After painstakingly counting each vote and accounting for the hanging chads (no, not that Chad), we are proud to present the winners of the 2018 Drummies! Gear Awards. We’ve conducted an annual reader’s poll since 1996, and we continue to be amazed by your passion and participation year after year. This year was no exception, with a 30 percent increase in the number of voters over last year!
Our focus this year, as it has been in years past, is new gear. If you voted (thank you!) you already know the ballots were full of innovations and new sounds, with a couple write-in categories to spice things up. Drum sets, cymbals, hand percussion, drumheads, drumsticks, electronics, and even websites were included in this year’s ballot. So, without further ado, here are the 2018 Drummies! Gear Awards winners, as chosen by the readers of Drum. (All prices listed MSRP)
DRUM SET UNDER $1,000
WINNER Gretsch Catalina Club (18″ bass drum)
2ND PLACE Sonor AQ2 Maple Martini (14″ bass drum)
3RD PLACE Pearl Decade Bop
Don’t let the 18″ bass drum fool you — this little mahogany kit packs a big punch. Gretsch’s Catalina Club set doesn’t just sound good with its 30-degree bearing edges and natural shell interior, it’s got looks to spare with stained wood, solid black, and a new swirly “blue satin flame” finish.
DRUM SET $1,000–$2,500
WINNER Pearl Session Studio Select
2ND PLACE Ludwig NeuSonic
3RD PLACE Tama Superstar Hyperdrive Duo
Thin (5.4mm) shells of birch and African mahogany take the sound of Pearl’s top-level Master’s series and pack it into the more affordable Session Studio Select kit, with a “pre-EQ’d” sound courtesy of sharp, 60-degree bearing edges. And while most players would agree that tone trumps looks when choosing an instrument, it doesn’t hurt to be sitting behind a looker like this.
DRUM SET $2,500+
WINNER DW Collector’s Series Tasmanian Sassafras
2ND PLACE Gretsch 135th Anniversary Broadkaster
3RD PLACE Tama Starclassic Maple Exotix
Some would call this the “dream kit” category for its unlimited price range, and few builders dream as big as DW’s John Good. From the moment he saw this Tasmanian Sassafras, the Wood Whisperer knew it would make a spectacular set of tubs. Everything about this kit is top-notch, and not only is the sound unique but the kit itself is limited to a run of 200 complete sets.
WOOD SHELL SNARE DRUM
WINNER DW True-Sonic Pure Maple
2ND PLACE Ludwig Standard Series
3RD PLACE Craviotto Heritage Series
The 11-ply, all-maple shell of DW’s Pure Maple True-Sonic snare looks and sounds like a drum of yesteryear, but with modern technology implemented into its construction. A satin oil finish highlights the light maple woodgrain, and a Dyna-sonic-style snare bridge ensures even tension against the head. DW’s VLT ply stacking system pits the grain vertically on the inner and outer plies, contrasting with the horizontal grain of the inner plies for a lower overall pitch.
METAL SHELL SNARE DRUM
WINNER Ludwig Raw Brass
2ND PLACE Tama SLP Big Black Steel (15″ x 8″)
3RD PLACE Gretsch 135th Anniversary Aluminum
Would you ever leave a Black Beauty outside for months to develop a nice patina? Of course not! So Ludwig did it for you with its Raw Brass snare. The unfinished look adds to the mystique, as each drum will look a little different thanks to the unpredictable results of the patina process.
HYBRID/COMPOSITE SHELL SNARE DRUM
WINNER DW Super-Sonic Edge
2ND PLACE PDP by DW Chad Smith Signature Acrylic
3RD PLACE Bone Maple/Carbon Fiber
Maple edges cover the cherry center for extra sweetness — no, that’s not a candy bar, it’s DW’s Super-Sonic Edge snare drum. Its 14″ x 7″ size and 1/2″ thick reinforcement hoops make this a special drum on the inside, while its two-toned light/dark/light wood look, chrome hardware, and true-sonic snare bridge keep that special feeling on the outside.
BOUTIQUE DRUM COMPANY (WRITE-IN)
WINNER A&F Drum Co.
2ND PLACE De Broize
3RD PLACE Q Drums
The Austin, Texas–based A&F Drum Co. took first place in this write in-only category. Specializing in raw metal drums, this relatively new company has been winning over ears, eyes, and hearts with their fresh drums that look 100 years old and sound like nothing else around. Maybe that’s because everything they do is a little, ahem, unique, just like you.
WINNER Zildjian K Sweet
2ND PLACE Sabian FRX
3RD PLACE Paiste Masters Dry
WINNER Zildjian K Sweet
2ND PLACE Sabian FRX
3RD PLACE Paiste Masters Extra Thin
WINNERr Zildjian K Sweet
2ND PLACE Zildjian New Beat 12″
3RD PLACE Paiste PST 12″
Take two of the most popular cymbal lines of all time and put their best qualities together into one. Zildjian’s K Sweet line does just that, blending the ultra-versatile A Sweet Ride sound with the dark K Series for a harmonious marriage forged in bronze. It’s so harmonious, in fact, that the line took first place in each of the Drummies! categories for which it was eligible. Maybe that means we’ll see K Sweet Chinas, splashes, and other effect cymbals soon?
WINNER Sabian XSR O-Zone Crash
2ND PLACE Paiste Dark Splash
3RD PLACE Meinl Byzance Vintage Equilibrium China
Holey cast bronze crash cymbal, Batman! Sabian’s XSR O-Zone Crash brings a loud, quick, dark sound to any setup, and also finds work as a stacker on rides, crashes, Chinas, or anything else you dare to throw it on. It’s got two rows of holes punched into the bow, giving it an extra dose of raw nastiness.
WINNER Tama Classic Series
2ND PLACE Yamaha HW-3 Crosstown Lightweight Series
3RD PLACE Gibraltar Double Telescoping Boom Arm
Maybe it was a nod to the designs of the golden era of rock and roll, or maybe it was a nod to the fact that carrying heavy hardware sucks. Either way, Tama’s incredibly light Classic Series features flat-based stands, just like the ones our heroes of yesteryear used (before they got famous and hired people to carry their new, heavy gear).
WINNER Sonor 4000 Hi-Hat Pedal
2ND PLACE Gretsch G5 Double Tom Stand
3RD PLACE Canopus Jeff Hamilton Flat Base Cymbal Stand
Sonor’s 4000 Series hi-hat stand brought a lot of little adjustments to a time-tested design, including rotating, double-braced legs, adjustable spring tension, and a hex rod to keep the top hat from loosening. The new footboard also helps your left foot find its way in the dark — just aim for the big red dot.
CASES & BAGS
WINNER SKB Hardshell Roto-molded Snare Case (14″ x 5.5″)
2ND PLACE Gibraltar Backpack Hardware Bag
3RD PLACE Zildjian Premium Backpack Cymbal Bag (24”)
SKB’s Hardshell Roto-molded snare case proves, once again, that it’s hip to be square (by just one vote!). A padded interior makes sure your drum stays safe, while feet molded into the bottom make it easy to put the case down like a suitcase. But the best part is the most obvious: Its square shape and Roto-X pattern make it the right size and durability for stacking during transport and storage.
WINNER Zildjian L80 Low-Volume China (18″)
2ND PLACE Vic Firth SIH2 Sound Isolation Headphones
3RD PLACE Pearl Cymbal Holder with Uni-lock Tilter
Zildjian’s L80 series revolutionized the way we practice at home with quiet metal cymbals that still play remarkably close to their loud counterparts. The addition of a larger China cymbal to the series brings us closer to the low-volume prog kit of our (and our apartment dwelling neighbors’) dreams.
BASS DRUM PEDAL
WINNER Tama Classic Series
2ND PLACE Pearl Powershifter
3RD PLACE Rogers Swivo-matic
Harkening back to a timeless era for rock music, Tama’s Classic Series bass drum pedal uses less metal mass for a streamlined look (and less weight). It also adds a bevy of fine-tuning adjustments. In a nod to hardware of the past, the tension adjustment knob is sticking up, parallel to the beater, for easy access.
BASS DRUM BEATER
WINNER Vic Firth Wood Shaft VicKick
2ND PLACE Low Boy Puff Daddy
3RD PLACE Innovative Percussion KDB-1
Bass drum beaters have evolved beyond just a ball on a metal pole, and the Vic Firth Wood Shaft VicKick is the latest example. It spreads the weight more evenly throughout the beater with a thick maple dowel supporting the beater head. It is still attached to a standard-sized rod at the bottom to fit into any pedal, and it’s slim enough to use with a double pedal.
WINNER Vic Firth Matt Garstka Signature
2ND PLACE Promark Select Balance Maple Rebound
3RD PLACE Promark ActiveGrip Clear
Vic Firth hit the sweet spot with its Matt Garstka Signature stick. With its 16″, .585″ size falling between a 55A and 5B, it’s just right for finesse or punishment. The chunky oval tip blends seamlessly from the shaft for a smooth look and feel while playing. It’s guaranteed you will be able to play every Animals As Leaders song perfectly immediately upon wielding these sticks (guarantee not guaranteed).
WINNER CooperGroove GrooveRodz
2ND PLACE Innovative Percussion BR-CW
3RD PLACE Innovative Percussion BR-JR1
Chicagoan Carlo Cooper has expanded his CooperGroove drumstick empire to include bundles called GrooveRodz. The magic of CooperGroove’s unique sticks lies in the 20 cross-cut grooves and non-slip dip on the handle. Now, that grippy groove magic has a wider sonic palette.
