Top 10 Drum Set Brands

by | Oct 20, 2018 | Audio Gear, Drums | 0 comments

Cymbals and percussion have been at the heart of music’s rhythm and backbeat for centuries but the modern incarnation of percussion, the drum set, has only really existed for the last 150 years or so.

Now found on the stage of almost every concert, gig and festival worldwide, the drum kit is an intrinsic component of most genres of music.

In this article, we’ll be checking out the top 10 drum set brands that have existed past and present.

Here are the top 10 drum set brands

Drum Workshop

Hand crafted drum sets from California

Gretsch

Long standing top of the range drum kits

Ludwig

Historical drum brand as used by Led Zepplin among others

TAMA

Japanese company founded in 1974

Mapex

Taiwanese company featuring the Saturn line

Slingerland

Great company made famous by Buddy Rich

Premier

British drum brand used by Keith Moon

Pearl

Japanese company since 1946

Sonor

One of the original brands based in Germany

Yamaha

Huge company with a great drum division

Drum Workshop

Description

Drum Workshop were founded relatively recently in 1972 in California. They’ve quickly picked up massive traction in the industry and easily take their place as one of the top 10 drum set brands worldwide.

They manufacture quality handcrafted drum kits at the top end only and they’re certainly not cheap! Their drums are manufactured to incredible standards through from the shells to their extraordinarily beautiful selection of bespoke finishes.

Their secondary company Pacific Drums manufacture mid-quality and budget kits but DW itself has focussed on artist level kits and their phenomenal list of pro endorsements are testament to the quality they deliver.

Headline Features of the Brand
  • Deliver impeccable kits at the pro level
  • Amazing range of special finishes
  • Also known for their industry-leading 3000, 5000, 7000 and 9000 series of hardware
Top Artists Past and Present
  • Tony Royster, a world top drummer and player for hip hop acts including Jay-Z
  • Neil Peart of Rush, widely considered one of the world’s best drummers, especially in terms of rock and heavier styles
  • Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett, drummer for late great Michael Jackson
  • Travis Barker from pop punk band Blink 182

Gretsch

Description

Established 1883, Gretsch have delivered drums at the top level for well over a century. A real and authentic family company, their kits played a prominent role in the jazz scene as it emerged throughout the 20s and 30s.

Today, vintage Gretsch drums fetch lofty prices, testament to a drum tone that has only strengthened over time. It’s no wonder that some of the world’s top session drummers look to older Gretsch kits for that timeless drum tone.

Gretsch have expanded over the years but their series offerings have usually been pretty compact and limited. Their more affordable kits, like the Gretsch Catalina, are still considered semi-pro or better. They have recently released budget kits for first time drummers but for the most part, Gretsch will always be about that classic high-ticket vintage tone which is why they are firmly in our top 10 drum set brands.

Headline Features of the Brand
  • One of the originals
  • Known for their implacable but ever-present sense of warmth and depth
  • Some of the most widely recorded drums of all time
Top Artists Past and Present
  • Vinnie Colaiuta, drum legend who has played with Sting and Herbie Hancock
  • Stanton Moore, virtuoso clinic and project drummer
  • Ash Soan, a top TV, film and session drummer
  • Mark Guiliana, a rising modern jazz star

Ludwig

Description

Ludwig are probably best known for their Supraphonic, Acrolite and Black Beauty snare drums, which are widely considered to be some of the best ever made.

Numerous manufacturers have tirelessly copied Ludwig’s seminal design patterns but most will tell you that you can’t come close to a genuine vintage Supraphonic!

Ludwig drums have provided kits to the drummers of some of the world’s biggest music acts including John Bonham of Led Zeppelin who played a famous super-sized stainless steel kit and Ringo Starr of The Beatles, who rose Ludwig to number 1 in terms of North American drum manufacture.

Headline Features of the Brand
  • Probably the most famous historical drum brand
  • Manufacture what are widely considered some of the world’s best snare drums
  • Tone known for its huge warmth, bottom end and finesse
Top Artists Past and Present
  • John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, a true pioneer and legend
  • Ringo Starr from The Beatles, one of the world’s most famous ever music acts
  • Ginger Baker from rock band Cream
  • Buddy Rich for some part of his illustrious career

TAMA 

Product Description

Going East, we can find TAMA, a Japanese drum company founded in 1974. Now entered into the drum hall of fame, TAMA were famous for their awesome drum hardware which was distinctly different to that of other manufacturers, especially in terms of durability. They quickly earnt their motto “The Strongest Name in Drums”.

