Drum Set Reviews
Many John Bonham fans will have seen the Ludwig Stainless Steel kit he played live with between 1977 and Led Zeppelin's last gig in 1980. Here, Ludwig have released a version modelled on that very kit.
It's a limited edition set that's not going to be that common. Plus, as you might expect, this stainless steel set is way expensive so not many of us will even be able to afford it! Still, it is beautiful and well worth a review.
The set i'm reviewing came with a 26"x14" bass drum, a 15"x12" rack tom, 16"x16" and 18"x16" floor toms, with a 14"x6.5" Supraphonic snare drum. Let's get straight into it...
Well, the shells are steel. That's pretty obvious. You can get the kit with a polished chrome steel finish and brass hardware, or a brushed stainless steel finish and chrome hardware. It's worth pointing out that the snare shell is actually aluminium with chrome plating, but all the shells have been superbly well made by master drumsmith Ronn Dunnett.
The same gorgeous 'mini classic' lugs as the original Ludwig set are on the shells, except the 15" tom which has Mach lugs (long lugs that the top and bottom tension rods screw into) just like Bonzo's did! And, there's the cool slanted Ludwig badge in blue, green, and sliver too. Also, worth noting are the rubber isolation gaskets that have been added to the lugs, preventing them from directly contacting the shells.
There are even more cool original features on the bass drum too. The bass drum mounted cymbal arm (that's had a memory lock added to stop it collapsing), and the curved retractable bass drum legs are both true to the original. Neither design has stood the test of time and that's why we don't see them on modern sets today, but that's not the point! This set is meant to be just like the 70's version, and in any case, they both work far better than i'd thought they would.
Anyway, I think I must have spent about half an hour just looking at the Stainless Steel set before I even touched it. The quality is clear to see and it looks truly stunning. The stainless steel is smooth, flawless, and super shiny! Anyone who owns this set is gonna turn heads, it's just gorgeous.
But, enough admiring. Does the set blow your socks off?! Hell yeah! It's got a bright, penetrating tone that's still got warmth thanks to the large shells and coated heads. Fat, fat, fat...that's what it sounds like! But, the steel shells also give it a brightness that keeps it articulate.
That huge bass drum moves a lot of air, so it takes a little extra effort get the most out of it. It's got a quick response, so you can even play fairly quietly and still get a solid note. It's deep, powerful, loud, and really great fun to get stuck into. One small negative is that it's so powerful it dominates the rest of the kit.
The snare drum for instance is sweet sounding with a lot of depth, but it just can't compete with that awsome bass drum. You'd have to hit the snare super hard or play the bass drum quiter to match things up. When playing the snare on it's own, it's crisp, solid quality really shines through. I'd be happy to use it as my main snare drum any day.
Like the snare, the toms are a bit overshadowed by the bass drum, but they are similar to the bass in that they're loud, beefy, and fat. They don't take as much effort to play and that bright edge makes fast rolls clear and punchy.
Tuning up the Steel set isn't too hard. It's a big set, so that means you kinda have to go for a low tuning and get the best from the kit's deep, powerful sound. All the drums give a fair range, but low is the way to go here in my view.
Let's put this in simple terms. This set is associated with one of beefiest rock drummers ever, and anything other than excellence is going to be a big let down. Thankfully, it manages to live up to expectations by being fat, loud, and penetrating, while having a bright edge thanks to the metal shells. With the tweaked original features (memory locks, rubber gaskets etc) it does an excellent job of replicating Bonzo's last ever drum set. Good job Ludwig!
Any downsides? The 15" tom is huge and can be a little awkward to position and play comfortably. Plus, the massive bass drum, while being my favourite drum, does overpower the rest of the kit. These are only small concerns though, I doubt many people who buy the Ludwig Stainless Steel set will actually be gigging with it, it's more for show.
What about the price? Holy guacamole!!! This is an expensive set like I said earlier. If you are really considering buying this kit, first - i'm jealous, and second - you'll have to get in touch with Ludwig and see if they still have any.
The final word: the Stainless Steel set kicks ass! Ludwig have done a great job of producing a replica true to Bonzo's own that anyone would be proud of. If you can afford it, this is a totally cool drum set.