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Drums - Birch vs. maple?

I'm looking to pick up a new drum set to replace the beginner's Westbury drum set I've had since I was a kid. It's going to be 100% for recording, and 0% for gigging. My price range is $1000-2000 CAD tops (ideally closer to 1000, not including cymbals, but probably more by the end).

I think, then, the really pro stuff might be out of my range, unless I can snag a deal on craigslist. For example, a beautiful burnt toast 2003 DW custom set was just listed in my area for $2200.

Otherwise, maybe a TAMA rockstar or Sonora or PDP might be appropriate? (or Pearl - although they might be a bit too popular for my taste; I like a bit of uniqueness I think ...)

I want a basic modern pop/rock/alternative/top40 sound. I know from experience that when buying a midpriced ($1000 or so) acoustic guitar for such music, spruce and mahogany are the standard. However, I am still unsure what the standard is for a recording drum set in this case.

The drum tech I spoke to said that birch was mostly used for recording, and maple for touring. Would birch be most appropriate in my case?

Tom size
I haven't played enough drum sets in my life to be particular about the size of the toms I'd want, so I figure, like with wood type, the best starting point might be the modern mainstream.

The 12,13,16 toms and 22 (bd), 14 (snare) sizes on my current set might be a bit dated, by current trends. What setup are people in my style generally (most often) going for today? 8,10,??

Thanks for any info,



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15 years 2 months
Profile picture for user BobRogers

BobRogers Fri, 09/15/2006 - 09:15

(Dead Link Removed)

Actually, I think the shells are way down the list in factors contributing to recorded drum sound. Good heads, tuned correctly (a Drum Dial really helped me improve here) top quality cymbals (where the best is barely good enough) Most of all a good room. Those are the things I see as most important.

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51 years 5 months

audiovisceral Fri, 09/15/2006 - 09:31

Thanks. I also have a Drum Dial and like it. I also have some expensive heads and dropped 1K on ReadyTraps + Roxul(+FSK) for acoustic treatment.
My mics are decent (d112 + at3035 kick, 57s snare/toms, 2 C1000 overhead), my pre is a rented Digimax, and my A/D is Delta 1010.

So with the budget Westbury, I do get the impression the shells are now exactly what's holding me back (at least that's my hope!).

Thanks for the suggestion on the Mapex and cymbals. I've seen some good deals on used Sabian AAX on craigslist that might be nice. Other tips?

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51 years 5 months

Nirvalica Fri, 09/15/2006 - 12:07

The O.A.R. drummer has the sort of drum sound your describing I think. He uses a Maryland Drumset. I don't know what sizes or what kind of wood he uses though....

I think you might want a fusion tom set, which is 10", 12", and 14" toms.

Also, from what I've heard of Yamaha sets, they always sound nice and punchy.

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51 years 5 months

djrr3k Sat, 09/16/2006 - 16:26

Here's my opinion.

If you want a cheap set that can sound good, go Yamaha. I have a stage custom nouveau kit that puts a lot of DW kits to shame. With that said, I'm also a professional touring drummer, tech, and audio engineer. I know exactly what to do to get the most of my drums. As far as sizes are concerned there are a couple schools of thought. I base it around your playing preference. If you want a big rock sound, get big drums. If you play with your heads tight, get bigger drums to compensate. If you play with your heads loose, you can go a bit smaller and still be alright. As far as woods go. Birch will give you a touch more bottom and top end than maple straight out of the box, however your head choices will directly effect the sound of the drums. As far as drum dials or tension tuners... Don't trust them. They work on the premise that the drum is perfectly round and there is only kind of drum on this planet that is 100% true, that's carbon fiber. Acrylics and even metal will warp over time. Carbon is the only true material for 100% round shells.

My kits are as follows.
All sizes Width x Depth

yamaha stage custom Nouveau (progressive rock kit)
10x8, 12x10, 14x12, 16x14, 22x18, 14x6.5

Rocketshells carbon fiber kit (rock kit)
12x8, 14x12, 16x14, 18x16, 24x20, 14x8 (snare)

custom kit I built.
12x10, 13x11, 16x14, 14x5, 22x16

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51 years 5 months

hyphis Sat, 11/17/2007 - 08:21

Definately birch

If all you are using it for is recording then i would definately get a birch kit. I have owned both a maple kit and i own a birch kit now. I had maple pacific drums that sounded pretty good had decent attack alot of resonance and recorded pretty well. But i recently got Birch dws that have way more attack but less resonance, the record extremely well and its easy to get eqs for them.

Id go with birch.

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51 years 5 months

JmasterJules Sat, 01/05/2008 - 13:21

Birch is definitely your studio wood, and you can definitely get yourself a set of birch DWs. Not that maple is going to sound bad by any means - maple is simply the all-around warm wood sound, whereas birch is going to be a bit punchier. Yamaha Recording Customs are also great studio drums. I'm not sure if I would really recommend a Tama Rockstar - definitely not the new models, maybe the old ones.
Tom size is all relative to what you're playing. You won't see any jazz drummer sitting behind an 8/10/12/14/16/22 setup. Good, all-around sizes (excluding snare) are either your 4 piece traditional setup (12x10, 13x11, 16x16, 22x18) or a 4 piece fusion setup (10x9, 12x10, 14x11, 22x18). For studio recording, I'd think a fusion setup would be more up your alley, considering that these bigger drums are harder to work with, and honestly, the sizes of a traditional kit have just never made much sense to me. As far as the snare goes, if you take the one that comes with the set, you'll most likely end up with a 14x6, maybe 14x5.5, but if you want to get a seperate snare, look into Pork Pie, Ludwig Acrolite/Black Beauty, Tama (especially copper), Mapex Black Panthers, Pearl Masterworks.
Taking another look at your budget, if you're looking to buy a brand-new birch or maple kit for around $1000, you might want to look at the Sonor Force 2007/3007 (2007 being birch, 3007 being maple). It represents the top-end of intermediate drumsets, with solid hardware, 100% birch or maple shells, and then your standard 45 degree bearing edges and normal shell sizes, triple-flanged hoops on the toms (not the case on the Tama's, which are most likely diecast, giving you a more focused, but less open, sound).

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51 years 5 months

bigdaddybluesman Sat, 01/05/2008 - 13:55

I'm not a drummer but have been hearing them for a long time. I really dislike DW kits.

The best kit I ever heard was the old 1960's Ludwigs. Gretsch and Rodgers of that era were very nice kits too and that's what I hear in my head when I think drums.

Not DW, yuck. I played with a few guys who had DW kits and they sounded less musical, sterile. I never liked the sound of a Tama set either, just not a warm organic sound like the old Ludwigs.

That's coming from the guy who stands next to drummers in bands for 35 years, I've heard it all. Even Hal Blaine used Ludwigs as far as I know.

So I would go with maple as they are probably more versatile. But what do I know, I'm a guitar player and just learned how to play some drums this week.

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51 years 5 months

JmasterJules Sun, 01/06/2008 - 08:57

Modern Gretsch drums still retain their 30 degree bearing edges, rather than the standard 45 degree, which does result in that warm, fat, broader, vintage sound. However, not so versatile for a whole lot of musical applications.

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51 years 5 months

jakeplaysdrums Sun, 01/06/2008 - 20:19


Well to begin your a hypocrite, in the same post you said you like to be Unique but your looking for Mainstream drum set-ups.

If your going for the type of kit that is used in Pop/Rock/Alt/Top40 sound,
Well Rock Tom Sizes are 12" 13" racked and 16" or 18" Floor or Both
Alt possibly 10" 12" 14"
and for Top40 and Pop most of it is Drum Machine Bullshit anyway.

With Wood Types, As you said it will be used for 100% recording
I'm Recording with a Tama Birch Kit that cost me $1800 AU and I'm getting decent results with a Med - High range mics.

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18 years 5 months
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tifftunes Sun, 01/06/2008 - 20:59

Please allow me to rock the boat and suggest you simply check that your bearing edges are okay, and reskin your old kit. New heads, and a good tuning made my ancient CB700 kit sound great for recording! It was the cheapest kit available in 1863 when I bought 'em. They still work well. The thin shells are actually beneficial!

Otherwise, I must agree with vintage Ludwig.

I'd always heard Birch was for jazz kits, and maple was for big rock kits, especially for stage use. Maple is denser than Birch, and projects better, but I like the sound of Birch better, even for guitar and bass cabs (which I design and build).

The most obvious instrument to listen to different tone woods is with an acoustic guitar. Let your ears decide (though guitars aren't usually made with birch).

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51 years 5 months

Rimshot Mon, 01/28/2008 - 19:52

Well this thread is old but if anyone is still reading..

I wouldn't bother trying to fix the Westbury's; unload them as soon as possible and get a real kit.. you'll be glad you did. To be fair I've only played two Westbury kits (at friends houses), and they were the worst pile of .. I've ever seen.

