Drum Set Reviews
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The Ludwig Centennial drum set has been released to mark Ludwig's 100th year of drum making. They've had some ups and downs over the years, but they're certainly on top right now. This set sits above the mid-level price range but it's not high-level either - it's inbetween.
The Centennial is 100% American maple and is available in 3 'core' shell packs that you can then add additional drums to if you want. The Centennials 3 'core' shell packs each come standard with a bass drum (20, 22, or 24, each with a 20 depth for added low and punch) a 12 rack tom, 16 floor tom, and snare drum; where it goes from there is up to the player.
The set is just sold as a shell pack so you'll have to buy some hardware seperately if you need it. Anyway, the kit i'm reviewing has a 22"x20" bass drum, 12"x8" and 16"x14" toms, with a 14"x6.5" snare. Ok, is the Centennial worthy of marking Ludwig's 100th year?...
Like I mentioned earlier, the kit is made from 100% American maple, which according to Ludwig, makes for a better than sound than cheaper foreign maple. The tom shells have been built with 6-plies while the bass drum and snare have been built with 8-plies at 6mm thick. Yep, just 6mm! These shells are very lightweight.
Ludwig had the set made in Taiwan to keep costs down, but that doesn't reflect badly on the quality. It's all smooth wood with sharp 45-degree bearing edges and no flaws at all. There is a very noticeable seam inside a couple of the shells, but I doubt they'll have any effect on the sound.
On the shells are some beautiful, slightly rounded 'tiny lugs', a variation of Ludwig's 'mini classic' lugs, that look super cool. Plus, there's the RIMS style isolation bracket and tom holder for the 12" rack tom that clamps onto a cymbal stand. All drum sets these days have some kind of isolation system to mount the rack toms, and Ludwig's works just fine, even if it's a bit chunky.
The bass drum lugs, claws, and legs are all very functional and easy to use too, but it looks like Ludwig have skipped a few details. For example, the lugs have thin plastic isolation gaskets, while the claws don't. It's not a huge thing, but it means that the bass drum hoops are in danger of being scratched and dented by the claws.
Another slightly disapointing thing about the Ludwig Centennial is the finish. This set has a natural laquered finish, but it's not the actual quality of the laquering itself that's a let down, it's that the wood has hardly any visable grain and looks a bit plain. The other options - Green Sparkle, Silver Sparkle, and Charcoal all look more vibrant and cool to me. Still, it's not bad, but a natural finish is ment to show off the beautiful wood grain...but there's just one problem...this wood has hardly any grain!
Anyway, enough moaning. It's the sound that'll make or break the Centennial and thankfully it's pretty good. The set gives a nice, bright attack with a good maple tone that lingers just long enough for you to savour. But, if I had to sum up the overall sound in one word it'd be 'Big!'
The 12"x8" rack tom and 16"x14" floor tom are probably my favourite parts of the set. Because the shells are quite shallow they're really lively and bright with a good punch too. Throw in a nice sustain and it's clear to see why the tom are such good fun!
I also enjoyed playing the snare because it was responsive and cutting, giving a great note when you hit it in the center. The edges where a bit ringy, but some dampening soon sorted that out. And just like the toms, the snare has a great sustain thanks to the thin shells.
Unfortunately that sustain isn't found on the whole kit. The 22"x20" bass drum, being so deep, gives a good old slap! but there's virtually no sustain or build up of rumble. Instead, you get a very abrupt, short, hard note. If you want a bass drum with loads of punch but not much resonance then this is for you (good if you use double kick pedals), otherwise it's a bit lifeless. Don't get me wrong, it's an ok drum, but it's not as good as the rest of the set.
Apart from the fact the bass drum is a bit dead, it's still quite easy to tune it up. It gives a good range of tuning options as does the rest of the kit. I got a better sound out of the snare at a medium tuning where it had a tasty fat note, while the toms were good at a range of tunings especially slightly higher.
To be totally honest i'm a little disapointed in the kit. It's not a bad set overall, but a couple of things just let it down. And, considering it marks Ludwig's 100th year, I was expecting it to blow me away. It's aimed at drummers wanting a 100% American maple set that's close to being high-end (but isn't) and is relatively affordable. So, in that way, Ludwig have delivered.
The toms and snare drum are very good, and the quality of the maple sound isn't at all bad. The shell fittings do the job just fine too, and all the finishes apart from the natural gloss look killer. The Taiwan-made Remo heads that come with the set are ok, but taking off the single-ply head on the bass drum and putting on a 2-ply head with some dampeing helps it sound warmer.
Any downsides? Well, i've got a couple of problems with the Centennial. First, the bass drum is just too hard and short sounding for my taste. It's probably got something to do with the longer 20" length, but if you want a punchy drum with minimal sustain you'll see this as a good thing. Other than that, the shell fittings could have had a bit more detail put into them, and the maple wood shells could have a more exciting grain pattern. Just my view.
What about the price? In terms of quality, the Ludwig Centennial occupies that ground between mid-level and high-level sets, but is only slightly more expensive than a mid-level set, so is fair value. Where's the cheapest place to buy? Here's the cheapest site i've found. They usually have the lowest price and sometimes free delivery too, so I recommend checking them out for the best deal
The final word: as long as you like the kind of sound the Centennial has to offer, it's a good value set. It's stripped down, lively, punchy, and probably best for playing rock.
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