WINNER Remo Colortone
2ND PLACE Evans UV1 Bass Drum Head
3RD PLACE Aquarian Texture Coated Reflector Snare Batter
Other drumhead companies might be green with envy over this win, but Remo red the minds of drummers with its Colortone series. The company took three of its already popular lines and added a Technicolor™ twist to the look without altering the sound, and the resulting rainbow of options really blue voters away.
WINNER LP MT Box Mona Tavakoli Signature
2ND PLACE Pearl 3D
3RD PLACE Meinl Snarecraft Mini
The LP MT Box Mona Tavakoli Signature cajon is as fun and versatile as its namesake. The lightweight box drum sits a little low at 18″, and features a snare side and traditional side. It packs a major punch in its smaller frame thanks to three sound holes of ascending size on its side.
WINNER DW 5000 Series Direct Link Cajon Pedal
2ND PLACE Paiste PSTX Cajon Cymbals
3RD PLACE Headhunters Cornhuskers
The cajon has a proper home base with the DW 5000 Series Direct Link Cajon Pedal. Drum set players will feel right at home too. The beater and cajon platform face backward, while the pedal faces forward, giving drum set players a look and feel they’re used to. The short linkage assembly connects the two and allows for comfortable placement while you sit on the “kit.”
WINNER Pearl Elite Series Wood Fiberglass Congas/Bongos
2ND PLACE Gon Bops Roberto Quintero Signature Congas/Bongos
3RD PLACE LP Dharma Series Metta Drums (16″)
Pearl’s Elite Series Wood Fiberglass conga and bongo shells combine the cut and projection of fiberglass and the warmth of Thai oak. Their natural skin heads provide a familiar feel, complemented by a variety of finishes and polished steel hardware.
ELECTRONIC DRUM SET
WINNER Roland TD-25KVX
2ND PLACE Yamaha DTX 402
3RD PLACE Roland TD-17KVX
Roland found a hit with the TD-25KVX as an entry into the higher-end of its flagship electronic drum set lines. It’s got a brain from the TD-30, an 18-inch acoustic-shelled bass drum, redesigned hi-hats and plenty of new digital features to play with, including educational exercises to improve your drumming.
ELECTRONIC PERCUSSION CONTROLLER
WINNER Pearl MalletSTATION
2ND PLACE Alternate Mode JamKAT
3RD PLACE Keith McMillen Instruments BopPad
Pearl’s collaboration with Keith McMillen Instruments resulted in the ultra-versatile MalletSTATION, a full-sized percussion controller for more than just marimbas, xylophones, and vibes. The USB-powered device includes a software editor that allows for changing everything from note placement to samples, and KMI’s Smart Fabric makes for a sensitive, natural response.
WINNER Tama Steel Mini Tymps
2ND PLACE Roland TM-6 Pro Module
3RD PLACE LP Lil’ Ridge Cowbell
Tama’s Steel Mini Tymps are like an exclamation point for the drum set. These mini timbale-lookalikes add the option of a cutting crack to the kit. Their steel finish will look at home in just about any setup. The 4” deep, open-bottom drums come in pairs of 6″/8″, 8″/10″, or 10″/12″.
WINNER Roland RT-MicS
2ND PLACE ATV aDrums Artist Series Crash
Saving space and time, Roland’s RT-MicS is both a trigger and condenser microphone in one. The unit clamps onto snares or toms and includes separate outputs and level adjustments on the unit for both the trigger and mike. It comes pre-loaded with eight sounds to scroll through with the touch of a button, and you can swap those out as needed with your own custom samples via USB.
WINNER Yamaha EAD-10
2ND PLACE Roland RT-MicS
3RD PLACE Earthworks DK7
It’s a microphone, it’s a recording device, it’s — well, it’s new, and it’s hard to classify just yet. But one thing’s certain: It’s a hit. Yamaha’s EAD-10 is a stereo mike and trigger that clamps onto the bass drum hoop, and connects to a module that hooks up to a DAW for simple recording with built-in effects. It even works well for live applications. And you can take the audio directly out to your iPhone to make great-sounding YouTube videos. Now, if only it made julienne fries…
EDUCATIONAL WEBSITE (WRITE-IN)
2ND PLACE MikesLessons.com
3RD PLACE FourHandsDrumming.com
With so many options for learning drums online these days we left this question open-ended, and you responded with a resounding “Drumeo.” The site has thousands of videos sorted into helpful categories, by some of drumming’s greatest teachers and players, all accessible with a monthly subscription fee.
EDUCATIONAL SOCIAL MEDIA (WRITE-IN)
2ND PLACE Mikes Lessons
3RD PLACE Drum Channel
Drumeo’s social media took first place in this write-in category, thanks to a good mix of instructional videos, motivational quotes, and beautiful drum pics on Instagram (@drumeoofficial), Facebook (Drumeo), and Twitter (@drumeo), as well as a ton of free videos on their YouTube channel.