Tama and Yamaha were leading companies in introducing straight-sided birch shell drums to the USA back in the late 1970s. Birch was promoted as the recording wood, being a little more focused than maple.
Silverstar is a new drum kit series that plugs the intermediate slot, above the budget Imperialstar but below the professional Starclassic.
It replaces the old standard Superstar, although (confusingly) the popular Superstar Hyperdrive remains.
Since Tama is proud of its birch legacy, let's start with the shells. Toms and snares are 6-ply, 6mm while bass drums are 7-ply, 7mm.
They are typically modern straight-sided shells (ie: without reinforcing rings) with 45° bearing edges. I did encounter a tiny glitch on one bass drum edge, but otherwise everything about the shells is as good as you now expect from the Chinese, which is to say near faultless.
Tama's characteristic diagonal seams are present and correct, while what looks like ﬁrst-grade birch displays a tight if unspectacular grain, sealed inside with a light brown stain.
Eight ﬁnishes - ﬁve lacquers and three wraps - are on offer. Seen here is Transparent Red Burst.
There is also a handy selection of drums, with 10 toms ranging from 8" to 18", four 18" to 24" bass drums and just two snares, 14"x5" and 14"x6½".
Tama has marshalled these into four kit layouts, the review kit being the oddly-titled Accel Driver Five Piece with 22"x18" bass drum, 10"x8" and 12"x9" mounted toms, 16"x14" ﬂ oor tom and 14"x5" snare.
Silverstar has a new low-mass lug, a neat square-edged design set on rubber gaskets. Also with rubber gaskets - elegantly moulded - are the deeply recessed bass drum claws.
The 14"x5" snare has eight double-ended bridge lugs with a different, more curvy design to the other lugs. Its pull-away MCS70 piston strainer is neatly designed if a little ﬁddly. With just eight lugs and thin shell, this is a noticeably lightweight snare drum.
Tama has also revamped its Star Mount isolation bracket. This angular steel band, suspended from four lugs, sits right up against the top hoop and is much less obtrusive than some other designs.
However, the memory lock is not fully contoured to slot in - an unusual lack of harmony for Tama.
In addition to all this, the Silverstar comes with a complete Roadpro hardware pack, as pictured, with double-braced straight and boom stands, hi-hat and bass pedals and snare stand.
The 22"x18" bass drum has 16, not 20, lugs. Don't feel short-changed though, 16 is enough and if anything opens up the sound a little.
The Tama Powercraft heads, front and back, have Powerstroke-3 style edge damping ﬂaps, curbing the reverberation to a manageable degree.
Together with the dark birch tone the bass drum delivers a tight but full and rounded blast. Incidentally, the yellowish tinge of the front head emphasises the classic look, according to Tama.
The 14"x5" snare is a feisty little number - it's amazing how much snappier a 5" is than the more familiar 5½". The centre response is more immediate, rim-shots and cross-sticks urgent.
As with all the drums, the tuning range is impressive. The coated Tama head was a little grainy and you might want to change to your favoured make, but we must say the Taiwan-made single-ply clear Tama Powercraft II batters on the toms and kick were impressive.
Our review kit has standard-depth mounted toms while the 16" ﬂoor tom is fashionably fore-shortened at 14" deep. The combined effect is of a terse trio of focused toms, sensitive to your dynamics, with a versatile tuning range.
Versatility is also the name of the game with the adjustable tom bracket. With smallish toms on long bass drums we've often wondered whether drummers have difﬁculty positioning them exactly where they want.
Now this problem is deﬁnitely eased, allowing movement forwards or backwards by 4.5cm (1¾"), then locking with the drum key-operated bolt.
Additionally, the eye bolt on the tom bracket can swivel around laterally, which is clever. How often have you dented your knuckles trying to tighten a bolt which is awkwardly positioned between angled tom and bracket?
Now you can swivel it out of the way whichever way you mount your toms. Very much in the Tama tradition of hardware innovation.
Tama's Silverstar selling point is the birch legacy, but in truth there is nothing unusual about a straight-sided birch kit today.
More importantly, the uncluttered design, the small lugs and tidy isolation mounts all conspire to give the drums a fresh, versatile sound with absolutely no choking.
The biggest novelty with the Silverstarkit is the adaptable sliding tom bracket, a bass drum-mounted double ball-and-socket holder with a genuinely useful difference.