In the world of drum shells, maple wood tends to be one of the most preferred options for many drummers. Maple kits typically have warm sounds that are balanced across the frequency range.
A maple kit will fit in any genre, and it will thrive in studio environments where microphones detect every small nuance that a drum set has. So, what are the best maple kits available? Every drum brand has several maple kits on offer, and I’m going to take you through some of the top ones.
Bottom Line Up Front
While every drum brand has maple drum sets on offer, there are a select few that I’ve been able to play over the years that have stood out to me more than others. I’d say the ultimate maple drum set would be a DW Collector’s Series set. It’s a luxury kit that many drummers dream of owning.
It’s extraordinarily expensive, though. So, here are my other picks for the best maple kits with a longer description of the DW at the end.
My Top Picks at a Glance
- PDP Concept Maple – Best maple kit that costs under $1000. It lends several design features from higher-end DW sets, making it stand out amongst the rest of the affordable maple kits.
- Sonor AQ2 Bop – Best portable maple kit. The shells are small, allowing you to transport the set much easier than you would with a full-sized kit. It’s amazing for playing gigs in pubs and clubs.
- Yamaha Tour Custom – Best maple drum set costing between $1000 and $1500. Yamaha’s hardware is immaculate and the Satin finishes are gorgeous.
- DW Design Series – Best maple kit costing between $1500 and $2000. One of the few higher-tier kits that come with a snare drum when you buy it.
- Pearl Masters Maple Complete – One of the best professional sets out there. Incredibly high price-to-value ratio.
- DW Collector’s Series – Luxury maple drum set. This is what many drummers will dream of owning and spend their life’s savings on.
Drum Kit Buying Advice
Before we get to the drum kits themselves, I want to give you a few tips on purchasing a drum set. I’ve made a few mistakes over my drumming career when it comes to new gear, and I could’ve saved a lot of money if someone steered me in the right direction.
Establish a Budget
Make sure of how much money you’re willing to spend. It’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of overspending. There will always be a better drum kit to buy, and it will always cost more than what you already have your eyes on.
With a set budget limit, you can choose the best option within that range. You may even find something cheaper that you’re more than happy with, and that will allow you to allocate more budget for other gear.
I love separating drum kits into groups of $500. Look at what the options are that cost between $500 and $1000. After that, see what costs in the $1000 to $1500 range. Continue that path to see what your personal budget will be.
A general rule of thumb to follow is that a $2000 drum kit will be perfectly usable in all professional settings. Anything that costs more than that is a luxury option.
Consider New Drumheads
Drumheads make all the difference when it comes to the drum sound. If you get a kit that costs $500, you could equip it with high-quality drumheads and tune them to make the kit sound like it should cost $1000.
Stock drumheads are never amazing, so always allocate a budget for new drumheads when buying a new kit.
Cymbals are More Important
This point ties in strongly with the previous one. If you don’t have an amazing set of cymbals, you should invest in those before getting a new drum set. While high-quality drumheads will make a kit sound better, you can’t alter the sounds of cymbals.
Using a $300 set of cymbals with a $3000 drum set will make an overall cheap sound. Taking this into account may make you rethink your original budget. If I had to buy a new kit setup entirely, I’d spend 35% of my budget on drums and the remaining 65% on good-quality cymbals.
Choose Which Shell Type You Want
Since you’re reading this blog post, I can only assume that you’re looking for a maple kit. However, it’s good to compare wood types to make sure that you’re getting a sought-after sound quality.
Thankfully, maple sets provide the most balanced sounds out of all the shell types. A maple set is always a good choice! However, you may want a loud kit to play rock music with, and maple may be a bit too subtle for that, whereas a birch kit will have plenty of punch.
There are so many drum brands to choose from, so I highly suggest you check out all the maple kits that every major brand offers. While they’ll share the quality of having maple drum shells, the other qualities such as ply numbers and hardware will be vastly different.
My final tip is to consider buying used maple drum sets. Drum kits don’t degrade too much, so buying used gear is a wise financial choice. If you’re able to find a maple kit for a good deal, don’t hesitate to get it! You can always replace the drumheads and hoops to make the kit feel fresher.
With all the kits I’m about to recommend, I looked at the price-to-value ratio, brand popularity, durability, and overall tone quality.
All six maple kits score high ratings here, so you can be assured that they’re all fantastic options. However, some of them are better for certain settings than others, so I’ll mention that if applicable.
Alright, let’s move on to the maple kits!
PDP Concept Maple
The selling point for me is that this kit has incredible hardware that is inspired by DW hardware. PDP is a sister company to DW, so the kits come with many of DW’s design features.
Each drum has a set of True-Pitch tuning rods. These rods are a DW hardware design that ensures the drums stay in tune. It also makes them a lot easier to tune than those other kits that I mentioned.
While the tones are warm from these drums, I’d say they’re quite punchy as well. It’s quite common to see a 7-piece PDP Concept Maple kit being used in Gospel churches because of this. The toms sing strongly, and those sounds interact well with Gospel instrumentation.
Another benefit of these kits is the sheer number of finish options we’re gifted with. The kits have been around for so long that dozens of finishes have been made. Chances are high that you can find the kit in your favorite color.
- DW-inspired hardware
- A large number of available finishes
- One of the most affordable maple drum sets
- The stock drumheads would need to be upgraded to achieve a top-quality sound
Sonor AQ2 Bop
Lugging around a full-sized drum set to every gig can get incredibly tiresome, so smaller kits that produce similar energy are highly valuable.
Most compact kits that I know of are made from poplar, which is an inferior shell type to maple. That’s why I love this Sonor AQ2 Bop kit. The maple shells make it sound beautiful, and you can tune it low to make it sound quite large. You can also tune the toms to sound high and resonating for a jazz gig.
If you’re a jazz drummer, this could easily be your main kit. If you’re simply looking for a maple kit to gig with, this would work well for that as well. I wouldn’t recommend using it as your main kit if you’re not a jazz drummer, though. It may be too small for you.
- Beautiful compact maple kit
- Excellent for use in small venues
- Surprisingly wide tuning range
- Not ideal for every type of drummer
Yamaha Tour Custom
I frequently play at a certain venue where I live, and they always hire a Tour Custom kit for famous bands that come to play. It’s generally accepted as a pro kit that drummers will use and love.
One of the best things about it is that it has thin maple shells. As these shells are thinner than most, the drums have an incredibly lively sound.
Pair that with the immaculate shell construction, and you have a kit worthy of any drummer. I’m also a huge fan of the Satin finishes that the Tour Custom is available in.
The big downside is that you can only buy it in a shell pack that doesn’t include a snare drum. While Yamaha does make Tour Custom snares, you’d need to buy one separately along with the purchase of the kit.
- Thin maple shells that produce lively tones
- Excellent kit for gigging and recording
- Extremely solid construction
- You have to buy a Tour Custom snare separately
DW Design Series
While the DW Collector’s and DW Performance Series kits are amazing, I love that the Design Series is more accessible thanks to its price tag. You’ll be paying around $2000 for one of these, and you’ll get a kit with strong maple shells that feel incredibly solid to play.
Like the PDP Concept Maple, you get the popular DW hardware features such as the True-Pitch tension rods and the MAG throw-off for the snare. Speaking of snare drums, this is one of the only professional drum kits that you can buy that comes with a snare drum included. Most other expensive kits come as shell packs with no snare included.
So, this is an excellent option to go with if you don’t have a snare drum already or if you don’t want to spend extra money on one.
- Most affordable DW drum set
- Includes a snare drum, unlike most other professional shell packs
- Feels incredible solid to play
- With a price tag of around $2000, it may be too expensive for many drummers
Pearl Masters Maple Complete
I say this because it’s the Pearl kit that I’ve seen the most in every professional setting that I’ve been in. This includes recording studios and stages where bands play for live TV.
There’s something special about Pearl’s hardware quality, and you feel it with this kit as the hardware holds the shells together. The sound you get from the drums is beautiful as well. They’re full-bodied and very powerful.
The price-to-value of this kit is a lot better than the others, in my opinion. The amount of playability that you can get from a Pearl Masters kit is incredible.
Like with the Yamaha Tour Custom, you don’t get a snare drum with the shell pack here. Keep that in mind!
- Incredible price-to-value ratio
- Next-level durability
- Very popular kit from Pearl’s product lineup
- No Pearl Masters snare included when buying the shell pack
DW Collector’s Series
My final suggestion is the DW Collector’s Series. DW has a custom drum kit program where you can get these specially made for you with whatever requirements you have, but many of the Collector’s kits are made as standard maple kits.
If you can get your hands on one of these, you’ll have a drum kit for life. DW is one of the best drum brands in the world, and these sets are their top product. Everything about them is amazing, from the tones to the hardware to the finish options.
You’ll be shocked by the prices when you search for Collector’s Series kits online but know that the standard maple options typically cost from $3500 to $5000. While that still may seem like an exorbitant price range, the top-tier Collector’s kits cost well over $10 000!
If you have an unlimited budget, I’d suggest getting one of these bad boys.
- Luxury drum set
- Amazing tones with an incredibly wide tuning range
- Best of what DW has to offer
- Will last a lifetime
- Tremendously expensive
Answer: The woods commonly used for drums other than maple are birch, oak, walnut, mahogany, poplar, and beech. Out of those woods, the most used ones are birch and mahogany.
Birch produces stronger attacking tones than maple does, making birch drums sound slightly louder and more energetic. Mahogany cuts down on a lot of high frequencies, causing the drums to be accented in the low range. This makes them sound a lot deeper and more bellowing.
Some drum companies mix wood types for their shells. Through doing this, the drums have a combined mixture of varying wood effects. While you’ll find this being done with expensive kits, Mapex is the one company that combines woods in their more affordable kits as well.
Answer: If you’re looking to improve the sound of a drum kit that you already own, there are a few things you can do. Firstly, you should replace the drumheads with high-quality ones from Remo, Evans, or Aquarian. If you have a cheaper set, you should use two-ply heads. Higher-quality sets will be fine with single-ply heads.
Once the heads are on, you need to tune the drums as best you can. This is the most important factor in making them sound better, and the high-quality heads will make the process easier.
After that, you can muffle the drums to eliminate any unwanted overtones. You can do this by applying tape or sticky gel to the skins. If you muffle them too much, you’ll kill the tone, so you must find a balance.
Answer: This depends on your skill level and budget. If you’re a beginner, you won’t notice the difference between an intermediate drum set and a pro one. If you’re an experienced drummer, you’ll immediately notice the low quality of an entry-level kit.
Here is a general guideline of prices for drum sets:
Entry-level kits – From $300 to $800
Intermediate kits – From $800 to $1500
Professional kits – From $1500 to $10 000
My largest piece of advice here is that it’s more important to spend money on good cymbals than it is to pay a lot for a drum kit. Many drummers opt to buy intermediate drum sets so that they can spend more money on top-tier cymbals.
Answer: The top drum brands are Tama, Yamaha, DW, PDP, Sonor, Mapex, Ludwig, Gretsch, and Pearl. While there are dozens of other drum brands making excellent kits, none of them have yet to match the popularity of these.
Answer: While you do get electronic kits that have acoustic shells such as the Roland VAD kits and the Alesis Strike Pro, none of those acoustic shells are made from maple. They’re generally made from hardwood or poplar.
Since the shells are purely aesthetic, the companies making them wouldn’t use a more expensive wood such as maple.
You can’t go wrong with a maple drum set. It’s the most versatile shell type, making the kits amazing in every possible application. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to easily find a maple kit that costs less than $800.
If you’re wanting something very affordable, the PDP Concept Maple is an excellent choice. The Sonor AQ2 Bop is ideal for jazz drummers and for gigging in very small venues.
The Yamaha Tour Custom, DW Design Series, and Pearl Masters Maple Complete kits are all great if you’re wanting something a bit higher in quality.
The DW Collector’s Series is the king of maple drum sets. You should get one of those if a strict budget isn’t stopping you.
If none of these sets suit your tastes, you may want to look into kits that use other shell materials such as birch, mahogany, or beech.
For more interesting reading on drum gear, check out the following articles: