Yamaha 9000 Drum Kit
If you happened upon my thoughts about the Yamaha Silencer practice kit in an early issue of the magazine, then you might be able to react to the overall class and quality of the recently introduced 9000 Recording series with the sort of cool usually expected of any truly hip drummer. Otherwise, you're in for something of a shock because this is a beautifully designed and manufactured series, built to look good and sound great, and to withstand even the most clubfooted or ham-fisted of players.
None more so than the bass drum which is available in five sizes from 18in to 26in and a uniform depth of 14in plus a choice of six colours. The shell is made of six-ply birch which is fine sanded to a smooth finish and then treated with a matt black paint (in the case of the black test kit), designed to eliminate unpleasant overtones. Inside colours correspond to those outside. The exterior of the shell is sprayed piano-style with several coats of lacquer then polished to a stunningly attractive finish. Since most rival drums are covered in a single, wrap around coat of plastic, this is a remarkably painstaking method, but without doubt, the end result more than justifies the means. This is the best looking finish I've ever seen on a drum.
But what of the sound I hear you ask? Absolutely no problem there either. There are ten lugs on hand to adjust the tuning and the nearest to the pedal are tom style key fittings rather than the usual hand twist nuts which is a very sensible precaution since not all buyers are necessarily going to use the matching Yamaha pedal. A point also relevant is the inclusion of a rubber pad on the back hoop which is supposed to offer a good grip for the pedal and protection for the hoops. This makes for a greater gap on the grip of my Pearl pedal than it is capable of spanning.
The heads provided with the drum carry the Yamaha stamp but are actually manufactured by Remo and are straight, rough coated, white Weather Kings. They're not my particular favourite so I switched to a clear Remo Weather King on the back and took the front end off. Bingo. A great sound for recording or gigging.
Plenty of definition at the front of the sound; plenty of bottom end in the tone of the beat, and plenty of basic volume. By the way, the tuning lugs are spring loaded so that minus the front head, there is no rattle of loose lugs to accompany the beat and annoy the recording engineer.
Tuning high or low obviously affects the shape and sound of the beat — tighter for less bottom and more subtle definition, slacker for maximum thwack value. Beyond this point it all becomes very subjective. It also depends on what kind of pedal and beater you use, how hard you hit and, of course, what kind of music you happen to be playing. No matter what you are playing, however, the drum is going nowhere and will not require an elastic leg or 'Twizzle foot' as we call it in the trade.
The spurs are less telescopic and offer either a rubber or pointed steel tip, all adjustment being made with a tuning key. The drum mounted plate has two grooved positions for the legs, one for the playing set up and one for porterage, both by virtue of a simple hand set design, absolutely rock solid.
The toms come in nine sizes — 8, 10 and 12 x 8in, 13 x 9, 14 x 10 and 15 x 12. There are three floor toms 14 x 14, 16 X 16 and 18 x 18. The drums are made and finished in exactly the same manner as the bass drum and come with the same heads. The toms can be fitted either to the bass drum or free standing holders which are controlled by a hand tightened ball clamp that offers positioning at any angle and a hexagonal stem that slides into the tom itself. Such a thin stem means that there is the minimum of metalware protruding into the shell and, consequently, fewer tuning or tonal problems.
The floor toms feature strong, simple ring bolt locking nuts for the legs. At this point a moan. The legs are too short. I use a very low stool setting but still found a problem with the lack of leg height. All the drums in this series feature one piece nut boxes for top and bottom heads which guarantee perfect positioning and thus better tuning.
My preference for heads for the test (10, 12, 14 and 16) was for clear Remo Ambassadors on top and Remo Pinstripes on the bottom all round. Once again no problems with sound. A beautiful tone could be created by careful tuning — no ugly dampers inside the head to interfere with the resonance of the shell or deter the drummer from his quest for the best possible tuning. I found that the Pinstripe heads gave the sound body without rumble and provided tonal characteristics plus they minimised the buzz of snares which can often be created by thinner bottom heads.
