FROM DRUM! MAGAZINE'S FEBRUARY 2018 ISSUE | BY BRAD SCHLUETER
Yamaha celebrated its 50th year of making great drums in 2017 by introducing a wealth of cool new gear at the Winter NAMM show. However, the venerable brand waited until mid-summer to unveil the new Yamaha Tour Custom Review Maple series.
This line was created with input from some of Yamaha’s top artists and was designed for professional working drummers. They have the sound Yamaha fans want and offer a slew of features, all within a working drummer’s budget.
Yamaha Tour Custom Review Maple Kit
Shells & Configurations
This kit has 6-ply 5.6mm 100 percent maple shells made with Yamaha’s diagonal staggered seams and 45-degree bearing edges. While assembling the kit, I noticed that the shells and bearing edges felt very smooth and everything appeared to be well-made.
Our kit had a rock configuration with a 22″ x 16″ kick, 10″ x 7″ and 12″ x 8″ rack toms and a 16″ x 15″ floor tom. The line includes one other configuration geared more toward jazz, funk, or general business gigs with the same rack toms, but substitutes a smaller 20″ x 15″ bass drum and 14″ x 13″ floor. Two add-on drums are available, including the 14″ floor tom and a 13″ x 9″ rack tom.
The Tour Custom comes in five satin finishes, all named after candies. Our kit had the Butterscotch option, which is a natural maple finish with matching bass drum hoops. I liked this classic finish and how the subtle maple grain was visible. It was flawlessly done.
The other equally tasty but nonfattening finishes in the series include Caramel, Candy Apple Red, Chocolate, and Black Licorice.
Triple-flanged or die-cast hoops are standard on most drum kits, but Yamaha’s new Inverse Dyna Hoop differs from the others in that it curves inward toward the head rather than away from it, similar to vintage Slingerland or more recent Mapex counterhoops. Yamaha’s are 2.3mm thick and feel sturdy. From a sonic standpoint, they help tame overtones and focus the fundamental pitch of the drum.
Most suspension systems on the market attach to a hoop or suspend the drum from a band, but Yamaha’s Y.E.S.S. mount works differently by suspending the drum from two rubber-isolated bolts that attach directly to the shell. Even though it flies in the face of certain rules held sacred by much of the rest of the drum industry, it works well and only minimally affects the drum’s sustain.
The best way I know to test the dampening effects of mounting hardware is to strike a tom while suspending it from one finger, then do the same while the drum is attached to its mount, and then compare the decay. The truth is, all hardware tends to dampen sustain to some degree, but this kit did better than many I’ve tested.
Tour Custom Maple drums feature Yamaha’s attractive Absolute lugs. They don’t make as bold of a statement as some lugs do, but are more subdued, and to my eyes are more elegant than many.
Busy gigging drummers will appreciate the small tom mount that attaches to the bass drum shell. Yamaha’s 945C triple holder lets you attach both toms and a cymbal to the same unit. Contrary to opposing marketing claims, I’ve never found that the practice of mounting toms on bass drum shells makes a noticeable difference in sound.
Hanging toms on cymbal stands always feels less stable than when they’re mounted on the bass drum, so I prefer this feature.
Bass drum claws are rubber lined and die-cast rather than cheap stamped steel. Bass drum spurs have fixed spikes protruding from rubber feet. These kits come with professional Remo heads, including Ambassador Clear heads on the top and bottom of the toms and a Powerstroke 3 Clear bass drum batter with a smooth white Powerstroke 3 logo head.
Let’s Get Cracking – Yamaha Tour Custom Review
Yamaha also sent an optional high-end 14″ x 5.5″ Recording Custom steel snare that the legendary Steve Gadd helped develop. Also available in aluminum and brass and in a bombastic 7″ depth, it has an outward center bead, 2.3mm triple-flange Dyna Hoops, brushed shell finish, and newly designed chrome dual-sided lugs. I found that the bright chrome lugs contrasted nicely against the brushed shell.
Mechanically, the Q-type strainer has a piston design, and worked smoothly and quietly, no doubt due to the nylon parts used liberally in the mechanism. The snare bed is 2.4mm deep and seemed ideal for this drum.
Surprisingly, it included two sets of chrome snare wires: a standard set of 20-strand wires as well as a set of Steve Gadd’s preferred 10-strand wires (grouped as five separate pairs), for a subtly different response. I love this. Wires are an often overlooked aspect of a snare’s sound, and many drummers hesitate to spend more to experiment with them. Bravo Yamaha!
A Solid Foundation
In addition to the snare drum, I also received a set of single-braced medium weight hardware, model HW780, to support this shell pack. It was sturdy enough for the needs of drummers playing general gigs like weddings (in fact, I’m writing this section of this review at a wedding gig) and is a great bargain to boot.
Highlights included the two triple-tier cymbal boom stands (CS755). These booms have nice, long, 17″ arms and employ a hideaway design so they can mimic straight stands. Boom stands provide more flexibility than straight stands, so it’s nice that Yamaha includes two booms rather than one of each type.
The cymbal stands include a memory lock to hold the arm at your ideal extension and angle, while the fine-toothed tilter allows additional flexibility.
The single-chain bass drum pedal (FP7210A) is simple by today’s standards and doesn’t offer a wide array of adjustments, but it felt smooth, and because it lacks a solid base and has a collapsible design it folds up compactly into a hardware bag. It won’t win over any metal drummers, but it is suitable for most gigs. When I began gigging, I had two similar Yamaha double pedals that never failed me.
The hi-hat stand (HS740A) shares the collapsible footboard design of the bass drum pedal but includes a few features like rotatable legs for use with double-pedals, adjustable tension, chain linkage, memory lock, and a good clutch.
The gearless tilter on the snare stand is a plus for drummers who are finicky about their snare angle. The rubber feet on all stands are large enough to help prevent them from moving as you play.
Sound – Yamaha Tour Custom Review
Maple drums are valued for their full tone range with ample low-end, and these new Tour Customs offer that big maple sound without sacrificing articulation. It’s impossible to miss the superb decay time of the two rack toms, which no doubt comes from the combination of thin shells, Yamaha’s Y.E.S.S. mounts, shallower depths, and clear single-ply heads.
I like the addition of the larger 16″ floor tom, since it’s perfect for rock and adds bottom to your jungle grooves. All toms have focused tones, are a breeze to tune, and speak with a distinct clear pitch separation from one drum to the next.
The bass drum packs a low, punchy wallop that would work perfectly for rock, funk, or pop. If you’re more of a jobber, the 20″ bass drum might suit you better, especially if you need to play jazz. Even though the logo head didn’t have a microphone port, the Remo P3 heads provided enough bass drum dampening on their own, unless you prefer the feel of deader batter head.
Some drummers might think they’d need an 18″-deep bass drum for extra low end, but shallower models were the norm for decades, and this more portable size drum is no slouch in the bass range.
Our optional Recording Custom snare rounded out the kit with a solid midrange sound that gave the drum more fullness than I expected, considering it has a stainless steel shell. Like many steel snares, it has a high-pitched ring that may not be to everyone’s taste, but helps keep the rimshots lively.
With the stock 20-strand wires in place, the snare isn’t quite as crisp as I desired. After swapping them for the lo-strand set, the drum gained that crispness, and like Steve Gadd, I preferred this set to the standard ones.
The strainer and fine-tuning knob worked smoothly and quietly.
There are a lot of maple kits on the market, but Yamaha’s new Tour Custom Maple offers drummers a quality set that performs at a much higher level than its price would suggest. This kit and hardware package have the look and sound a working drummer needs and at a price they want.