My 2014 NAMM Report

The theme this year seemed to be “expand up” and more and more manufactures abandon the main floor for display booths in the upper floors of the convention center. Which left Hall D open for marketing firms and and a video camera company to get involved in the music industry showcase. I won’t cover every thing I saw, but I will hit the more interesting things I saw in the world of drums.

Pearl

The most interesting product, and the clear winner of the show, was something so small that it would be easy to miss: the new tension rod from Pearl!

The center of the rod is drilled out, and partially split. A 2nd screw is then inserted into the rod. Once the drum is in tune, you use Allen Wrench to turn the inner screw, which goes down into the rod and expands the rod where it is split, to hold the rod in place. Making it impossible for the tension rod to loosen up. Dozens upon dozens of products have come out over the years to prevent tensions rods from coming loose, but this makes all prior products irrelevant. A marvelous invention!

Also Pearl were showing new brackets, that will easily convert any bass drum into a gong drum or floor tom.

In drums themselves, Pearl features a new snare drum made from aerospace materials. It is supposed to be super strong and hard, yet very resonant. Despite the resemblance, it is not carbon fiber.

 

Tama

Tama says if you’re going to do a wrap, do it right with this beauty in their B/B line.

They also featured a new all black Iron Cobra pedal, and several “re-issue” snare drums, including the legendary bell brass model.

Ludwig

Ludwig debuted their new Signet 105 line of drums, that you assemble yourself. They ship you the shells, you attached the lugs, brackets, and heads yourself. They are a 6 ply all USA made maple shell. The DIY aspect is so the end user can get a USA made maple shell pack for under $1000 because there is no labor cost in assembling the drums.

Rather than screw on lugs, the lugs simply slide into the shell like so:

And then the tom bracket attaches via two drum key screws, and then you assemble as normal.

My issue with the lugs is, given how easily they slip in, they also easily slip out. This could be a problem if you have to change heads in a dark corner of a club or a poorly lit rehearsal room. The bigger issue was these slip in lugs require drilling a larger hole into the shell. While on the above drum this was not an issue, only every other drum at the booth there was visible damage to the shell where the wood had flaked and splintered from improper drilling. The glare of the lights hitting the drum head made this hard to photograph, but it was quite noticeable. 

 

Given the drums are aimed at the intermediate and semi-pro market, I don’t see what benefit the end user gains from lugs that slip on. You already have the use a drum key to screw on the tom bracket, and put on the heads, why not the lugs too? The 20 minutes or so time saved in assembly by a slip in lug over a screw in lug is not a big deal in the grand scheme of owning a drum set. And given how many low end kits come shipped without heads attached, it is not as if this kit requires much more assembly than an average kit in this price point.

Further, I though the 3 finishes offered looked like bad  1970’s wood paneling. And I won’t even mention the cheap bass drum spurs.

I give Ludwig an “A” for thinking outside the box by offering a USA made maple shell at a lower price point. I fully get behind the DIY aspect. But the final product has far too many problems, is not something I can recommend. In 2012 and 2013, Ludwig blew me away with their new products, but not this year.

Mapex

Mapex featured there new new Soniclear bearing edge on two lines of drums. 

In pictures, it is hard to see how this makes a difference, but I was given a demonstration on how the head seats better on their new edge.

The best part is this edge is not just going to be there highest end line. It will featured on the Mars line with 6 ply birch shells, and the Armory line (pictured) featuring birch/maple hybrid shell. Despite being on par with high level pro kits, these come in at low and mid level price points respectively. 

Yamaha

Yamaha unveiled their new Absolute Hybrid Maple. Quality on these drums was top notch. I had the chance to hear several different people demo these drums, and they do sing!

Also they upgraded their Stage Custom line with several pro features, making these drums on par with drums that would usually cost much more.

Gretsch

The Gretsch booth featured Phil Collins actual touring kit:

A very vintage looking 3-ply prototype:

And many interesting snare drums. Two caught my eye are being particularly unusual. The first one featured Gretsch’s famous silver sealer on the outside of the drum, with the finish wrap on the inside of the drum!