Maple Ludwigs (Classic) are good for that big rock sound and can be found relatively cheap.

I play Ludwigs, Rogers and (birch) Yamaha Recording Customs.. and I love my RC's. My maple Ludwigs sound great as well.

- The Maples will give you a warmer sound with longer sustain. The birch (especially power shells that are deeper in length) will give you a warm sound as well but with shorter sustain.. which is why birch is really great for recording. The RC's are basically pre-EQ'd. But having said that, you can get coax great sound out of any good quality drum using proper head choices, tuning, minimal muffling, good quality mics and placement, etc.

- I've been using Aquarian Studio-X on the tom batters with great results.
- Also look for wood hoops on the kick; they sound much better (warmer) than the cold smack produced by metal rims.
- birch for jazz? I've never heard that before and I'd be surprised if that was the case. I would guess maple is more common. If the marketing people are to believed (ha!) and the RC's are the 'most recorded drums in the history of recording' then just about all the radio friendly hits you heard in the 80's &90's were done using birch RC's.

Either way maple or birch you can't go wrong.
- if you really want ot blow your mind check out fiberglass (Tempus/Milestone)

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51 years 5 months

the_scort Tue, 02/05/2008 - 08:34

Yamaha Stage Customs just got redesigned as well. The shells are entirely birch. Definitely a good buy!

Alternatively Sonor makes the Force 2007 (birch, a bit under a grand) and the 3007 (maple, about $1200). Sonor are well constructed, super good looking, mounting is similar to yamaha and tama. You can't really go wrong either with the Yammies or the Sonors.

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13 years 5 months
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BrianaW Sun, 03/09/2008 - 20:31

For mainstream rock, I'd get mid priced birch kit and also replace the snare. That's where most of these kits are lacking IMO. I really think Mapex and Yamaha are great sets for the price. I don't think Pearl is making bad stuff either these days. Someday I want a custom Spaun, or a Noble & Cooley... ahh... dreams. :)

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51 years 5 months

eatmyshoes Sat, 03/15/2008 - 09:26

I just spent my life savings on a birch dw collectors edition. I don't regret it, but sometimes it baffles me how good some of my old drum sets sound. I guess I could say that drums, like most instruments, are non-linear as far as price and quality go. It's like those painful dB logarithms... For instance, the sound quality of a $300 kit compared to a $1000 kit will probably be a HUGE difference, whereas the quality of that same $1000 kit compared to that of a $2,500 kit, won't be that big of a jump.

Like the other guys are saying, find something suitable for your style of music...

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51 years 5 months

eatmyshoes Sat, 03/15/2008 - 09:28

BrianaW wrote: For mainstream rock, I'd get mid priced birch kit and also replace the snare. That's where most of these kits are lacking IMO. I really think Mapex and Yamaha are great sets for the price. I don't think Pearl is making bad stuff either these days. Someday I want a custom Spaun, or a Noble & Cooley... ahh... dreams. :)

Oh, She is completely right about the snare thing!!

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51 years 5 months

runamuck Sun, 03/16/2008 - 08:02

Knowing how to properly tune drums, the mic you use, and the space you record in are all much more significant than whether they are birch or maple.


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13 years 6 months
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studio33 Wed, 03/19/2008 - 20:41

Who Said it has to be new? You can prob find great used kit and put heads on it your getting more bang for your buck that way and if your lucky it will already have cases with it. If you arent going to be touring with it then looks go by the wayside as a factor in your choice. Drums are sexy anyway because their drums. If they sound good then they are. Im a maple guy myself. happy choosing

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16 years 2 months

TheArchitect Fri, 03/21/2008 - 06:22

(Dead Link Removed)

Actually, I think the shells are way down the list in factors contributing to recorded drum sound. Good heads, tuned correctly (a Drum Dial really helped me improve here) top quality cymbals (where the best is barely good enough) Most of all a good room. Those are the things I see as most important.

I have that kit in green. It's a good kit overall and great for the money. I bought a 16" floor tom to make it a 7 piece. The snare was a little vanilla for my taste but a pair of vintage Acrolites from the 'bay for under $200 total fixed that issue. Cymbals are the more critical item. I run with a variety of K's on that kit.

My other kit is a Gretsch jazz kit with mahogany shells. Very, very different sounding kit. The 18/12/14 sizes are a factor but clearly the wood in the main factor in the differences.

I am using Even's G1's on the toms and Ambassadors on the snares. Tuning is key and as stated previously, a drum dial can be invaluable in learning this skill and helps with consistency.