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Drum comparison

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1 Drum comparison on Fri Nov 15, 2013 9:53 am

This video is of a kind I have been looking for for quite some time. It's not "Baskin Robbins" as the guy states, but it does bring to light ideas discussed in previous threads. Do wood drum shell materials make a big difference in drum sound, all things being equal? He does not mention his choice of microphone for the test. Might just be the mics in a ZOOM Q3 or something, but it does remain consistent throughout. You'll notice the closer to the center of each head he strikes it the more bottom end you'll hear. That is a head/air compression issue, not really a shell issue. The shell just affords a chamber for sound waves to move around in. I also don't know the bearing edge design of each drum, but if they are quite different, you will not know it.

I don't know how tight he made his snare stands. He could have as easily just held each drum by a hoop. I mount all my drums in snare baskets. If they get tightened too much you can constrict the drum. In this case the four drums sound pretty much the same to my ears, listening through my Etymotic Research ER-4 earphones. The last four strikes really tell the story.

I have held to the position head choices and mounting are the biggest factors in the sound of wood drums. Differences in woods are nuances. Differences in plywood, steam bent, stave or segmented block amount to nuances, generally lost in total drum set performance (with cymbals), and certainly in a band context.

The sound of a drum is far more the pitch of tensioned heads (heads having their own pitch when tightened, a la Roto toms, etc), and the inner ply of typical plywood shells creating the sound chamber. Once sound vibrations hit the first layer of glue things die pretty fast. Thus all talk of ply layers, etc, and actual drum sound, beyond thumping naked shells, becomes almost moot. Thicker shells, higher pitch of the shell. But once the lugs are installed, mounting systems, heads, hoops and rods, the chamber becomes incredibly muted.

What I really want to do someday is make my own drums for a comparison test. Eight drums 6,8,10 ply maple, throw in a Eames birch shell, a mahogany, and lesser plywoods like poplar and basswood. As well as a solid shell. Maybe even throw in acrylic and something else. I know I will not be surprised with the results. How science graphs things on spectrometers and how things sound to the human ear are two very different things when drums are discussed.

I'm not trying to beat a dead horse, nor start a range war over the issue. Everybody can disagree. That's fine. My point has ALWAYS been the hype in the industry. It aggravates me to no end. Marketing is everything now. It was not always that way. Advertising existed, of course, but to the degree companies make huge issues of shell construction, etc. ... balogna. They all feel it necessary to say new things to sell their products, which are the same as always, all things considered. A drum is drum is a drum. I believe the video bears that out. Change the heads, change the sound.

Makes more sense to buy drums based on lug styles one likes, hardware components, and finish choices than anything companies state about their shells.

Meaning no offense to anyone. Play what you like :-)

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2 Re: Drum comparison on Sun Nov 17, 2013 4:06 am

I could hear differences...  Now admittedly I could not hear
differences in every drum, but the Bubinga was noticeably
thinner in tone than the birch and the cherry and surprisingly
The maple was the thinnest sounding with the shortest duration
of all.  The cherry and the birch were very similar in tone, but I
did notice that the cherry seemed to be a tad flatter in pitch than
the other drums.

Okay so lets have a look at this comparison as there are several
factors here to consider:

First, it's not just about pitch.  Each and every shell be it
expensive or cheap has it's own frequency that IT likes!
Even so I could here distinguishable differences in 3 of
these drums.  The cherry and the birch were very close
in character.  The maple was actually a bit of a disappointment
in this environment as it seemed not to project and choked
faster than the other 3 drums.  I never try and force a pitch
on a drum but instead allow the drum to tell it's at it's best

The second factor to consider is bearing edges.  I don't even
have to explain this as this goes without saying.  It's likely THE
Biggest determination in the sonic influence of a drum.  Another
consideration for this test is the way they were tuned.  Sure,
he arrived at the same pitch but was it actually arrived the
exact same way with each drum?  Did he use a torque key
where the tension for each lug was precisely the same around,
the heads, top and bottom?  How much tension per lug nut, per
drum did it take to acquire the same pitch for each drum?  

Much to consider here.

Third:  What were the thicknesses of the shells and how were
the seams joined, straight or diagonally?  How many plies?

For me, it would have been a better test had he done this by
finding each drum's "sweet spot" and allowing us to hear that
rather than forcing them into a same pitch scenario.

After all was said and done, this tells me nothing, Asaph, and it certainly
doesn't convince me that all woods are created equal...  But keep trying!
I'll keep checking out what you present to support your opinion Wink

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3 Re: Drum comparison on Sun Nov 17, 2013 7:16 am

Needless to say some "givens" are unknown in the test. Bearing edges one of them, as I mentioned.