The other was a snare drum finished by Fender Guitars Custom Shop, to give it a pre-aged vintage look.

I just personally can not imagine paying $1499 for a drum that looks like was rolled down a hill back in 1973 and has been sitting on a shelf ever since.

Premier

Premier has this beautiful duel finish kit with custom inlay on display:

Also Premier updated their XPK line, with all birch shells. They were advertising a 5 pc kit, with 2 additional toms for a mere $799 MAP. Great value, and great looking drums.

 

 

Natal

In only there third year at NAMM, Natal continues to show they can play with the big boys. Of interest was their new stave construction snare drums, available in maple, ash and walnut.

 

Zildjian

The big news was the introduction of the new Zildjian Kerope line of cymbals that look and sound like the K cymbals of the 1950’s and 60’s.  My first thought is, wasn’t the K Constantinople line designed to do this? The big difference is the K Constantinoples still have the modern cymbal bell and profile shape.
These “new” Kerope have the flatter bell and flatter overall profile found on cymbals from the 50’s and early 60’s. From my perspective: Constantinoples are modern made K’s that are hammered to sound like vintage cymbals.  Kerope are designed to actually replicate how vintage cymbals were made.

I love how they even look like they came out of a pawn shop.

 

Zildjian also had on display a cymbal from the 1970’s and 1960’s to compare to the Kerope:

You can see how the bell in the 1970’s cymbal is more pronounced, leading toward how modern cymbals are made. While the 1960’s cymbal and the Kerope have a less pronounced bell.

Also Zildjian has updated their Gen-16 cymbals. Gone is the nickle finish, and instead they now have a regular cymbal finish. They are also lightly lathed for better tone.

Sabian

Sabian does such an amazing job with their marketing of their Cymbal Vote campaign, I do not feel like I have much to add. But I did take notice of the rock weight cymbals in the Xs20 line. Finally, the hard hitter has cymbals that will sound good, cut through, will take a beating, and do not cost an arm and a leg.

Paiste

Paiste had Danny Carey’s custom Paiste shell drum kit. The bass drum is so heavy, one person can not pick it up!

Pasite also displayed their Twenty Master Series, which combine the dark sound of old Turkish cymbals with a hint of that traditional Paiste sound.

Drum Workshop

DW has entered the direct drive pedal market to compete with Axis, Trick and the Pearl Demon Drive.

Other Stuff:

Speaking of Axis, I have no idea who Alfred Berengena is, although I did run into him at the Zildjian booth. But his new signature pedal from Axis is amazing. I have not practiced my double bass in a while, yet I was able to sit down and play complex figures with ease. Wow, what an amazing pedal!

Roland debuted their new TM-2 Module. It has just two stereo inputs, which can be split into 4 mono triggers. It is designed for the working drummer who just needs to trigger kick and snare, or just a few sounds, without the hassle and expense of carrying an entire electronic drum set up. And the best part is it has the capability to load your own custom .wav sounds into it via a card.

Ray Ayotte is back at Ayotte drums, with a kit on display:

Stone drums bought out all of Slingerland’s shell making machinery, and is now making drums out of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Crush has this amazing one-of-a-kind rack at their booth.

Gaai is a small custom drum maker. If you can not decide between a sparkle or a wood grain finish, they offer both at once! More amazing is their little 18″ bass drum that sounds like a much bigger and deeper drum.

Sonor drums had this truly out of this world finish on display.

Their was speculation as to what Sakae would offer after their public divorce from Yamaha. Nothing really stood out as a “Yamaha equivalent” though.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Cymbal company said, who needs  drums when you can play an all cymbal kit? It actually sounded really good.

Latin Percussion displayed drums that are a cross between a Cajon and a snare drum. Really nice sounding instruments. While the obvious use is “un-plugged” gigs, I was stuck by how useful they would be in the studio to make interesting sounding tracks, particularly in the pop world, or looped to be the basis of a dance track.

And that’s a wrap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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