Linko Acoustic Kit
Bob Henrit plays absolute beginners
Linko drums are without a shadow of a doubt made in Taiwan. At £299 they are the cheapest five piece set available here and are wholesaled by Rose Morris who, over the years, have brought such famous lines as Zildjian cymbals and Ludwig drums to Britain; they were also drum manufacturers for many years. They've been quite drumwise for the past several years, seemingly preferring to concentrate on drum machines and the like. Presumably they spotted a hole at the very bottom end of the market and decided to exploit it by importing Linko.
Very little appears to be known about the company, except that they build their instruments in Taipei at a price which allows them to travel half-way round the world, yet still arrive at your friendly local music store for just under 300quid in standard version. (However, Linko also produce much more up-market sets and accessories too, but RM don't sell them — they know that it's the bottom end of the market which needs servicing.
Obviously this set is aimed at a very specific punter — the absolute beginner. By and large, the old adage about getting what you pay for has always held true in the drum world, but everybody has to start somewhere and Linko may just be the alternative to a second-hand, highly used Ajax-type set. Cosmetically it looks as good as any budget priced set so will undoubtedly be just what a beginner needs to stimulate his interest.
So, the set consists of five drums: 22"x14", 12"x8", 13"x9" and 16"x16". There's also a 5½" deep metal shell snare as well as hi hat, bass pedal, snare and cymbal stands. The shells are built from six plies of an unidentified white wood which are left rough inside but have a reasonably accurate and smooth bearing edge. Linko cut costs in the usual way with this set by fitting 12 nut boxes to the bass drum and all the toms. (This of course results in a considerable saving in parts which will ultimately be passed onto the buyer.) Metal hoops are used for the bass drum too to cut costs. These are inlaid with plastic to match whatever colour you choose and held in place by pressed steel claws and familiar looking 'T' shaped tensioners. (While I'm on the subject, all the hardware is very reminiscent of Maxwin. Could it be made in the same factory?)
All the other drums have triple-flange hoops (made from pressed steel) and the usual square headed tension screws. The other ancillary bits and pieces fitted to the drums are a curious mixture; the spurs are of the disappearing type which locate into an unsophisticated boss fixed to the shell. They aren't angled forward but are quite long and fitted with rubber ends and a wing bolt locks them in and out. The tom leg blocks are unexpectedly upmarket being cast with an 'O' bolt insert to lock the double bent, rod steel legs. (Invariably a cheap set has leg blocks which have their control bolt tapped directly. If this strips you have a problem.) The tom holders themselves are unusual in that they're made from pressed steel. They look rather like chamfered pyramids and normally they would be cast. Here's another saving however, which doesn't affect the set adversely; a keyway is cut into the receivers to accept a memory-clamp and a piece of flat steel is placed in between the wing bolt and the tube inside to stop distortion. There's a double block fitted at the front of the bass drum to locate the tubular steel, articulated tom arms. Splines help the tubes to tilt and a wing-bolt locks everything up tight.
Linko's snare drum has a metal shell with four strengthening beads pressed into the side and roll over flanges. They use eight double ended nut-boxes for this drum and it's the only one to be fitted with any form of damper. It has an internal, under-batter head-operating one which is made from the usual spring steel with a control button fixed outside the shell. The snare throw off is familiar too, being part cast with a plastic snare tension knob and lever and a metal jaw to grip the plastic strip which joins it to the 20 strand wire snares. Obviously a cheap snare drum will not sound as tonally brilliant as an expensive one, but with a deal of experimentation they will sound okay. (They always have a dry, brittle, somehow gutless sound, but this is mainly due to the heads. We'll get to this later.)
All of the stands supplied with this Linko set are lightweight. They have tripod bases which are reasonably wide-spreading but made from 'U' section steel. All the height adjustment/arrest points have cast blocks with wing-bolts tapped into them and the cymbal stand has a very old fashioned, yet reasonably serviceable slotted tilter. The snare stand has a drum fixing method which utilises two fixed and one lockable and moveable arm. (All three arms have right angled ends which are sheathed in rubber).
The hi hat stand has a two piece cast footplate to match the bass pedal's and an unadjustable centre-pull action. Again the bottom cup and the top clutch are very reminiscent of Maxwin.
I'm pretty sure I've seen the bass pedal before too. It's a twinpost job with a single spring, a rod axle and a cast beater holder block. There is adjustment possible on the pedal for beater height and position relative to the head as well as for the strength of the expansion spring. The whole unit attaches via screw operated jaws to the bass drum hoop with a bike chain to link the action.
The sounds are more or less what you'd expect from a set at this price. They're rather flat (like any of the cheapos) but this shouldn't put you off. As I said, a little work will make a lot of difference. At the moment all drums are fitted with Remo's WeatherMaster heads but eventually they'll be using Linko's own. It must be said that cheap heads engender a cheap sound because they are invariably not resilient enough. But, the solution is blindingly simple... change them when the originals wear out. A double ply head would thicken the sound tremendously; especially on the bass and snare drum's batter sides. Another way to achieve more penetration would be to lightly varnish the insides of the wood shells. Otherwise it's a question of tuning — try not to tension them too highly. Linko's appearance is perfectly acceptable providing you get the right colour. They use a very big logo on the drum shells but otherwise that's it except for on the front head of the bass drum.
I have no doubt that Linko drums could last a beginner for a good number of years, but I feel he (or she) would discard the stands and pedals as soon as his technique began to develop. They do work reasonably well however and would enable the player to at least get started and buy the set at a sensible price. Basically it plays well, sounds pretty solid and can be added to. (For example 'Power' depth drums are available for a little bit more.)
I don't believe it would be unfair to describe Linko as being a latter day Maxwin which is the set upon which many of today's drum stars must have begun their careers. It's not a bad comparison!
Review by Bob Henrit
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