TAMA are not just famous for their drums but for their Iron Cobra series of pedals, which are some of the most widely used pedals in any genre worldwide.

TAMA’s small run of series include Imperialstar, Silverstar, Rockstar and Superstar at the budget to medium-end and almost just their famous Starclassic kits at the high end. Many Starclassic kits are hand-crafted in Japan and with their superb shells, hardware and finishes, they’ve become one of the dominant series amongst pro drummers worldwide.

When you look down TAMA’s impressive list of endorsers, you find many rock and metal drummers, perhaps more than for any other manufacturer.

Top Features of the Brand
  • Known for their innovative hardware, particularly the Iron Cobra series of pedals
  • The brand of choice for many heavier drummers
  • Starclassic kit has risen to the fore as one of the best modern pro level series ever made
Top Artists Past and Present
  • Billy Cobham, acclaimed as one of funk and fusion’s best ever drummers
  • Mario Duplantier, highly regarded drummer from French metal band Gojira
  • Mike Portnoy, incredible rock, metal and progressive drummer from virtuoso prog band Dream Theater
  • Stewart Copeland from The Police

Mapex 

Product Description

Mapex were formed in 1989 in Taiwan and they’ve quickly installed themselves are a class manufacturer of all levels of drum kit and hardware. Mapex’s reputation quickly developed and their kits have improved vastly, culminating in the famous “Saturn” line which are now widely used amongst pro and semi-pro drummers worldwide.

The Saturn series is arguably the best value pro level series on the modern drum market. Mapex’s offerings are diverse and they encapsulate a great deal of what being a modern drummer is about. They’re obviously a fairly modern company but their kits have gotten better and the prices of their medium tier kits are excellent when compared to their main competitors.

One of Mapex’s most famous offerings are their Black Panther snare drums. These are widely considered some of the best snares available at the price. Mapex has always been a company which is more ‘for the people’ than ‘for the pros’ but this is changing and more top level drummers are now moving to Mapex.

Top Features of the Brand
  • The first drum company outside of N. America, Europe or Japan to have major success
  • Have created awesome kits for every price bracket
  • Saturn series widely considered one of the best value pro level kits ever made
Top Artists Past and Present
  • Acclaimed drummer Will Calhoun from Living Colour
  • Chris Adler, one of metal’s finest drummers for Lamb of God
  • Tony Coleman from B.B. King

Slingerland

Product Description

Slingerland’s name will never leave the drum hall of fame thanks to one man: Buddy Rich. But lets not forget Gene Krupa and every other jazz legend that this company blessed with their classic drums.

It’s hard to see quite why Slingerland went under but their drum kits will remain top offerings amongst vintage resellers and dealers.

Sadly, as time goes on, Slingerland drums become more limited, especially in decent or good quality. Slingerland kits fetch massive prices at auction.

Top Features of the Brand
  • Helped pioneer jazz drumming, one of the most impressive applications of the art
  • Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa – two of the best drummers to have ever lived – primarily used Slingerland drums
  • One of the pioneers of the drum making art
Top Artists Past and Present
  • Buddy Rich, regarded as possibly the best drummer, or at least the most inspiring drummer, to have lived so far
  • Gene Krupa, close in behind!

Premier

Description

England pitched in to the drum market in 1922 with the now world-famous brand Premier. Premier entered many kits into jazz circles throughout the 30s and post-war era and they quickly jostled for competition with North American drum manufacturers.

Premier drums were handcrafted for many decades and they quickly built an awesome reputation for both their drum sets, snare drum and hardware.

Perhaps most prolific amongst their endorsers are Keith Moon from The Who and Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden. Premier drums have always encapsulated that classic fat and warm tone and they were never scared of innovation as is obvious from their rather crazy looking 1920s jazz setups.