The drums record beautifully and gathered many compliments when I was recording the new Toyah album at Marquee Studios in June (a bit more name dropping please Duncan — Ed.) Beyond telling you that, all I can add is that, as far as I could tell, the drums respond well to all types of tuning and heads.
If I had to criticise one aspect of Japanese drum manufacture it would have to be their snare drums which are usually well made but lacking in tonal quality. To the best of my knowledge, the Yamaha snare drum has to be included in this group.
The drum features the same one-piece tuning lug and the same laminated birch construction as the other drums in the 9000 series. The snare action extends beyond the rim of the drum in an attempt to offer more uniform snare response across the beater head. As I said, it's beautifully made, but try as I might, I couldn't get a good sound from it. Plenty of snare and plenty of crack, but no depth or warmth. Even with my favourite snare head, the old Remo CS Batter rough coated with a black spot underneath, there was a distinct 'tone' to be heard.
It's worth noting that even Steve Gadd who endorses Yamaha, still uses his Ludwig (a 400) at all times, even when being photographed for Yamaha promotions. So you don't just have to take my word for it.
When scrutinising the stands, however, it's back to quality.
The SS910 snare stand is very sturdy. It allows for low settings which, in this era of the deep bodied snare drum, is a simple practical observation, that, say Ludwig could learn from.
The angle is set by another ball clamp and even under severe pressure keeps its ground. I have a Pearl which has a tendency to creep backwards. Another sensible feature is the adjustable tripod legs which, even at their widest setting, never created any positional restrictions in relation to the hi-hat or bass drum pedal while I was using it (in this respect the Tama Titan is lacking with its huge feet).
The hi-hat stand also has cleverly designed tripod legs which do the job of keeping everything steady without taking up much space. Surprisingly, it offers only rubber tips (the Pearl has a simpler flip over arrangement for either rubber or metal points). However, it has a hand adjustable spring action which allows for a fine balance with the two-piece heel-and-toe footplate. Another well designed stand, easily capable of a fast bebop off beat chip or a more delicate chiming of the two hi-hat cymbals. The link from spring to footplate appeared to be built to last (something they never thought about in the era of the Premier Lokfast) and, in case you need it, there are two hand adjusted spring pins to keep everything in place.
The cymbal stands are made with a double strength tripod leg. This makes them (a) rock solid and (b) very heavy. So beware if you tote your own gear and you rehearse on the fourth floor. The boom model has no counterweight which is eminently sensible with such solid legs, and the boom arm can be retracted into the hollow stem if it's not required. As for height adjustment, you would need the arms of an Orangutang to be able to reach the highest available setting, so no worries for the extrovert heavy metal drummer or people who need something to hang the decorations on come Christmas.
When it comes to bass drum pedals, things can get very personal. What is too light for some can be too heavy for others, so where does the Yamaha fit? Well, I usually use a Pearl pedal and by comparison I found the Yamaha a little sluggish. Needless to say, it's wonderfully made with a neat adjustable height setting for the entire beater holder, a strong nylon strip connecting the beater to another heel-and-toe footplate (which was too short and thus made the angle of the footplate too steep for my liking), a good hollow drum for the strip to pivot from and a tough beat of compressed felt. Don't ask me why such a soft material makes such a hard sound, it just does. One tip though — flatten off a little of the roundness for maximum thwack. I found it all a bit ponderous and heavy, but I think it's best to leave final judgement to the individual about performance. All I can say is that it's worth looking at.
All the hardware is superbly chromed, the nuts are large and easy to adjust and the sockets are bedded in nylon. The cymbal stands have nylon tubes to protect the cymbal and two large felts. Anything that might need a memory lock has one. It's all very heavy but consequently utterly solid and supremely dependable.
The drums are equally well made. They look stunning and sound great. The black set I tested had the looks of a Steinway grand and, in percussion terms, sounded like one.
Review by Andy Duncan
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