Drum Set Reviews
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The Pearl Reference Series was developed as Pearl realised that many people ordering their custom Masterworks drums were asking for similar characteristics.
They were often getting requests for a low, punchy bass drum and attacking, full sounding rack and floor toms. Sounds good to me!
To meet these demands, Pearl have moved away from the norm of using just one single material for constructing their shells.
Instead, they have used many different materials to construct each individual drum. A pretty novel idea i'd say. The Reference Series set that I got to review includes a 22"x18" bass drum, 10"x8", 12"x9", 14", and 16" toms, and a 14"x5" snare drum. So, let's begin...
Ok, what materials have been used here? The 8" and 10" rack toms have been made from 4-plies of Maple with 2 inner plies of Birch. The 12" rack tom is made purely from 6-plies of Maple. And the 14" and 16" floor toms have 2 inner plies of African Mahogany and 4 outer plies of Maple.
The Reference snare drums have been made using an almost insane sounding 6 inner plies of Birch with 14 outer plies of Maple - 20 plies in total! The snares availble are 14"x 5", 14"x 6.5" and 13"x 6.5".
Next up, the 18" and 20" bass drums use 4 inner plies of Mahogany with 2 outer plies of Maple. And the larger 22" and 24" bass drums use 6 inner plies of Mahogany surrounded by 2 outer plies of Maple.
That's quite a mixture across the set, and you'd be forgiven for thinking it seems a bit like Frankenstein's monster.
As if the mixture of woods wasn't enough, the drums also have different bearing edges too. The 8" to 13" toms have a rounded 45-degree bearing edge providing more attack to these drums but also boosting the mid to low frequencies.
On the other hand, the floor toms and bass drums have totally rounded bearing edges which help influence that lovely fat, warm, low sound. Lastly, the snare drums all have a more standard 45-degree bearing edge to give maximum attack.
The build quality is simply outstanding too. There wasn't a single flaw to be found, the shells are smooth, and the bearing edges are perfect. You'd expect nothing less at this price range of course.
All the Reference Series drums come with die-cast hoops and have Pearl's pretty nifty looking BRL bridge lugs. The toms are mounted with Pearl's aluminum OptiMount tom holders that attach to the lugs instead of the shell and also allow you to further adjust the position of the toms by moving the tom bracket up and down the mount. Sweet. This all results in a more resonant and projected sound from the shells.
As for the finshes, there are 27 options available including everything from piano black to artic white. Like you'd expect from high-end drums like these, the finishes look stunning and really make the drums stand out. I particularly like the emerald mist, you can still see the wood grain and the finish works beautifully on top.
With all the unusual wood combinations and unique tweaks to the individual drums, it's easy to think that they won't come together to make a cohesive drum set. Thankfully that isn't the case. Pearl have spent a long time perfecting the construction of these drums and the sound reflects that hard work.
Thanks to the combination of Birch and Maple, the rack toms give an excellent rich, full sound with a good amount of attack. This is combined with a really focused tone that makes the each drum seem like it knows exactly what its sonic area is, and doesn't step out of it. This makes the rack toms really work well together and not get in each others way at all.
Like the rack toms, the 14" and 16" floor toms gives a great punch and full sound. The Mahogany used in the floor toms increases the lower frequencies and attack of these drums, but the warm tone of the Maple also shines through.
The rounded bearing edges work wonders and help to slightly lessen the aggressive attack of the Mahogany, making the drums sound nice and fat.
The 14"x5" snare drum, having such a thick shell, has a lot of volume and projects its sound very well. The Birch lends a cracking attack to the sound, while the Maple warms it up and gives it more body. It would suit a more funky, hip-hop, or pop sound so you might want a deeper snare if you play rock or metal.
Lastly is the bass drum. The set I tried had a 22"x18" bass drum, which delivers a loud, fat 'thud' with some ringing overtones too (also contributed to by the heads). Personally I found it slighty boomey for my taste, but after adding a little dampening I was very happy with it.
The overall tuning range of this kit is pretty decent as well. Tuning these drums higher gives a pleasent musical sound - clear and warm. Opting for a lower tuning I was expecting some of the focus to be lost, but the sound was still nicely controlled and fat. Very very tasty.
Ok, here's the bottom line. This set is a very impressive kit indeed. The mixture of materials and bearing edges work together to bring the best qualities out of each individual drum. All of the drums sound brilliant, each occupying their own sonic space, and they don't trample on each other when played together.
Any downsides? If there's anything bad to be said about the Pearl Reference Series, it's that I don't own one...yet. Seriously, this kit has had a lot of work put into it and doesn't have any major flaws that I can see. With great shell hardware and some stunning finishes thrown in for good measure...it's a real winner.
How does it compare? Does it perform better than other top-end kits in this higher price range? It's a question that isn't easy to answer. Everyone has there own idea of what a perfect set should sound like, but as far as I'm concerned this set is one the best sounding I've played.
As for the price? A high-end set like this obviously comes with a high-end price tag too. But, if you're looking to splash some cash on a top professional quality kit, this is definately worthy of your attention. 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: if you're in the market for a excellent quality pro-level set, with every detail taken into account, and you can afford it...the Pearl Reference Series is a serious contender. It's a truly awsome set.
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