BY BRAD SCHLUETER
If you thought Roland and Yamaha had the electronic drum market cornered, think again. Ddrum has been making some of the finest electronic drum equipment out there for 25 years, products often chosen by touring professionals for their simplicity of use, realistic sounds, and rock-solid reliability. The company’s expansion into the realm of acoustic drums initially raised some eyebrows, but those who’ve seen and played the acoustic drums know something the skeptics don’t: Ddrum was able to do for acoustic what it had long been doing for electric.
Unlike some newer companies, ddrum is making a full range of drum lines suitable for any budget, which, incidentally, all begin with the letter “D” — Dios, Dominion, Diablo, and so on. Some of its kits are perfect for niche players wanting a punk kit with a tartan finish, or a glam drummer looking for a colorful acrylic kit. But ddrum drums aren’t only about image. A year ago I reviewed two high-end yet mid-priced kits from the Dios line. One kit was made from bubinga and the other from walnut, and frankly, I’m still kicking myself for not buying one or both of those kits. Luckily, I got another crack at a ddrum acoustic kit, this time in the Dominion maple line. I wasn’t going to let this one get away so easily.
OUT OF THE BOX
From the Dominion Maple series, I received a Dorian configuration, which is a “one up, two down” 5-piece kit consisting of a 14″ x 6.5″ snare, a 24″ x 18″ kick, a 13″ x 9″ rack tom, and 14″ x 14″ and 16″ x 14″ floor toms. This kit is clearly a rock kit, but if you require an even more insanely huge bass drum and toms for added sonic boom, ddrum’s appropriately named Dominator configuration is the kit for you. There’s also a more general-purpose kit with two hanging toms and one floor tom with a modern 22″ x 20″ bass drum. As of 2008, these kits are available as shell packs only, though ddrum does include its new line of DX Touring hardware.
As mentioned, the shells are 100-percent maple, with 6-ply 6mm toms, and 8-ply 8mm shells for the snares and bass drums. The Dorian configuration I received is available in several high-gloss lacquer finishes: Natural, Wine Red, Black, Orange Sparkle, Tobacco Sunburst (5-percent up charge), and Dark Blue. The other configurations offer different finish selections. The kit I received had the new Dark Blue finish — a rich blue lacquer that reveals the grain of the maple under bright lighting. It was an attractive and classy, if understated finish. On four of the drums the gloss was very smoothly finished, but oddly, the 14″ floor tom had some subtle striations in the gloss, making me wonder if someone went out to lunch and forgot a buffing step on that drum.
I preferred this Dorian configuration over the very ’80s-feeling and fairly massive Dominator configuration. Since the 13″ mounted tom was a shallow 9″ deep, I could still get the drum into a comfortable playing position. Deep toms placed over large bass drums force drummers to set everything up at steep angles (think Lars Ulrich), which quickly results in dented heads. You could also set them very flat and high, which forces more arm movement into your technique. That looks cool for rock, but if you’re more of a finesse player and like to minimize unnecessary motions, that could introduce technique issues. Moving the rack tom further to the left, a la Tommy Lee, widens the distance between the high tom and the floor toms, requiring more effort to move between them. This configuration solved all of these potential problems simply by keeping the rack tom on the short side. The kit as a whole is also more compact.
All the drums include die-cast hoops, which used to be a feature on more expensive drum sets but are now beginning to make an appearance on midrange kits. I prefer the look of die-cast hoops to triple-flanged hoops. Die-cast hoops tend to add attack to toms, a plus for lighter hitters, and give snare drums loud, woody, and easy-to-find rim-click sounds. The bass drum claws are made from stamped steel and the straight tension rods require a drum key for tuning but will fit easily into your cases without getting caught, unlike the older, less-fashionable T-rod design found on some drums. The lugs are tasteful and shouldn’t offend anyone’s aesthetic preferences. Same goes for the badges.
The bass drum is “virgin” style, which means it has no tom-mounting bracket, so you’ll need to hang your mounted toms from a cymbal stand. I prefer bass drum mounting brackets for the added convenience they offer, though some people feel the added holes and hardware affect the tone of a bass drum. Of course, if you use a rack, virgin bass drums are the way to go. The bass drum is a 20-lug design, which purportedly allows for smoother and more even tensioning than 16-lug designs, but puts more hardware on the shell. The bass drum also features a set of foldout spurs with retractable spikes that help hold the drum in place.
While unpacking the kit I noticed that the floor tom legs have small, hard rubber feet that don’t offer the air-pocket style suspension found on some other companies’ tom legs. But after playing them I determined the toms had enough sustain as they were and didn’t actually need any more. The floor toms had a similar open sound with lots of attack to the mounted tom, but obviously with deeper pitches. For the rock music this kit seems designed for, I’d probably replace the second-tier Remo UK batter heads that came on the toms with some of better quality. Two-ply heads would add even more fullness to the drums and a more typical contemporary rock tom sound. Ddrum suggested the same thing. When I put higher quality heads on the toms, the kit sounded even better than it did on its first gig out.
The bass drum came outfitted with Powerstroke-type batter heads front and back that feature internal muffling rings to reduce overtones, though the resonant head was a white ddrum logo head. For some reason, the logo head didn’t want to lay flat on the bearing edge of the shell. I don’t normally use 24″ bass drums and didn’t have an extra head that size handy, so I applied extra tension to the claws to take the wrinkles out. Since this all took place during the week prior to the NAMM show, a replacement head wasn’t sent before the completion of this review. My brute force solution seemed to work, though, and the problem with the head was forgotten as soon as I started playing the kit. I’ve finished plenty of gigs only to notice after the fact that my bass drum’s resonant head was a little wrinkled, without it affecting the sound at all. In this case I was able to get a big, deep sound out of the bass, which, in any case, probably had less to do with head seating and more to do with the drum’s sheer size and added diameter.
The 13″ mounted tom was easy to tune and its suspension mount helped add sustain. The drum had a reasonable tuning range and an open, clear tone. It definitely wanted to be tuned a bit low, so if I were only using two toms on a smaller stage, I might choose the 16″ over the 14″ tom to get a more definitive pitch difference.
Right out of the box, the snare drum was a winner. I expected and received loud and clear rim-clicks from the die-cast hoops, and it produced a meaty sound and tons of crack when I pounded out rimshots. Even tuned way up, the snare produced a nice, full tone, in part due to its 6.5″ depth. It was lively but not too lively, and held its tuning well. I liked the die-cast throw-off too, which operated both smoothly and quietly. It has a relatively short lever that didn’t force me to move my legs when operating it. All in all, this is a very nice snare drum worthy of a higher priced kit.
AT THE GIG
I used this kit at a couple of gigs and found it not only sounded good but its appearance generated several compliments as well. At one of the gigs I played the kit completely unmiked. Apparently, this club didn’t provide mikes or monitors for the band, which my fellow bandmembers had neglected to mention. As a result, I had to play the $@*# out of the bass drum to try to match my volume with the band’s. Fortunately, I tend to have loud feet and, coupled with the large kick, snare, and toms, I was able to keep pace. Several people told me afterward that the drums sounded great and my volume balanced well. I did dent several of the heads during this show, which is another reason a pro might want to drop a little more money on better heads.
With die-cast hoops, all-maple shells, professional sound, beautiful finishes, and a great price tag, it would be impossible not to recommend these drums.
Model: Dominion Maple Dorian 5-piece kit
Configuration: 14″ x 6.5″ snare, 24″ x 18″ bass drum, 13″ x 9″ tom, 14″ x 14″ and 16″ x 14″ floor toms.
Shells: 100-percent maple with 6mm 6-ply toms and 8mm 8-ply snare and bass drum.
Finishes: Natural, Wine Red, Black, Orange Sparkle, Tobacco Sunburst, and Dark Blue.
Features: New line of DX Touring hardware included; die-cast hoops; “virgin”-style bass drum; low price.
Contact: Ddrum, 4924 W. Waters Ave., Tampa, FL 33634. 813-600-3920. ddrum.com