I will say, given the observations of builders (both 'pro' and hobbiest) that you can find on the web in forums, that bearing edges are not as major a factor as we have been led to believe. Bearing edges are an issue for the head, not the shell, simply because the lugs, etc are muting the shell anyway. It does not vibrate freely and vibrations do not translate through glue, especially moving downwards. The inside bearing edge has been shown to be almost moot. It's a measuring devise test issue at that point. Human ears can't really pick up on anything. The outside bearing edge is muting the head in slight increments the more the head touches them. So, a bearing edge with a basic inner cut of whatever degree and no outer cut (just a slight rounding over with sanding), will provide the most sustain. But then the issue of how the head seats itself with an edge like that becomes an issue, which effects tension/tuning. So most now do a 45 degree outside edge, or a round over of some kind so the head seats naturally. A touch of lost sustain can be noticed, and a drum will sound 'rounder,' 'meatier,' 'heftier', 'fuller,' or whatever adjective builders use to describe it. But again it is nuances, lost in full drum set play. Certainly lost when mics and sound boards get involved.

On the Janka scale Cherry, Birch, and Maple are close in hardness - 995 to 1470, cherry being the softest of the three and should naturally sound lower in pitch as a result. Bubinga is 1950 and would offer a higher natural pitch and brighter naked shell sound, depending on glues used and how the shell is made (voids in the plies, etc.). Once you get the hardware on it's about heads and tension of them. They each should have the same basic tuning range before choking. But choking is a depth of shell/air issue, not wood issue. The more shallow a drum, the more quickly it will choke. Less air, faster choking between heads. That means less leeway when tensioning at the lugs. You'd have to be more precise to control sour overtones.

Plies effect shell density which translates into shell pitch and volume. The thinner the shell the more the heads play the major role. But again, shell pitch becomes almost moot once the shell is loaded up with hardware. The thinner the shell the more it is muted by lugs, etc. It becomes a matter of shell size at that point, and obviously head size. As you heard in the video the cherry seemed to have a natural bottom end, but notice where he strikes the drum in the first round. That is why I mentioned the last four hits tell the story - one strike on each drum, and if they DO have varying bearing edges the differences are barely noticeable. We have always been told that maple is the best wood choice for it's overall character. You thought it sounded "thin." I thought the tuning was off which created that image, but the differences were very subtle, at best.

Tuning range should NOT be an issue with a well made drum. Any well made drum should have a wide tuning range for its size, depending on depth. That's a decent shell manufacture and bearing edge issue. He doesn't mention how he tensioned the drums and I would go the extra mile and use a tension dial if I did the test. I thought the pitch he chose seemed high, kind of a 'jazz' tuning, but again, all things being equal. The seeming bottom end of the cherry might have been one lug more precisely tensioned, as much as where he struck the drum, so sympathetic vibrations between heads was better on that drum by enough to create the illusion of more bottom end. That bottom end, even if actual, would be lost in full set play.

Anyway, for me my point is made, in the sense that actual and noticeable sonic differences between drums of the same size, regardless of woods or plies, are nuances, lost in drum set play when cymbals get going, and the thunder gets rolling. Head choices and mounting make the biggest difference, unit to unit. The rest is hype to sell drums. Matter of fact there's a guy who does a lengthy youtube video of all kinds of heads on his drums. It's alarming to see what subtle differences exist, under the microphone, type to type.

The person who could easily dispel any of my perceived erroneous thoughts is John Goode. He's the supposed self-proclaimed shell guru in the industry. Let him line up 12" toms from every line of theirs, same heads, same tension, accurate strike on each drum and show us what major differences exist between them. Naked shells are moot in a real world playing scenario. Thumping naked shells with Neal Peart and Thomas Lang is only impressive to those who cannot see past the hype. If DW drums WERE the absolute best drum out there, via Goode's expertise, why would pros play anything else? If naked shells and woods and plies are so important why does DW put wraps on their drums? They'd be killing their own golden gooses. Hype. John Goode is a great salesman, I'll say that for him. Watch Mick Fleetwood's eyes glaze over as John gets into his gig in that video. I found it embarrassing. I had to stop watching.

I'm sick of hype.

Everybody makes great sounding drums because it isn't rocket science. Sound character, drum to drum, all things being equal, is generally the same. It's a drum.

Even IF woods and plies made a big difference, what would the difference be? Set to set it would be an overall pitch issue when every set is tuned exactly the same. So, that set sounds slightly lower in pitch. Well, change the tuning on the other set, or get different sized drums. Same thing.

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4 Re: Drum comparison on Sun Nov 17, 2013 7:19 am

I'm sorry to be such a junk yard dog about this, but I just feel badly for those who purchase drums based on the industry shell-hype, especially when it comes to expensive drums backed by all that hype. I would expect exotic wood shells to be more expensive than domestic woods. Given. But only because those exotic woods cost more in the first place, not because they offer some otherworldly different or better sound.