Top Features of the Brand

  • England’s flagship manufacturer
  • One of the pre-war originals
  • Most of England’s best drummers have endorsed Premier kits at least once!
Top Artists Past and Present
  • Keith Moon from The Who, one of the world’s most famous rock bands
  • Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden, probably the biggest metal band to have ever existed
  • Phil Collins from Genesis and his single work  

Pearl 

Description

Japanese drum company Pearl was formed in 1946, making them one of the first Japanese drum manufacturers to export worldwide. The Pearl Export is without a doubt one of the bestselling and most well known drum sets and over the years, Pearl has established itself to be the faceplate of modern drumming. If you ask someone who doesn’t play the drums to name a manufacturer then there’s a good chance they’ll name Pearl, hence why they are on our list of top 10 drums set brands.

Pearl has seen so many drumming icons on their endorsement list throughout the years with Chad Smith, Tommy Lee and Dennis Chambers to name just a tiny percentage. The actual list is genuinely pretty endless, testament to the hard work and innovation Pearl have put in to deliver awesome kits at every level.

Pearl’s reputation is not built on their drums alone, but on their amazing hardware which has produced many absolute classics over the last few years, including the recent Demon Drive pedal.

Top Features of the Brand

  • Pearl Export kit probably the best selling drum kit ever built
  • One of the most famous drum brands as far as popular culture and media is concerned
  • Incredibly high work rate and rate of innovation
Top Artists Past and Present
Pros:

  • Chad Smith from RHCP, one of drumming’s most charismatic faces
  • Dennis Chambers, an all-time drum legend
  • Mike Mangini, virtuoso clinic drummer and present drummer for Dream Theater

Sonor

Description

One of the originals formed in 1875 in Berlin, Germany, Sonor has quietly built one of the finest legacies in all of drums. They’ve seen some of the biggest drum legends pass through their brand including the legendary likes of Thomas Lang, Jojo Mayer, Benny Greb, Dennis Chambers, Nicko McBrain, David Garibaldi and Jack DeJohnette.

That list genuinely includes some of the greatest drummers of all time and though Sonor’s profile has been comparatively low compared to Pearl, Ludwig, Gretsch, etc, their kits deliver tremendous quality and engineering.

Today, Sonor has expanded to offer medium level kits like the Force 3000 and 2000 but their higher end kits like the SQ2, Prolite and Delite series are what deliver the goods for some of the world’s best drummers.

Top Features of the Brand

  • An industry favourite for pro drummers
  • Force kits are some of best cost-friendly maple kits
  • Well engineered and innovative hardware
Top Artists Past and Present
  • Jojo Mayer, legendary and highly regarded drummer from electronic music outfit Nerve
  • Thomas Lang, all-time drum legend
  • Jack DeJohnette, widely regarded as one of the best modern jazz drummers
  • Benny Greb, probably one of the most famous and well loved modern drummers

Yamaha

Description

Yamaha really is an enigma of a company. They deliver amazing products across so many industries and though they’ve been around for well over a century, their drum division has only been around since the 1960s.

Indeed, some of Yamaha’s first products were pianos and thus, their drum division inherited a very strong hand of factories and skilled workers.

Yamaha’s drums have become known for their outstanding consistency across every range. They’re simply bulletproof in design and build and no matter what kit you buy, you know that it’ll deliver an impeccable level of craftsmanship.

Top Features of the Brand
  • Built upon Yamaha’s fantastic instrument manufacturing portfolio
  • Incredibly accurate build qualities
  • A session drummer favourite
Top Artists Past and Present
  • Akira Jimbo, Japanese drum innovator
  • Dave Weckl, drum legend
  • Steve Gadd, another all-time great

The Art of Drum Building

The art of drum set building has been handed down from the original manufacturers of the mid to late 1800s.

The world is now host to hundreds of drum builders ranging from the industry titans that we are most familiar with to independents, custom shops and other smaller manufacturers that painstakingly ply the art of shell making, hardware manufacture and finish using their own unique and special methods.

How to pick a drum set

There are many factors that come in to play when choosing a drum set. The best advice we can give you is to go down to your local drum shop and try out the different brands for yourself to see which suits your style and sound.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article has given you a good idea of the various drum brands available. Each of which have their own rich history and selection of great players from Keith Moon right up to Zac Starkey.

If you feel we have missed out on a brand then let us know in the comments below.

Check out our other articles, like this one on the best reverb pedal for synth. We are constantly adding more gear related articles so be sure to sign up to our mailing list to keep informed.

Sam is an audio and music production graduate, he has worked in live audio, studio production, sound design and videography.

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