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DW Performance is held among some of the top names by the drumming community for more than one reason. Whether it’s the quality of drum shells, their construction, or the overall sound of the kit, DW seems to strike an incredible balance between all these variables in each and every drum kit they produce.
DW recently tapped into the mid-priced professional drum kit line, and their user ratings have been off the charts, to say the least. They are creating high-quality but reasonably priced drum kits for the everyday drummer who desires a real DW kit but can’t seem to justify the exorbitant price tag that comes with it.
The key decision-making factors for choosing acoustic drum kits can vary from person to person. If you are a beginner with a keen interest in drumming, then a basic kit just won’t cut it for you. Serious players need serious gear, something that can handle a beating and yet last for many more performances to come.
For most drummers, a drum kit must:
- Feel comfortable to play
- Sound great
- Fit their budget
- It should be lightweight and easy to lug around
- Not cost a fortune to maintain
I can comfortably vouch that every DW kit I’ve come across has performed flawlessly across all the above variables. In recent years, the company’s presence broadened by a substantial margin after they switched from a company that only catered to custom orders to a full-fledged drum manufacturer in the open market.
If you’ve always wondered about what makes DW one of the top brands in the drum market, you’ve come to the right place. Today I’ll be putting the DW Performance Series 4-piece drum kit under the magnifying glass and understanding what makes them better or worse than other kits on the market.
I’m also be taking a deep dive into what makes a good acoustic drum kit too. So be sure to stick around if you want to learn some interesting facts about drums and – most importantly – if the DW Performance Series 4-Piece is actually worth it.
What Makes a Good Acoustic Drum Kit?
Without the proper guidance and knowledge, the process of choosing the right drum set can inevitably become a stressful ordeal for drummers. You will likely find yourself ping-ponging between the multitude of options that lie in every category. This is why it’s essential to map out your top priorities when picking out a new drum set.
Believe it or not, but every drum kit is designed with a set purpose and musical genre in mind. They can vary depending on the choice of hardware, drum shells, drum heads, and many other intrinsic features. To list some of the most common classifications of drum kits, we have:
- Studio kits that tend to have a pure sound with easy access to miking equipment. These kits typically have an extended range of harmonics as well as room for customization.
- Jazz and club kits can be easily spotted in most jazz clubs and small-scale venues. These kits are typically assembled in a compact configuration to increase the ease of playing and performing live. They are characterized by their warm and wide-open musical tone, which is a staple of jazz and R&B players.
- Fusion kits are intermediate-sized kits that are designed to function in a versatile manner. The kits are marked by their 20-22 inch kick drums and evenly intervallic toms. As the name suggests, these kits serve a wide range of players – from blues to rock and stage to studio.
- Rock and metal kits are designed to be the tightest sounding kits with a lot of emphasis on low-end articulation. These kits often exhibit a brighter sound and super fast attack, so players can play quickly and technically without the notes blending into each other.
- Hip-hop and house kits are the birthplaces of crunchy breakdowns and cutting-edge grooves. If you have had a brush with these types of drum kits, then you must already be aware of their controlled response and vinyl-themed tone. These kits are mainly characterized by their notably small kick drum, usually ranging from 14” to 16” in diameter.
Some Expert Decision-Making Tips
Drum kits come in dozens of different configurations, but most begin with the following components:
- The Kick Drum (Bass Drum)
- The Snare Drum
- The Tom (Or Toms)
- The Cymbals
- It’s Included Hardware
Kick Drum (Bass Drum)
One of the lowest-pitched drums in the kit, the kick drum, contributes a major part to the rhythmic foundation of music. You want to get the size right as well as the drum heads if you are not looking to stray away from the sound in your head.
For quicker response and tighter low end, drummers would opt for 22” to 24” bass drums with clear batter heads. This combo is commonly used in rock and metal music, which puts a lot of emphasis on the low end.
Drummers seeking a warm, well-rounded kick sound typically prefer 18” to 20” kicks with coated heads. This choice of bass drums is highly popular in the pop, jazz, and hip-hop genre.
