BY BRAD SCHLUETER
Forty years ago, Tama was the first big drum company to offer birch drums, and it’s continuing this tradition by adding a new all-birch series of kits to its Silverstar product line. These drums are quite affordable and should appeal to younger drummers or those on a budget, yet they still offer a lot of excellent features.
When I first heard of this new line my curiosity was piqued. Then I received a pleasant surprise in the form of two different Silverstar kits to check out. One was a small 4-piece jazz kit with an 18″ bass drum and the other was a 5-piece rock kit with a 22″ bass drum and a 16″ floor tom (instead of the usual 14″). There are four configurations available along with a selection of add-on drums. I was also pleased to note Tama is offering a kit with a 20″ bass drum since that’s a good size for smaller or beginning drummers and jobbers who need one bass drum to do everything.
These drums use the same all-birch shells found on Tama’s Superstar line, and this wood is often described as having a punchy sound with lots of attack. Birch tends to have slightly less midrange than some other woods, such as maple, so it can be thought of as having an EQ’d sound, as if a sound engineer had already tweaked the shell’s tone. Years ago, birch was the choice of high-end drums and many professionals still prefer its tone over that of other woods.
The drums are offered in five lacquer finishes and three wraps. The lacquer finishes are all very nice — four of them reveal the wood grain, and the fifth is Tama’s Titanium Fade finish, which is actually a paint finish that has been offered in the Superstar line for several years. The three wrap finishes offered include a pale blue, a rich red, and a green finish.
The jazz review kit had a Transparent Blue Burst lacquer that was perfectly done. The shells had a glass-like gloss without any streaks in the lacquer. This finish could be on a kit five times the price. It still amazes me how much better the finishes on some intermediate-level kits are compared to many high-end kits of just a few years ago. The inside of the hoops and shells have a light honey-colored lacquer applied to them that makes the drums look even more expensive than they are and helps protect them from changing humidity.
The rock kit I received featured a Vintage Burgundy Sparkle finish. It too was very well done. The color is a deeper red with smaller flecks to catch the light. Both finishes received compliments at the gigs where I put the kits to the test.
A Roadpro hardware package came with the kits and included a hi-hat stand, two cymbal stands (one boom), a snare stand, and a kick pedal, as well as a sliding double tom holder and floor tom legs.
All this Roadpro hardware functioned very well and was double-braced, which offers additional stability since the stands are a bit heavier at the bottom than single-braced stands are. The hi-hat stand has a swiveling footboard to accommodate a double pedal that allows you to adjust its angle as well, and the five-way adjustable spring tension will allow you to dial in your ideal tension.
The snare stand fits snares from 12″ up to 15″, perfect for drums with thick hoops. The basket swivels so you can rotate the drum to keep the strainer from hitting your thigh without having to pick the whole thing up and move it. This also comes in handy when trying to keep the rubber feet from interfering with your pedals. Both the cymbal stands and snare stand feature Tama’s Quick-set tilter that quickly allows any angle you like and doesn’t limit it like a ratcheted tilter does. The HP300 Cobra Jr. pedal has many of the features found on Iron Cobra pedals and now has been updated with a new Power Glide cam and a smoother footboard for drummers who slide their feet when they play. It can also be retrofitted with Tama’s Cobra Coil spring that pushes the pedal up faster. This is excellent hardware, especially at the price.
Both the straight and boom cymbal stand feature Tama’s Quick-set Cymbal Mates. These are replacements for standard wing screws and feature two red buttons that when depressed release the device from the stand allowing for quick cymbal changes. It’s a great idea on paper, but unfortunately, they just don’t work. I wouldn’t say that if they actually stayed on a cymbal during normal playing situations, but alas, they won’t. At my gigs, I resorted to using duct tape to keep them from flying off my crash cymbals every few songs. If, like me, you like to use a bit of tension between your wing screw and cymbal felts to keep your ride cymbal from flopping all over the place, they won’t work for that either. Tama should go back to those round plastic nuts it used previously since they actually work well.
The kit included Tama’s sliding tom mount that allows you to bring the bass drum mounted toms closer to you to adapt to different drummers or tom sizes. I like this idea a lot.
The jazz kit has a Tama bass drum lifter that raises the drum a few inches higher, so the beater strikes near the center of the head. I like this idea since hitting in the center of the head will produce a deeper fundamental with fewer overtones. It folds out for use and should fit in a standard case.
