Thanks to continuing advances in manufacturing techniques, drummers have never had it better, as builders fiercely compete to offer the latest and greatest innovations at prices that were not attainable as little as a decade ago. One manufacturer that has always pioneered such advances in the drumming world is Tama. Never settling for the same old, same old, they always manage to change up their designs while pushing the envelope in subtle ways—like rim-mounts that don’t interfere with head changes—and in some not-so-subtle ways, like with their Hyperdrive shell design.
Even though the Tama Starclassic series sits in the middle of their product line, there are no shortages of premium, innovative features at a very attractive price point, making this kit a great option for rock drummers in need of a pro kit who still need to stick to a reasonable budget.
The Starclassic Performer B/B kit utilizes a combination of two different wood types in its shell configuration in order to realize the best of both worlds. The outer plies take advantage of the focused attack of birch, and the inner plies take advantage of the enhanced low end response of bubinga. The rack and floor tom shells utilize four layers of birch and three layers of bubinga for a total width of 6mm, and the bass drum utilizes five layers of birch and three layers of bubinga for a total width of 8mm.
The kit is also equipped with Tama’s own die-cast hoops, which further enhance the focus of the drums, and provide a relatively pain-free tuning experience. This is because the added rigidity of this material limits bending during tuning, applying pressure more evenly over a wider area. After handling these hoops and performing with them during the review period, we all agreed that they are of very high quality.
We reviewed the Hyper-Drive-size configuration, where the shell depth of the toms are relatively shallow. However, the depths become progressively less shallow as you increase in size. By the time you get to the kick drum, its dimensions are fairly standard, measuring 22 inches wide by 18 inches deep. Because of the varying relative shell depth, the variety of tones a drummer can achieve is relatively high.
Since the rack toms are quite shallow in depth, more placement options become available, as they take less space. For example, the ability for the drummer to be seen on stage becomes greater, as the toms can sit lower compared to other standard configurations, effectively getting out of the way. In addition, since the toms can sit lower, the drummer may find that they will not need to be angled toward him/her as much as other mounted toms, if at all.
Our review kits arrived fully disassembled in only two boxes, so we knew that meant a few hours of assembly time was coming up. On the plus side, this gave us an easy opportunity to inspect every nook and cranny, from the shells to the lugs to the hoops and more. The kit came equipped with premium, Evans G2, clear batter heads.
During the review period, we had the opportunity to witness two different finishes: The lacquer-coated Champagne Sparkle finish, and the lacquer-coated Cherry Natural Burst see-through finish. The lacquer coating visually gives the appearance of more depth and provides a layer of protection. Both of these finishes were stunning in person, which is where they were really appreciated. Photos do not do them justice.
It was obvious the sparkle finish was applied with the aid of modern automated processes, as the seams were barely noticeable, the edges were absolutely perfect, and the surfaces were completely smooth all around the drums. There were no bubbles, ripples, or other anomalies to be found anywhere.
The Cherry Natural Burst finish was also perfectly applied; in this case, beautifully stained and lacquered. There were no runs, pits, or other anomalies to be found anywhere as well.
To help protect these beautiful finishes, Tama includes claw hooks with rubber spacers to minimize worry, as well as keeping rattles and other disruptive vibrations down.
The Starclassic series drums come equipped with Tama’s Quick-Lock tom brackets, which serve as memory locks for these drums, providing a quick and convenient method of repeatable positioning. The trade off, in this case, is that the drums became more wobbly in practice, even though they still retained adequate stability. A quick test to determine how much play exists is to gently move the drums from side to side after they are locked down via the Quick-Lock’s locking switch. When performing this action, a surprising amount of play was observed. That said, we did not detect any issues during live performances.
Video courtesy of Tama Drums
Tama’s own unique Star-Cast mounting system isolates the toms from resonance-hindering direct mounting by physically attaching the tom holder assembly to the die-cast hoops via rubber nuts and bolts. Unlike many other isolating mounting systems, this allows changing out heads without having to remove the isolating hardware, which is very convenient! Users of lesser isolation systems will undoubtedly appreciate this custom feature.
Furthermore, the Star-Cast mounting system is contoured to match the shape of the hoops they are attached to, which provides a seamless, non-detracting look, giving the appearance of a single unit. Lastly, even though the Star-Cast mounting system is made from aluminum, we felt the entire system with two toms mounted including the double tom holder was particularly heavy. For that reason, we would opt to mount the toms on their own stand in order to allow the bass drum to resonate to its maximum potential.
When positioning the rack toms with the included double tom holder, it took quite a while to get the toms into just the right position. However, once the toms were in place, they were there to stay, and any further, minor adjustments were very easy. We would have liked either a slightly shorter tom holder post, or the ability to mount it completely through the bass drum, however a bracket in the hardware prevents this. There was enough clearance between the bottom of the toms and the bass drum to position them lower than the minimum height (currently hindered by the bracket), which was a bit frustrating.
Shell Roundness and Flatness
As shell roundness and flatness play a factor in tunability and resonance capability, we pay attention to these attributes. We found that, in general, the shells tended to not be quite as round the larger the shell size was. The 22” kick drum and 16” tom, for example, were not quite as round as the smaller toms. However, the amount of roundness was within the level of quality we would expect at this particular kit’s price point. Most importantly, though, it was not enough to notice any adverse tuning problems.
Another area worthy of high praise (besides the sumptuous finishes): shell flatness and evenness was near perfect at the bearing edges, as were the die-cast hoops. These positive factors helped to make tuning a breeze.
In our experience with many different types of shell configurations, wood types, etc., we have found that the shell material/plies/layers often times provide just a relatively subtle impact on the overall tone of the drum. Factors that play a larger role in the overall tone include the drum heads used, the bearing edges, hoops, mounting system, etc.
An overall consensus from the drumming community suggests that deep drums tend to project further out into the audience, have slower attack, are boomier, and are generally louder, but “finicky” to tune. Shallow drums, on the other hand, trade boominess and loudness for more focus, sensitivity, and tunability. The Hyper-Drive design tends to make people re-think this stance, as they manage to deliver big drum sound from shallow toms.
Any quibbles we may have had over roundness perfection or tom mounting aside, Tama has definitely hit a home run in the sound department, as this is a very good sounding rock kit. We played these drums in varying genres, contexts, and tunings, both live and in the studio. In all cases, we were very satisfied with the sonic capabilities afforded by these drums. Out of the box, after a careful amount of tuning, the rack toms especially “sang” and projected very well, which was unexpected based on their size (this reviewer wasn’t present for testing of another Tama Hyper-Drive kit a few years back, where our review team expressed the same reaction).
Even though the tonal color varied quite a bit through the range of tom sizes, the floor toms complemented the rack toms with nothing short of a massively thunderous and welcoming experience. Although we did not try out different brands of heads, we couldn’t help but feel the Evans combination chosen by Tama was great match, and left nothing to be desired.
Finally, the kick drum provided a powerful and punchy low end that complemented the rest of the kit very nicely.
Documentation & Product Support
Included with the kit was a minimal amount of documentation, but Tama provides very detailed information on their website—much more than what could be reasonably provided in hard copy form. We recommend visiting their site, as it is laid out very well.
The list price of the Tama Starclassic B/B kits under review ranged between $3,076.91 and $3,384.60, depending on the finish chosen, with the see-through finishes being slightly more expensive. Street prices range from approximately $2,000 to $2,200. Based on sound, construction quality, and overall appearance, these drums provide a very good value in a pro-level kit.
Overall Rating - Product Summary
|Documentation & Support||n/a||n/a|
|OVERALL RATING = 3.4 Stars
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award