If you are building a junior drum set or a starter kit for a student, a smaller kick will not only reduce the footprint of the kit but will also aid their skill development. A 16” kick drum would be the best choice for you in such cases.
The Snare Drum
The distinct snappy sound of drum sets can be traced back to their snare drums. Think of it as something that outlines the rhythmic framework of your music. It is very important for drummers to understand and learn how to work with snares if they plan on taking their hobby to the next level.
A snare drum is usually made from three main components:
- The Snares Themselves: These are a series of coiled wires stretched across the bottom head, which gives the drum its unique “snappy” sound and attack.
- The Snare Hoops: These hoops hold the knotting slots for the cords or straps holding the snare to pass through.
- The Snare Strainer: This lever allows you to adjust the tension on the drum head and also disengage the head entirely from its shell. In one or more scenarios, it will also be used for the purposes of tuning the snare.
The Tom (Or Toms)
These could be a pair or series of drums varying in pitch from high to low. They are mainly used for adding note diversity or more tonal colors in percussion. A lot of famous artists and bands have popularized the use of toms in bridge sections and fills in their music.
No doubt, this has become an essential component of music. A standard drum kit will usually have two rack toms paired with a floor tom, but their numbers can easily go as high as four or even five in some bigger kits.
A drum kit is simply incomplete without its most “metallic” sounding component, the cymbals. Some common choices for cymbals are:
- Ride cymbal
- Crash cymbal
Then some rather unconventional picks for cymbals are:
- Bell cymbal
- China cymbal
- Clash cymbal
- Finger cymbal
- Flat ride cymbal
Arguably one of the most important aspects of any drum kit, the hardware should never be overlooked – unless, of course, you want to end up with a kit that suffers from periodic failures and accidents. You always want to check on the following points without fail:
- Make sure the kick pedal is sturdy, and the base doesn’t move around too much once clamped to the kick drum.
- Don’t forget to get all the necessary stands for the snare drums, the cymbals, and the rack toms.
- You can have a $10,000 kit, but it still won’t amount to much unless you have a good drum throne to sit on.
- Keep a fresh pair of drumsticks on you at all times when playing drums. This will prevent drum heads from getting scratched up or, worse, tearing from a chipped stick.
DW Performance Series 4-Piece Review
The performance series from DW is their flagship line of premium drum kits that are firmly located in the mid-price range. Since we are taking a premium brand into a lower price range, it’s fair that we are going to lose some elements from the higher-tier versions. That said, DW seems to have nailed every aspect of drumming with their Performance Series.
The Key Features of the Drum Kit
Here is a complete breakdown of all the components you get with the DW Series 4-Piece drum kit:
- The Drum Shells
- The Included Hardware
- The Finish
- The Sound
Let’s go ahead and break these parts down one by one.
With the DW Performance Series 4-piece kit, you get:
- 1 x 22” Kick drum
- 1 x 12” Mounted Tom
- 1 x 16” Floor Tom
- 1 x 14” Snare
The Performance Series is ladened with DW’s US-built, handcrafted HVX hard rock maple shells with 45-degree bearing edges. The grain orientation (HVX) evenly places plywood in horizontal, vertical, and diagonal positions across the shell for maximum stability and dynamics.
All the shells are baked in molds under high pressure and temperature (2600 PSI at 200°F), then cooled immediately in order to maximize strength, roundness, and resonance. There is another silver lining for tom lovers, who’d certainly cherish the crowned toms with pinpoint 45-degree back-cut bearing edges that come with this kit.
Both the toms that came with my 4-piece kit were quite thin (around 0.25”), which yielded a sound quite rich in the low-end. This would be a great fit for rock and metal drummers who can deliver some extra girth and power through tom fills.
The same goes for the kick drum, which produces deep, saturated slabs of low end. Like every DW bass drum, this one comes with a pillow on the inside, which helps in keeping the sound tight and focused. Surprisingly enough, the overall presence of the drum was not affected by this layer of cushioning.
The Included Hardware
Moving on to the hardware bit, DW boasts about improved performance and aesthetics from their quarter turret lugs that are unique to the Performance Series. Upon taking a closer look at it, I was pleasantly taken surprised by the attention to detail and workmanship on these kits.
With the 4-piece kit, you get graduated counter hoops, weighted per each shell’s size and diameter. This allows you to dabble with the attack and sustain. You also get a washerless STM suspension tom mount, which securely locks in toms without interfering with their sound.
True-pitch tension rods unlock maximum tuning stability and accuracy for you. This is a great asset for studio engineers and aspiring musicians who want to record music. The 45° and 60° bearing edges deliver modern cut and sustain, which is good if you’re not looking for those warm and rounded tones, such as that of vintage kits.
Also, note that if you are buying the shell pack, the cymbals, throne, sticks, and stands will need to be bought separately. So be sure to set aside some of your budget for the components, as well.
A good-looking drum kit will not only impress your friends but can also inspire you to engage more with the art. DW has multiple options for drum finishes, so you can get the exact match without having to succumb to aftermarket solutions.
Between hand-applied finishes and play wraps, you get multiple color options to pick from. From Candy Apple Red to Black Diamond, every finish will give your drum kit a unique appeal, thanks to Delmar USA’s UV-treated specialty plastics.
DW Performance Series 4-Piece Sound
If you know anything about DW, then you already know how they love playing around with each and every piece of detail. The Performance Series is no exception, and it uses a professionally recommended shell configuration for ultra-high playability and performance.
The kit includes one 12” x 9” rack tom and a 16” x 14” floor tom mounted on an STM suspension mount. As mentioned earlier, the toms have an enhanced low end due to reduced thickness and yet manage to retain a snappy attack. I’ve always found DW’s bass drums particularly impressive due to their crisp sound and tight attack, and the Performance Series kick did not disappoint.
If you are looking for an aggressive-sounding drum kit that can go up against the grind of amplified guitars, this kit will surpass your expectation beyond reason. DW wanted to give players a taste of premium drum equipment – but without a $5000 price tag – and they’ve achieved that goal with the Performance Series.
- High-quality drum shells and hardware
- Produces studio-quality sound in a variety of settings
- Thick and aggressive sounding bass drum
- True-Pitch tension screws for maximum tuning stability and accuracy
- Variety of options for drum finishes and wraps available from the manufacturer
- For beginners and hobbyists, there is less value for money
- The sound is mostly appropriate for contemporary musical styles only
Three Alternatives I’d Also Recommend
Ludwig Classic Maple
Ludwig has been described as the “master-crafter” of drums by many in the drumming community. Their close association with drumming prodigies like Ringo Starr and John Bonham helped skyrocket their popularity among drummers across the globe.
The Ludwig Classic Maple is comprised of:
- One kick drum (at 14” × 22”)
- One snare drum (at 5” × 14”)
- Four toms (at 7” × 10”, 8” × 12”, 9” × 13”, and 14” × 16”)
- A high-gloss, natural maple finish
The company still maintains its legacy of vintage classic tones in the form of its Classic Maple and Keystone lines. I’m also familiar with their Classic Maple Kit, which features 7-ply maple shells with dual 45-degree bearing edges. All of their Classic Maple Drums carry the signature 7-ply, 6mm, cross-laminated North American maple shells.
Ludwig is known for its unique approach to the molding process. They also use Radio Frequency Shell technology that maintains the integrity of drum shells for a long time. They are incredibly good at what they do, which explains why drummers are still loyal to the Ludwig brand when it comes to vintage drum kits.
Two tom arms are included in the kit, which can be mounted on the cymbal stands. The bass drum comes with high-quality telescoping spurs and new insulated claws, as well as spikes and retractable rubber feet. This helps compress the sound of the bass drum to achieve that warm, classic vintage tone.
You get Ludwig WeatherMaster Heavy clear batter heads with medium clear resonant heads on the shells. The bass drum has a power collar batter head installed on it, which is a clear 10mm single-ply head. The latest update on the new Classic Maple drum kits is the Atlas Mount, which can serve as a lug and universal mount at the same time.
