|Documentation & Support||-||N/A|
|OVERALL RATING = 3.5 Stars (out of 4)
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
When it comes to choosing a drum kit, one drummer’s preference may differ radically from the next drummer. Some may place a high priority on brand recognition and popularity/use by favorite drummer, while others focus on build quality, finish, and other factors. Others may associate a particular sound with a specific model or even an entire brand, and place higher priority on that aspect before making a buying decision. And then there is that smaller, select group of drummers who dare to be different and favor modern, cutting-edge designs unique to a specific, boutique drum manufacturer.
Trick Drums is synonymous with innovation, the company best known for its state-of-the-art pedal designs, headed by pioneer, Mike Dorfman. Located in Arlington Heights, Illinois, Trick has been producing some of the most groundbreaking and unique drumming products on the planet for over 25 years now, not the least of which are drums constructed from non-wood materials such as aluminum, as is the case with the custom kit in review.
Even though Trick drums do not share the same popularity as their pedals, their design is definitely no less innovative. All Trick drum shells are made entirely of aircraft-grade, AL13, 3mm aluminum utilizing Trick’s own proprietary alloy, grade, and heat treating process. Dorfman realized early on that a properly manufactured aluminum drum shell provides quite a few advantages over wooden drum shells. Namely, repeatable and unsurpassed consistency from shell to shell, for one. This results in near-perfect matching between drums within a single drum kit or across multiple drum kits manufactured at different time periods. Completely absent is the problem of one drum not sounding quite as good as the other drums within or across kits.
Next, AL13 aluminum is stronger than wood, and Trick’s proprietary version is no exception. Unlike wood, it is also impervious to weather and resists warping and cracking in extreme weather conditions. There is much less to worry about if these drums get rained on or end up sitting in a blazing hot or freezing cold vehicle.
Powder Coated Finishing
Another advantage of aluminum is that it affords a much wider variety of finishing options compared to wood. For example, Trick recommends and defaults to powder coating their drums, as this is by far the preferred method of decorating an aluminum drum shell. A powder coated finish on an aluminum drum shell offers many advantages over any other type of finish by comparison. Powder coating adheres to aluminum much better than paint to wood, and essentially bonds to the metal, becoming part of the end product itself. Unlike paint, a powder coating will move and conform to the metal and not crack if the metal is formed into a different shape after it is coated. Powder coating also resists fading and handles heavy impacts better than paint, stain, lacquers, and other types of coatings and finishes commonly found on wood drums. Keep in mind that powder coating does not imply a “powdered look.” The same amount of gloss, depth, and shine found in other finishes is attainable with a powder coated finish as well.
Finally, powder coating is much more environment-friendly. Compared to paint, there is virtually no waste if the overspray is reclaimed/re-used, which is very manageable during the powder coating process. With paint, approximately 50% of the product is wasted during application through evaporation, and none of the overspray can be reclaimed. Furthermore, wet paint typically contains solvents and/or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have been proven to be harmful to the environment, and need to be disposed of properly. Any powder coating overspray that is not used can be thrown safely into a landfill.
Hardware-wise, Trick manufactures their own high-end lugs to compliment their unique drum shells, machined from solid aluminum. The threads to accommodate the tension rods are then drilled directly into lug itself, resulting in a single-piece lug that is stronger and sturdier than a die-cast lug or one that has a separate threaded insert.
Since the lug is one solid piece, there is no chance of rattling happening from the lug during a performance as well. For example, if you were to remove the resonant head and rim from any drum, the lugs will produce no rattling, unlike many lugs that contain an insert—which would no longer be stabilized from a removed tension rod.
In addition to 45-degree bearing edges on all shells, another essential design component and contributor to the overall tone of any drum are the drum hoops. Trick utilizes 2.3mm, triple-flanged hoops for all toms, and solid aluminum hoops for the bass drum; the same proprietary AL13 formula used in the manufacture of their drum shells. For tuning the bass drum, round tuning knobs were chosen over the typical T-rod variety. Finally, heavy steel spurs keep the drum firmly situated on the floor.
For tom mounting, Trick provides two options: Surface-mounted steel mounts, or their own 360-degree mounts purported to provide increased resonance.
Like most drum manufacturers, Trick features a single vent hole for their toms. However, the venting strategy for the bass drum is much different: multiple thin, elongated slots are utilized around the circumference of the drum near both bearing edges.
Badging and Logos
Finally, to finish off the drums, a newly designed solid aluminum badge is applied to each shell. However, only one badge is applied to the shell, so be sure to specify what side of the drum mount you want the badge placed. Two badges may be applied to the drum shell at an additional cost.
Trick applies their standard logo to the front bass drum head, but offers customized logos for additional charge as well.
More Finishing Options
Make no mistake: Trick is a custom drum company and offers a staggering amount of finishing options for their drums. For one, they offer 2,000 stock colors for their powder coated finishes, and up to 5,000 total varieties are available! In addition to powder coating, Trick offers anodized finishes, but recommends powder coating over anodizing (which they can mimic with powder coating). Other finishing options include (but are not limited to) custom hand-painting, pinstriping, printed wraps, and typical shell wraps often seen on wood drums. They even implement an advanced process that can apply a digital image directly to the drum shell. Trick can powder coat their lugs and hoops in all of their available color options as well. To view a plethora of finishing samples they have produced over the years, visit their Facebook page here.
Our review kit came in the stock “Illusion Orange” powder coated finish. To contrast this finish nicely, we opted for black powder-coated lugs and hoops (with the exception of the bass drum hoops, as we wanted those to match the drum shells). All tom mounts and floor tom legs were powder coated in black as well.