There’s a new low-mass lug on the Silverstar line and it’s a simple, nice-looking, stamped-steel model that doesn’t look cheap yet still has similar contours to Tama’s die-cast lugs found on its more expensive lines. The new Star-Mount System is now chrome instead of black, and features a clever new swiveling eye bolt so you can reposition the wing screw to stay our of your way. Very nice!
The bass drum claws are the same nice die-cast units found on Tama’s high-end kits with thick rubber liners that do a great job of protecting your hoops. The lugs also have rubber spacers to avoid metal-against-wood contact and this also minimizes those annoying and impossible-to-locate rattling sounds that often haunt you in the studio.
The hoops on the Silverstar drums differ from those on the Superstars. Instead of die-cast hoops, these are triple-flanged and 1.6mm thick, which is rather thin. I don’t mind thinner hoops on toms so much, but I wish Tama offered a 2.3mm hoop on the batter side of the snare for louder rim-clicks.
These drums all tuned up easily, and each rod turned with the same amount of resistance indicating the machining of the rods and receivers was better than many inexpensive drums.
The drums came with Tama’s Powercraft II heads, which are single-ply, 10mil heads. The snare and bass drum batter heads were coated with a creamy color that I liked. The toms and bass drum batter were all clear. I prefer coated heads across jazz kits. Not just aesthetically, but because I sometimes take advantage of the surface when playing brushes on toms as well. The bass drum heads had an internal muffling ring that dampened the overtones.
After tuning, both kits sounded very good. When you eventually upgrade to more professional heads they’ll sound even better.
The rock kit had a deep, though slightly boomy bass drum sound that might benefit from a bit more muffling, though I liked the sound. The toms all had clear pitches with perfect sustain. I also liked the 4″ leap down to the 16″ floor tom. I’d prefer a 2-ply head on the rock kit’s toms for durability and would upgrade down the road.
The snare was crisp like birch snares tend to be. Since the hoops are just 1.6mm thick I found better rim-clicks when striking over a screw since the hoop is more rigid there. At the first rock gig I used the kit at I got compliments on the finish, and the drums sounded good and held their tuning through the night. Unfortunately, the coating on the snare wore off in the center of the head by the end of the gig, but that’s where a head upgrade makes the difference.
The 4-piece jazz kit was also very nice. I like the higher bass drum position and liked the sound of the bass and toms when tuned high for jazz. When tuned lower, I thought the bass drum would work in a rock context, so I brought it out to a low-volume rock-trio gig where the club wanted us to play quietly for the first part of the night. The drums looked and sounded great and kept us out of trouble with the bosses. By the end of the night, I was playing full out and the bass drum still sounded pretty fat. The kit received compliments from the guys in that band, too.
This new Silverstar line is a success and offers an incredible amount of value at this price point. In fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they cost $500 more. The finishes are perfect, the hardware is superb (minus some issues with the Quick-set Cymbal Mates), and the sound is professional. What are you waiting for?
Features Sliding Tom Holder; new Star-cast tom mount; new low-mass lug design; Quick-set tilters; Omni-ball tom tilters; swiveling eye-bolt tom mounts; beautiful finishes; jazz kit includes BL500 Bass Drum Lift.
Configurations 4-piece 18″ BD Jazz Kit: 18″ x 14″ bass drum, 12″ x 8″ tom, 14″ x 14″ floor tom, and a 14″ x 5″ matching wood snare drum; 5-piece Rock Kit: 22″ x 18″ bass drum, 10″ x 8″ and 12″ x 9″ toms, 16″ x 14″ floor tom, and a 14″ x 5″ matching wood snare drum.
Wrap Vintage Burgundy Sparkle (reviewed), Sky Blue Sparkle, Chameleon Sparkle.
Finishes Lacquer: Transparent Blue Burst (reviewed), Transparent Red Burst, Dark Mocha Fade, Satin Cherry Burst (matte finish), Custom Titanium Fade.
Shells 100 percent birch drum shells with 7-ply 7mm bass drum shells and 6-ply 6mm tom and snare shells.
Hardware Roadpro HW Kit: HC72WN, HC73BWN, HP300, HS70WN, HH75WN.
VK52 5-piece Rock Kit:
shell pack $974.99;
VL48J 4-piece Jazz Kit: