BY BRAD SCHLUETER | FROM DRUM! MAGAZINE’S MAY 2018 ISSUE
With a great sound, unique look and plenty of hardware features and details to keep things interesting, Crush has come out strong with a drum set that’s equally at home in a recording studio as it is under the bright stage lights.
Crush’s debut made a big splash a few years ago, but they ran into some distribution problems that limited their drums’ availability. Now the company has struck a distribution deal with Korg USA that will make it easier to check out the kits at shops so the company can focus on developing new products.
We were sent their latest kit, the Sublime Birch, along with a full set of their sturdy M4 hardware for review.
The review kit was designed for rockers and included a 22″ x 16″ bass drum, 12″ x 8″ mounted tom, a 16″ x 14″ floor tom, and an add-on 10″ x 7″ mounted tom. Crush included a matching prototype 14″ x 6″ snare drum, which will be available later this year. The shell pack includes two ball-and-socket clamps to attach the toms to cymbal stands and a set of floor tom legs.
Three configurations are available based around 18″, 20″, or 22″ bass drums. Available add-on toms include 8″, 10″, and 13″ mounted toms, and 14″ and 18″ floor toms.
As the name suggests, this kit has 100-percent birch shells. North American birch, to be exact. Birch is known for its punchy, EQ’d sound. Maple may offer a bit more warmth and low-end, but birch often needs less equalizing at the soundboard. For many years, this was the reason birch was preferred for use as recording studio drum sets.
The number of plies varies by drum type, and Crush offers the Sublime Birch with a 10-ply snare and 6-ply toms and bass drums, with each ply being about 1mm thick. The snare has a single 45-degree bearing edge for lively response, while the toms and bass have a double 45-degree edge on top with a rounded resonant side edge to lessen unwanted overtones. All of these drums have “straight” shells without reinforcing rings.
Our review kit’s finish had a natural wood stripe horizontally through the center surrounded by blue sparkle, a combination that looks great on stage. The central wood stripe is 2″ thick on each shell, while the area of blue sparkle varies depending on the shell depth.The gloss was thick and glassy, offering a bit of protection and enhanced visual appeal. Its striped appearance reminded me of old Duco drum finishes, but unlike those rather drab affairs there’s nothing traditional about this dazzling finish.
In addition to our review kit’s bold blue sparkle with natural stripe in high-gloss finish, the Sublime Birch is available in antique white or dark walnut, both with natural satin finish. Both are more subdued and will appeal to drummers seeking a tastefully hip and somewhat retro look.
Our kit’s bass drum hoops matched the natural stripe on our set, while the other two options match their finish.
Crush uses its rectangular low-mass Mini Bridge lugs on all the drums. These are rubber-lined and have a tiny arch underneath, but it’s so small I had to purposely look for it.
The toms have 2mm triple-flanged hoops that allow a little more low-end from the drums than die-cast hoops. They also feature Crush’s X-Suspension mounts that attach to four lugs, not just two on the top. The cool thing about this system is that it’s compact and shouldn’t interfere with your tom placement, as some traditional band systems can.
The tom brackets are hinged, with unique removable inserts to accommodate different sized tom arms. If you already have a set of hardware you like, you should be able to use it with these drums.
Our floor tom used these same brackets to lock the legs in place, with memory locks included. The legs’ feet are solid rubber, rather than having a hollow or cushioned “sustain-enhancing” design. I didn’t mind this, as I rarely find floor toms lacking sustain.
Like most professional kits the bass drum and snare have ten screws per head. This makes it easier to tune the snare up to reggae ranges while putting less stress on the shell than eight-lug models.
The bass drum also has removable gull-wing spurs. I’ve heard drum makers claim this enhances sustain compared to fold-out spurs, but since I usually muffle my bass drum, this was a moot point for me. I find them less convenient than fold-out spurs, though the included memory locks ensure that they’ll always be at the angle you prefer. The kit has rubber-lined die-cast “Hoop Saver” claws to protect the hoops from gouging.
The prototype snare had hoops curved inward, much like old Slingerland or current Mapex hoops. This design is more rigid than a typical triple-flanged hoop and is lighter than a die-cast hoop. The simple side throw-off operates smoothly and quietly while raising the 20-strands of wires beneath the drum.
Crush’s memory locks are attractive, and when mated together create an oval profile. Their metal drum badges have a modern and eye-catching black and silver look. Their die-cast air vents also have a small silver metal badge for yet another classy touch.
All the hardware was double-braced, heavy-duty, and dependable. I loved the black plastic handles on the cymbal stands, reminiscent of Mapex or DW hardware. These are always easier to grip and set than standard wing screws.
Our kit’s boom stands also feature a three-tier design to accommodate higher cymbal placements. Each tier has an attractive memory lock that will recall your preferred positions.
Our snare stand was another sturdy unit and includes another one of Crush’s hinged memory locks. Like the cymbal stands, it had that black handle to set the drum’s angle, and its big rubber feet will keep it from walking away from you.
The bass drum pedal felt smooth and well-built. It has a sturdy double chain, which sits in a felt-lined plastic hub for silent operation. It has a solid base plate underneath the visually striking green footboard, and it’s easy to adjust the beater angle and spring tension. The beater’s two-sided design allows for the choice of a hard-plastic surface or a slightly softer felt one. The only less-than-ideal aspect of the pedal was that the hoop clamp’s wing screw was located inconveniently beneath the footboard. An M4 double bass pedal is also available.
The hi-hat is a little different. It’s a three-legged stand that operates smoothly with a standard clutch and adjustable tension, but it’s also been designed to allow for removal of one of the legs to make a two-legged hi-hat stand.
Crush added extra stability to this pedal to allow for this versatility without compromising its functionality. The tradeoff is that the pedal does not fold up as simply as many do for easy transport. Instead, when setting up the hi-hat stand, you have to secure the baseplate beneath its green footboard with three tension screws that pass through holes drilled on the baseplate’s edge.
I have a couple of issues with this design. The most obvious is that removing three screws is not fun after a show on a dark stage, where the screws could be dropped and lost. In fairness, this is a minor issue if you don’t gig much. But as a regularly gigging drummer who likes to fold up my hi-hat pedal for transport, this would get old fast for me.
What matters most is how the drums sound, and in that regard, this kit is flawless. These drums slam!
The bass drum’s gut-punching sound could be mistaken for a larger drum. The pre-muffled white logo and clear batter Remo heads kept the drum from sounding too boomy, yet it still had that big sound most rock drummers want. I’d port the head to dry it up a little more and allow for microphone access.
My drum key quickly discovered each one of the toms’ natural pitches and all three drums sounded good together as a group. The toms have a punchy, and resonant sound and each offered some high-end bite over a meaty undertone, aided by the thin birch shells. The defined notes from each tom inspired me to jam some melodic jungle grooves. The toms and snare came with coated single-ply heads over clear resonant heads.
The snare’s depth and woody tone gave it as much fatness as I could want, yet it still had plenty of crispness, due to the thicker 10-ply shell. Tuned down and muffled it emitted a classic ’70s ballad sound. Higher tunings brought out more sensitivity, perfect for busier playing. Rim-clicks were loud, clear, and clave-like with the drum’s stick saver hoops. My louder rimshots were painful and could easily cut through a loud band.
These drums sound excellent, look sharp and have enough useful features to please pro players, yet are priced for hobbyists. The heavy-duty M4 hardware package can stand up to any gig, and in spite of my quibbles, it’s all tour-ready and a bargain at its price. These are drums you will be proud to play.