Trick offers all industry standard sizes, but can also build custom sizes for an additional fee. Our initial review kit came in the following (width) x (depth) sizes: 10”x8” and 12”x8” rack toms, 14”x12” floor tom, and 22”x16” kick drum. Later, we ordered an 8”x8” rack tom and a 16”x14” floor tom. We did not order a snare drum for this review.
Drum Head Options
Trick ships their drums by default with clear Evans G1 heads for toms and Evans EMAD for the bass drum, or you can request other models from Evans or Aquarian.
The average build time for a custom Trick drum kit is typically 30 to 45 days, which is relatively fast compared to some other drum manufacturers, and it will vary based on the number of orders in the queue. Our review kit was shipped out to us within thirty days of ordering.
Trick utilizes no-fuss, heavy duty, round, steel, rack and floor tom brackets to accommodate most L-Rod styles and standard floor tom legs. These mounts performed their job admirably over the review period, holding everything firmly in place, and visually complimented the style of the drums nicely.
Unlike some other drum manufacturers, Trick places their floor tom mounts equidistant from each other, which provided outstanding stability.
The heavy-duty bass drum spurs performed their job perfectly, always holding the drum firmly in place during hard-hitting sessions on various flooring. Setting them up and stowing was quick and painless.
Trick’s standard, round, bass drum tuning knobs provided a quicker tuning process, and stayed out of the way compared to typical T-Rod tuners.
In the case of the toms, tuning held well in average to high tunings, but not so well in low tunings during hard hitting sessions compared to our studio’s wood-shelled kit. For lower tunings, we added plastic lug locks to counteract this issue, and they worked without a problem. We should note that drum companies typically do not employ additional mechanisms to keep their drums in tune longer as it adds complexity and cost to the design, but in this case, they proved useful.
When applying various tuning ranges to the drums, the drums held their own well, resisting choking in higher tunings, and maintained ample resonance throughout a wide range.
Visual Appearance and Durability
Overall we were very happy with this drum kit’s overall appearance, which has proven to be quite “dynamic” in nature. The Illusion Orange finish appears somewhat muted in low to average room lights, but otherwise takes on a very flashy, two-toned character under bright stage lights or sunlight. Depending on the light and how strong it is, the areas of the drum that receive the most light can appear yellow in color, fading into an orange hue in areas that receive less light.
Note that the drum shells are made from sheets of metal, and require a welded seem. We found the weld was applied very evenly and smoothly and was not visually obtrusive in any way. Trick finishes the insides of their drums the same color as the outside by default and curiously, we could only detect the seam on the inside of the shell, not the outside. Also, because the insides of the shell had the same finish as applied the outside, we felt the need to show it off by always using clear heads. Finally, we felt that the bass drum venting slots added a stylish finishing touch.
A very minor nitpick on the finish would be that we noticed a slight “orange peel” effect at close range. However, this is not noticeable beyond four feet or so from the drums and does not detract from the beautiful finish.
As far as finish durability goes, we have not noticed any signs of anomalies, pitting, cracking, chipping, fading, or marring of the finish in the year we’ve spent with the drums in normal use.
Since the drum shells are a very thin 3mm thickness, we were expecting the drums to be lighter before getting our hands on them, and this was the case. However, the bass drum did feel heavier than most other bass drums we have come across. We think it’s mostly due to the weight of the solid aluminum bass drum hoops, which are much heavier than any standard wooden bass drum hoop. While changing out the bass drum heads, the weight difference was obvious.
For most drummers, sound is the most important aspect of any drum kit, and we can tell you up front that these drums are not lacking in that department. Sight unseen, not knowing what material these drums were physically constructed out of, nobody is going to tell you they are made of metal based on their tone. In fact, they sound the opposite of what most would perceive an aluminum drum would sound like. They do not have a “metallic” sound at all. If we were to use one word to describe the sound of these drums, that word would be warm, and the sound is not harsh or brash in any way.
As a quick test for fun, we placed our 10”x7” Sonor tom (made from German beechwood) right next to Trick’s 10”x8” tom using the same heads and tuning on both drums. Some friends in the room were shocked at how similar they sounded. Others were not as surprised, knowing that the shell material of a drum is just one of many components that make up a drum’s sound. Of course, various drum makes and models can react differently to head brands and models, tuning methods, playing styles, etc. However, the effect was far from dramatic in this particular comparison. In addition to the stock heads, we tried quite a few different brands and models of heads on the Trick set, and preferred the sound of single-ply, lighter weight heads overall for this kit. Perhaps this was due to the kit’s warm sound character.
Contrary to popular belief or assumptions, we did not find the Trick set to be perceptively louder or softer than most other drum kits we have played. Nor did it suffer from lack of projection in a live setting. The Trick set projected very well, sounding punchy, powerful, and huge. In addition, the drums were very resonant across the entire kit, even with standard tom mounts directly attached to the shell. We can only imagine how resonant the toms would be utilizing Trick’s custom, 360-degree mounts.
One thing we appreciated was how consistent the drums sounded across the kit compared to other sets we have come across. This is undoubtedly due to the high consistency in Trick’s manufacturing process. On a related note, we measured the roundness of all the drums, which varied less than 1/16th of an inch on any drum, making the Trick drums the most consistent in roundness over the entire kit we have ever encountered.
A typical Trick Drums five-piece kit with stock sizes, standard colors, and no powder coated hardware typically runs around $2,500. Powder coating adds $75 per drum. And, Trick offers a generous lifetime warranty on the shells against material failure. This is a very fair price for such well-made, customized, drums.
• Ludwig Vistalite