer to bright and quick than deep and sonorous, but they punch cleanly through with great enthusiasm. Their opening attack is ﬂeshed out and completed by a good resonant note.
The included hardware pack is typically well-appointed. The stands are sturdily built and sit on double-braced tripods. The H-820W hi-hat stand is as good a hat stand as you could wish for, whatever your level. The tripod swivels to accommodate an extra pedal and the spring can be easily adjusted through a variety of feels.
The P-120P bass drum pedal contains a lot of design cues from Pearl's Eliminator, not least in the style of its footboard. The heelplate can also be moved through different positions, in the same way as Pearl's Powershifter feature found on more expensive pedals. The snare stand and two cymbal stands (one straight, one boomed) are also well up to scratch, performing with quiet reliance.