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5 Re: Drum comparison on Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:23 pm

Bearing edges are an issue for the head, not the shell
I understand this, Asaph but it still has a very strong influence on the
sonic character that is part of the overall sound.

Rounded edges will give you warmer tones and less attack than an edge
that's sharper and more spiked.  Also, a portion of the sustain qualities
can be established via the bearing edges.

Now I totally agree with you that all the hype surrounding the different
woods is excessive.  But that's not what I'm talking about.

My point is simply this:  I believe that different woods will produce different
sonic characters.  The fact that there's a company saying that a drum made
from a bubinga log that was lying at the bottom of Lake Superior for 100 years
is going to automatically sound better than a drum built from a pine tree in my
back yard is where the "baloney" starts with me.  

But, once again I believe that these woods WILL produce different sound qualities
simply and logically for the reason that they are different!  Now which ever one
happens to sound better is in the ear of the beholder.  So for me, your conclusion
that "a drum is a drum is a drum," just doesn't fly.

I haven't read everything you wrote in your last post, but I will.

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6 Re: Drum comparison on Sun Nov 17, 2013 3:12 pm

Okay, I read the rest of your post and I found this passage
of interest:

Anyway, for me my point is made, in the sense that actual and noticeable sonic differences between drums of the same size, regardless of woods or plies, are nuances, lost in drum set play when cymbals get going, and the thunder gets rolling. Head choices and mounting make the biggest difference, unit to unit. The rest is hype to sell drums. Matter of fact there's a guy who does a lengthy youtube video of all kinds of heads on his drums. It's alarming to see what subtle differences exist, under the microphone, type to type.
Maybe, but I don't buy based on hype. I buy according to what I hear
and feel when I strike a drum. Cymbals and thunder not withstanding.

As to the rest of what you wrote, it seemed to be written more as a
rule of absolute rather than a general rule of thumb and I think we both
know that it just doesn't work like that. Heck, two drums with all
things equal are hardly likely to sound exactly the same.

biological material just doesn't roll that way. No 

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7 Re: Drum comparison on Mon Nov 18, 2013 7:04 am

I know what you mean. I'll just have to film my own test someday.

"Rounded edges will give you warmer tones and less attack than an edge
that's sharper and more spiked.  Also, a portion of the sustain qualities
can be established via the bearing edges."

Actually, the more wood that touches the head, of any wider-cut routered edge, the more attack, simply because sustain is lessened a bit. But again, on a thinner shell the amount of wood which touches the head with any cut bearing edge is minimal and transfers that minimum to sound, which is lost in set play, anyway. Of course, I guess "attack" should have a definition that is common to the discussion of drum sounds. I understand "attack" as stick definition on the head, unclouded by more sustain of the drum heads. Hence, muted, dble. ply heads, gel pads, etc, give more attack. Stuffed bass drums give more attack. The more resonance and sustain of the sound, the less "attack" is used to describe it.

The organic cell structure of veneers does differ, tree to tree, board to board, sheet to sheet.

If the nature of wood is going to be discussed, as far as drum shell tones being different in any major way, you'd have to discuss the issue of plywood versus solid shell of some kind. The more glue, the less the organic nature of the wood is involved in the sound. I wish Rich Ferdolage, at Heartwood drums, had some videos of his own to show the nature and character of drum sets made from one log, grain running north/south. Nothing could be more naturally organic to sound. I'd like to hear the difference, if any. And his drums are about the most expensive you can buy.

Here's an issue for me: DW makes a big issue a timbre matching. So, you get a drum set that has a better pitch range for each drum, in harmony with itself. Well, when all the lugs are installed etc, and that drum set has a natural pitch range that sounds best, how can the company then make an issue of wide tuning range? If the dang drums sound "right" at the fundamental pitch of the naked shells, logically tuning any way you want would sour the sound of the set in various ways, unless you stay within this stated fundamental pitch range by an octave.


And look, now, DW has some kind of series of varying shell lines to give better overall drum set sound. The logic being the sonic nature of the shells can override problems of drum set sound from drums of one line. Only a salesman like John Goode could make such an idea fly, when he sits Thomas Lang down to play this mongrel set, WITHOUT a set right next to it displaying these supposed flaws of sets all from one line of shell.

What I want to see is John Goode thump shells with all the lugs on. Then try and tell me about fundamental pitch, when the shell sounds like a muted chunk of nothing. You will NEVER see that demonstration.


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8 Re: Drum comparison on Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:18 am

As to timbre matching. I can understand why you will never
see that demonstration AFTER the hardware is on the shell.
It won't resonate with all the hardware on it as it would without.
That's pretty obvious.

