This Leicester based firm has dominated the UK market, certainly in sheer numerical terms, for quite a while.
My first real kit was a black Premier. Well anything good enough for Keith Moon was good enough for me.
In recent years competition from Japan has monopolised the more expensive end of the scale and now a fierce battle is underway to attract the first time buyer, traditionally the backbone of the Premier clientele.
Which brings us to their latest economy kit, the Royale: three toms (12 by 9, 13 by 9 and 16 by 16), a 22 in bass drum, a 5½in metal snare, bass drum pedal, hi-hat, one cymbal and snare drum stands, a double tom tom holder, and, should you buy the lot, a free pair of sticks and a tuning key.
In other words you're also going to have to lash out on a stool, a pair of hi-hat cymbals, a crash/ride cymbal and, if you're contemplating a gig or three, a set of cases and probably another cymbal and stand. And if I were you I'd throw caution to the wind and pick up a second pair of sticks.
But we digress. The kit arrived at Good Earth studios for the test in one enormous cardboard box. The drums were packed one inside the other, Russian doll style, so the first job was to put the enclosed heads on both the floor tom and bass drum.
Why doesn't anyone yet make front heads for bass drums already cut out?
The only man I've seen in the last few years who still uses two conventional heads is Buddy Rich. Well don't ask me, but Premier still give you two pristine, playable heads, so if this is supposed to be an economy kit they're wasting valuable plastic for no reason.
Anyway this exercise did serve to reveal the alarmingly thin composition of the bass drum shell. With the absolute minimum of pressure it could be bent out of shape. It later proved to sound fine, but I wouldn't fancy the chances of your guitarist being able to leap dramatically up onto this drum without reducing it to an equally dramatic pile of matchwood.
The floor tom hoop meanwhile seemed to disagree with the shell as to which was circular, with the shell winning on points. Eventually reconciled to a playable compromise, I ended up with a 16 by 16, but if you buy a case for it, make sure it's a big one. The large wing nuts which hold the leg (which could be longer) in the desired position are located on the outside of the locking box, rather than the side, effectively making the drum too big by far for a conventional matching case and vulnerable in the event of it being dropped.
Meanwhile the 13 by 9 went too far the other way by having no wing nut at all.
The 12 by 9 (a good size that) looked satisfactory at a glance, but closer inspection showed that half the nut boxes were out of line with their counterparts on the other side of the drum. Despite this I still felt that single boxes are infinitely preferable to the double, all-in-one boxes that preceded them. They not only look better but they also help the shell to resonate more freely.
The snare drum was surprisingly robust and simply made. I find it baffling that in the era of the microchip, science has yet to devise a more efficient method of snare attachment than the two bits of string to be found on this drum. It's ridiculous but still the best system.
Again a minimum of engineering hardware clinging to the shell meant the maximum of resonance, but the response of the snares themselves were equally impressive, crisp and clear with a broad spectrum of fine adjustment.
The damper is the same design as they have used for ten years. Hard plastic provides the platform for a thin strip of felt, so thin that there's little variation between the extremes of on or off.
What did all this actually sound like? In a word: excellent. Which is what the villains always used to say in the Gerry Anderson puppet series, but don't let that put you off. The bass drum was very punchy with, surprisingly after what I had said about the shell, plenty of depth and an equal dose of attack.
The toms sounded sharp and dynamic whether tuned tightly to the sort of tension favoured by Stewart Copeland or much lower, in the region favoured by Steve Gadd. With the bottom heads removed they sounded just as good with few uncontrollable overtones to worry about. This was just as well since there were no dampers, and I felt that's a good move because it will encourage players to combat any sound problems by fine tuning rather than fiddling with dampers. Tape is always on hand should you want a dead sound.
The snare was the best of the bunch. Loud, crisp and clear it offered very distinct definition between strokes of every shape and volume. It was tough but still gave a warm sound at a lower pitch and stayed smack in tune despite a severe going over. Praise indeed since even more expensive drums are prone to slow detuning at such a low tension.
On to the stands. The hi-hat featured a curious layout of the footplate. Instead of bisecting the angle of two of the tripod legs, it was placed very close to one of them, presumably to improve the variation in available positioning. The clutch was small and included the kind of tiny wing nut that looked as though it wouldn't last very long, and would certainly require wrists of steel.
I found the non-adjustable spring tension very comfortable, fairly loose and thus suggesting a long lifespan and encouraging good foot control. Weak spot looked to be the hinging joint between footplate and spring rod, a lightweight affair that was already loose to the touch and looked as though heavy use would soon wear it out.
The bass drum pedal was very similar. Lightweight, but comfortable and easy to play.
The snare stand proved to be a very awkward proposition. With large tripod legs it was impossible to move the snare either close to the mounted tom, as it was restricted by the curve of the bass drum, or across toward the floor tom (to form an equilateral triangle of drums) as it was restricted by the footplate of the bass pedal.
As if all this wasn't bad enough, these legs made it equally difficult to get the hi-hat close in to the snare.
The cymbal stand incorporated the same tripod leg design, but as positioning was less critical this made for a steady base.
The double tom tom holder held no surprises. The familiar L-shaped bracket provided individual adjustment of height and angle with the same chunky wing nut holding the overall stem at the required position on the bass drum.
General comments? In their drive to produce the cheapest possible kit, Premier have succeeded more with their drums than their hardware. Should you contemplate buying a set-up, make sure you check every drum carefully, bearing in mind the points I spotted during the test.
When you get them home take off all the heads and grease all the tuning lugs and nut boxes and you'll get long life as well as a good sound, as long as you don't throw them about; those shells are mighty thin.
The stands are conducive to good playing with the feet but aren't that robust, so don't expect to be able to polish off a world tour without mishap.
All in all a good set-up for the beginner or occasional semi-pro of any stylistic persuasion. £399
Review by Andy Duncan