BY BRAD SCHLUETER
Last year the ever-innovative Tama drum company introduced a line of drums priced above their excellent and varied Starclassic series. While it may not come as a complete surprise that they dubbed these new drums the Star series, it should come as even less of one that we were eager to give them a listen and thoroughly check them out.
You won’t find predetermined kit configurations in the Star series, so all drums must be ordered à la carte. Our rock kit included a 22″ x 18″ bass drum, 10″ x 8″ and 12″ x 9″ mounted toms, 14″ x 14″ and 16″ x 16″ floor toms, and a 14″ x 5.5″ snare drum.
Tama offers two types of shells in the Star series: bubinga or maple. Bubinga is a dense and heavy wood that features a deep sound, and is usually only available in pricier drums. Maple remains the preferred species for most professionals due to its overall adaptable and balanced sound. We opted for the maple shells, which were 5-ply 5mm thick, and come with 5mm reinforcing rings, which provide additional shell strength and increased attack. Unlike many other maple shells, Tama has integrated a thicker 2mm ply in the center of the shell to add some sonic characteristics of a solid-shell drum.
The bearing edge is the area of contact between the shell and the head. Sharper bearing edges are more aggressive and biting, while rounder bearing edges are thought to transfer vibration to the shell more efficiently, resulting in a warmer sound. The Star series features a rounder bearing edge that give the drums a more vintage sound. The peak of the bearing edge is 3.5mm from the outside edge of the shell for good contact with any head. All edges are cut with state of the art equipment, but finished by hand.
There are 12 finishes available for the maple shelled Star drums and 11 for the bubinga kits. Some of the finishes are available for both shells, while a few are specific to one or the other. Many of the finishes look expensive and classy, but the selection is wide enough to suit all but the most flamboyant tastes.
Star drums comes standard with an inlay, but are also available without one or with the option to have a double inlay – one outside and the second inside the shell on the reinforcement rings (though I struggle to see the point of doing that, since they are visible only while changing heads. It might have made more sense to offer an inlay on the bass drum hoops where everyone could enjoy them).
The inlay is designed with four narrow stripes separated with diamonds that culminate in the winged Star logo. Though I’m not an inlay kind of guy and dislike the wings, I confess I thought the inlay looked good with some of the finishes.
Our review kit came with the Satin Burgundy Red finish with the inlay. Not surprisingly, our kit’s finish was absolutely perfect and would be worthy of fine furniture. Its satin texture had a noticeably rich luster, as if it had been hand-buffed. It wasn’t glossy, but did have a perfectly smooth sheen. All shell interiors were hand rubbed with an oil finish and shell hardware was gleaming and flawless.
Tama built a number of hardware innovations into the Star series; most reduced shell weight and minimized hardware-to-shell contact, thereby increasing drum sustain and resonance. They also added rubber linings and bumpers in strategic spots to isolate shells from stands.
Included among these additions is a new bridge-style lug that is both tasteful in appearance and minimizes the resonance robbing effects of full contact lugs. The die-cast bass drum claws were also designed to have less contact with the hoops. They use the wooden vent-hole grommet found on Tama’s Starclassic line, which weighs less than a die-cast grommet.
A new three-point Super Resonant Mounting System distributes shell weight across three contact points. Rubber is used at these points on the top hoop and bottom rim to maximize shell vibration. This system is designed to work even for drummers who tilt their toms drastically, which is a situation in which many other mounting systems fail.
Star drums also feature Tama’s new Quick-Lock tom brackets. By sliding a black plastic lever, the bracket separates the unit from the memory lock, which remains on the stand or floor tom leg as you remove the drum. This has the added benefit of being a little quicker than turning a wing screw. The interior of the brackets are rubber-lined to help the drums sustain more.
Floor tom legs are tipped with new hollow rubber feet that add sustain by allowing the drums to move with the downward force of your strikes. New bass drum spurs operate similarly, using large rubber tips so the spurs give a little when played. If you engage the spur’s metal spikes, they separate from the rest of the spur with a rubber cushion that enables them to give too.
The Star snare drum has a new snare bed that is cut flat on the bottom for better snare response and increased contact. This is an improvement that I hope Tama carries over to their other snares, since I found the drum to have excellent snare response at all dynamic levels.
The Linear Drive snare throw-off and butt plate both feature knobs with indents so you can adjust and center the wires from either end of the drum in precise 0.125mm vertical increments. It also helps prevent the wires from loosening from your desired setting. The throw is designed so that if you engage it quickly you won’t hear that typical slap of the wire against the bottom head. In fact, when I tried to make it slap loudly it produced far less sound than I expected. Jazz drummers who often disengage their wires for Latin or brush playing will especially appreciate this feature. Simply put – this throw-off is superb.
The snare’s new one-piece lug has a tasteful look that echoes the same bridging design found on the tom and bass drum lugs. I like the fact that the drums have just eight lugs, unlike many high-end drums that sport ten, which reduces the shell’s weight and reveals more of the beautiful finish. I found the lugs turned very smoothly, even though Tama’s Hold Tight washers have rubber inserts to help the tension rods resist loosening.
As with other high-end Tama drums, these were fitted with zinc die-cast hoops that make for good, loud snare rim clicks, and are unlikely to deform under heavy playing as triple-flanged hoops might.
Star snares features three vent holes with wooden grommets to reduce excess ring and produce a brighter tone, which I believe it accomplished quite well. Toms and snare are headed with Remo Coated Ambassadors on top and clear versions underneath while the bass drum sports a Coated PowerStroke 3 batter and Fiberskyn Powerstroke 3 Diplomat on the logo side.
You may be curious if all these hardware enhancements actually increase sustain. I found the toms to have surprisingly long and even sustain and decays. After a roundhouse fill, the toms created the hint of a chord as they decayed similar to a reverb. Owners of Star sets may need to muffle their toms in the studio, but I’d rather have too much sustain than too little. I found that detuning the toms will shorten their sustain. Fortunately, the snare had a typical decay time.
I absolutely loved the snare drum. It was sensitive to lighter playing and emitted a full maple tone with body and oodles of crispness. It’s a fantastic sounding drum. Whether playing brushes, slamming backbeats, or playing articulate funk, the drum always sounded impressive.
The bass drum was very resonant and offered lots of tone. When I buried the beater, it spoke with a deep and powerful thud, but with some boom and presence. When I didn’t bury the beater, I heard a subwoofer-friendly deeper note as well!
The toms also sounded great, were easy to tune, and had evenly distributed notes. Their rounder edges may enhance their tone, but unlike some vintage drums, these certainly weren’t lacking in attack.
The new high-end features all seem to function as designed, giving these drums tone and as much sustain as you could want. Tama has outdone itself in creating a new line of beautiful and remarkable sounding drums.
Features Linear Drive throw-off; bridge-style lugs; rounded bearing edge; wooden vent-hole grommets; zinc die-cast counter hoops; Remo drumheads; shell inlay; die-cast bass drum claws; three-point Super Resonant Mounting System; Quick Lock tom brackets; hollow floor tom feet.
Shells 5-ply 5mm thick maple shells (featuring a thicker center ply) with 5mm reinforcing rings.
Configuration 22″ x 18″ bass drum, 10″ x 8″ and 12″ x 9″ mounted toms, 14″ x 14″ and 16″ x 16″ floor toms, and a 14″ x 5.5″ snare drum.
Finish Satin Burgundy Red.
List Price $13,011.34