But my thinking is this: When you get a series of pitches from
high to low from a set of bare shells that are matched to go
together, those shells then become relative to one another.
Well, I believe they STAY relative even after the hardware is
added. Granted, I can see how the chosen pitch for a shell
after the hardware is added could go out of the window, but
I believe timbre matching a group of shells to compliment one
another is a great idea and it makes perfect sense to me.

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9 Re: Drum comparison on Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:49 am

It makes sense on the face of it. I bought into it at first. The logical thing is, do DW drum sets really sound better than all the other companies that do not do any timbre matching? For those playing other drums the answer would be, No. I have always wondered why Billy does not play DW, seeing he is always looking to try new things. He stayed with Tama, now Yamaha. He could have anything he wants. Maybe it's a business thing, I don't know. But the way Billy speaks of drums as musical instruments I would certainly think he'd play DW if they were the best out there, by virtue of their process.

My experience tells me a relative pitch of 'thud' between rigged up drum shells in a set doesn't mean much when the heads get tuned up and away you go. Again, this is where John Goode could actually do something practical. Make a video with a set of matched shells and unmatched shells and let us hear the actual differences. I'm not a betting man, but if I were my money would be on no sonically discernible differences at all.

I know you don't buy drums based on hype, Don. Most of those with experience would say that. I feel for the younger players that get caught up in the hype. People get upset with me about this, but I don't get into it because I want to argue with people. No way. I'm just sick of seeing the ads, the hype, and the effect on those who don't know any better. Some tell me, Get over it. The world functions on hype. Maybe. But that does not mean I must stand without a conviction on the matter.

I truly believe heads matter. Depth of shell matters. Mounting matters. Shell density matters some, based on big thickness differences or Janka scale hardness. The thing is, veneers are not hard. They are too thin to be hard. 1/40". Maybe a tad thicker sometimes. The difference between the hardness of maple veneer or ironwood is moot. Solid shell, or stave or block would render the most differences, but not plywood with all the glue. The glue is actually what makes a shell dense. It hardens. Veneer does not. You can take your fingernail and dent any maple, birch, oak, cherry, bubinga or any other shell veneer. Bearing edges matter a little, but they have more to do with seating the head correctly than the sound of the drum when all put together. The head mutes in increments as a result, as I said. But all the stuff about special plywood layers, special glues, lug designs, finishes effecting a plywood drums final tonal capabilities ... bullsgeshichte.

Here's another example. Pearl's Free-Floating snares. I bought one years ago. Tried my own shells in it. Hype. The shell is still squeezed by the head tensions and mutes it. Just because the lugs are not attached does not mean you can thump the shell and get a tone. You get a thud. No lugs. It does not take much to mute a shell.

The only shell I have ever owned that maintains a slight ring all dressed up is my 1/4" 7x13 aluminum snare. A friend made the shell for me. That drum can get tapped with a mallet and you'll hear the the ring of the shell, itself, a little. No other metal or wood shell I have ever bought or made does the same thing. They all thud.

Even Arbiter drums, no lugs, did not resonate totally free. The head rings, the heads screwed down. Constricts the shell. Just the way it is. It's a sound chamber where air pressures and sound waves move around inside between the heads. That's a drum. Everything else is a nuance with a well made unit.

I don't know if all your drum sets have the same heads and are tuned the same. I imagine they aren't for various reasons. I'd love to see you make a video of them dressed the same and let us hear the tonal differences your ZOOM would pick up.

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10 Re: Drum comparison on Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:16 pm

We agree to disagree, Asaph and that's just fine.
You have your views as do I.  No point in continuing
this as far as I'm concerned.

But I'll say this, I emailed the builder of my custom built snare
drum that was crafted by owner and builder Jeff Hankin at
Carolina Drum Works and asked him which works better in terms
of getting more sustain and attack via the bearing edges.  Below
is his answer:

"Hey, Don – good to hear from you. You sound happy being away from the one-band thing these days.

My issue with tom edges is that the amount of sustain I want to create/limit is different with different size drums. Usually, it’s hard to get a nice long note out of a small tom (8” or 10”), but the big ones (14”, 16”, 18”) seem to ring forever when you want a more thuddy note from them. So I like to vary the shape of the edge from the top of the kit to the bottom, using a fairly sharp edge on the smallest toms and getting to a fully rounded edge by the time I reach the kick drum.

With toms, I think attack is going to be more influenced by the head choice (and a little by the stick tip shape). A little thicker head helps, and an uncoated head has more attack than a coated one. Choose one or two ply heads according to what you want in tone. A sharper bearing edge can help attack, but keep in mind the sustain issues as above, which I think is a more major concern since it affects the consistency of your toms’ sound.