Ludwig also packs all their shells with bearing edges cut to a 45-degree angle within 1/16” from the outside edge. This helps to maintain stability, resonance, and sustain over a wider tuning range.
- Great vintage tone and appearance
- Exceptional build quality and design
- Immaculate performance, both on-stage and in studio
- The kit does not come with Ludwig Classic Maple Snare
- High price tag
Tama Starclassic Walnut/Birch
The legendary Japanese Drum Brand, Tama, was under deep scrutiny from fans when they put out a message saying the much-loved Starclassic Bubinga/Birch Series would be discontinued. It was the only way for amateur drummers to get their hands on a Tama kit.
I figured Bubinga’s declining global supply was probably the cause for this abrupt decision, but I soon got sidetracked by their latest line of Walnut/Birch shells. For the Starclassic, Tama decided to combine Walnut and Birch to retain some of the sonic qualities of their original sound with a twist.
With the Tama Starclassic, you get:
- One bass drum (at 22” x 16”)
- Two rack toms (at 10” x 8” and 12” x 9”)
- One floor tom (at 16” x 14”)
- A lacquer finish
Based on a detailed analysis of the Tama Starclassic, I would say this is the perfect drum kit for serious drumming enthusiasts. Intermediate drummers will find it much easier to transition into the professional scene with this drum kit.
Tama’s mounting system for the Star-Cast tom is arguably one of the best sliding-type assemblies I have ever come across. The mobile mounting system does not only captures the eye but also provides ultra-stability to the mounted toms.
The kicks drums are also strategically designed to output maximum resonance and articulation in the low end. The bass drum claws are equipped with rubber gaskets for maximum stability and control. They come with a single-ply Evans G4 batter head and ebony front head. Each head comes with a dampening ring installed, which gets rid of unwanted vibrations.
If a thunderous drum sound with no compromise in the low end is on your list, consider buying the Tama Starclassic. Legends were born playing this kit, so why not give it a try?
- Excellent sound and playability
- Durable construction and hardware
- Considering the incredible value for money you are getting, no cons.
Pearl Masters MCX
If there’s one kit that comes moderately close to the DW Performance Series kits, it’s the Pearl Masters MCX. The Master Series is a high-end range which positions itself along Pearl’s budget vision lines. It might not be as flashy or luxurious as the Eliminator Demon Series, but it definitely gets the job done for budding drummers.
With the Pearl Masters MCX, you get:
- One big kick drum (at 18″ x 22″)
- Two rack toms (at 9″ x 12″ and 10″ x 13″)
- One floor tom (at 16″ x 16″)
The heads are 6-ply, 7.5mm, 100% maple shells, which deliver a bright, highly resonant, and punchy sound. You also get professional-grade hardware with the MCX. There are MasterCast die-cast hoops and an OptiMount suspension system for the rack toms.
This serves to help keep them in place regardless of how heavy you are beating on them. Plus, the Master bridge lugs come with a beautiful piano black finish that accents the look of the kit in a very stylish way.
If you are a fanatic of aesthetics like me, you are going to love the molded rubber gaskets on the kick drum claw hooks. It shows how elegant the crafters at Pearl were when approaching the Master series. But enough talk about looks. Let’s get to the performance bit.
Pearl’s OptiMount isolation brackets is an innovative piece of hardware that grips both top and bottom lugs together without coming in your way. The sharp bearing edges have a 45-degree cut right up to the last bit of plywood. Combine that with thick drum shells and die-cast hoops, and you get one of the most heavier-sounding kits on this planet.
Every little detail about this drum kit, especially the sound quality, will bring a smile to your face. Tama has inspired many generations of drummers over the years, but with the MCX, they are really outdone themselves.
- Rugged build-quality
- User-friendly setup
- Tight sound with enhanced dynamics and ambiance
- Stylish looks
- Quite heavy for a 4-piece drum set
- Limited size options
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: Sometimes, brands exclude the hardware elements and will put out shell packs, meaning it’s only the drum shells that you will be purchasing. In some instances, you will often only receive the bass drum and the toms. Everything else, including the snare, stands, and cymbals, will need to be bought separately.
Shell packs are a more feasible option for drummers who’ve previously owned a drum kit and already possess the necessary basic hardware. If you are looking to purchase your first drum kit, make sure that you are buying a complete drum set.
Shell packs are suitable for first purchases, too, as long as you are comfortable buying the hardware separately. Note that buying a shell pack and the hardware separately will end up costing you slightly more compared to a pre-assembled drum kit.
Answer: If you’ve recently started playing drums, dynamic drumming skills such as velocity or volume control can take a while to get a handle on. This is why it is often beginners who face the blunt force of complaining neighbors.
If you are playing with full force and vigor, acoustic drums can get as loud as 130 decibels. For some people, that could be loud enough to get their heartbeat up.
There are some DIY methods to reduce the sound of acoustic drums, including the most common towel method. Simply place some kind of cushion (like a piece of cloth or a hand towel) on the bass and the snare drum, which usually tend to get the loudest, and that should help you shave off some decibels.
If you are planning to practice for long stretches at home or near residential areas, consider buying a practice pad for yourself. This will not only eliminate the deafening noise of drums but also help you work on your chops anywhere you go.
Answer: Before you commence the micing process, ask yourself. Does the room have enough isolation from external noise and the right ambiance for your drum sound? The absorbing/reflecting capabilities of the walls will drastically impact your drum sound, so make sure to get the right padding for the room.
Just before setting up the kit, I will usually come up with a small checklist for every component that will be either in front or near the mic. To give you a gist of what I usually include in this list, here are some pointers:
I will first decide whether or not I need an extra tom or two. The size of toms (have a 14” instead of the 16”) will also be finalized along this step.
Should I use two beaters or two bass drums? I am a double bass drummer, so it is important for me to decide my approach to bass drums before commencing the recording process. The size of drums (18”, 20”, 22”, 24”) will also play a significant role, so make sure to buy or borrow the right one before recording.
How many cymbals will I be needing? Ask yourself this question at least a couple of times before you start recording, and only begin once you are totally comfortable with your decision. With so many options for cymbals available, it can be tricky to land on one and be comfortable with your decision.
Check if the drum heads are still in playable condition. Replace them with fresh heads if needed. Clear or coated? The choice is yours. Clear heads are great for that distinctive bright and punchy drum sound, whereas coated heads are mainly used for warmer tones.
Answer: You should not be looking for the answer to this question in drum kits that you come across during live shows and concerts. These kits may have a multitude of toms, but there’s a strong chance that they have been customized for a specific occasion or song.
Ideally speaking, the bass drum and the snare are considered the primary components of a drum kit, whereas toms are used for “fills.” With that out of the way, feel free to experiment with multiple toms (both a floor and rack tom) to get a sense of what works best for you.
If you don’t have any prior knowledge of toms or if you are purchasing your first drum kit, remember that a basic drum kit should include at least one small tom (mounted on the bass drum) and one large tom (floor tom).
Answer: The secret to sustaining in the drum business is by improving consistently over time. A lot of players quit early in the run because they either ran too fast in the beginning and overloaded themselves with facts, or they simply couldn’t develop enough interest to carry on.
Practicing the various rudiments and stroke techniques while you learn will help keep things fresh and upbeat. Also, remember to take things slowly at first and work on your foundation before moving on to complex techniques like double bass, rim shots, choking, and more. Having friends or jam buddies to play along with can also help you maintain a positive outlook towards drumming, too.
My Final Thoughts
There’s something about electronic drums that invokes a very familiar emotion in me. They are not as dynamic or vibrant as acoustic drum kits, but they can easily make up for that loss with their extensive collection of both digital and analog tools and sounds. And with that in mind, I do have to admit that I still definitely recommend the DW Performance Series 4-Piece shell pack.
Electronic drum kits are like sound journals for drummers. With their one-touch recording and storing ability, you will be able to brainstorm ideas rather efficiently and get them onto a record. So if you hear the faintest voice inside of you calling out to e-drums, don’t hesitate to tinker with the idea of purchasing one for yourself.