I don’t know if it’s behind your question, but sometimes there’s a concern that the toms can’t be heard as well as the snare and kick. I think some of that stems from the trend of very thin shells, which have less volume. The norm these days seems to be 6-ply tom shells, and then people put reinforcement rings in them to increase attack (actually it stiffens the bearing edges and raises the pitch slightly, which gives a perception of attack). But the main portion of the shell is still that lower-volume thin shell. I have an old set of the Yamaha Maple Customs – the gold lug ones that used to be the flagship line – and their thicker shells sound great, even though they’re pretty heavy to haul around. Good for getting projection from a lighter hitter like me.

Does that help? I guess the short answer is that sharp edges help with both attack and sustain, but too much sustain is sometimes not an ideal goal for the lower toms.


Here are some pictures of the actual steam bent, rosewood
7X14 drum he built for me that he uses in his picture catalog.

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11 Re: Drum comparison on Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:39 am

Lovely drum. He does nice work down there. He's one of the guys who's been around awhile now and still making great drums.

Unless I misunderstand what he's stating, bearing edges are a head issue, as I've stated, not a shell issue. They allow full ring or mute heads in increments depending on contact points. They cannot effect air flow in the chamber, or the pressure effect between drum heads. Especially if vent holes are employed. I never use any, but that's another issue.

Interestingly enough Ronn Dunnett did a live session on Drumeo Monday. The link is here:


Drumeo is a membership gig. It's free to sign up. This particular video is in a free section. Anybody can watch it. While I don't have a transcript, I can tell you I waited with interest to see what Dunnett had to say about bearing edges and other matters of shell design. It begins around an hour into the interview. When asked, he pulled over a tom, a no-name sort of brand, and struck it. The interviewer said it sounded great. He removed the batter head, and asked the guy what he saw. The edges were almost non-existent, just a flat beat up shell edge.

Dunnett's theory on edges is the same mine have been from my own experience in trying many - it's a matter of where the head sits, how it resonates (or not), not how the drum shell responds to any vibrations. Although, Dunnett believes shell weight is an issue, and the more wood you take off with varying degrees of cut, the lighter the shell gets, effecting tone in that way. Frankly, sweeping up a few grams of router dust and shavings after putting edges on, does not a lot of wood and weight make, but that's his take on it. He even says - the bearing edge battles will go on, but for him, plywood is plywood. Being wood, at all, is enough to change the sound of drums from drum to drum, bearing edge or none. He just hasn't experienced any great differences in what bearing edges do for sound, other than how they effect the head. I concur. Ultimately he'd rather play his Titanium drums than wood drums, because of the consistency of metal.

Overall, I'd have to say I agree with Jeff's email to you. Perhaps it is semantics and terminology. I am now using 10 ply shells because my toms are more shallow and the slight volume increase was desired over previous 6 and 8 ply shells, as well as more body to the sound. That's a density issue and sound absorption issue. Remember, my point in all these discussions has been - all things being equal. The original posted video, despite it's flaws, shows the minute sonic differences between toms of the same size and head choices and tensioning, regardless of company or whatever bearing edges might be differently employed. It's nuances, lost when a plywood drum set is engaged. Which is why I cry "Hype" and shame on those companies using it all to sell drums.

Anyway, life goes on. Thanks for the discussion.

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12 Re: Drum comparison on Thu Nov 21, 2013 2:08 pm


He also stated that the sharper the bearing edge the MORE
sustain one obtains not the other way around as you also

I sent him the link to that snare comparison and he said it
was very superficial. He will send me an email getting into
wood types and bearing edges at length sometime today
and I will repost what he says here.

But here's what he sent me last night as a precursor:

It’s getting late here on the east coast, but I’ll get back to you tomorrow on this – going to be a little lengthy. Let’s just say the “evaluation” in this video is very superficial.

Also, sharper edges = more ring. Rounder edges = less ring.

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13 Re: Drum comparison on Thu Nov 21, 2013 4:22 pm

"He also stated that the sharper the bearing edge the MORE
sustain one obtains not the other way around as you also

Uh, that's exactly what I have stated. Where did you read otherwise? How could it BE otherwise? But that point, that apex, for sustain, has to leave the head free from a lot of shell contact so it can vibrate freely. More shell contact, less sustain. I cannot see you missed that in anything I have written. I have held that position for many years. That is why companies went to sharp, no outside edge shells for awhile. Sustain. Some still do. The problem is, unless it was models made by Premier which had slightly undersized shells, the apex was too far out and heads did not seat correctly because of their bent collars and tuning became an issue. So the next thing was deeper outer cuts, 30s, 45s, 1/8" or 3/16" round overs to get the shell involved and seat heads correctly; muting the heads a little depending on where those cuts were made in the plies. On an 8 ply shell you might see 2o/6i, or 3o/5i, or 4/4 which is very common. Go past that point, like on bass drums, you start getting all attack and less and less sustain because of shell contact. This ain't rocket science.  

But from a purely scientific basis I must reject the notion vibrations from a thin plastic membrane can vertically descend and cause vibration in glue. That is quite preposterous. The shell is nothing more than a chamber for sound waves to bounce around in, the inner ply and first layer of glue slowing down sound waves to nothing as far as tonal character goes. Bearing edges mean very little to that process, as far as the chamber is concerned. That is plain science. Opinions otherwise ... let them show that in some way. All these makers out there. The majors, the minor players. No one has yet put out a video showing the differences in bearing edges drum to drum? Why not? Urban legends. Myths. Things only spectrometers can pick up. And once you play the whole set, enjoy your finish and hardware. If all your sets are the same drum dimensions using the same heads the differences are so small it is pathetic that drum companies make issues of such things to sell their wares.

Snare comparison? I don't know what you are talking about there. The video was taken of four toms. It can only be seen as 'superficial' if it isn't done with high end recording equipment. Otherwise, the mic captures what it captures consistently with all four drums. If someone pulls out their I-phone and goes into a drum shop and begins striking drums for comparisons sake, will the phone pick up every frequency perfectly? No. Will the phone render a consistent sound for every drum recorded? Yes. If there are major differences between drums will the phone pick it up? Yes. You don't need subwoofer quality in camera mics to pick up sound. Otherwise the ZOOM Qs are pointless. They don't render perfect sound. But the sound they render is accurate enough to know the difference between a 3x14 and a 6.5x14. Will they pick out a difference between bearing edges? Yes, in the ring and overtones heard because of head contact on the shells. Will they pick out the difference between a 4/4 45 or 3/16" roundover? No. There isn't anywhere near enough audible difference.

No one needs to invest in any fancy recording equipment to compare drums. That's a red herring, imo. I could strike a chrome snare or a wood one over an old phone and someone could hear the difference. If the differences in plywood shells is that great when a drum is struck a phone should pick that up too.

Where's the beef? That's what I ask. Sheesh, these makers out there could make a test video in a couple hours using a ZOOM. DW have their own studios. They could make a video easily. Drummers must trust and depend on words to purchase their instrument? I can see different finishes. I can see different hardware designs. Let me HEAR the differences in your drums compared to other drums in your lines. And if you have the guts, compare them to other companies. You don't have to say they are better than anyone elses drums. Just audibly declare how they are different enough to buy them. They can't. The differences are too slight to bother. So they use hype in their advertising and pass the expense on to the consumer.

I'm sorry, but the whole thing stinks and makes me sick.

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14 Re: Drum comparison on Thu Nov 21, 2013 7:16 pm

Actually, the more wood that touches the head, of any wider-cut routered edge, the more attack, simply because sustain is lessened a bit.
The above line is what I was talking about, Asaph and I can see
that I read and interpreted it incorrectly. My mistake, I apologize.

Now let me say that by attack I mean the initial, sharp 'bite' you get from
a drum when struck regardless the amount of sustain.

A tom with rounded bearing edges I would think would have noticeably less
bite than a tom with a sharper edge....  But I could be wrong.

As to the vibrations moving or not moving through the glue, I cannot say.
what I do know is if you touch the side of a drum and hit the head, you will
feel the vibration on the side of the shell which tells me that the shell is
vibrating.  Whether or not it's moving through the glue or not is moot I guess.

The important thing is the vibrating process is in play which also tells me the
shell plays a role which in turn tells me the wood type has a part in determining
the drum's sonic character...  You disagree...  All I can do is respect that.

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15 Re: Drum comparison on Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:50 am

Oh, sure, the shell has a character. My point was vibrations moving downward through the plies from the bearing edge. Strike a drum and certainly, you'll feel it on the outside of the shell. The whole chamber is filled with shock waves. But vibrations moving down through the glue and plies because of any particular bearing edge from the vibrations of the thin plastic membrane ... no, I don't buy into that. But sure, like I said, all shells, no matter what they are made of, have a density to them. That density is a factor in sound waves in the chamber. Soft inner ply, I mean very soft, like basswood or something, will render a character different than most other drum woods used in drum making based on their hardness when all glued up. It's a general thing though. But then, look at Spruce. Very soft wood, yet used on so many stringed instruments for its beautiful tones. I always wanted to make a set of stave drums in Spruce. Curious to know what the result would be. I'll bet they would sound awesome with calf heads.

I wish I had the big shop and did this for a living. I'd be experimenting on everything in sight.

Having made drums with all different bearing edges I can only say the only real difference I have ever noticed is between a straight outside wall with just a light sanding with a full 45 degree inside cut, versus any other routered edge. And then to me it seemed a simple issue of the heads not really seating correctly, so they had weird overtones. Once I placed an outside cut on them, of any number of plies, the heads seated, and the drums sounded fine. Otherwise I noticed no real difference between sharp edges or round overs, save for slight muting differences in the heads, basically lost when the kit was engaged.

One thing I want to try someday is a full 45 degree outside cut, no inside cut. I've done it with snare drums. Dries things up, lots of attack. I didn't like it for snare drums. I think it would be good for bass drums, though.

I remember seeing an old Gretsch set in a music store in NH many years ago. The heads were clear so the edges were visible. Just a double round over, and they were pretty beat up, too. I was alarmed at how much sustain the drum had, all things considered, and the tone was fine. Lots of shell/head contact. I thought the drums would sound dead. Those were things that began to tell me hoopla about bearing edges is overrated. Much the same as Ronn Dunnett mentions and shows in that Drumeo interview.

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16 Re: Drum comparison on Fri Nov 22, 2013 2:33 pm


First, can I have your link again to the sets you've built?

second, I'd buy a kit built by you in a heartbeat.

Third,  The reply below from Jeff should clear
some things up for both of us.

Note:  I have already informed him that I misinterpreted
your statement about bearing edges and sustain.


Hey, Don –

I was going to go into a long rant about that video, but I did a little homework and came up with the actual  article it was originally attached to:


He’s not saying that they all sound the same – actually, he’s saying they sound different. So everything I was going to say about different thicknesses, edges, wood, etc., is not needed. Your friend is misunderstanding what the Youtube demonstration is about.

And, as I said, sharper edges, by putting less of the head in contact with the shell, allow the head to ring more. Rounder edges provide more head-to-shell contact and inhibit the ring of the head. This is not just my personal opinion – any builder worth his salt knows this.

It’s true that the heads and tuning are the biggest factor in determine the sound of a drum. Probably dimensions (including shell thickness) second, shell material (wood, metal, acrylic, etc) third. Edges somewhere in here also. Then, within the wood shells, you can break down ply vs. solid woods, and then within the solid woods softer, medium and very hard hardwoods as three basically different tonal qualities. You can see at this point we’re reaching more minor factors. Then species differences become subtle – their influence on the sound is not a major determinate, but it’s definitely there. Some people care about those differences, some don’t. Depends on your ear and whether you’re interested in that level of refinement. It’s only marketing hype if you can’t hear it or don’t care about the sound but buy it anyway for the “prestige.” If you can tell the difference, then it’s got a value. If you can’t, you might as well save your money.

My philosophy is that that there are dozens of those subtle differences that, used together, make a very big difference in the sound and character of a drum. Individually they’re not very powerful differences, and certainly bad design combinations can cancel the differences out anyway. But to say they don’t matter because they don’t make enough difference is missing the point, and missing what distinguishes a fine instrument from a middle-level one.

Hope this is helpful.


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17 Re: Drum comparison on Fri Nov 22, 2013 4:45 pm


That page? I guess that's the one. or this one: http://www.diydrums.org/builders/folders/rayf/rayf.htm

I don't see a mic explanation in the video article. Like I said, to me, listening in top of the line earphones, I hear no major differences between the four drums. I think it was obvious the guy meant to show differences. He's proud of his drums. I just do not hear anything significant. Nuances, maybe, but the last four strikes, as I said, tell the story for me. I'd love to see this done as a blindfold test and ask the person what they are actually hearing in differences. And he says he did use a drum dial for tuning. I'd trust my ears if that is what those things do.

"My philosophy is that that there are dozens of those subtle differences that, used together, make a very big difference in the sound and character of a drum. Individually they’re not very powerful differences, and certainly bad design combinations can cancel the differences out anyway. But to say they don’t matter because they don’t make enough difference is missing the point, and missing what distinguishes a fine instrument from a middle-level one."

Dozens? Okay, if he says so. I do not see close to dozens of things that can be done to a shell of any kind which would render a noticeably different sound, drum to drum, all things being equal. Dozens? Twenty-four, thirty-six different things? Plywood - number of plies (thickness), Ply construction (debated issue in a fully dressed drum), edges (typically four basic edges builders employ, maybe twice that), shell depth, nodal points for lugs (debated issue, too), type of lugs (another debated issue), head choices, tension, mounting. What am I missing?

I also disagree with his statement about "mid-level" drums. I have heard mid-level drums sound just as good as top level drums. The things that distinguish them is finishes and hardware lines, but not overall sonic character. The set I did up in Texas, which is pictured at my site: the guy who bought them could not believe the sound of them. Most were entry-level drums I changed some things on. I cut some shells down, I sharpened edges, I did the veneer, both outside and inside. I just did a dual session for a future CD. I used Tom's level-entry set (renovated by me) to record one drum track, and my big set to record the other. Aside from some tonal differences that are obvious because of drum sizes and depths, heads, etc., NO ONE would ever know one set was a bottom line set, and the other was a custom maple set-up. They just sound different.

Here is where Jeff, or any full-time, professional builder out there could do a simple video of their own wares and show all these dozens of things and how different they make drums sound. What a useful tool such a video would be. What an eye-opener for consumers. What a service that would be providing.

Oh, well.

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18 Re: Drum comparison on Fri Nov 22, 2013 4:56 pm

I will humbly and honestly say I would love to be wrong about all this, and deny my own ears and experience, for the sake of the drum industry and consumers: that all the hype is truly warranted, and the difference in sounds, all things being equal drum to drum, can be so glaringly obvious it would be like red to blue to yellow. I just can't.

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19 Re: Drum comparison on Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:36 pm

Dozens? Okay, if he says so. I do not see close to dozens of things that can be done to a shell of any kind which would render a noticeably different sound, drum to drum, all things being equal. Dozens?
Heads, bearing edges, woods. tuning, stick size, stick wood types,
hoop types, shell depth, shell diameter, shell thickness, solid shell,
ply's, number of lugs, lug mounting system, strainer tension...  

I could even name a few more but I think the point is made.

"Mid-level."  In terms of quality control or price.  Some companies
have great mid-level products via quality manufacturing that is
sold for a reasonable price.  DW's mid range snare drums aren't all
that while ddrum's mid range snares and drum sets for that matter
are amazing.  It's all in who's hands have been on them.

Jeff Hankin is a master craftsman that builds drums from the planks to
the finished product.  I have one of his amazing products that was
customized, then built to my own specs for a mere $600.00 so when he
speaks, the proof is in the pudding as far as I'm concerned.

With this last comment from Jeff, I'm done here.

Thanks, man.


"Very interesting thread, thanks for sending the link, Don. You guys have been going back and forth, but you’re not as far apart as I thought you were going to be. I did take a look at Ray’s website and there’s some cool stuff there. I admire what he’s done with veneers especially, and he and I are both big fans of the hoops Jody makes at Stellar. And his playing chops are head and shoulders above mine these days, so I’m a little jealous of that. J

I also agree that a drum is a membranophone, and we don’t play it by hitting the shell. Good design is a matter of controlling the things that alter/modify/enhance the sound originally produced by the head. We don’t hear the shell, we hear the way it affects the sound waves generated by the head. There’s no question that there’s a good bit of marketing hype out there – that’s always been true as long as drum companies have advertised – and I share Ray’s frustration at it. But there’s also plenty of detail that does make a difference.

I won’t jump into the discussion for a variety of reasons, but I do want to say that evaluating sound over the Internet is kind of iffy – it means you’re incorporating the microphone, recording device, file compression, bandwidth and speakers/headphones into the sound that you hear (not to mention the room (playback as well as recording locations), the sticks, the player, the music genre, etc.). I get a lot of requests to build “a drum that sounds like this recording” and the answer is that what you hear on the recording is usually not what the drum really sounded like in the first place. Even live and acoustic, the way a kit sounds to an audience changes when there’s a mix of other instruments involved. Heck, the way a drum sounds to the player standing over it and a listener fifteen feet away can be very different, with no other factors even involved. Plus, play those same four toms further away from the center of the head, play them at low volume, play rimshots on them, and they might sound less alike – or more alike. And that could be related to the different wood types. (Or shell construction, or edge shapes, or … )

Yes, dozens of little details – I was referring to a drum, not just a shell, but there are quite literally dozens of design choices that affect the sound – sometimes it’s a tiny effect, but if you use these things in combination they can make a big difference. A violin is a violin, but there are levels of quality and performance that derive from many small details. Same with any musical instrument, including drums.


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20 Re: Drum comparison on Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:45 pm

He sounds like a lovely guy. Would love to meet him and talk shop someday. He's actually not that far away from me.

I wouldn't put sticks in the mix of drum characteristics. That's something that cannot be 'all things equal.' And, of course, strainers are snares, which, for many reasons have characters different than toms and bass drums. I was thinking toms, basically. Heads, depths are a given. But again - all things being equal in a test/comparison.

The thing about mics ... regardless of inadequacies, they would be consistent, so even if they did not capture the true nature of the test drums, if the drums had major tonal differences that would come through, even if inadequately, if you know what I mean. Drums get recorded. builders WANT their drums recorded. To say they could not do a sample video of their drums, for sonic comparisons sake does not make sense to me. Guru goes out of their way to state how honest their video captures are. But, they only compare their snare drums.

I will do it at some point myself.

Anyway, yeah. Great discussion.

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21 Re: Drum comparison on Sun Nov 24, 2013 2:27 pm

I hear you about the sticks and miking. But
they definitely have an influence on drum sound
though it's not the drum itself... Points taken.

Jeff is a great guy and will take the time to
answer any questions asked of him concerning
his craft. Not to mention he's a wonderful

you should email him sometimes.

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